“Demand me nothing, what you know, you know
From this time forth I will never speak word.”
I spoke these words for the first time in 1604 at The Globe, in London as the immortalized character Iago in Will Shakespeare’s Othello.
I would go on to portray this incomparable character numerous times over the years, as well as many of Shakespeare’s other, ostensible, villains with Lord Chamberlain’s Men at The Globe until 1642, when the Long Parliament closed all the English theaters in the First English Civil War.
Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Or perhaps not?
My vast knowledge and acting prowess stood me in good stead for what was to come in the years ahead as I assumed role after role, onstage… and off.
My name is Renfield, and to my knowledge, all of what I am to say is true.
But I digress. The year is 1897 and I reside at Doctor Seward’s Sanitarium outside of London proper, assuming (humbly) my greatest character: Renfield, the apocryphal lunatic!
All of my planning and hard work has come to fruition: Dracula is coming. My master and his fifty coffins of Transylvanian earth have arrived here at Whitby Harbor. Unfortunately, the ship ran aground, and the crew have all mysteriously disappeared. Joy! What brilliant tomfoolery. I trust my master has been sated by the crew.
I have enlisted the Whitby locals to transfer the coffins of earth to their new address, personally overseeing the delivery of coffin fifty.
It has taken the better part of four days for the transfer and to scuttle the ship.
My lackeys, Jonathan Harker and the aforesaid Doctor Seward, have been most amenable in aiding me in my goal, not denying that my vampiric hypnotic suggestion had a degree of assistance there.
Assuming another of my fluid characterizations, I enlisted Harker’s aid in procuring a suitable castle here in England for my master. Then, subsequently, sent the gullible fool off to Transylvania to facilitate it all.
I must say, Harker has done admirably and in right time as well, belying the fact that he, with all haste, wished to return to his beloved fiancée, Mina Murray, a fine morsel if ever there was one. Decidedly, my master will also delight in the charms of her best friend, the delicious Lucy Westenra. I will have Harker bring them round this week to meet the new master of Carfax Castle.
And now the Count Dracula may take up residence and enjoy his reign here in the largest city in Europe, where so many of the downtrodden and forgotten can find their eternal resting place, aided by the sanguine nature of my master. I will serve him to the utmost of my capabilities in procurement for him. Many of the hapless victims residing at Seward’s asylum deserve to shuffle off this mortal coil as well. With Seward as my willing factotum, my master’s thirst will be more than assuaged.
This time all has been carefully planned. It has been a decade since my master and I had our last disastrous foray here…
* * *
London: Late Summer, 1888
My role: The Austrian Count Von Sternen, delivering his cousin to his final resting place after succumbing to a mysterious plague-like disease, keeping me mostly to my cabin belowdecks. Hint of the plague well-managed to keep intercourse with others onboard to a minimum.
I had acquired a modest estate for our time to be spent in London, a short ride into the city proper.
We began our nightly sorties in the city, scouring the various neighborhoods, and after a week of this, with varying success, we came upon our Eldorado:
Land of the hopeless and helpless. Thousands of parasites waiting to be consumed, flourishing in the dead of night. My master’s bloodlust (and my own) were fraught with need. The gutters flowed crimson with the blood of animal entrails, heightening our senses into a febrile frenzy.
It was August thirty-first. “I must feed, Renfield,” my master said, his hands on my shoulders, shaking me with his abnormal strength, enough to shake an ordinary man to death.
“Yes, master,” I managed to stutter, then noticed a cloaked figure heading toward us. “There, master.” I pointed.
I backed up into the shadows of the alley and watched my master approach the figure. My master mumbled something I took to be a greeting of some sort, then heard a reply. “Me name’s Polly, good sir.”
My master uttered a response.
“I got’s me a place around the corner here.” Polly pointed behind her.
My master raised his arm, and his cloak engulfed the girl. He ushered her off around the corner. I followed at a discreet distance, and as I turned the corner, I heard the most bloodcurdling scream, which was abruptly cut off, lasting a mere second or so.
