[Destiny] Chapter 57: Dracula, Minus The Mist

~~~

[Author’s Note]

After just over a year and 57 chapters, this serial has finally reached an end.

Could probably go on for another 100 or so chapters – you can pretty much make drama out of anything if you put your brain to it – but this feels like the right place to stop.

Just like in Destiny [the Fritz Lang film], character decisions have been made. But no arcs cos I don’t really believe in them. Both Sila and Joanna could regress at any moment. Follow a dark mood or a charitable one. Like any of us.

Hopefully, the plot/character actions weren’t too explicit. I did model it on films like Spirit of The Beehive where a lot of things are left unsaid. Gotta pay attention to details, work a little bit as a reader. And me as a writer. Some chapters really took me to the brink, especially the alien planet parts. How do you make something feel genuinely alien? By drawing black squares, obviously.

Future-wise, I’ll go back through and edit everything and then put the whole 173,000 word novel up as a free PDF. At some point. I have a feeling the early chapters need some trimming. The manic flow of the thing has to be sorted out too, don’t want it to be too exhausting, and it should only shoot off in frenetic directions at the right times. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case as it stands right now.

Quite a bit to do then.

In the meantime, there’s still Void Galaxia, the other serial on the site.

A mix of sci-fi and experimental. Or experimental hidden in the costume of a sci-fi serial. It’s up to Chapter 31 at the moment, which is around halfway, and the second half is by far my favourite.

And in 2023, another serial…Dah Station 7. That one could run on for hundreds of chapters as it’s my Star Trek analogue. 27 chapters already written. 5 volumes outlined.

Also, I’m not much of a self-promoter, but all of my books are on this site, with a free PDF to read if you don’t have the cash to buy the paperback.

For sci-fi, try Planet Rasputin.

For pure lunacy, try KRV.

For sleaze and castle dynamics, try Castle Damijana.

For bleak/blunt autofiction, try Charcoal.

Thanks to anyone who made it this far.

Oli

~~~

Now for the final chapter…

~~~

‘Not a typical orb, but sentient. Chases him around the village, appears everywhere, blocks him from leaving. Doesn’t attack in any way, just blocks.’

‘And then the guy goes back to his house and tries to think of a new scheme. The whole series. Run, orb block, house.’

‘What, no plot holes, professor?’

‘They had that level of orb tech, in the 60’s?’

‘Every road goes nowhere?’

Rapping his knuckles on the cabinet door, Sila tried to whistle the opening bars of Blake’s 7. But the bars weren’t there. Instead he sang the first verse of an old Slovene folk tale, King Matjaž and his cave of eternal slumber.

Then coughed.

‘Pretty cold in here.’

Touched his throat, patting the skin for signs of a hole.

‘Must be that Carpathian wind.’

‘Your handiwork, professor?’

‘Not bad. Effective, almost.’

Sila pulled up his hood and tightened the strings, stalling another cough.

‘Okay, cabaret time.’

‘No neon green eye shit.’

‘No green anything.’

Reaching under the 5-leaf Raskovnik hoodie, his hand strayed a little, confused, before coming back out empty.

The space where the dagger should’ve been was void.

Magically unfilled.

‘Did you do that?’

‘Teleport?’

‘Disintegration machine?’

All three questions dissipated into castle nothingness as the door opened behind him and a group of pink-faced tourists walked in. German, if he was hearing the guide right.

Coughing and muttering at the same time, Sila ran his finger down the left hinge of the cabinet door, said out loud that it would have to be fixed later, then turned and re-joined the main corridor

where all the paintings were

old waxy sadism, glaring, laughing at him

rack specialists

gone.

~~~

The path back down from Brasov Castle was plain and bear-free, not even a peeking face from within distant canopy.

Sila traipsed with hands in hoodie pockets, sure there were holes in him.

But each time he checked, nothing.

Which made sense.

He hadn’t been attacked since the krsnik, give or take a ferry demon, the scuffle with Tak, and the purple orb nightmares were just that, nightmares, ohk mong as Joanna called them,

and if anything had happened in that Portuguese hole, it would’ve manifested by now.

Wouldn’t it?

After three weeks?

Up ahead, an Irish couple walked towards him, the taller guy telling the one in the headlock that a bear would do a lot worse, might even rip his spine out.

Ja, a bear might, Sila thought, taking a hand out of his pocket and holding it up in acknowledgment as the couple passed.

And who else?

