Because Some Lifes Are Different


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The Blood Dragons Coffin

Four Wooden Stakes by Victor Roman

There it lay on the desk in front of me, that missive so simple in wording, yet so 
perplexing, so urgent in tone. 

Jack, Come at once for old time's sake. Am all alone. Will explain upon arrival. 

Remson. 

Having spent the past three weeks in bringing to a successful termination a case 
that had puzzled the police and two of the best detective agencies in the city, I 
decide that I was entitled to a rest, so I ordered two suitcases packed and went in 
search of a timetable. It was several years since I had seen Remson Holroyd; in 
fact I had not seen him since we had matriculated from college together. I was 
curious to 1{now how he was getting along, to say nothing of the little diversion 
he promised me in the way of a mystery. 

The following afternoon found me standing on the platform of the little town of 
Charing, a village of about fifteen hundred souls. Remson's place was about ten 
miles from there so I stepped forward to the driver of a shay and asked if he 
would kindly take me to the Holroyd estate. He clasped his hands in what seemed 
a silent prayer, shuddered slightly, then looked at me with an air of wonder, 
mingled with suspicion. 

"I don't know what ye wants to go out there for, stranger, but if yell take the 
advice o' a God-fearing man, yell turn back whence ye come from. There be 
some mighty fearful tales concernin' that place floatin' around, and more'n one 
tramp's been found near there so weak from loss of blood and fear he could 
hardly crawl. They's somethin' there. Be it man or beast I don't know, but as for 
me, I wouldn't drive ye out there for a hundred dollars cash." 

This was not at all encouraging, but I was nor to be influenced by the tally of a 
superstitious old gossip, so I cast about for a less impressionable rustic who 
would undertake the trip to earn the ample reward I promised at the end of my 
ride. To my chagrin, they all acted like the first; some crossed themselves 
fervently, while others gave me one wild look and ran, as if I were in alliance 
with the devil. 

By now my curiosity was thoroughly aroused, and I was determined to see the 
thing through to a finish if it cost me my life. So, casting a last, contemptuous 
look upon those poor souls, I stepped out briskly in the direction pointed out to 
me. However, I had gone but a scant two miles when the weight of the suitcases 
began to tell, and I slackened pace considerably. 

The sun was just disappearing beneath the treetops when I caught my first 
glimpse of the old homestead, now deserted but for its one occupant. Time and 
the elements had laid heavy hands upon it, for there was hardly a window that 
could boast its full quota of panes, while the shutters banged and creaked with a 
noise dismal enough to daunt even the strong of heart. 

About one hundred yards back I discerned a small building of grey stone, pieces 
of which seemed to be lying all around it, partly covered by the dense growth of 
vegetation that overran the entire countryside. On closer observation I realized 
that the building was a crypt, while what I had taken to be pieces of the material 
scattered around were really tombstones. Evidently this was the family burying 
ground. But why had certain members been interred in a mausoleum while the 
remainder of the family had been buried in the ground in the usual manner?p 

Having observed thus much, I turned my steps towards the house, for I had no 
intention of spending the night with naught but the dead for company. Indeed, I 
began to realize just why those simple country folk had refused to aid me, and a 
hesitant doubt began to assert itself as to the expedience of my being here, when I 
might have been at the shore or at the country club enjoying life to the full. 

By now the sun had completely slid from view, and in the semi-darkness the 
place presented an even drearier aspect than before. With a great display of 
bravado I stepped upon the veranda, slammed my suitcases upon a seat very 
much the worse for wear, and pulled lustily at the knob. 

Peal after peal reverberated through the house, echoing and reechoing from room 
to room, till the whole structure rang. Then all was still once more, save for the 
sighing of the wind and the creaking of the shutters. 

A few minutes passed, and the sound of footsteps approaching the door reached 
my ears. Another interval, and the door was cautiously opened a few inches, 
while a head, shrouded by the darkness scrutinized me closely. Then the door 
was flung wide, and Remson (I hardly knew him, so changed was he) rushed 
forward and throwing his arms around me thanked me again and again for 
heeding his plea, till I thought he would go into hysterics. 