I dashed into the nearest small building and entered the first door I came upon. I opened the door to a squalid room, for that is all it was, and beheld the carnage my master had wrought in brief seconds. It was an abattoir. Polly’s clothes were shredded. Her flesh was shredded. My master’s head was firmly planted in her neck, draining her life.
This would not do. An idea began to formulate as I recalled my years in Edinburgh…
In the early 1800s I found myself in Scotland, studying with the renowned surgeon Robert Liston. Liston prided himself on the expediency of his amputations. With me as his assistant, he would often have me time his skills., making sure to always feed before an operation, to keep my blood fever at bay.
Liston was the first surgeon to operate with anesthesia. In my time with him I observed him operating with and without; hence his swiftness with the amputations to avoid excessive pain to the patient.
I would decline to call Liston a conscientious surgeon. Haste seemed to be his primary goal. Modesty notwithstanding, he would often speak of his two-and-a-half-minute leg amputation and his removal of forty-five scrotal tumors in four minutes—one of his more cringe-worthy surgeries.
He operated on the poor as well as the rich, for which he was scorned by many of his peers. In his thick brogue, he would say to me, “The poor have just as much right to live as anyone. Aye, Renfield?”
I would nod solemnly and say “aye” in agreement. It never did to argue with the doctor.
Liston’s nemesis, though, was infection, losing many patients postoperatively to hospital gangrene. This was something I was careful to avoid. If I fed on a patient with the poison from gangrene in their system, I would be violently ill in reaction. Accordingly, as Liston was fond of operating on the poor, his “successes” also provided me with an accommodating food source.
The doctor was also quite territorial, and in order for me to hone my own surgical skills with the blades, I would have to “suggest” to the good doctor that perhaps he should rest and not overwork himself while I tried my hand at a surgery. Liston, perhaps not so surprisingly, given his arrogant nature, proved harder than most to convince with my hypnotic suggestions.
But I was more than up for the challenge.
After a couple of years of surgeries, I felt that I was sufficiently skilled and bid the good doctor adieu. I wished him well and told him I wished to venture out on my own.
He did not take my notice well and proceeded to repudiate me as being ungrateful.
Robert Liston died at his home in 1847. It was reportedly an aneurism.
I recall the taste of his favorite Highland whisky in his blood…
* * *
I always carried a small surgical kit—compliments of the good doctor—and set to rectifying the mayhem my master had perpetrated on poor Polly.
It was one of my better vivisectional efforts, I must say. Performing the “surgery” had a two-fold benefit: It would—and did—confuse the police as to the identity of the perpetrator and would also distract as to the true purpose behind the reason for the slattern’s death. Genius.
Alas, our bloody spree was to be short-lived. (I do love clever pun.) The “Jack the Ripper” murders became all the rage. A letter to the police, some clues left here and there, and we had manipulated the most profound mystery in history! The consequence being that after the last double murder, all focus and manpower was turned to capturing the elusive “Monster of Whitechapel.”
We were forced to return to Transylvania.
Back in London, after our first week of settling in, that fool, Harker, decides to pay his respects to my master.
Though, all is not lost, for Harker has also brought his lovely fiancée, the comely Mina Murray and her even lovelier companion, Miss Lucy Westenra.
I know from the look in my master’s eyes that the lovely Lucy will be a most tasty morsel for his unquenchable thirst. My master has always thrived on human blood, never the vermin I choose to indulge in in my role as the “lunatic” Renfield at the asylum. I so enjoy the odious mien that the good doctor assumes as I crunch a crackling cockroach or rend the head from a luscious rat, both of which there is an endless supply.
From my hidden perch beneath the stone staircase, I can observe the scene before me. My master’s bloodlust for Miss Westenra is palpable. I am certain she will receive an unexpected visit tonight from him as well. Both the ladies appear to be more than entranced by my master, the ever-gracious host.
Upon their departure, my master summons me. “Renfield,” he says, his Eastern European accent apparent. “I vould very much like to indulge myself vith Miss Lucy this evening. Please meet me vhen I return.”
“Yes, Master,” I reply.