Søren Søren Søren Søren Søren Søren Søren Søren

There was no answer, and his brain was already moving on to other things. Cabinets, for about half a second, then other castles in the area, the tourist sham in Bran, the legend of the broken mess somewhere in the mountains between here and there

ruins to most people who found it

alt-dimensional door to other, more esoteric types.

Like him?

Maybe not. But Søren…

The path evened out, leading him onto a road with rough snowy edges instead of clear pavement, houses one pay check away from being shacks, dogs walking their humans, life of a slightly different kind, curious if he bothered to stop and explain his cabinet mission, but also disappointed if he showed how done he was with it all.

So done he’d left the dagger at the hostel.

Alone with Søren.

He stopped, petting one of the dogs and nearly getting his sleeve bitten off.

Unless it was a ploy?

A scheme to draw out the cabinet reveal?

Was that plausible?

The Romanian jabber from the dog’s human didn’t give any clues, so he continued on, reminding himself that the hostel was to the left of the church up ahead, and pulling a giant Nietzschean duvet over all the other stuff.

Dagger left behind, who cares?

It wasn’t like he was desperate to grab it again.

Or talk sci-fi nonsense to a cabinet door.

Not twice in one day.

~~~

The Red Flower Heroes stepped over the drugged bodies of the two guards and checked the windows, whispering all clear before slitting their throats.

‘Tsing bastards.’

‘Manchu scum.’

‘Suppose we should wipe up the blood or at least attempt to-…wah, is that a clock?’

Joanna stopped and looked up.

On the other side of the room, perched by the windowsill, sat the blonde child from a Hell, pretending to read the other Gum Yong book.

Pretending cos it was written in Chinese.

Not mythical Danish.

‘You can get one of Sila’s Danish folk tale books,’ she slurred, the you can in rough Danish and the rest in English.

Søren glanced up, giving a quick no.

‘But you can’t read that one.’

‘Try,’ the demon replied in soft English. Then again in slightly sharper Cantonese.

Joanna closed her eyes and slipped back under the duvet, lifting up the fringe briefly to check on the temperature and pulling it in tighter when she realised the heating hadn’t been turned on.

Again.

According to the promo online, they were supposed to keep it on until at least midday, but the three days they’d been there already, it’d been freezing as soon as she’d woken up.

Maybe a complaint to the reception woman later.

If she could be bothered.

The door beeped open and Sila came in, bringing a draught from the arctic circle with him.

‘Forgot the knife,’ he said, walking over to the bedside table, opening the bottom drawer.

‘It’s not there.’

‘Huh? You took it out?’

A Chinese hand poked out from under the duvet and pointed over towards the window.

‘Søren…’ started Sila, moving over and then slowing down with hands raised as the child demon had put down the Gum Yong book and was now saluting to him with the green dagger. ‘I’m gonna need to borrow that for a little while.’

‘… … … …’

‘Slower, please. Or English.’

‘… … …’

‘Søren…’

‘Nu,’ she answered, flipping the blade and sticking it into the chair cushion nearby.

‘Wah, you can’t stab the furniture. We’ll have to pay for that.’

‘But stabbing cabinets is okay,’ mumbled the lump on the bed.

Sila coughed, rubbing his throat, relieved that once again there was no puncture mark, no blood streams. ‘Okay, fine. I’ll leave the dagger, for today, and the three of us can go and get breakfast. Or lunch now.’

‘Too cold.’

‘Come on, both of you. Up. Get ready.’

‘Reading,’ said Søren, hands and eyes on the Gum Yong book again.

‘Huh? It’s in Chinese.’

‘Reading.’

‘Chinese?’

‘Reading.’

‘Okay, okay…you’re reading…something you can’t understand. When will you be finished?’

‘Later.’

‘When exactly?’

‘Later.’

Sila let out a pensioner’s breath and moved to the chair with the dagger sticking out of it. Søren watched him with one eye as he sat down, but there was no need as his hands were already on the Romanian folk tale book.

‘Once upon a time, there was a woodsman with a kind and beautiful daughter…’ he started, zero enthusiasm.

On the bed, Joanna reacted with a fierce bout of coughing, enough to get her up and out onto the edge of the mattress, hand reaching for the glass of warm water Sila had left when he’d gone out earlier.

Obviously not so warm anymore, and she flinched as she drank from it. Made a gargling sound. Then resumed coughing soon as it was back on the table.

‘I’ll get some hotter water,’ said Sila, leaving the Romanian folk tale and picking up the glass, then saying, what, as Joanna’s hand pulled him back by the sleeve.

‘Slime…’ she stuttered, between further coughs.

‘What?’

‘Is there slime…coming out?’

‘Of your mouth? No. What are you talking about?’

She patted her chest and rode out the last of the lung assaults, then, muttering too fucking cold in Cantonese, got up and put about four layers of heavy clothing on.

‘You wanna explain the slime thing?’

‘No.’

‘It was pretty random.’

She grabbed her North Face jacket and zipped it up as high as it would go on her neck. ‘Are we going for breakfast or not?’

Sila whistled mostly breath and glanced over at Søren, who was standing rigid with her own jacket on, the one they’d got her a week ago in Zagreb even though she kept saying she didn’t feel the cold.

‘Not reading anymore?’

‘Breakfast.’

‘Right. Good idea.’

