'They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but what is there to see and what of the light when the soul is as haunted and hollow as Van Helsing's?'
Chapter 1- ‘Only The Beginning…’
Van Helsing pulled away from the Count, breathing hard and his hands dripping with blood. He’d plunged the stake good and true deep into Dracula’s black heart. And still the centuries old vampire smiled. Even as his hands wrapped around the wooden implement protruding from his chest and wrenched it out with a grunt, still he smiled.
How many times…Van Helsing wondered, how many times would he have to kill this thing before it would end? He had lost so much over the years, Anna and later Carl, and every time he had thought he had achieved some sort of victory Dracula would return.
And the hunt would culminate in this final fight, and every damn time the Count would offer him that cold smile.
‘It’s over Count…’ Van Helsing muttered, the words sounding hollow and empty to his ears. Knowing, always knowing that even as his age old foe shook his head, it was not over. It was never over.
‘Oh come…dear boy. It is only the beginning…’ Dracula smiled wider still, pointed fangs protruding from his sadistic grin. And then there was that familiar flash of blinding light and he would be gone.
And Van Helsing would fall to his knees, tired and broken. Feeling as if the latest fight had aged him a hundred more years, with new bruises and fresh scars to add to the growing collection on his ill used body.
It was never over.
He awoke with a start, flinging the flimsy blanket away and trying to vaguely familiarise himself with his surroundings. The campfire had burnt out and he could see the pathetic form on the other side of the now defunct fire, bundled under his blankets but still shivering slightly.
Van Helsing allowed himself a small smile then, before getting up to find fresh tinder for the fire. He reflected on his now frequent nightmares as he moved noiselessly around the small clearing where they had spent the night.
They were not dreams as such, but visions. Abject views of things to come. Events that had already passed and that were yet to pass, the anniversary of Anna’s death had come and passed and Carl’s death…well that was a pain he had yet to endure.
Somehow in the visions he always knew that Carl was dead, although they did not reveal to him how the friar had died. He looked over at the figure again and sighed. The man had been his faithful companion for the past three years, had followed him into every dangerous situation and every mission they underwent.
He had not done it without his fair share of grumbling or his seemingly never ending adages on how much danger he was continually finding himself in, but inevitably Carl always followed.
Just as Van Helsing always knew he would, never doubting the man’s courage that although appeared as if needed to be coaxed or threatened out was never wavering, and after a while it became less clear who was saving whom.
Carl could have left at any point, Van Helsing would not have blamed him; the ingenious preacher had left him with enough of his ingeniously designed weapons to take on a small army. But Carl stayed, because however petulant or impossible Van Helsing became, after Anna Van Helsing needed someone and something of a constant, something to still believe in.
Though it was a burden he would never care to share, Carl knew being the right hand man of God was a testament and a test to the enormity of anyone’s faith. Van Helsing was beginning to wear his scars as loudly as the cross. The simple piece of metal around his neck was weighing him down, Carl could see, as any man of faith can, one who is taught the art of introspective reflection that Van Helsing, the warrior of the church, was beginning to lose faith and gain in resentment.
For his part, Van Helsing was equally glad of Carl’s company, he needed something of the light, for he found that never is the dark more encroaching than when one is alone.
He lit the fire and sat back on his haunches to watch it gain in strength. Carl was going to die and Van Helsing was helpless to prevent it, he did not how it would happen, or when but the certainty of it happening was a knowledge that held heavy over his heart.
And it was at these times when he doubted, when he took the metal cross around his neck in his hands and removed the clasp. He would hold it in his palm and weigh it, knowing that each time he did it got heavier. And each time he would replace it around his neck, because it was a constant, a normality only now Van Helsing was burdened with a little less conviction.
Because Anna had died and at his hands, and Carl was going to die, but the darkness, the darkness never died. Evil like the warlocks they chased, the werewolves they slay and the monsters they banished all were allowed to survive and gain in strength, but souls as beautiful as Anna’s and as strong as Carl’s were stripped from this world to be pushed forth into the next.
He had asked Carl how it was that Dracula could return, but the friar seemed to have no answers, and his choice of platitudes that in all things there must be a balance, a seeming equal between good and evil for the choice for mankind to make had only left Van Helsing bitter and frustrated.
After all he was left, and the Count was left, to fight through time immemorial, through to a never seeming end, there was no blessed respite for him. Condemned to fight and alone, the church’s warrior Van Helsing was always alone. And he hated it.