I begged him to brace up, and the sound of my voice seemed to help him, for he 
apologized rather shamefacedly for his discourtesy and led the way along the 
wide hall. There was a fire blazing merrily away in the sitting room, and after 
partaking generously of a repast, for I was famished after my long walk, I was 
seated in front of it, facing Remson and waiting to hear his story. 

"Jack," he began, "I'll start at the beginning and try and give you the facts in their 
proper sequence. Five years ago my family circle consisted of five persons; my 
grandfather, my father, two brothers and myself, the baby of the family. My 
mother died, you know when I was a few weeks old. Now..." 

His voice broke and for a moment he was unable to continue. 

"There's only myself left," he went on, "and so help me God, I'm going too, 
unless you can solve this damnable mystery that hovers over this house, and put 
an end to that something which took my kin and is gradually taking me. 

"Grandad was the first to go. He spent the last few years of his life in South 
America. Just before leaving there he was attacked while asleep by one of those 
huge bats. Next morning he was so weak that he couldn't walk. That awful thing 
had sucked his life blood away. He arrived here, but was sickly until his death a 
few weeks later. The doctors couldn't agree as to the cause of death, so they laid 
it to old age and let it go at that. But I knew better. It was his experience in the 
south that had done for him. In his will he asked that a crypt be built immediately 
and his body interred therein. His wish was carried out, and his remains lie in that 
little grey vault that you may have noticed if you cut around behind the house. 
Then my dad began failing and just pined away until he died. What puzzled the 
doctors was the fact that right up until the end he consumed enough food to 
sustain three men, yet he was so weak he lacked the strength to drag his legs over 
the floor. He was buried, or rather interred, with grandad. The same symptoms 
were in evidence in the cases of George and Fred. They are both lying in the 
vault. And now, Jack, I'm going, too, for of late my appetite has increased to 
alarming proportions, yet I am as weak as a kitten." 

"Nonsense!" I chided. "We'll just leave this place for a while and take a trip 
somewhere, and when you return you'll laugh at your fears. It's all a case of 
overwrought nerves, and there is certainly nothing strange about the deaths you 
speak of. Probably due to some hereditary disease. More than one family has 
passed out in a hurry just on that account." 

"Jack, I only wish I could think so, but somehow I know better. And as for 
leaving here, I just can't. Understand, I hate the place; I loathe it, but I can't get 
away. There is a morbid fascination about the place which holds me. If you want 
to be a real friend, just stay with me for a couple of days and if you don't find 
anything, I'm sure the sight of you and the sound of your voice will do wonders 
for me." 

I agreed to do my best, although I was hard put to it to keep from smiling at his 
fears, so apparently groundless were they. We talked on other subjects for several 
hours, then I proposed bed, saying that I was very tired after my journey and 
subsequent walk. Remson showed me to my room, and after seeing that 
everything was as comfortable as possible, he bade me goodnight. 

As he turned to leave the room the flickering light from the lamp fell on his neck 
and I noticed two small punctures in the skin. I questioned him regarding them, 
but he replied that he must have beheaded a pimple and that he hadn't noticed 
them before. He again said good night and left the room. 

I undressed and tumbled into bed. During the night I was conscious of an 
overpowering feeling of suffocation—as if some great burden was lying on my 
chest which I could not dislodge; and in the morning when I awoke, I 
experienced a curious sensation of weakness. I arose, not without an effort, and 
began divesting myself of my sleeping suit. 

As I folded the jacket, I noticed a thin line of blood on the collar. I felt my neck, 
a terrible fear overwhelming me. It pained slightly at the touch. I rushed to 
examine it in the mirror. Two tiny dots rimmed with blood—my blood—and on 
my neck! No longer did I chuckle at Remson's fears, for it, the thing, had 
attacked me as I slept! 

I dressed as quickly as my condition would permit and went downstairs, thinking 
to find my friend there. He was not about, so I looked outside, but he was not in 
evidence. There was but one answer to the question. He had not yet risen. It was 
nine o'clock, so I resolved to awaken him. 