~~~

Outside the hostel, at the corner next to the church, a man sat slumped, costumed as a vagrant, drinking from a bottle labelled whiskey, rambling about alien mosquito drones setting out from the castle ruins and

when that didn’t work

historical counts not Vlad

but similar to

enduring all these centuries in secluded caves somewhere in the Carpathians

contriving endless fires

swallowing bear guts

waiting for a straggler with a decent body to happen past and offer themselves as a vassal so they could come into town and start fucking again

fucking and stabbing

slicing cutting gloating glaring chopping grinding

‘You think we should give him something?’ asked Sila, as he led the family past, Joanna’s face almost completely hidden beneath a giant scarf, Søren nonplussed in her Zagreb jacket, neither giving a verbal response.

‘On the way back then.’

~~~

The breakfast place looked like a uni canteen, with românească or romanesc put as an adjective after each dish on the menu.

Didn’t matter, there were pics too, and Sila was more interested in coffee and Cluj, telling the other two that it was a uni city, or town, city-town, something in between, and students would be easy to find, while Brasov was nothing but tourist schlock.

‘Might be able to pick up one or two local fantasists…Chinese enthusiasts…but not enough to sustain us.’

‘How far?’ asked Joanna, poking the bacon românească with a 3-pronged fork.

‘Cluj? Dunno. Maybe eight hours by train.’

‘When?’

‘Tomorrow? Day after?’

Joanna took a piece of the bacon and closed her eyes. Chewed the unchewable. Then shivered suddenly and dropped the fork.

‘More slime?’

‘Electric shock. Little bugs zapping my shoulders, my neck. Annoying. Not painful.’

‘Dream residue, probably. Happens to me sometimes.’ Sila glanced at Søren, who still had the coffee cup glued to the bottom of her chin, clearly not drinking any. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked in fairly accurate Danish.

‘Thinking dream.’

‘Huh?’

The blonde demon lowered the cup and reached over towards Sila. It was a bit too distant, despite some bold nail spasms, so she put the cup down and shifted over, assuming a final position on his lap.

‘Err…you might be a bit old for that,’ Sila said, coughing, looking around at the blank Romanian faces in the café.

Søren ignored the sudden odd mood, and pushed a fingertip into the flesh of his throat. Traced a little circle around an imaginary hole. Whispered blood that sounded like blued. Moved the hand to her eye and pressed in the knuckle for a good minute before pulling away and returning to her own seat.

‘Some kind of ritual?’ asked Sila, padding his throat.

‘Routine,’ answered Joanna, giving up on the bacon and switching to black as night coffee. ‘She did it to me this morning. Gave a whole face massage.’

‘A sign of affection maybe…’

‘Then said dead in Danish.’

‘Dead?’

‘I checked on my phone. The dictionary you forced me to download. Dead. Very clear.’

‘Maybe you-…’

‘She said it twenty times. Mo teng chor.’

Sila took more of his own coffee, looked at Søren, then put the cup against his chin. Held it there.

Finally, the demon child smiled.

Subliminal.

But enough for the dead translation to evaporate. And more immediate things to take its place.

Like what they were going to do that day.

And if it’d be dark before they managed to do it.

Ja, Sila thought, reaching a hand inside his hoodie, stroking the space where the dagger should’ve been, the speed we’re going

probably.

~~~

Brasov

the poorly hidden

surrounded by slopes, forest, blank-faced locals, alleged bears, a Bavan shell of a place, Vajda façade with darker things under its dress, town centre that could only be seen as masochistic

shops called SHOP in Romanian

or SOMETHING SHOP

churches unapologetically church, social centre not spectacle, the language barrier allowing Sila, Joanna and their stoic daughter to imagine hi, would you like tea and coffee instead of evolution is devil tongue, look at the trees.

Not that they stayed anywhere long, as Sila had his Romanian Mythology book open again, the page with the castle ruins, apparently up the slope on the east side of Brasov.

