Chapter One – Introductions
Of course it was a dark and stormy fucking night. That's how these things always go, right? One can never travel to an unknown destination in a stolen car on a sunny spring day. No, it must be in the middle of a chill autumn night, on a treacherous road in the pouring rain.
The path twisted through the mountains at sharp turns that loomed suddenly out of the dark. At times he had to slow to a crawl because of the narrowness of the road. On his left the flashy sports car of unknown ownership hugged the rocky mountain wall, while the right side was bordered by nothing but a long drop to the forests below.
Henry Jekyll gripped the steering wheel tightly, feeling every beat of his heart as it pounded against his ribs. But he was not scared. He was angry.
He looked out the window separating him from the harsh outdoors and shook with impotent rage. He could not afford to lose his temper here. He took a deep breath and clutched the steering wheel even tighter.
The travel conditions were bad, but they were not the true cause of Jekyll's fury. His foul mood had begun hours earlier, when he awoke to find himself behind the wheel of a vehicle he did not recognize, in a town where no one spoke his language, and no memory of how he'd gotten there.
After many years' experience dealing with similar incidents, Jekyll was quite accustomed to the situation. He had made a quick search of his pockets, driving his hands roughly into the tight space of a pair of pants much too small for him. What he had retrieved was just a worn and battered scrap of paper. It was this little slip of instruction that had turned his annoyance into full-blown outrage, though the message was short. He read only his name and a crude map, followed by the short order "Go to Retras Castle."
He should not have obeyed. He should have abandoned the car, made his way to the first British consulate he could find, and settled himself back home where he belonged. And yet as reasonable as this plan seemed to him, he knew it would risk too much. That other being dwelling within his subconscious might sense his intent, and could take over once again. Jekyll wasn't sure how long he'd been unconscious this time. He was unwilling to relinquish control over his senses so soon after regaining them. Jekyll had no idea why Hyde dragged him so far out of both of their comfort zones. He didn't want to know. But still, it was safer for the moment to comply with his wishes.
So he travelled on, against his better judgment, and grew more irritated with each minute that passed. The map was next to useless. It could have been drawn by a child. Busy as he was trying to decipher the twisting lines while navigating the dark road, Jekyll nearly missed the turn.
The road wasn't much of a road at all. It was more of a muddy footpath, uneven and seldom used. The low sports car wasn't built for such travel. It bumped along the ground, accompanied by sickening scraping sounds as undercarriage met rock. The headlights barely penetrated the darkness. The trees looming up on either side of the car were tall, seeming to lean over the road. At times the branches created a canopy that hid even the light of the stars from view. Jekyll was beginning to wonder if he'd taken a wrong turn after all when the road turned again and the trees abruptly fell back. He had come to a massive clearing, and in the center sat the very castle Jekyll was seeking.
The castle itself was nearly swallowed in shadow. But for a few lights shining from its small medieval windows, it would have been indistinguishable from the forests and high mountain crags that created its picturesque backdrop.
"Picturesque?" thought Jekyll suddenly. "Yeah, for a picture in a horror film."
Jekyll pulled his car as close to the castle as he dared. There were no other vehicles present, and there was no driveway to speak of. He parked in the grass, but he didn't shut off the car. He remained in the driver's seat, inspecting the old house in front of him through the windshield.
It must be an ancient place, he thought. The architecture, from the small windows to the battlements along its stone walls, was indicative of the middle ages. The face of it was covered in dark green ivy that appeared black in the night. Only part of the building seemed habitable, for the western wing had completely fallen to ruin. Indeed, Jekyll wouldn't have believed anyone was present in the ominous castle if it weren't for the lights shining out of the first floor rooms.
Feeling somewhat helpless, Jekyll finally shut off the car and stepped outside. The rain was refusing to subside, and Jekyll hurried to the large wooden double doors of the castle. He huddled under the archway as he knocked on the door, partially hoping no one would answer so he could go home, and partly wishing to be allowed inside and out of the rain.
