Choose to Feed
His strength, his resolve was running out. The end was coming. And she could not stop it.
They were alone. They were trapped. They were lost.
Mina Murray searched meticulously through vast fields of dreams, of knowledge, of information, in a desperate attempt to find something, something to give to Alexander in these dark moments when he struggled to keep the monster inside him at bay.
Finally she lit upon a memory that offered up the slightest of hopes.
"When I was ten, I stole a penny from one of the maids. I saw it drop from her pocket while she was cleaning the parlor. And I took it and put it in my pocket. Not because I was poor and needed it or because I was wicked and bad. But because I was ten."
Alexander, his face beaded with perspiration in the cold, damp room, looked toward the sound of her beautiful voice. Her face was dirty, her hair mussed. Her clothes wrinkled and stained. Her eyes were bright with sustained dread and strain. She herself, her shining spirit, was a lovely sight to behold.
But her voice, oh her melodic voice. Her voice was a calm, soothing balm to his feverish mind.
"The maid was busy with her chores and did not see. But my father saw. He spanked me himself and sent me to my room."
She continued speaking slowly, clearly. Hoping to bring him back to himself with her words. For her words were all she had left to give.
"As I lay crying on my bed, my father came in and sat in a chair. He bade me sit on his lap. I did."
Tears wavered in her eyes at the remembrance but she did not let them fall. The time for tears had passed away.
"My father said, 'Do you know of wolves, little Mina?' I replied, 'Yes, Papa. They are like dogs, only wild.'"
The man fighting the monster pushed his ailing consciousness toward her shimmer of light. Willed himself to hear and understand her words through the rushing sound of her living blood flowing through her veins.
"'There's a battle between two wolves inside us all,' my father said. 'One wolf is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego.'
'That sounds bad,' I told my father. He replied, 'Yes, my dear. More than you know.'"
Mina could see him in the back of her mind. His kind face, his warm eyes, his well-groomed beard that tickled her cheek when he kissed her goodnight.
"Then my father said, 'The other is wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, and truth.'
"I thought about this for a while, cuddled up against my father, listening to his steady, strong heartbeat."
"Then I asked him, 'Papa, which wolf wins?'"
Mina paused and Alexander, incessant burning in his vampire veins, his entire body trembling slightly, waited.
"My father replied, 'The one you feed, my dear.'"
Her tale concluded, Mina stopped talking. Alexander looked into her beautiful face. He could not presume to imagine the strength of will she had to summon to bring light into their dark confines, their dismal existence. To bravely reach out to him time and again.
He loved her so. Even through the gnashing beast howling within him. He loved her so.
"I thought I was the one who told stories," he murmured quietly.
Alexander closed his eyes and tried to feed the good wolf. But the bad wolf inside him was oh so strong.
So very strong.
He pushed the spade into the soft earth over and over again. Removing the soft, already churned soil and adding it to the waiting pile. He worked quickly, carefully, so as not to harm the thing he was here to exhume. From below there came a low, distant sound, as of a ghost moaning deep within the earth.
As Jonathan continued to dig, the earth beneath him began to undulate, heaving upwards, only a little at first, but as mounds of earth were moved, the movement became stronger. Until a hand burst through the soil, grasping for air. Dark and covered with dirt, clenching and unclenching, as if breathing the midnight air around it.
At the very moment Harker had stepped forward and rendered Miss Murray unconscious, van Helsing had knocked Renfield out with a dreadful blow to the head. After shutting off Alexander's electricity and quickly moving him to a cell before he regained his facilities, they had placed Mina within the cage as well. Finally, the powerful man Renfield had been purposely interred prematurely below ground to suffocate and die without even the dignity of a coffin.
Jonathan threw down his spade and leaped into the hole, digging feverishly with his hands, unearthing a large, hunched form straining toward the surface, toward the life-giving air. With his last vestiges of strength, R.M. Renfield pushed with his trembling legs and threw himself upon the ground, gasping for breath. His dark eyes opened and he growled, teeth clenched, at the younger man kneeling in the dirt.
A fit of coughing took him then, racking his already aching body with more pain. Jonathan waited until it was over and then spoke with determination and purpose.
"We don't have much time."
Renfield, on his hands and knees, reached out, grasping blinding at his savior, his attempted executioner.
"You! You murdering bastard! What have you done with them?!"
His voice was a raw, wretched thing, not the refined gentleman's voice he had cultured for himself at all.
Harker moved out of his clutching grasp and spoke urgently.
"Wait, Mr. Renfield! Kill me if you wish, but wait until I have taken you to Mina and Alexander. You must save them."
Renfield struggled to his feet. He swayed dangerously but his eyes were on fire with rage.
"Why don't you do it yourself?" he snarled.
Jonathan could not offer a suitable answer, only a choice.
"Would you rather I'd left you here in the earth to die?"
Renfield's blood shot eyes bore into his.
"The earth you and your demon companion put me in?"
Jonathan started away.
"Please, sir. There is little time left. Alexander cannot hold out much longer. He will drink from her soon and destroy them both."
van Helsing liberally splashed the walls, the bars, and the floor until the container ran empty.
The two in the cage screamed words at him but that he did not hear, would not hear.
Wordlessly, he struck a match against the wall and watch the fire flare into life on the tip of the long, wooden stick.
Fire had burned the lives of his family. That same fire had rebirthed him into a solitary life of slow burning madness. Fire had burned its justice into the hearts of the beings that deserved to suffer and die. And fire would do the same again.
He dropped the match.
And the corridor began to burn.
As Alexander and Mina helplessly railed and watched their fiery deaths approach, R.M Renfield, Esquire, stepped from the shadows behind van Helsing.