Following online directions, they took the path that occasionally vanished, turned left at the tree shaped like Barbara Steele, threw snowballs at the gaps between trunks when they heard bear noises, practised Danish and Cantonese when the path ran straight for two kilometres, and

just as the sky was starting to blend pink

found the castle that was exactly as ruined as the book had promised.

‘Must’ve been destroyed in a battle,’ offered Sila, walking through a ramshackle arch, putting the book above his head in case it chose then to collapse.

‘Almost sunset,’ replied Joanna, sitting down next to Søren on a large stone nearby.

‘Imagine all the things that happened in here. The atmosphere, the torturing, the weird sex games, failed alchemy sessions, Latin study.’

‘We should go.’

‘You don’t feel any of it…the historicity?’

‘Why?’

‘Strange answer.’

‘It’s just a house. Bigger version. In pieces.’

Sila faked a WAH and then laughed, his gut telling him to dig in, defend history, but other sides transmitted counter-spells, images of Vlad sitting in a clawfoot bath, Elizabeth Bathory taking a shit, Count Kurzsan rubbing green cream on his dick vein, fingers already inside a poor Slovene farm hand, mouth on a poor Slovene tourist with a-…

‘Not romantic at all. Like the Forbidden City. Lots of rooms and gardens with poetic names. And all the Emperors ever did was eat, fake-study, wander around, look at the moon with their forced girlfriends.’

‘You mean the place in Beijing?’

‘Even the hard-working ones, like Kin Long in Tsing Chiu. Rich child with enough time to do a hundred different hobbies. Order soldiers to go and slaughter Muslims in Xin Jiang. Rubbish, gold spoon morals, like your kings too.’ She stood up, taking Søren’s hand with her. ‘The sky is full pink now. We need to go back.’

‘Ja…I suppose.’

‘Or stay here and get eaten by bears.’

Sila imagined a nod and then continued just sitting there, as his two flanks headed away from the ruined arch.

Stared at the dirt on the ground.

Found cracks in it.

Put a hood over the Kurzsan shape rising up, giant dick coated in green sheen.

Muttered different castle-scape.

Then got up and followed the trailing sounds of slurred Cantonese, some if it from a surprisingly fluent Søren.

Fuck.

How did that happen?

~~~

The first half of the trek back down was pinkish dark

without abject

while the second leg was acted out in almost complete darkness, the lights from their phones providing a target spot for rogue bears to latch onto if they were having a slow day and their brains weren’t working right.

At one point, the noises from the surrounding forest got so loud that all three of them picked up twigs and waved them about a bit, even Søren, though when they finally made it back onto the street, she turned to her twig and looked at the thing in bewilderment, then threw it on the concrete and told them both that the frenzied waving had never happened.

‘Your English is getting pretty good,’ said Sila, dropping his own twig, taking his miracle daughter’s hand.

‘Almost as good as her Cantonese,’ added Joanna, filling in on the demon’s other side.

‘I had the same thought earlier. You really think she understands it?’

‘Enough to read my Gum Yong books.’

‘Ja, that’s a good point. She might have supernatural linguistic skills. Able to pick up any language in a day or two.’

‘Or she already knew it.’

‘Nah, from where? How?’ Sila looked down at the child demon playfully digging fingernails into his palm. Playfully cos there was no blood. ‘You’re just good at languages, right?’

‘… … … … … …’ Søren replied in old Danish, loosening her grip.

‘Exactly.’

‘… … … … …’

‘Ja.’

‘… … … … … … … … …?’

‘Huh? What?’

~~~

Back at the hostel, both Sila and Joanna lay diagonal on the bed, legs spread across each other, Gum Yong book in her hand, Romanian Mythology in his.

On the other side of the room, by the window, sat Søren on the arm of the chair, watching them.

Staring at either their hands or the book covers.

The face of Vlad or the Red Flower Heroes.

Slovene or Chinese.

Survivors or victims.

Amnesiacs and amnesiacs, arrantly unbothered by surprise purple.

When the wind blew chaotic against the window glass for the thirty-seventh time, with flecks of lilac in the darkness beyond, Søren got up and trotted over to the door.

‘Where you going?’ asked Sila, one eye lifting up from the Mythology book.

‘Hungry.’

‘Okay. You got money?’

‘Da.’

‘Jacket?’

Søren looked down at her body, grunting at the question.

‘Can’t go out in t-shirt and super pants. No matter how adorable it looks.’

‘Not cold.’

‘Jacket. Put it on.’

‘… … … …’

‘I’ll assume that wasn’t fuck off, Sila.’

