Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde may seem like an odd couple, but their pairing in Stoker’s Wilde will leave readers breathless with terror and delight. In this speculative horror tale, Stoker and Wilde encounter all-too-real supernatural terrors—and must team up, despite their feelings of ambivalence, to take down the werewolves and other creatures haunting England.
Inspired by Stoker’s The Lair of the White Worm and Dracula, as well as Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, authors Hopstaken and Prusi effortlessly conjure each writer’s personality through letters and journal entries while constantly raising the stakes and ratcheting up the terror.
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From the Journal of Bram Stoker, 29th of October 1876
Greystones: 10:30 a.m.
I do not know how I get myself into these things. Apparently, I have been kidnapped by Richard Burton and the Wilde family. It is becoming increasingly clear that I will never understand the lives of the idle upper class.
I fear that I will not make it back to work on Monday and will lose a day’s pay, if I’m not sacked outright. Such is the life of a petty sessions clerk.
I have recently decided to live a more pious life. I made a promise to myself and God to increase my devotions and self-discipline. However, I am afraid being friends with Willie Wilde and his family is going to make that difficult. It is not yet noon and I have already drunk too much gin. Is milis dá ól é ach is searbh dá íoc é. (It is sweet to drink but bitter to pay for.)
As I write this, Willie and his brother Oscar (a more vain and irritating seeker of attention you’d be hard put to find, though admittedly he has shown promise in his academic pursuits) are arguing about the proper spelling of wolfsbane. For you see, we are on a werewolf hunt in the charming fishing village of Greystones, where a young barmaid was savagely killed.
I could tell from the moment we got off the train that Greystones is filled with salt-of-the-earth, hardworking people. The fresh sea air is invigorating, and I could see myself settling here someday and living the life of a simple fisherman or innkeeper. But such rustic, honest pursuits are miles distant from the dark business we undertake today. After questioning the landlord at the Blue Moon, where the unfortunate lass worked, we have regrouped back at the rooming house to plan our next move.
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While I am under the firm belief that the recent tragedy was the work of a large, rabid dog, Captain Burton is convinced that the perpetrator is of the lycanthropic variety, and the Wildes, whether through genuine belief or bemused tolerance of a longstanding friend’s flights of fancy, are playing along with this delusion.
I am almost certain the Wilde brothers do not believe in werewolves any more than I do and are just along for the diversion. They are also quite amused at my scepticism in the face of Burton’s addled imagination. I have long been an admirer of Captain Burton, and it is a sorry sight indeed to see the noted explorer and diplomat tipping on the verge of madness. Sorrier still, he is taking me down with him!
It has been decided that Willie and Captain Burton will attempt to pick up the beast’s trail, while Oscar and I question a woman who claims to have seen the creature fleeing the scene of the attack.
Although I have met Oscar on a few different occasions, this is the first that I have spent any significant amount of time with him. To say he is annoying is an understatement. He has affected a London accent, and from time to time will slip into speaking French, Italian or Greek as if to prove his intellectual superiority. Alas, he merely comes off as a pompous twit.
He also finds himself exceedingly witty and humorous, often laughing at his own bawdy jokes. Furthermore, I suspect he may be a poof. At least he dresses the part, often wearing frilly velvet shirts and a purple top hat. When first I met him, I thought perhaps he was going to a fancy-dress party as the Mad Hatter.
Ah, the Hatter calls. Off to play detective, while my livelihood surely disappears like the Cheshire Cat.
My head is pounding and I am visibly shaking. It has happened again – one of those spells has come over me. It has been many years since I have experienced such a thing. I had all but convinced myself that the other incidents were nothing but childhood flights of fancy. Most children see fairies in the woods, do they not? However, today it was strong and vivid and I fear I may be losing my sanity!
To make matters worse, I experienced the latest hallucinations in front of Oscar. He claims to believe my visions, even more than I do myself, but I am not certain he isn’t just humouring me.
