HNR contributor, William Massa has a new book available, and we feel as though you should check it out. Of course we feel like that, I know. But Bill’s a talented dude with a knack for words, so why not push this beast as far as possible? Fear the Light – Who Murdered Dracula? is available right now on Amazon, and if you’re looking for a good reason to pick it up, we’ve got one in the form of a lengthy excerpt. Any true freak for the bloodsucker is going to want to read this!
It would be a beautiful day to die.
It was the first thought that entered the vampire’s mind as he woke from his dark slumber and laid eyes upon the fiery band of sunlight that slashed across the horizon. To his surprise, he found himself in a clearing overlooking a sprawling forest. The crimson streaks of first light already shafting through the canopy of trees carried with them the promise of the stunning summer day to come. It had been decades since he had witnessed a sunrise out in the open, and he couldn’t help but be affected by the breathtaking spectacle.
But his awe proved to be short-lived.
There were questions that needed to be answered.
How had he gotten here?
And what was he doing outside the chateau?
Instead of waking to the reassuring safety of his chambers, where he had laid down to rest the night before, he now found himself exposed to the one thing that could destroy him – daylight.
And there was more…
Mixed with his growing fear, there was another sensation alien to this creature of the night…
The vampire’s limbs throbbed as if sharp claws had hooked into his long dormant nervous system. The agony jolted the vampire back to full consciousness. He strained his neck to gain a better sense of his predicament.
His body was suspended about six feet above the ground, propped up in an upright position, and he was unable to move his arms or legs. There was a sense of almost clinical detachment when it dawned on him why he was incapacitated – his limbs were spread-eagled, metal spikes nailing his hands and feet to a wooden cross. The full extent of the horror perpetrated against the vampire grew clear – he had been crucified, the responsible party mocking the legends that had sprung up around his kind.
The vampire tried to move his fingers but there was no strength in his gored limbs. The powerful spikes held his hands and feet firmly in place. The nails must have been cast from pure silver, the only metal that could restrain the undead.
Who could have done this? And how had they managed to pull this off?
The vampire searched his fragmented memories but couldn’t find any answers that would satisfy. His last clear memory was of the night before. He had feasted on a lovely British tourist, a young art student on spring break who was eager to explore the Bordeaux region but who had gotten lost among the vast vineyards that made up the vampire’s estate. Once her eyes glazed over and the color returned to the vampire’s ivory skin, he retired for the day and after that…
There was only one explanation: someone had found a way to put him in such a deep sleep that he remained oblivious to his own crucifixion. Had someone poisoned the blood of his last victim? Who would be so brazen as to even attempt it?
The vampire received his answer a second later, when a vague silhouette coalesced from the shadows of the forest.
He wasn’t alone any longer.
The new arrival grew more distinct with each successive step. As the figure cut a path through the fine tendrils of morning mist, the vampire’s eyes narrowed with stark recognition.
He suddenly knew there would be no escape.
No last-minute pardon.
He had been tried, judged and found guilty. Swift punishment was about to be meted out.
After so many years, death was upon him. Across the horizon, vibrant light shimmered and seemed to expand as the fiery orb of the sun fully revealed itself in all its fearful glory. To the vampire, it was like staring into the wrathful gaze of God.
An instant later, the creature’s world exploded with searing agony. The vampire threw his head back in response to the first hot kiss of sunlight, revealing twin fangs.
To his own surprise, the vampire’s survival instinct flared up for a moment. In one desperate attempt, he strained against the spikes, muscles and tendons stretching to the breaking point.
But it was to no avail.
The silver nails didn’t budge and his efforts were rewarded by another burst of sizzling anguish. A resigned expression crept into his worn, bloodless features. The final, growing acceptance of his imminent fate. Maybe after all the centuries of strife and terror, a part of him welcomed what was to come next. But before the vampire could give himself over to the darkness, he’d have to embrace the light.
Marc Fontaine was on his morning hike through the woods when an unearthly howl shattered the silence of the forest. A flock of birds burst from the trees, exploding into the burgeoning dawn, and Marc froze in place, his senses suddenly alert. He had made it a habit to hit the trails at the crack of dawn, moving at a relaxed yet steady pace, his mind still drifting somewhere between sleep and wakefulness.