The wait was so long that he had begun to think he really would have to turn around. He had just begun to wonder if it would be better to spend the night in the car or risk driving down the mountain again when the door swung open.
Jekyll knew himself to be a rather tall man, and so by comparison, he thought the man who answered the door to be exceedingly tall. Indeed, he stared down at Jekyll with small, piercing dark eyes. His thick, black eyebrows drew together as he frowned at this stranger on his doorstep. There was a coldness emanating from the man that would have intimidated Jekyll immensely, had he not already been shivering with cold and anger.
"What do you want?" the man asked unkindly. He didn't seem like a man expecting guests, a fact which Jekyll ignored in his relief to hear English, even if it was colored with an Eastern European accent.
"An explanation and some clothes that fit properly, if you don't mind," Jekyll said as he pushed his way past the man. Now that he had finally reached the destination set for him, he was unwilling to wait in the pouring rain while being asked impertinent questions.
The man hesitated, one pale hand resting on the still-open door. He seemed to be unsure of what course to take. Would he throw Jekyll back out in the cold, or listen to his complaints? Jekyll thought that it was with more than a little reluctance that the man closed the door.
"Clothes I may be able to help you with," he said in his heavily accented but perfect English. "But as for an explanation," he added, "I think I am more entitled to that than you."
Jekyll held his driving instructions out for the man's inspection. "Retras Castle. This is the place isn't it?"
The man looked at the paper in Jekyll's hand before shaking his head slowly. Apparently the scribbled note was as incomprehensible to him as it was to Jekyll.
"This is indeed Retras Castle, but I still don't understand why you would come here."
"Your guess is as good as mine," Jekyll grumbled. "You don't know him, then? Never sent for him?"
"Never mind, never mind." Jekyll crumpled the letter in his hand and tried, unsuccessfully, to stuff it back in his pocket. His pants really were uncomfortably tight and not at all his style. "About these clothes… Well, you and I appear to be about the same size. Do you think I might borrow something off of you? I would be willing to compensate you, of course…"
"In a moment," the man said, brushing away Jekyll's request with a small gesture, "Tell me your name."
"Nigel Pembrook." The alias rolled over his tongue effortlessly. Years of using false names and dodging questions had made Jekyll a very convincing liar. "And you, sir?"
Unlike Jekyll, the man hesitated noticeably before answering. He seemed slightly unsure of what to say, until he shrugged and responded, "Vlad Dracula" with feigned indifference.
Jekyll laughed at the joke. "Oh, that's a good one! And you could almost pass for it too."
"Almost?" asked the man with a faint smile, "Tell me, where do I fall short?"
"Oh, don't get me wrong. I could easily take you for a vampire," Jekyll said, still chuckling, "After all, you live in this secluded castle - alone apparently. And with your accent and appearance…"
"Oh, you know. Black hair with the pronounced widow's peak, dark eyes, pale skin… And your teeth…"
Jekyll stopped mid-sentence, for he had just noticed that the means teeth were truly unusual. Although his lips were closed in a small smile, his upper canines protruded slightly over the lower lip. Jekyll continued to observe, horror-struck, as the man's grin widened, revealing the full extent of his long, sharp fangs.
"Oh…" Jekyll said softly as the man drew closer towards him, "… Shit."
A short burst of loud, rapid knocks interrupted what would surely have been the end of Jekyll's life. The vampire, or so he appeared to be, halted his advance and turned his head in the direction of the front door. His eyes remained fixed on Jekyll, narrowed in suspicion. Jekyll merely stared at him blankly, wondering what the hell his alter-ego had gotten him into.
Breaking his gaze from Jekyll, the vampire once again opened the door to his castle to greet an unknown and uninvited guest. And somewhat like Jekyll, this newcomer wasted no time in bustling right inside.
"Dreadful weather, isn't it?" The man said loudly as he handed a dripping overcoat to the vampire. "Nearly drove right off a cliff half a dozen times, right sweetheart?"
