Karl's Dream

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Karl's Dream

by John Zielinsky

The snow was beginning to fall on a crisp, bright morning as the young student leafed through the multitude of pages in his textbook. He looked out the window at the city below and sighed. Amsterdam was beautiful in winter, but it was not home. He closed his eyes and imagined the stark, snow-covered mountains of his homeland. The blood of the Carpathian Mountains flowed through his veins, just as it flowed through the rivers and streams in his native Romania. He sighed again as he opened his eyes, and feigned resuming his studies. A knock at the door jolted him out of his daydreams.

"Hm? Kommen sie. Entrez vous. Open the door, it is unlocked," he called to his visitor. The door opened to admit the portly blond cherubic visage of Otto, one of Herr Van Helsing's younger pupils. "Gutenmorgen, Herr Karl," the boy beamed.

"Bună diminieta, prieten Otto. Ce mai faci?"

The round youngster paused for a moment to decipher his elder's greeting. As the cobwebs cleared his muddled brain, he replied, "Ah! Gut! Wie geht es Ihnen?"

The dark, older man smiled. "Eu es Bine. You are learning Românest'e quite well, Otto. Perhaps one day you will speak it as well as understand the words. What brings tu into my chambers?"

"A letter to you from der Professor. It is postmarked Bucharest."

Karl sat bolt upright and asked for the letter. Otto shoved his pudgy hand into a pocket and produced the envelope and handed it to his elder. "Tell me what it says, Herr Karl! I must know!"

Karl read the letter to his young friend, translating it from the Latin that Van Helsing corresponded to his elder students in that, alas, poor Otto did not yet comprehend.

"12 October, Bucharest.

Friend Karl,

You are the most prized of my pupils and the most studious. You are like a son to me, and your father as my brother. It is with a heavy heart that I must now urge you to meet me here in Bucharest so that we may rush you home.

The evil Nosferatu, Dracula, has been destroyed, thanks to the bravery of the Harkers, Lord Godalming, Doctor Seward, your father, and Quincy Morris, may he rest in peace. This would be cause to celebrate if not for the untimely death of Herr Morris. America breeds brave men, and Quincy was one of her bravest.

But oh! The bad tidings I must bring. One of Dracula's inferiors, Boris Brkic- a Slav, and a despicable man who dabbled in the black arts, escaped our wiles. Furthermore, he had inducted your mother into the legions of the un-dead, draining her of her aqua vitae as we hunted down his master.

With heavy hearts, your father and I returned to hear the news that your mother was dead and buried.

With heavier hearts, we then had to destroy the thing that took your mother's shape in the night! I will spare you the details, as it makes even me weep to think about.

Your father had just finished the compilations of diaries, notes and journals of the Harkers, et. al. I send this to you in a separate package. After restoring your mother's soul and destroying her vampire-form, we gave chase to Brkic. He was prepared for us, and used his black magic and spells to keep us at bay. Your father was gravely injured, and I am taking care of him in a medical way. Please do not tarry, and come right away!

Van Helsing"

Karl sat aghast, staring at the paper in his hand. Otto looked around sheepishly and excused himself with a "La revedere" for his Romanian friend. The tall, dark man had already pulled on his coat and was rooting through his closet for essentials as the youngster quietly closed the door as he left.

Two days later, Karl arrived in Bucharest, but Dr. Van Helsing was nowhere to be found. With the small amount of money he had with him, he purchased a horse and rode out towards his home village. He arrived as the sun set over the mountains. Crimson beams of light reflected off the fresh snowfall, making the little village appear awash in a sea of congealed blood. He rode over to his parents' house and tied his horse to a tree. No smoke came from the chimney.

As Karl strode to the door, the world was silent. No animals moved about the normally bustling farming village. The door itself had been wrenched from its hinges and its timbers cracked and splintered. A drift of snow swept into the front room, and Karl stepped cautiously inside.

"Tată? Herr Professor?" he called, but the house seemed dead and empty. Signs of struggle were evident- overturned tables, broken chairs and torn curtains made the cheery home of his youth an icy graveyard. Karl stepped into the bedroom and gasped, nearly tripping over a body on the floor- it was Dr. Van Helsing, wreathed in a collar of garlic. Quickly, the student rushed to his tutor, removing a small shaving-mirror from his bag and placing it in front of the old man's face. A flowering of fog on the glass raised the younger man's spirits. The doctor was alive!

Karl hurriedly checked his mentor for any broken bones and found none, but many bruises and cuts were evident. He bundled the inert form into an unbroken chair in front of the fireplace, lighting a fire with the shattered detritus of other less fortunate chairs. Grabbing a dented iron pot from amongst the rubble, he dashed outside and filled it with clean snow, and hung the pot over the fire. A quick check in the pantry produced some potatoes, dried carrots, and dried mushrooms. These went quickly into the pot, which was already starting to steam. A check in the pens outside produced surprising results.

All the animals were frozen and exsanguinated. Karl shook his head grimly and selected a goat, skinning it and smelling the meat for gaminess. It was still edible, and he sliced off chunks of meat, not bothering to butcher it formally. Soon, there was a stew bubbling over the fire as Karl propped up the door to keep out the wind. Already, the ruddiness of his mentor's complexion was returning. Soon, the old man began to stir.

"Steady, old friend. You are injured," Karl soothed. "Where is Tată?"