Søren coughed, covering her mouth. Then walked to the edge of the bed and took her flame red Zagreb jacket.

‘Thank you.’

Zipping it up to her chin, she stood there doll-like and stared at her parents again.

A thing of history.

Real or not.

Danish or-

‘Your batteries died?’ asked Sila, both eyes on her now.

She adjusted her head angle, shifting to the door, and focused her hand on pushing down the handle.

‘Don’t stay out too long, okay?’

The door opened and then closed slowly, pedantically, the red jacket narrowing to a thin strip of seasonal sellotape .

‘It’s pointless giving her commands,’ muttered Joanna, turning a page.

‘She listens. Sometimes.’

‘No.’

‘The jacket…she put that on.’

Sila replayed the line and decided it was a good one, a very good one as Joanna didn’t answer, just turned another page of her Gum Yong book even though she’d just turned one a few seconds ago.

No one could read that fast

Chinese or Slovene.

‘Self-preservation,’ the Chinese brick wall muttered.

‘What?’

She turned back a page, pretending to re-read the bottom then skimming to the top and reading the first line out loud.

‘For who? Us?’

‘… … … … … … … …’

‘Her?’

‘… … … …’

‘Great, back to old times.’

Joanna lowered Gum Yong and reached across, lifting Sila’s Romanian mythology book up awkwardly against his chin.

Hvala.’

‘For ten minutes. Then I’m turning off the light.’

‘Ten? What about Søren?’

‘Vampire eyesight.’

Sila laughed, flicking to a random page. ‘She does move pretty well in the dark. Or hides the tripping over stuff, the missteps. Wah, that’s random.’

‘New cabinet?’

‘Listen to this. The Silhouette Knight of the Black Army, late 15th Century, moved in and out of a shadow version of Cluj-Napoca, seducing bored wives and murdering their husbands. Had a house on the east side of the city that was allegedly the core of his dimension jumping, the ruins of which still remain to this day. Fuck, dimension jumper, Cluj shadow version. What do you think?’

‘Reading.’

‘Ja, I knew you’d say that.’

‘Still reading.’

‘And that.’

‘… … … … …’

‘That too.’

Joanna pulled Gum Yong higher, covering her eyes, almost her whole forehead.

‘Really like old times,’ muttered Sila in Slovene, going back to his own book and whistling at the artist’s impression of the Silhouette Knight, alleged scourge of medieval Cluj

mover between dimensions

professor?

~~~

Outside, the streets of Brasov were concrete in theory alone, the snow covering almost every slab and crack and

bodies were pretty sparse too

just one drunk local flinging snowballs by himself, trying to knock a beer bottle of a wall.

He was so drunk, so focused on his game that he didn’t notice the small, blonde figure in flame red jacket approaching

didn’t see her bend down and form her own snowball

and gave out only a reflex daaaaa when she knocked the bottle down first time

then spun round and said daaaaa again when he saw the incongruity of what was standing there.

‘Out late toddler girl,’ he slurred in Romanian, moving over to the wall, putting the bottle back up. ‘Lucky thrower too.’

Søren looked past him, at the revived glass target.

‘Wanna try proper?’ he asked, coming back over.

She bent down, rolled up more snow.

‘That’s a da then. But don’t throw it so good this time. Give me a chance, I go first.’

Formed an orb shape and stared. Into the darkness of the trees. At flickering curves of purple only she could discern.

‘Wait, don’t throw it…five seconds,’ said the man, scooping up more snow in his bare blue hand, rushing it into an awkward ball shape.

Too late.

The white orb sailed mute through the air, hit the neck of the bottle, knocked it clean off the wall and disintegrated into powdered dust. In object-solidarity, the bottle followed suit, somehow managing to find the only patch of naked concrete on the whole street.

In the distance, an abrupt flash grenade of purple light.

Lapsed judgment.

Endured with closed eyes.

Then layers of Romanian darkness again.

‘Hey, I just fucking said…my throw first.’

Søren turned to her red sleeve, examining the blue man hand attached to it.

‘Now the fucking bottle’s smashed. Fucking wreck. Are you getting this? Hey, you down there, Helga face…you even speak Romanian? Say something. What you doing out this late? Mum and dad, where are they? Fucking? Fighting?’

Her pale hand moved onto cold human skin, digging in nails, pulling the drunk down onto the gritted snow.

‘Wah, the fuck are you-…’

‘Hungry,’ she said in perfect Romanian, kissing the skin of his neck.

‘What…’

‘Hungry past night.’

‘My hand, you’re-…’

Træt af lilla.’

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