Five years ago – he had just turned fifty-one – a minor heart attack served as a sharp reminder that it was time to slow down a bit. Marc had decided to make some drastic changes to his rough-and-tumble, take-no-prisoners lifestyle. That meant watching his alcohol intake, avoiding processed sugars and saturated fats, and incorporating exercise into his daily routine.
Marc was a busy man who ran a vineyard that annually yielded 125,000 cases of wine, which wasn’t too shabby for a small business, if he had to say so himself. His days were crammed full, a never-ending parade of responsibilities and deadlines that he had to stay on top of if he wanted to remain a viable player in a competitive marketplace.
Producing the best wine possible had been his calling since he was a little boy, when he would assist his father around the vineyards. His passion and dedication to both the art and science of winemaking hadn’t diminished over the years. What little time remained of his day was reserved for his wife and sixteen-year-old daughter Anette, with the latter being a real handful as of late. It felt like every day brought with it some new drama.
But even though Anette’s theatrics could drive him crazy at times, he loved her with all his heart. Family time was a cherished part of Marc’s day. As he liked to say, a glass of wine could keep you warm for the night but a loving family was a happiness that lasted a lifetime.
And that was the key. Marc wanted to be around in the years to come, so sacrifices to his schedule had to be made. A change was needed, and Marc had – to his own surprise – found a way to add a workout routine to his hectic days. The trick was to get up before anyone else did and squeeze in an hour (or at least forty-five minutes) of physical activity before the responsibilities of the day came knocking.
Marc had about fifteen minutes left on his walk before he would reach his home and reward his self-discipline with a morning hit of caffeine (nowadays he alternated his morning espresso with green tea; damn it, middle-age sucked). But he sensed that the keening cry reverberating through the woods might throw off his timetable today.
Marc decided to follow the sound. Determining its point of origin became easier with each step: the scream was gaining in strength as he drew closer. Marc could feel his heart hammering (not good!), but he still picked up his pace.
He was anxious about what he might find once he trailed the pitiful wail to its source, but he had always been a man of action who faced reality head-on and offered help where help was needed. And one thing was for damn certain: the poor soul yelling their lungs out was in dire need of help. If they weren’t beyond help already. The keening shriek was the lamentation of a living creature meeting a horrible demise. Deep down, the winemaker knew he would be too late. But he had to try.
Marc pushed through the dense forest, tearing through a maze of clawing branches and shrubbery intent on derailing his progress. He wouldn’t have thought it possible but the scream was still building in pitch and intensity, a bestial roar that chilled Marc to the bone.
And then the scream ceased. The change was swift and immediate, as if someone had stabbed the mute button on a TV. The renewed silence felt deafening. The death roar had managed to scare away most of the wildlife and the only living creature within a hundred feet was Marc.
Spurred on by this latest development, Marc pushed more branches aside, his breathing intensifying. A moment later, he broke through the thick undergrowth and emerged in the clearing.
Marc felt the heat before he even caught sight of the screamer. It radiated through the forest, singing his forehead. He could taste acrid smoke on his lips and the air was peppered with ash. His eyes widened as they locked on the inferno ahead of him. For one split second, Marc didn’t comprehend what he was looking at. The sight was so surreal and horrific that he couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
The burning cross loomed before him like a mutated tree that had erupted from the earth. It was shrouded by oily smoke while hungry flames licked across its surface, drenching the clearing in its bloody halo. Marc was reminded of various movies and documentaries that dealt with the hateful politics of the KKK. Burning crosses were a trademark of their race-mongering ideology.
Through a curtain of soot he spotted the charred human form nailed to the burning cross. His blood turned to ice despite the heat of the flames.
This wasn’t a political statement by some racist.
This was an execution.
Marc took a step back. Even though he wasn’t religious and hadn’t been to church since his daughter’s baptism, he made the sign of the cross and whispered a hushed prayer for the wretched soul who had succumbed to this terrible fate. Had Marc known the history of the burnt creature wrapped around the blazing oak beams, his reaction might have been very different.
This wasn’t a simple murder scene. It was the funeral pyre of one of the most feared monsters that had ever walked the earth.
A creature better known to the world as Dracula.