Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Wednesday Briefs: Dracula #22 (5.5)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

This week, we get a glimpse into the past and the horrors that lie there. See what's happening in this week's chapter of Dracula. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

Dracula #22 (5.5)

A woman lies in a large elaborately carved bed piled high with thick colorful blankets—maroon and black and royal blue—decorated with elaborate designs intricately embroidered. Her thin figure is dwarfed by the mound of bedclothes as well as the thick pile of pillows where she lays her head. A young boy sits by her side, on the edge of the bed. He grips her hand, as if he can transfer his own strength to his ailing mother. His hazel eyes are anxious as he scans her pale face.  But he doesn’t speak aloud his apprehensions, simply holds on for dear life.

Another spasm seizes the woman. She half-rises from the bed, fighting for breath. For several long moments, she is racked with obviously painful coughs. She grips the boy’s hand tightly until the paroxysm passes and she relaxes back into the pillows once more.

“Nico, you should not stay. He will be cross with you.” Her voice is barely audible, a thready whisper that requires too much of the little strength she possesses. Although she is warning him to go, she never releases the hand on hers.

“I don’t care,” the boy says stubbornly. “I want to stay with you, mamă. I need to take care of you.”

The woman’s smile is wistful, as if she is thinking of other times, or maybe what could have been but never will be. “You’re such a good boy, Nico. Please remember that when I am gone.”

“Don’t speak like that.” The boy’s voice is distressed now. “You aren’t going anywhere. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t leave—” His words halt abruptly, as if he has said more than he intended to say. But they both know what lies unspoken between them.

“I’m sorry.” The anguish in her voice is palpable. “I’ve tried to keep you… safe… from—”

Her words end abruptly as the door to this chamber bursts open. A tall dark man stands upon the threshold. He might be considered by some to be handsome, but the fury in his eyes is frightening, lending to an almost demonic expression which overshadows any good looks he may possess.

“Radomir...” Her voice is pleading now. She raises her thin hands in supplication, although she knows this will not appease her husband’s anger. But it is all she can do. All she is capable of doing now.

“Silence!” he bellows as he turns his attention to the boy, who refuses to cower before him, even now. “What have I told you, Nicolae? How dare you disobey me like this.”

“Mother is ill and I want to stay with her.” The boy’s voice never wavers, although inside he quivers with fearful anticipation of what new cruelty his father might devise for him. He has been beaten before, he can endure it again, if he must.

“Such a weakling you have given me,” Radomir Dracula snarls. “Just this one insolent brat who lives when all the others have died.”

“He is our blessing, husband.” She squeezes Nico’s hands as if to enlist his silence. He obeys her wish, although he knows this will not end well for him. But he endures, for her sake.

“He is a curse.” The man spits upon the floor. “This marriage is a curse. Once I am rid of you, I shall find a young wife. A beautiful wife. One who will give me strong sons, not useless ones.”

Anger surges through Nico at his father’s cruel words. How dare he talk to her in this way? Even Nico, as young as he is, knows his father has other women. That is no secret in the castle. Even the servants speak of his escapades, some with admiration, others with disgust. He isn’t sure if his mother knows, but he will not take a chance on harming her with the knowledge, in case she is blissfully ignorant of his infidelities.

“Your son is a good boy,” she protests. Another fit of coughing ensues, and by the time that passes, her breathing is too stertorous to allow her to speak.

“I will not allow him to stain my good name, shame our ancestors. He will be a soldier,” the elder Dracula lashes out. “I will make him stronger, whether you like it or not. Whether he likes it or not. Even if it kills him. I will not tolerate such weakness in my heir. He is a Dracula. I will not allow him to disgrace my proud name. Once I have other sons, he will not matter anyway.”

Nico remains stoic, despite the way his stomach roils. He refuses to demonstrate to his father that he is indeed as weak as he claims him to be. But his silence does not stand him in good stead. His father swiftly crosses the distance between them and lifts the six-year-old boy by the scruff of his neck as if he were no more than a kitten, shakes him fiercely. Without another word, he carries the boy from the room, ignoring his wife’s pitiful cries.

Nico attempts to claw at his father’s hand, to force his release, but to no avail. He is powerless to do anything as his father drags him deeper int the castle. The servants shrink back at their approach, knowing better than to intervene on the boy’s behalf. Nico expects no less. As he’s learned in his short life, only his mother protects him, and she is no longer able to do so.

It isn’t until they reach a particular set of stairs that he realizes where they are going, and he is afraid. “No, please no,” he begs.

The family crypt. A place of infinite death and dark tombs.

Radomir stops before his father’s tomb, slides back the lid and tosses the screaming child inside without a word and closes him in.

Nico’s worst fears have just been realized.

to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb







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