He was speaking to a second figure who had just stepped through the door. She was a beautiful young woman with waves of gold hair and blue eyes. She wore a long, cream-colored evening gown with only a light grey wrap around her shoulders to protect her from the storm. Both had been drenched by the downpour outside. She said nothing in response to her companion's comment. She simply offered a shy smile to Jekyll and the vampire before lowering her gaze modestly, as if apologizing for her friend's abrupt entrance.
The vampire, meanwhile, was staring at the coat in his hands with open disgust. Jekyll watched as he suddenly hefted the coat above his shoulder and threw it violently through the still open front door. He was about to close it again when the blonde woman darted past him, collected the fallen garment from the wet, muddy ground, and dashed inside again. She made no comment, nor acknowledged the brief incident in any way. The vampire watched her with curiosity before slamming the door closed once again.
During this whole encounter, the newcomer had prattled on and on about his journey to the castle. He didn't pause in his rant in the slightest, and hardly seemed to care whether anyone was listening to him or not. Jekyll thought it amazing that he didn't even notice the fate of his coat, or his friend's mad dash to retrieve it for him. The heavy thud of the slamming door finally seemed to remind him of his audience, for his speech halted abruptly.
"Oh, I do apologize," the man said to Jekyll with a smile. Like the vampire, he also spoke English with a pronounced continental accent, though his was more difficult for Jekyll to place. Like his female companion, he was dressed in evening attire and his short blond hair was perfectly coiffured. He extended a hand to Jekyll, "You must be our mysterious host?"
Rather than accept the handshake, Jekyll pointed lamely in the direction of what he presumed was an honest-to-goodness vampire, "Um, no. That would be him, I think."
"Sorry?" the stranger said, turning to face the irritated castle-owner. "Oh! My apologies. Then I take it you must be…?"
"Like I already told him," the vampire interrupted, indicating Jekyll with a jerk of his head, "I did not send for you. I never sent for anyone. Now would someone kindly tell me what the hell you all are doing in my house?"
"I received an invitation."
"Not from me."
"No, you've made that abundantly clear," the blond man said, sounding more than a little miffed.
"And who could blame him?" thought Jekyll silently to himself. "He just made the same trip I did, and apparently for no reason. Someone must have a real twisted sense of humor."
The blond stranger had drawn out a small card from the breast pocket of his dinner jacket. He handed this to the vampire for inspection. Jekyll watched the vampire's face as he read the contents of the message, acutely aware now of his pointed teeth. He marveled at how the newcomer seemed not to notice anything amiss, and wondered whether the vampire was seconds away from murdering them all.
But such a fate seemed unlikely for the time being. The vampire was too busy scowling at the card. "A dinner party?" he quoted from its writing.
"That's right. I was invited to attend a dinner party here. You can see for yourself, the location is quite clear. And I was under the impression that I would be meeting other enlightened minds, men of science like myself, to share the results of our personal research."
"And you believed it?" Jekyll said with a nervous laugh. "Who would hold such a party out in the middle of nowhere? In a dilapidated castle?"
Affronted, the man turned to Jekyll with a scowl, "You came too, didn't you?"
Jekyll returned his glare but remained silent. He saw no reason to divulge more information than he should, given the circumstances. Besides, who would believe that he had an alternate personality - one that not only took over his consciousness, leaving him without any memory of what had happened after the fact, but also completely altered his appearance?
"I suppose you do have a point," the man continued, "This trip came at considerable expense to me. Given my circumstances, I would normally have ignored such a suspicious invitation. But my curiosity got the better of me. And so here we are, wet, tired, and feeling increasingly uneasy."
The vampire was busy turning over the card in his hands. "Curiosity? And what exactly did you find so interesting about such an absurd invitation?"
"Because it was addressed to my real name," the man said with a wry smile, "A name I haven't used in years. I was curious to see the person who knew to associate me with that name after all this time."