And with that he transforms himself into a large bat. He hovers in the room, waiting for me to the open the massive front entry door and make his egress.
I smile with satisfaction. I am the perfect majordomo.
I will make my return to the asylum after daybreak when my master has fed and returned to his place of repose. My keepers at the asylum, aided by my suggestions, will await my return and facilitate my entrance back into my cell with no one the wiser.
And so things continue for several weeks.
Until I discover, while secretly eavesdropping on a conversation between Seward and a newcomer to the sanitarium, a doctor of sorts as well: Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Seward: “She is quite pale and listless.”
Van Helsing: (With a quite thick German accent) “I am afraid that from all that you have told me I can come to but one conclusion: your Miss Lucy has been put under the control for the vilest of creatures to ever walk the earth… A Vampire!
Seward: “Surely you must be joking, Abraham. That’s preposterous! It is only a legend―”
Van Helsing: “A most real fact!” He slaps his hands together for dramatic effect. “The two small bite marks on her neck, the sleepwalking, the paleness, the lassitude… all of the indications are there.” He raises his arm again, as if heading off onto battle. (Quite ludicrous, in fact) “We must act at once!”
His melodramatic gestures and truly poor acting would have had him booed from Shakespeare’s stage, followed by a volley of various overripe vegetables. A pompous ass, decidedly. Yet, a possible danger as well. A veritable vampire hunter. I must plan carefully.
For as it turns out, my master has also indulged himself with Miss Mina, who has since become Mina Harker.
Yes, I must plan carefully…
Next evening, it appears that the dear Professor has indeed proceeded with all haste and precluded my own plotting.
Alas and alack, Miss Lucy Westenra is no longer with us. That buffoon, Van Helsing, with Seward in tow, tracked Miss Lucy down, plunged a stake through her heart, and removed her most lovely head.
I must see to it that Van Helsing’s vampire hunt comes to an abrupt halt. A plan is beginning to form in my mind. Miss Mina’s singular psychic connection to my master may prove to be to my benefit. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…” Walter Scott had that correct, at least.
My master is most displeased with the “murder” of Miss Lucy. And through my eavesdropping at the asylum, I have learned the despicable duo’s devious plan. They hope to use Miss Mina’s psychic connection to lead her to my master, and in so doing, dispatch him in the same way they did to Miss Lucy.
* * *
The stage is set.
The roles are cast.
Now I must give the players their lines and ensure a flawless performance. And a grand guignol finale!
It is dusk, and Van Helsing and Harker, with several “keepers” from the asylum, have been led by Miss Mina—with my assistance—to our castle and the resting place of my master.
They are in a furor to get to my master before he awakens. They storm through the main entry and begin searching the premises. It is time for my best scene.
At the top of the staircase, I become irrational and begin spouting seeming nonsense, avowing that Count Dracula is good man, etc. Van Helsing tries to push me aside, and in our struggle, I plummet to what would assuredly be my death at the bottom of the staircase.
Caring man that he is, Van Helsing cries, “Leave him. He is dead. We have a more urgent matter!” He rushes by my still form, vampire-killer accoutrements flailing. The ass.
The fall, of course, would have killed a normal man, but as we know, I am not.
After a few moments, my bones have mended, and I surreptitiously follow the vampire killers to see the final act played out.
They have discovered the chamber where the coffins are kept and are furiously opening them in their frantic search to find the coffin that contains my master. Van Helsing is screaming about sacraments and holy water. They are to sanctify the earth in the coffins to prevent it being used again. A noble gesture. I chuckle from my place of concealment.
I hear a cry and a gasp from Van Helsing and Harker.
They have found him.
“Hurry, Harker. We have not time to waste. You must do it now!” I hear Van Helsing bellow. My contempt for him knows no bounds. I peer around the marble slab where I have been concealing myself and observe Harker raising a wooden stake above his head, then plunging it downward into my master’s heart.
“Excellent! Now we must remove the head,” Van Helsing yells and proceeds to do exactly that, with a good degree of difficulty, I might add.
“It is done,” Van Helsing states, exhaustion sounding with every word. “We must destroy all of the coffins as well. Remove this abhorrent evil.”
