Authors: Graham Masterton
Tags: #Horror, #Fiction, #Short Stories (Single Author)
ear comes in many different guises. Many of us are afraid of the dark; some of us can't bear spiders; and there are those who panic in confined spaces.
The list of human anxieties is almost endless, from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) to zoophobia (an irrational fear of animals).
In one recorded case in the 1940s, a man was so afraid of buttons that he had to wear clothes that fastened entirely with laces.
There is, however, a recognized way to overcome your fears, and that is to face up to them. Psychiatrists call it “systematic behavioral desensitization.” So let those spiders crawl up your arms. Climb those darkened stairs, into the unlit attic. Don't hide your head under the bedcovers because you think that a devil is hunched on the other side of the bedroom â get out of bed and see it for what it really is, a bathrobe hanging over the back of a chair.
A patient who was terrified of pigeons was taken every afternoon by his therapist to Trafalgar Square, and after only a few weeks the reality of pigeons became more real to him than his phobic perception of them, and he was cured.
If you don't want to face your fears in the flesh, you can write them down, and try to analyze the way that you feel. Why is it that you're frightened of water? Or infection? Or by the thought of being shut up in a closet? Did something happen to you in your childhood that made you feel afraid? You'll be surprised how therapeutic it is to explain your phobias on paper, and read them back to yourself.
Or not. Because I have to admit that there are some fears that can never be overcome by self-help psychology â or even by rational explanation. There are some fears that have their roots in the darkest
recesses of the human mind, and in the darker world of the supernatural.
These fears can never be exorcized, because they're real.
I believe that there are many parallel existences, as these days, many leading scientists do. I believe that somewhere, we are living out subtly different lives. Sometimes these parallel existences overlap our own, and we become uneasily aware of them â through strange coincidences, or oddly familiar names, or dreams, or strong sensations of
Perhaps it's even possible to pass from one existence into another, simply by the choices we make, like a night-train switching from one track to another, or the errant adventurer in the fairy-story who decides to take the left fork toward the enchanted forest. Remember the uneasy travelers in H.P. Lovercraft stories, who took the wrong turning off the main road, and found themselves in a country of misshapen trees, and gambreled houses with sunken roofs, and inbred farmers staring at them suspiciously from barren fields?
You can try to face up to these fears if you like, but you may discover that you are drawn inextricably into a world where everything is recognizable but disturbingly unfamiliar.
You may find that you can never again escape your feelings of fear.
t was a strange afternoon in May. The sky was thundery black but the sun still shone on the lime trees. Anne-JoÃ«lle was walking through the Tuileries gardens, walking quickly because she was afraid that it would soon start to rain again, and she hadn't brought her coat or her umbrella. It was one of those days that had turned sour.
She had gone to an address in the Rue des Blancs Manteaux in response to an advertisement in
for a job as an English translator. The advertisement had promised “Today, A Whole New World Awaits You!” When she arrived there, however, she found that the address in the advertisement did not exist: the building had been demolished and there was nothing but weeds and rubble. On the way back she had snapped the heel of her shoe on a broken paving-stone. Now she was hurrying through the Tuileries in her bare feet, the sandy-colored mud spattering her ankles. The breeze dropped and the gardens were filled with a terrible stillness. Even the traffic along the Quai des Tuileries seemed oddly muffled.
She suddenly realized that she was alone. There was nobody in the gardens except her. She walked more slowly, feeling the wet grit under her feet. Ahead of her lay a wide puddle which reflected the sky, as black and shiny as a marble gravestone. She walked straight into it, to clean her feet. At first it came up to her ankles, but as she walked further she found that she was wading in it, almost up to her knees. She tried to turn around and go back, but the puddle grew deeper and deeper, until she was up to her waist in it, her gray wool dress sodden and dark.
Anne-JoÃ«lle cried out for help, but there was nobody there: only distant figures walking along the Rue de Rivoli. She took three more
steps forward and suddenly she was up to her neck, and then she was out of her depth. The water was freezing and she couldn't swim. Even if anybody had walked into the gardens, they would have seen only a woman's head, in the middle of a puddle, and one arm briefly waving.
Gasping, thrashing, Anne-JoÃ«lle sank under the water, and under the water it was colder and darker than anything she had ever imagined. She sank down and down, her eyes wide open, her hair flowing behind her, still holding on to the last breath that she had taken before she disappeared under the surface. Six or seven bubbles broke on the surface of the puddle in the gardens, and then the water was still again.
e slept, and dreamed â¦
He remembered the blood, and the battles. The extraordinary clanking of swords, like cracked church bells, and the low hair-raising moan of men who were fighting to the death. He remembered how sharpened wooden stakes were thrust into the cringing bodies of weeping men, and how they were hoisted aloft, so that the stakes would slowly penetrate them deeper and deeper, and they would scream and thrash and wave their arms in anguish. He remembered how he had looked up at them, looked them in the eye, and smiled at their pain.