Without warning or explanation, he grasped the man's head and snapped his neck like a twig. Then holding the lifeless body against his own, he felt in the breast pocket and drew out the small key of which Harker had informed him.
The key to freedom.
Its usefulness fulfilled, Renfield released his grip on the body. That which had been Abraham van Helsing fell bonelessly into the flames and caught fire. His smoldering body and clothes let off a putrid stench as the fire hungry fire feasted upon his lifeless corpse.
Renfield staggered to the cell as the growing flames licked at his heels. He was filthy with dirt and grime but had never before looked so much like a saving angel.
"Renfield!" Alexander exclaimed.
Renfield reached their cell and fitted the key.
"Sir, we must leave," he proclaimed, ever so calmly.
Mina heedly threw herself into his arms as he opened the cell door. He groaned, staggering backward with the force of her blow, little clouds of dirt puffing up at their contact.
"Oh Renfield, thank you!" she gasped, soundly kissing his cheek. "How in the world did you get here?"
"Harker . . ." he began, turning to the empty, smoky air behind him. ". . . ah . . . appears to have disappeared. I don't understand. He was right here."
In unison, they turned to Alexander. Alexander who stood still shackled and trapped. A silent exchange passed between Mina and her beloved man with the vicious vampire inside him still struggling to get out.
"Perhaps the key does fit?" Mina ventured.
Renfield leaped forward with the key and jammed it into the lock on Alexander's metal collar while smoke swirled around them, the deadly fire edging closer.
The key would not turn. The lock would not give. Alexander remained trapped.
Jonathan Harker went home. It was the only place he could go. For he knew who would be there in these early hours of the morning. Her. If not now, later. And he would wait. As long as required, he would wait for her.
And so he did. He waited for her whom he had once dreaded to see.
And close to sunrise, she came.
"You seem different."
"Shall I listen to your pleadings then, my dear Jonathan?"
"No. I have no more to say."
She started toward him, ready to begin her game, though she wished he would beg a bit more.
"Lucy, I am sorry."
That truthful, simply spoken sentence stopped her in her predatory tracks.
"I treated you poorly. I treated you as a whore, not as a lady. I should have stood my ground when you approached me and turned you away as kindly as I could. I should have never taken your virtue. I should have been a good, strong man to both you and Mina. I wasn't. I apologize."
She stood frozen, the cruel beast she had become and the good woman she had started out to be fighting for control of her roiling vampiric mind.
"And I want you to kill me."
This also was not what she expected.
"I have done terrible things and I do not deserve to continue this existence."
She gazed at him, this man she had tortured in different ways in each of her separate lives. She had no words for him then, only an upwelling of sadness and understanding.
"Please, Lucy. If you ever saw any ounce of good in me. Please. Kill me."
She considered his words, searched his open face. Slowly moved forward. Gracefully placed herself in his lap, as sweet, affectionate lover to lover. Wrapped her strong arms carefully around his neck as he wrapped his around her tiny waist. And Lucy, the woman who had no use for men and detested Jonathan Harker for Mina's affections of him, kissed him gently, fully, upon the mouth.
He let her, allowing himself this one final human - for she did kiss him as a human - contact before turning his soul resolutely to the void. Then kindly and with as little pain as possible, Lucy took his neck and granted his request.
Afterward, she sat quietly in his parlor, cradled up to his cooling corpse, her head upon his still shoulder. And thought. She thought of all she had done and all that she could do.
And she made her own decision.
Rising from her repose, Lucia Marie Westerna left that room of death without looking back.
"No!" Mina cried, vehemently protesting such a cruel fate.
She lunged forward and began yanking the bond, the chain, the link to the wall. Renfield helped and Alexander added his strength to the effort with no avail.
With every precious passing second, their fates were closer to being sealed in fiery death. The heat in the room was escalating. The fire was hungry.
And still the bonds held.
"You cannot save me. You must go."
Renfield stopped and looked at the man, now still and solemn, whom he had followed for twelve long years. Mina ignored his words, scratching, pulling, straining against his bonds.
Alexander stopped Mina's searching hands, gripping tightly in his own.
"Mina, you must go or you will die."
She shook her head desperately.
"No! I don't care! I can't lose you again!"
He kissed her with all his love that had crossed all the space and time of his long vampiric life to find her once more. She responded to him desperately, gripping his face tightly with her hands, pulling him toward her. Then breaking their kiss, he rested his forehead against hers once more, gathering his last remaining will to do what he must.
"Mina, I love you. But you must go. You must live. For me."
She trembled and wept and refused to move.
"Take her," he whispered to Renfield.
For a fleeting second, the two men looked their last upon each other and all their unspoken words passed between them. It was a silent exchange, for there was no time left for words.
Then Renfield grabbed Mina and pulled her away. Her hands reflexively clenched and her broken nails clawed across her lover's cheeks, drawing thin lines of blood. He felt it not at all, so focused was he on drinking her in these last final moments.
"Alexander! No!" she screamed.
Renfield bodily carried her through the growing flames. Their clothes smoldering, the tips of Mina's dark hair singeing. Smoke filled their eyes and lungs, made them cough and gasp.
Mina screamed out for Alexander over and over. She struggled in Renfield's grip, never looking away from the man she loved. Renfield stepped around the now freely burning body of the man who had once been Abraham van Helsing.
Alexander stood silently and watched them go. He kept himself calm and silent as he gazed upon his lady so that she would not remember him in fear and despair.
Then they turned the corner and were gone.
And Vlad Teppis, Alexander Grayson, was left to face the flames alone.