Not knowing which room he occupied, I entered one after another in a fruitless 
search. They were all in various stages of disorder, and the thick coating of dust 
on the furniture showed that they had been untenanted for some time. At last, in a 
bedroom on the north side of the third floor, I found him. 

He was lying spread-eagle fashion across the bed, still in his pajamas, and as I 
leaned forward to shake him, my eyes fell on two drops of blood, splattered on 
the coverlet. I crushed back a wild desire to scream and shook Remson rather 
roughly. His head rolled to one side, and the hellish perforations on his throat 
showed up vividly. They looked fresh and raw, and had increased to much 
greater dimensions. I shook him with increased vigor, and at last he opened his 
eyes stupidly and looked around. Then, seeing me, he said in a voice loaded with 
anguish, resignation and despair: 

"It's been here again, Jack. I can't hold out much longer. May God take my soul 
when I go." 

So saying, he fell back again from sheer weakness. I left him and went about 
preparing myself some breakfast. I thought it best not to destroy his faith in me 
by telling him that I, too, had suffered at the hands of his persecutor. 

A walk brought me some peace of mind if not a solution, and when I returned 
about noon to the big house, Remson was up and about. Together we prepared a 
really excellent meal. I was hungry and did justice to my share; but after I had 
finished, my friend continued eating until I thought he must either disgorge or 
burst. Then after putting things to rights, we strolled about the long hall, looking 
at the oil paintings, many of which were very valuable. 

At one end of the hall I discovered a portrait of an old gentleman, evidently a 
dandy of his day. He wore his hair in the long, flowing fashion adopted by the 
old school and sported a carefully trimmed moustache and Vandyke beard. 
Remson noticed my interest in the painting and came forward. 

"I don't wonder that picture holds your interest, Jack. It has a great fascination for 
me, also. At times I sit for hours, studying the expression on that face. I 
sometimes think that he has something to tell me, but of course that's all tommy 
rot. But I beg your pardon, I haven't introduced the old gent yet, have I? This is 
my grandad. He was a great old boy in his day, and he might be living yet but for 
that cursed bloodsucker. Perhaps it is such a creature that is doing for me; what 
do you think?" 

"I wouldn't like to venture an opinion, Remson, but unless I'm badly mistaken we 
must dig deeper for an explanation. We'll know tonight, however. You retire as 
usual and I'll keep a close watch and we'll solve the riddle or die in the attempt." 

Remson said not a word but silently extended his hand. I clasped it in a firm 
embrace and in each other's eyes we read complete understanding. To change the 
trend of thought I questioned him on the servant problem. 

"I've tried time and again to get servants that would stay," he replied, "But about 
the third day they would begin acting queer, and the first thing I'd know, they'd 
have skipped, bag and baggage." 

That night I accompanied my friend to his room and remained until he had 
disrobed and was ready to retire. Several of the window panes were cracked and 
one was entirely missing. I suggested boarding up the aperture, but he declined, 
saying that he rather enjoyed the night air, so I dropped the matter. 

As it was still early, I sat by the fire in the sitting room and read for an hour or 
two. I confess that there were many times when my mind wandered from the 
printed page before me and chills raced up and down my spine as some new 
sound was borne to my ears. The wind had risen, and was whistling through the 
trees with a peculiar whining sound. The creaking of the shutters tended to 
further the eerie effect, and in the distance could be heard the hooting of 
numerous owls, mingled with the cries of miscellaneous night fowl and other 
nocturnal creatures. 

As I ascended the two flights of steps, the candle in my hand casting grotesque 
shadows on the walls and ceiling, I had little liking for my job. Many times in the 
course of duty I had been called upon to display courage, but it took more than 
mere courage to keep me going now. 

I extinguished the candle and crept forward to Remson's room, the door of which 
was closed. Being careful to make no noise I knelt and looked in at the keyhole. 
It afforded me a clear view of the bed and two of the windows in the opposite 
wall. Gradually my eye became accustomed to the darkness and I noticed a faint 
reddish glow outside one of the windows. It apparently emanated from nowhere. 
Hundreds of little specks danced and whirled in the spot of light, and as I 
watched them, fascinated, they seemed to take on the form of a human face. The 
features were masculine, as was also the arrangement of the hair. Then the 
mysterious glow disappeared. 