He remembered his own death, like the shutting of an owl's eye; and his own resurrection. The strange confusion of what he had become; and what he was. He remembered walking through the forests in torrential rain. He remembered arriving at a village. He remembered the women he had lusted after, and the blood he had tasted, and the wolves howling in the dark Carpathian mountains.
He remembered days and nights, passing as quickly as a flicker-book. Sun and rain and clouds and thunderstorms. He remembered kisses thick with passion. Breasts running with rivulets of blood. He remembered Brighton in the sunshine, and Warsaw in the fog. He remembered heavy, seductive perfumes, and women's thighs. Carriages, cars, railway-trains, aeroplanes. Conversations, arguments. Telegrams. Telephone calls.
It went on for ever, and sometimes he lost track of time. Sometimes he had written letters to some of his closest friends, only to realize halfway through that they must have been dead for two hundred years. He had hunched over his desk, in such a spasm of grief that
he could scarcely breathe. He had stopped writing letters â and, even when he received them, which was very rarely, he didn't open them any more.
But every day a new day dawned, and every night the sun went down; and almost every night he pushed open the lid of his casket and rose from his bed of friable soil to feed on whoever he could find.
One night, early in October, he opened the cellar trap to find that the hallway was empty. All the furniture had gone. The hallstand with its hat-hooks and mirrors; the Chinese umbrella-stand beside the door. Even the carpets had gone. He stepped out on to the bare boards in his black, highly polished shoes, turning around and around as he did so. The pictures had gone. The landscapes of Sibiu and the Somesu Mic. Even the painting of Lucy, with her white, white dress and her white, white face.
He walked from room to room in rising disbelief. The entire house had been stripped. The dining-table and chairs were all gone, the sideboard gone, the velvet curtains taken down. Everything he owned â his chairs, his clocks, his books, his Dresden porcelain â even his clothes â everything was gone.
He couldn't understand it. For the first time in his existence he felt seriously unnerved. For the first time in his life he actually felt
It had been so much easier when he had been able to find servants â people who could handle the daytime running of the house. But in the past twenty years, servants had been increasingly difficult to find and even when he
found them, they had turned out to be demanding and unreliable and dishonest. As soon as they realized that he was never around during the day, they had taken time off whenever they felt like it, and they had pilfered some of his finest antique silver.
One night, in a pub, he had met a builder, a mournful Welshman called Parry, and he had managed to organize some repairs to the roof and a new front gate, but it had been years since he had been able to find a gardener, and the house was densely surrounded by thistles and plantains and grass that reached as high as the living-room window. He hated unkempt gardens, just as he hated unkempt graveyards, but as time passed he began to grow to enjoy the seclusion. The weeds not
only screened him from the world outside, they deterred unwelcome visitors.
But now his seclusion had been devastatingly invaded, and he had lost everything he possessed. All the same, he gave thanks that the cellar trap had remained undetected. It matched the parquet floor so closely that it was almost impossible to detect. He was in constant fear that somebody would find his sleeping body during the hours of daylight â not a priest or any one of those scientists who had once hunted the Undead. Real death, when it came, would not be unwelcome. No, what he was afraid of was injury or mutilation. This part of the city, once fashionable, was now plagued by gangs of youths whose idea of an evening's entertainment was to throw petrol over sleeping tramps and set them alight; or to break their legs with concrete blocks. Death he could accept â but he couldn't bear the thought of living for ever while he was burned or crippled.
He went upstairs. The bedrooms were empty, too. He touched the shadowy mark on the wall where a portrait of Mina had hung. Then he threw back his head and let out a roar of rage that made the windows shake in their sashes, and started the neighborhood's dogs barking.
Shortly after eleven o'clock, he found a girl standing in a bus shelter, smoking a cigarette and chewing gum at the same time. She couldn't have been older than sixteen or seventeen and she still had that post-pubescent plumpness that he particularly relished. She had long blonde hair and she was wearing a black leather jacket and a short red dress.
He crossed the street. It was raining â a fine, prickling rain â and the road-surface reflected the streetlights and the shop-windows like the water in a dark harbor. He approached the girl directly and stood looking at her, his hand drawn up to his overcoat collar.
“You'll remember me the next time you see me, won't you, mate?” she challenged him.
“I'm sorry,” he said. “You remind me so much of somebody I used to know.”
“Oh, that's original. Next thing you'll be asking me if I come here often.”
“I'm â I'm looking for some company, that's all,” he told her. Even
after all these years, he still found it went against the grain to approach women so bluntly.
“I don't know, mate. I've got to be home by twelve or my mum'll go spare.”
“A quick drink, maybe?”
“I don't know. I don't want to miss my bus.”