Back at the beginning of the month, I wrote about a contest Galleycat was doing about rewriting a page from a Victorian vampire novel. I received my page a while ago, but with the release of Harbinger looming, I left it to the last moment. But it is done on time. So I thought I’d share the result with you.
Below, you’ll find the original text as it exists in the book Varney the Vampire.
“Go on, go on.”
“I will, and with such brief conclusions as I may. Having once attacked any human being, we feel a strange, but terribly impulsive desire again to seek that person for more blood. But I love you, Flora; the small amount of sensibility that still lingers about my preternatural existence, acknowledges in you a pure and better spirit. I would fain save you.”
“Oh! tell me how I may escape the terrible infliction.”
“That can only be done by flight. Leave this place, I implore you! leave it as quickly as the movement may be
made. Linger not — cast not one regretful look behind you on your ancient home. I shall remain in this locality for years. Let me lose sight of you, I will not pursue you; but, by force of circumstances, I am myself compelled to linger here. Flight is the only means by which you may avoid a doom as terrific as that which I endure.”
“But tell me,” said Flora, after a moment’s pause, during which she appeared to be endeavouring to gather courage to ask some fearful question; “tell me if it be true that those who have once endured the terrific attack of a vampyre, become themselves, after death, one of that dread race?”
“It is by such means,” said Varney, “that the frightful brood increases; but, time and circumstances must aid the development of the new and horrible existence. You, however, are safe.”
“Safe! Oh! say that word again.”
“Yes, safe; not once or twice will the vampyre’s attack have sufficient influence on your mortal frame, as to induce a susceptibility on your part to become coexistent with such as he. The attack must be often repeated, and the termination of mortal existence must be a consequence essential, and direct from those attacks, before such a result may be anticipated.”
“Yes, yes; I understand.”
“If you were to continue my victim from year to year, the energies of life would slowly waste away, and, till like some faint taper’s gleam, consuming more sustenance than it received, the veriest accident would extinguish your existence, and then, Flora Bannerworth, you might become a vampyre.”
“Oh! horrible! most horrible!”
“If by chance, or by design, the least glimpse of the cold moonbeams rested on your apparently lifeless remains, you would rise again and be one of us — a terror to yourself and a desolation to all around.”
“Oh! I will fly from here,” said Flora. “The hope of escape from so terrific and dreadful a doom shall urge me onward; if flight can save me — flight from Bannerworth Hall, I will pause not until continents and oceans divide us.”
“It is well. I’m able now thus calmly to reason with you. A few short months more and I shall feel the languor of death creeping over me, and then will come that mad excitement of the brain, which, were you hidden behind triple doors of steel, would tempt me again to seek your chamber — again to seize you in my full embrace — again to draw from your veins the means of prolonged life — again to convulse your very soul with terror.”
“I need no incentives,” said Flora, with a shudder, “in the shape of descriptions of the past, to urge me on.”
“You will fly from Bannerworth Hall?”
“Yes, yes!” said Flora, “it shall be so; its very chambers now are hideous with the recollection of scenes enacted in them. I will urge my brothers, my mother, all to leave. And in some distant clime we will find security and shelter. There even we will learn to think of you with more of sorrow than of anger — more pity than reproach — more curiosity than loathing.”
The contest said we could be as experimental as we wished. We could write it as a poem, as a series of tweets, etc. I confess, I took the road of treating it like another page in a book. What I did do was to try and inject some more emotion on Varney’s part. I wanted to know what he was thinking, so I wrote it in first person. These are my results
“Go on, go on.”
She looks at me with such desperation. In this moment, I understand just how horrible my existence is. “Once we’ve drank from someone, we feel drawn back to them again and again.” Her eyes hold such terror. I must make her understand. “There’s still humanity left within me. And that humanity loves you Flora. I will save you.”
“Then tell me. Please…” Her voice wavers on hysteria. “How can I escape.”
“Leave this place. Do it as quickly as you can and never look back. Circumstances trap me here, I won’t be able to come after you. Leave me behind. It’s the only way to escape sharing my curse.” My heart trembles with the words. Is it because of love I want her to stay, or to sate the hunger?
“But I need to know…” She won’t hold my gaze. Her hands fidget and tremble. What more could she ask that would have her so frightened? “Is it true that after being bitten, a person is doomed to become a vampire after death?”
“That is the usual method.” I race to say the next words. “But I assure you, you are safe.”
“Safe?” Her eyes fill with doubt. “Say the word again. But only if it’s true.”
“Safe.” I whisper it like a prayer. Maybe it is. Does God hear the prayers of monsters like myself? “You’re safe. A victim must be attacked numerous times, and eventually die from an attack, before they will change.” My gut twists with guilt. “I haven’t… been with you enough for that to happen.”
There’s relief in her eyes, and anger. I want to reach out to her, stroke my fingers through the softness of her hair. But I know she would recoil. And that’s a rejection I just can’t face.
“I understand. Then I have no choice but to leave. But can even the distance of continents and oceans save me?”
“It’s fine.” No, it’s not. I don’t want to lose her. “For now, my thirst is satisfied. I’m calm, I can see clearly. But if you wait too long and stay too close… In just a few months I’ll hunger. If you remain, no bars or doors of steel could keep me from taking you.”
“You don’t need to say anything more.” Flora shudders, “I have all the incentive I need.”
“You will leave Bannerworth Hall?”
“Yes.” She looks about the room with a growing look of disdain “There’s no reason to stay. Nothing left here but rooms with painful memories. I will urge my mother and my brothers, all to leave. We’ll find a distant place to start again. There even we will learn to think of you with more of sorrow than of anger — more pity than reproach — more curiosity than loathing.
And that’s it. I’ll let you all know when the contest results are posted and how you can pick up a copy of the remixed Varney.