So great had the strain been on me that I was wet from perspiration, although the 
night was quite cool. For a moment I was undecided whether to enter the room or 
to stay where I was and use the keyhole as a means of observation. I concluded 
that to remain where I was would be the better plan, so I once more placed my 
eye to the hole. 

Immediately my attention was drawn to something moving where the light had 
been. At first, owing to the poor light, I was unable to distinguish the general 
outline and form of the thing; then I saw. It was a man's head. 

I will swear it was the exact reproduction of that picture I had seen in the hall that 
very morning. But, oh, the difference in expression! The lips were drawn back in 
a snarl, disclosing two sets of pearly white teeth, the canines overdeveloped and 
remarkably sharp. The eyes, an emerald green in color, stared in a look of 
consuming hate. The hair was sadly disarranged while on the beard was a large 
clot of what seemed to be congealed blood. 

I noticed thus much, then the head melted from my sight and I transferred my 
attention to a great bat that circled round and round, his huge wings beating a 
tattoo on the glass. Finally he circled round the broken pane and flew straight 
through the hole made by the missing glass. For a few moments he was shut off 
from my view, then he reappeared and began circling round my friend, who lay 
sound asleep, blissfully ignorant of all that was occurring. Nearer and nearer it 
drew, then swooped down and fastened itself on Remson's throat, just over the 
jugular vein. 

At this I rushed into the room and made a wild dash for the thing that had come 
night after night to gorge itself on my friend, but to no avail. It flew out of the 
window and away, and I turned my attention to the sleeper. 

"Remson, old man, get up." 

He sat up like a shot. "What's the matter, Jack? Has it been here?" 

"Never mind just now," I replied. "Just dress as hurriedly as possible. We have a 
little work before us this evening." 

He glanced questioningly towards me, but followed my command without 
argument. I turned and cast my eye about the room for a suitable weapon. There 
was a stout stick lying in the corner and I made toward it. 

"Jack!" 

I wheeled about. 

"What is it? Damn it, haven't you any sense, almost scaring a man to death?" 

He pointed a shaking finger towards the window. 

"There! I swear I saw him. It was my grandad, but oh, how disfigured!" 

He threw himself upon the bed and began sobbing. The shock had completely 
unnerved him. 

"Forgive me, old man," I pleaded, "I was too quick. Pull yourself together and we 
may get to the bottom of things tonight, yet." 

I handed him my flask. He took a generous swallow and squared up. When he 
had finished dressing we left the house. There was no moon out, and it was pitch 
dark. 

I led the way, and soon we came to within ten yards of the little grey crypt. I 
stationed Remson behind a tree with instructions to just use his eyes, and I took 
up my stand on the other side of the vault, after making sure that the door into it 
was closed and locked. For the greater part of an hour we waited without results, 
and I was about ready to call it off when I perceived a white figure flitting 
between the trees about fifty yards off. 

Slowly it advanced, straight towards us, and as it drew closer I looked not at it, 
but through it. The wind was blowing strongly, yet not a fold in the long shroud 
quivered. Just outside the vault it paused and looked around. Even knowing as I 
did about what to expect, it came as a decided shock when I looked into the eyes 
of the old Holroyd, deceased these past five years. I heard a gasp and knew that 
Remson had seen, too, and had recognized. Then the spirit, ghost, or whatever it 
was, passed into the crypt through the crack between the door and the jamb, a 
space not one-sixteenth of an inch wide. 

As it disappeared, Remson came running forward, his face wholly drawn of 
color. 

"What was it, Jack? What was it? I know it resembled grandad, but it couldn't 
have been he. He's been dead five years." 

"Let's go back to the house," I answered, "and I'll do my best to explain things to 
the best of my ability. I may be wrong, of course, but it won't hurt to try my 
remedy. Remson, what we are up against, is a vampire. Not the female species 
usually spoken of today, but the real thing. I noticed you had an old edition of the 
Encyclopedia on your shelf. If you'll bring me volume XXIV I'll be able to 
explain more fully the meaning of the word." 