Mina, who had been standing stolidly still observing this mayhem, now takes the stage. “Where am I? What has happened? I feel so exhausted.” A convincing performance.
Harker rushes to her. “My beloved, it is done. The perfidious demon has been destroyed.” Mina collapses against him, and he proceeds to take her away.
Sometime later, Van Helsing and his minions follow.
It is, indeed, done.
My power of suggestion that I have honed, lo these many centuries, has come to its ultimate fruition. Not only did I plant the seeds of suggestion in the lovely Miss Mina, but also with Harker and Van Helsing himself.
In my sessions with Harker and Van Helsing, while they were studying me, I was implanting all of the various suggestions for the final outcome.
They did, indeed, stake and behead the poor unfortunate in the coffin they were made to think was my master. They looked at one victim and saw another.
Perhaps my finest hour. Mayhap, I should direct theater. An idea to explore.
My master awaited me on the ship I had acquired in Whitby Harbor for our return to Transylvania. There were many other cities we could inhabit. London seemed destined to be the bane of our existence. Perhaps, Paris…
Now without the threat of that insipid Van Helsing, for, you see, my final suggestion to them was that they will slowly forget we ever visited London or even existed. A little trick I learned from my mistress, centuries ago, Erzsebet.
It was 1608, and The King’s Men were touring the continent after another outbreak of plague had occurred in London. We had a command performance in Hungary at the Castle of Csejte, nestled in the Little Carpathian Mountains.
Our patron was Countess Erzsebet Bathory, an entrancing creature if ever there was one.
After our performance of Othello, my Iago, as always, was mesmerizing, and the Countess thought so as well, as she was later that evening to tell me in her private bedchamber.
The Countess Bathory indulged her carnal, and other, desires with me for the four days we were in residence.
And when I left, I was a changed man. I was no longer a man…
I was a vampire.
I was also in love with Countess Erzsebet as well. But she no longer wanted anything to do with me. I was her pet, her slave, her concubine for as long as she desired, then I was cast off as rubbish. A devastating blow to my ego as well. I begged, pleaded, cajoled to no effect.
She cruelly laughed me off, emasculating me further, telling me I should be grateful that in a moment of frenzied lust, she had forced me to drink from her, as she had been drinking from me.
Her blood had made me immortal.
Though that was all I had learned about existing as a vampire. That, and the fact I could make someone obey me with the hypnotic power of suggestion. The rest I would discover for myself over the ensuing centuries.
Alas, the one thing I did not discover until 250 years hence was that I had impregnated the Countess.
She had a child who would inherit her castle in neighboring Transylvania.
The Count Dracula.
Lance Taubold is the recipient of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Best First Non-Fiction for On Two Fronts. He has been an entertainer for twenty-five years, performing at the MET Opera, on Broadway, and on television for five years on the soap operas General Hospital and Port Charles. As a writer he has written for Envy Man magazine, both as a fiction writer and book reviewer.
His first novel, Ripper a Love Story, written with author Richard Devin, was published summer 2013. In early 2014 he released the novella series: Zodiac Lovers: Books 1,2,3,4,5. In 2015: Never Fear: A Horror Anthology written with F. Paul Wilson and eight other well-known authors. Never Fear—Phobias with Heather Graham, F. Paul Wilson, Thomas Monteleone, and others. Award-winning, Never Fear—Christmas Terrors with Jon Land, F. Paul Wilson, Heather Graham and other bestselling authors. Award-winning, Never Fear—The Tarot with authors: Michael Stackpole, Tim Waggoner, Heather Graham and others. Never Fear—The Apocalypse with author greats William F. Nolan, Ron Goulart, Heather Graham, Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and others.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Renfield’s Journal”:
For our October issues, we love receive a really good Halloween story, but that doesn’t always happen. This year, Lance Taubold’s “Renfield’s Journal” was one of the two that perfectly fit the bill. Along with great writing, he uses the classic character of Renfield, Dracula’s deranged and fanatically devoted servant in Bram Stoker’s original novel, to give us a very unexpected twist on the legend.