It happened after we questioned the woman who says she witnessed the creature fleeing the woods. Mrs. Goode, a plump and motherly lady, runs a pie shop down the street from the Blue Moon. (I shall attempt to recreate our conversation as best I can from memory; I find that remembering what was said helps me to think more clearly on the subject.)
“It was horrible,” Mrs. Goode informed us. “All hairy, with fangs and claws, but it ran upright like a man.” Oscar was busy savouring the smell of the pork pies cooling on a table next to the window. It was up to me to keep the investigation moving.
“Let us be honest; it was dark. How can you be sure of what you saw?” I asked.
“’Twas a full moon,” she countered. “I could see with no trouble at all. Nothing wrong with my eyes. It was as close to me as he is.” She pointed at Oscar, who was eating one of the pies
“Do you partake in drink, madam?” I asked.
She took offence. “I’ve been known to have a sip of brandy or cider on occasion, but that night I was sober as a bishop!” Apparently, she hadn’t known the bishops I had. I pointed out the window at a passing sailor. “Tell me, dear woman, how many stripes are on that sailor’s shirt?” She squinted. “Er, four?”
“There are no stripes,” I exclaimed, with too much vigour I suppose, for she cowered back in fear. “And yet you claim you clearly saw a monster by moonlight, as it ran into the forest?” I was surprised to find I was actually good at detecting and wondered if there could be a career in law enforcement in my future.
“I don’t think I care to answer any more of your questions,” she said, staring at me coldly. “You will kindly leave my shop.” Oscar came forwards and took a coin from his pocket to pay for the pie. “This is surely the most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth,” he said. “And I make it my life’s mission to only put tasty things in there!”
She lit up at this and replied, “An old family recipe.”
He smiled at her in a way that was, I’ll admit, most winning. “Pardon me, madam, but I must correct you there,” he said. “It is an old family treasure. With pies like these, your shop must be a smashing success.”
“Well, I do all right,” she said. “Course, if I didn’t have some regular custom after fifteen years of business in a little village like this, I daresay it would be time to hang up my rolling pin.”
“Fifteen years!” Oscar exclaimed. “Why, whenever did you open for business? When you were five? My good woman, I fear you are having me on, and me, a humble visitor to your fair village. I ask you, is it kind to tease a stranger so?”
The woman actually blushed. “Now, sir, who’s teasing who?” she said, with a bit of a giggle. “I’ve earned every one of my years, and I’ll not let you deny me any of them.”
“Well said, madam,” Oscar replied, bowing slightly. “But that makes me wonder whether, in all those years, you’ve ever seen this wolflike creature before? Or heard tell of its like? Any other brushes with the supernatural? Do you, perhaps, have the second sight?”
“Nay, I’m a good Christian woman and haven’t been bothered by those beyond the veil.” She thought for a moment while Oscar finished the last bite of his pie, then added, “But when I was but a girl, I did hear the cry of the banshee, right before my parents died.”
Oscar gasped. “So, you are connected to otherworldly things! If I were you, I would keep the Lord’s cross at hand and wolfsbane at your door. Thank goodness you are a good Christian, free of sin, for that will keep you safe and on the road to heaven.”
Then a remarkable thing happened. The woman’s brow furrowed and she frowned as if a pain had suddenly overcome her. Oscar noticed this too and pressed the matter further.
“Have I said something to upset you, dear lady?”
“No…I must be getting back to my pies.” She turned as if to avoid meeting Oscar’s eyes.
“Madam,” Oscar said with real concern in his voice. “If there is something burdening your heart you can certainly tell me. I am not one to judge, being a sinner myself, and I know how confession can uplift the soul. Pray tell me, what did you really see that night?”
Mrs. Goode wiped her hands on her apron fretfully. “I…was only trying to protect my brother. Danny’s a good man when he doesn’t drink, and he raised me when our parents died.”