He left the room and returned, carrying the desired book. Turning to page 52, I 
read— Vampire. A term apparently of Serbian origin originally applied in 
Eastern Europe to blood-sucking ghosts, but in modern usage transferred to one 
or more species of bloodsucking bats inhabiting South America...In the first-
mentioned meaning a vampire is usually supposed to be the soul of a dead man 
which quits the buried body by night to suck the blood of living persons. Hence, 
when the vampire's grave is opened his corpse is found to be fresh and rosy from 
the blood thus absorbed...They are accredited with the power of assuming any 
form they may so desire, and often fly about as specks of dust, pieces of down or 
straw, etc....To put an end to his ravages, a stake is driven through him, or his 
head cut off, or his heart torn out, or boiling water and vinegar poured over the 
grave...The persons who turn vampires are wizards, witches, suicides and those 
who have come to a violent end. Also, the death of anyone resulting from these 
vampires will cause that person to join their hellish throng... See Calumet's 
"Dissertation on the Vampires of Hungary." 

I looked at Remson. He was staring straight into the fire. I knew that he realized 
the task before us and was steeling himself to it. Then he turned to me. 

"Jack, we'll wait till morning." 

That was all. I understood and he knew. There we sat, each struggling with his 
own thoughts, until the first faint glimmers of light came struggling through the 
trees and warned us of approaching dawn. 

Remson left to fetch a sledge-hammer and a large knife with its edge honed to a 
razorlike keenness. I busied myself making four wooden stakes, shaped like 
wedges. He returned, bearing the horrible tools, and we struck out towards the 
crypt. We walked rapidly, for had either of us hesitated an instant I verily believe 
both would have fled. However, our duty lay clearly before us. Remson unlocked 
the door and swung it outwards. With a prayer on our lips we entered. 

As if by mutual understanding, we both turned to the coffin on our left. It 
belonged to the grandfather. We unplaced the lid, and there lay the old Holroyd. 
He appeared to be sleeping. His face was full of color, and he had none of the 
stiffness of death. The hair was matted, the moustache untrimmed, and on the 
beard were matted stains of a dull brownish hue. 

But it was his eyes that attracted me. They were greenish, and they glowed with 
an expression of fiendish malevolence such as I had never seen before. The look 
of baffled rage on the face might well have adorned the features of the devil in 
his hell. 

Remson swayed and would have fallen, but I forced some whisky down his 
throat and he took a grip on himself. He placed one of the stakes directly over its 
heart, then shut his eyes and prayed that the good God above take this soul that 
was to be delivered to Him. 

I took a step backward, aimed carefully, and swung the sledge-hammer with all 
my strength. It hit the wedge squarely, and a terrible scream filled the place, 
while the blood gushed out of the open wound, up and over us, staining the walls 
and our clothes. Without hesitating, I swung again, and again, and again, while it 
struggled vainly to rid itself of that awful instrument of death. Another swing and 
the stake was driven through. 

The thing squirmed about in the narrow confines of the coffin, much after the 
manner of a dismembered worm, and Remson proceeded to sever the head from 
the body, making a rather crude but effectual job of it. As the final stroke of the 
knife cut the connection a scream issued from the mouth; and the whole corpse 
fell away into dust, leaving nothing but a wooden stake lying in a bed of bones. 

This finished, we despatched the remaining three. Simultaneously as if struck by 
the same thought, we felt our throats. The slight pain was gone from mine, and 
the wounds had entirely disappeared from my friend's, leaving not even a scar. I 
wished to place before the world the whole facts contingent upon the mystery 
and the solution, but Remson prevailed upon me to hold my peace. 

Some years later Remson died a Christian death and with him went the only 
confirmation of my tale. However, ten miles from the little town of Charing there 
sits an old house, forgotten these many years, and near it is a little grey crypt. 
Within are four coffins; and in each lies a wooden stake, stained a brownish hue, 
and bearing the fingerprints of the deceased Remson Holroyd.
(1925)





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