Jekyll opened his mouth, about to ask this man who he was, when his question was cut off by yet another knock on the door.
"For the love of…" the vampire muttered. He was glaring at the door but made no move to answer it. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Jekyll realized his mouth was still hanging open and snapped it shut just as another quiet knock sounded on the door.
"For crying out loud there's a bloody hurricane outside!" Jekyll nearly shouted into the silence. "If you're too afraid to answer it, I will!"
And so he did, moving to the door and grasping the handle before the vampire or the enigmatic stranger had a chance to stop him. Shivering and sopping wet on the doorstep stood a young man, his brown hair plastered flat against his head with rain. He was tall and broad shouldered, but even he seemed dwarfed by the size of the backpack he wore over his shoulders. The bag, as drenched as he was, must have been causing him some discomfort, as he fidgeted continuously under its weight.
"Good Lord, you didn't walk here, did you?" Jekyll asked, taking in his haggard appearance.
The boy grimaced, "Well, it's not really my idea of a good time, either. Are you going to invite me in, or do I have to stand in the rain?"
"To tell you the truth," Jekyll said, standing aside to let the boy through, "I don't think the climate is much better indoors than out."
Once the door was secured against the stormy night again, Jekyll turned to see the boy shivering uncontrollably under the stares of the other guests. He couldn't tell if the boy was nervous or simply freezing.
The vampire wasn't glaring at the boy so much as the growing puddle around his feet, and Jekyll suddenly decided that vampire or no, he wasn't scary so much as irritable – like a grumpy old man who just wants some kids to get off his lawn.
"Well," said the blond stranger, "You certainly don't look dressed for a dinner party."
"D-Dinner party?" the boy stammered through clattering teeth. He adjusted one of his backpack straps and looked even more uncomfortable. "N-No. I was t-told that I could find h-help here. That there would be doctors…"
"Doctors?" asked the blond man, flashing a brilliant white smile, "Why, you're in luck! I happen to be a doctor of sorts myself. What is it that ails you?"
The boy seemed incredulous at best. "H-Hold on," he said, shifting the weight of the backpack and settling it down on the ground. If it was at all possible, the vampire looked even more repulsed. Thankfully, the boy failed to notice. He began pawing through the contents of the backpack, feeling through to its depths. Finally, he withdrew a folded piece of thick paper, which had remained miraculously dry.
"I-It says right h-here," he boy said just before suddenly shaking his head violently. Water droplets flew in all directions from his wet hair, provoking a curse from the vampire and yelps from the other two men. "S-Sorry," the boy said with a sniff, his hair no longer flat against his scalp, but curling limply. "But it's here in the note. It says I have… That I-I h-have…"
"Do you mind if I take a look?" asked the blond man, holding an open palm out to the boy. He was still smiling kindly, but there was something cold about his eyes as he looked at the note. Still shivering, the boy could only manage a curt nod as he handed the message over with a trembling hand. The stranger had only to glance at the letter before he spoke, "It's just as I thought. We've been had by the same individual. I received a note exactly like this; only mine was for a dinner party, while yours is for…" He paused, puzzling slightly over the word. "Lycanthropy?"
"As in werewolves? Ridiculous." Jekyll stated before remembering that they were all in the presence of a real-life vampire, and that perhaps werewolves were not such a far-fetched idea.
The boy's pale face reddened. "I-It isn't. Y-You h-have t-t-to b-believe…" He broke off abruptly. As if frustrated by his own stammering, he shivered again, his whole body shaking as water droplets scattered in all directions. When he finished, he stood slowly, seeming more composed and determined. "A few months ago, I wouldn't have believed it either. But I am a werewolf. I came here because that note said I could find doctors who knew about this kind of stuff… That they would have a cure…"
He stared at the stranger, the vampire, and Jekyll in turn, desperate expectation written clearly on his face. Jekyll was starting to feel guilty for dismissing him so quickly, but what was he supposed to do about it?