Van Helsing sighed, and accepted a bowl of the goat stew offered by his pupil. "Der Teufel hat ihn genommen!" the old man sadly said.

"The Devil, you say? But where has Tată been taken, Herr Professor?"

"The fiend Brkic has taken him! He it was that battled me for your father's very body and soul! Sadly, he was too much for me, and I was overpowered. He left me for dead, but this old Dutchman's bones break not so easily, Ja?"

Karl sipped at his own stew, and pondered aloud, "How are we going to find him?"

Just then, the front door burst inward, sending shivers of wood everywhere. A tall dark man with prominent fangs, deep red lips, and glowing crimson eyes strode into the room. "Buenă seara, preiten van Helsing. Buenă seara, fiu. You need look no further. I am here."

Karl stepped toward the figure in a daze. "Tată?" he pleaded, but was restrained by the still strong grip of the old man.

"Nein! Ihr Vater verloren! He is lost! This is just a thing that masquerades as your father, and my good friend Bram."

The figure turned toward the doctor. "Ce mai faci, Dr. Van Helsing? It is I, your preiten, Bram," he soothed, smiling a familial, yet icy cold smile. "Fiu, the doctor is burdened with these wreaths of foul flowers. Relieve him of his burden that we may aid his convalescence."

Karl broke free of the old man's grasp, and strode to the fireplace, removing one of the two swords hanging over the mantel. He turned back toward his mentor, thrusting the point towards the old man's throat, the tip lightly pressing against the skin. Van Helsing's eves were wide with fear.

The dark figure smiled cruelly. "Good. Now rid me of this cursed old fool and join us in immortality."

Karl's' hand shook as Van Helsing began to recite the rosary, closing his eyes and exposing his throat to the cold steel. The young man wheeled, and slashed at the dark figure, screaming, "Nu! Nu! You are vampire, nosferatu! You are in league with the devil! I will destroy you and restore my father's soul!"

The slash was quick, but not quick enough. The creature swept over to the mantel, retrieving the second sword and swinging it toward the throat of the astonished Van Helsing. The professor felt the sweeping of steel through air just beside his head and the ring of metal as Karl parried the blow. The monster turned, and the battle was on. Sparks flew as steel clashed against steel. Thrust and slash were all parried expertly in a deadly ballet.

"Foolish whelp!" snarled the creature as he slashed savagely toward Karl's torso. "It is I who taught you how to use a sword. I am the master. I shall prevail!"

Karl's eyes gathered a cold gleam as he barely parried the blow. "Nu! My tată taught me to use the sword. And he taught me another thing...," with this, the sabers locked and the two men were face to face, "…Never give up!" Karl finished, slinging his opponent across the room with a sweep of ringing steel. Immediately, the creature was up, sword flying in a deadly arc towards the young man. Karl responded with a slash of his own, and when steel met steel, both swords shattered with a tremendous crash! Shivers of steel flew everywhere, embedding themselves in the timbers of the walls and table, and in the splintered remains of the door.

The vampire leapt at Karl, who cast aside the hilt of his shattered sword and rolled toward the leaping monster. He was already on his feet as the fiend hurled over his head and crashed to the floor. Van Helsing took this moment to toss the rosewood crossbar from the door to his student. Karl caught it as the vampire lunged again. The monster was met by the swing of a stout wooden board across the head. It went sprawling as the timber split into shards of wood.

The monster rubbed its jaw and turned towards Karl. "You will pay for that, fool!" He sprung quick as lightning towards the young man and the two went down in a heap! He reared his head back, ready to plunge his fangs into his son's throat, then paused, emitting a gasping gurgle. Karl had thrust a shard of rosewood through the vampire's heart!

The vampire's face began to change from the cold, ruthless visage of the undead to the softer, more familiar face that Van Helsing had known as Bram. The dying man smiled, whispering, "Mult'umesc foarte mult, fiu. I am saved. I go now to your mamă…. But promise me…"

Karl gently rolled his father's body off of his own, and knelt beside him, weeping. "Promise you what, Tată?"

Bram wheezed and closed his eyes. "Promise me… you will destroy… Brkic… and all things abominable to man…"

The young man kissed his father's hand, wetting it with his tears. "Da, Tată. I will. All the days of my life."

Bram managed a weak smile. "Bine. Mult'umesc, fiu. La revedere…."

Karl closed his father's eylids. "Cu placăcere. La revedere, Tată."

Karl was startled awake by a hand upon his shoulder. He looked up from his bedroll beside the fire and saw the face of Sue.

"C'mon, Karl, git up. It's time fer your watch…"

The foreigner yawned and sat up. "Da. Mult'u… Thank you, Susan."

The cowgirl scowled at her relief on the night watch. "I keep tellin' ya it ain't Susan, it's Sue. How come you cain't git it right?"

Karl smiled. "It would not be proper, dear lady. Please to go to sleep, prieten. Noapte bună."

The young lady shuffled off to her spot on the dusty ground. "Yeah, yeah, 'Buenos Nachos' to you too," she replied as she lay down for some much needed rest.

Karl picked up his rifle and began his watch, circling the campsite where he and his companions had stopped for the night. He pondered his dream as he leaned against his horse. His gaze fell upon the sleeping forms of the mutants Barney and Brother Joy, who was snoring lightly by the insectoid mount he rode. Karl thought and thought….

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