"I believe you when you say you're a werewolf," the blond man said thoughtfully, surprising Jekyll with his brash open-mindedness. "After all, stranger things have happened."
He glanced toward his female companion then, sharing a secretive smile with her, "But I'm afraid there's no one here with the information you're looking for. Someone seems to be playing a joke at our expense."
The boy's shoulders slumped. He looked completely crestfallen. "You mean there's really no hope for me?"
When no one answered him, the boy stooped down and hefted his large backpack onto his shoulders once again, a look of jaded determination once again returning to his face. "Then I'm leaving."
"Good," said the vampire suddenly, "Why don't the rest of you go with him?"
Jekyll chose this moment to speak. After all, it was either speak out, or be forced back into the storm again and risk another of Hyde's joy rides at his expense. What's more, he was already surrounded by lunatics. The least Jekyll could do, as a sane man, was to descend into madness with the rest of them. Or so he thought as he said, "While we're on the subject of werewolves, I believe that man may be a vampire."
He inclined his head toward the castle owner with what he hoped was a casually respectful air. The man returned his polite gesture with a glare while the others turned to better observe him. A brief silence ensued, when suddenly the blond man burst out laughing.
"Is that so?" he asked, and Jekyll was shocked to hear a sort of glee in the man's voice. Yes, he was clearly of unstable mind. "Well, this is shaping up to be an interesting night. What do you call yourself, Mr. Vampire?"
"I already introduced myself to him," the vampire replied with a surly jerk of the head to indicate Jekyll, "He did not seem inclined to believe me."
"Wait, so you're really Dracula?" Jekyll blurted before he could stop himself.
"Dracula?" the stranger echoed, and the werewolf boy froze by the door. He really had been prepared to leave, but his hand fell away from the knob as he slowly turned around to get a better look at the black-haired man.
"To be honest, I only told you who I was because I planned to kill you anyway. And I would have, if not for these two," he directed his glare toward the stranger and his silent companion. Jekyll was beginning to think a glare was just his default expression; he didn't seem to do much else. "Now I would be happy if all of you just left and never came back."
"Wait, Dracula?" the boy suddenly asked, drawing tentatively closer, "As in the Dracula? Like, Bela Lugosi or Gary Oldman? That Dracula?"
The blond stranger seemed thoughtful. "This is actually starting to make sense. A werewolf and a vampire under one roof… And then there's myself."
"Yes, I've been wondering," Jekyll said, "Who exactly are you?"
The stranger gave him a smile, "As I said before, I haven't used my birth name in many years. But my invitation was addressed to Dr. Victor Frankenstein. That is who I am."
Dracula burst out laughing, surprising Jekyll with evidence that he did, in fact, have more than one mode of expression. "Frankenstein! The mad scientist! Alive and in my house! I thought your monster killed you!"
Frankenstein's smug smile dropped and he stared at the vampire coldly. The corner of his mouth twisted into a cruel smirk, "Is it really so amusing, Count? As I recall, you didn't live to see the end of your book, either. A stake through the heart, wasn't it?"
The vampire's laughter died as suddenly as it came. "Not Count. I am neither a count nor a prince. Just Vlad, if you don't mind."
"Well then, Vlad, I think it's fair to say we all could do some explaining. For example, if I'm the mad scientist, you're the vampire, and he's the werewolf, I can't help but wonder who the hell you are."
He was looking straight at Jekyll, who had really been dreading this moment. He did not relish exposing himself to this group. If they were telling the truth, then he was staring at a room full of legendary monsters. And if they were lying, then they were all insane. Jekyll wasn't sure which was worse. Then again, his own story was a bit hard to believe, wasn't it?
"My name is Henry Jekyll. I used to be a chemist," Jekyll said while he still had the courage (or recklessness) to do so.
It was then that a disembodied voice, as yet unheard by any in that group, suddenly announced, "And I'm the Invisible Man!"