“If you know something, you must tell us,” I ordered her. Oscar held up his hand to silence me and approached the woman, who still had her back to us. He gently took her by the shoulders and turned her around.
“We are not the authorities,” Oscar said. “We are just trying to keep others from being killed. If you know something, if your brother is involved, his very soul may be at risk.”
She gazed at him for a moment, fear and worry etched upon her face. “That night,” she said, her voice trembling, “I saw Polly go by from my bedroom window. She was with my brother, who I know fancies her and walks her home from time to time.”
“When was this?” I asked. “Late. I had woken up from a bad dream. I’m not sure of the time.”
“Why didn’t you tell the constable this?” Oscar asked. “It sounds innocent enough.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “They were arguing about something. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but then he grabbed her roughly. She broke away from him and ran into the woods at the end of the street.”
“I see,” said Oscar. “He ran after her…into the woods. And that’s the last I saw of her.”
“But you didn’t see him attack her?” Oscar asked.
“Nor did you see a creature,” I added.
“Nay, I didn’t see him do anything to her, and I’m sure he didn’t.…He couldn’t!” she cried. “But I made up the story of seeing the creature because one has been seen – by none other than the constable himself, though not with poor Polly. It must have been the beast what did her in, and I saw no need to distract the police by dragging Danny into it.”
“So,” Oscar said, “you saw her run into the woods at the end of the street, not down by the mill as you claimed earlier?”
Her head hung down in shame. “No. They found her body at the mill, so I told them that’s where I saw the creature.”
“Thank you for telling us the truth,” Oscar said, giving her a small kiss on the cheek. “We will look into the matter and protect your brother if he is innocent.”
“Thank you, sir.” Mrs. Goode wiped a tear from her eye before exclaiming, “Oh, my pies!” She rushed off into the kitchen.
Just as I was starting to think Oscar was not the cad he appeared to be, he stole a pie, wrapping it in a towel and putting it in his pocket. “Let us depart, Stoker. Captain Burton and Willie are looking in the wrong place!”
He rushed out and I followed. We headed down to the end of the street and into the woods.
“Shouldn’t we try to find Burton and Willie before we go getting lost in the forest?” I protested. “We are hardly equipped for a hunt.”
“The beast, or man, is far from here by now. We must gather evidence. Find the abduction spot to find the beginning of the trail. My God, but this is exhilarating!”
Before I could stop him, we were rushing headlong down a deer trail into the thick of the shadowed woods.
“She must have run down this very path,” he said. “With that sweaty man hot on her heels.” He stopped to catch his breath; I’m sure this was the fastest he’d moved in many years.
“Really, we must get the others,” I said. “And not trample over the trail!”
“Yes, I expect you are right, Stoker,” he said, fanning himself. “I lost my head there for a moment.”
It was then that my spell began. The woods took on an eerie, green glow as if lit by fireflies. My head began to throb and my heart to race. I must have looked a fright because Oscar noticed.
“Stoker, are you all right? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”
“It’s nothing,” I said. “I just need to sit down and rest a moment.”
I sat on a nearby log, hoping it would all go away quickly like it has before. However, this time it was different. Despite the green tint to my vision, I seemed to be seeing more clearly than ever. My hearing was sharp. I swear I could hear Oscar’s heartbeat and the heartbeats of small animals in the brush.
Upon looking at the ground, I saw as plain as day the footprints of a wolf; they shone a bright, unearthly green as if they had been burned into the ground.
“Do you see those footprints?” I asked.
“Where?” He looked down and I could tell he saw nothing.
“This way,” I ordered. I leapt to my feet and dashed down the trail, compelled to follow the prints into the dark heart of the forest. As I ran, I felt invigorated. A scent of blood overwhelmed me and made my mouth water. I ran faster and faster down the trail, leaving Oscar behind. I felt as though I too were a wolf and my prey was only a claw’s length in front of me!
I entered a clearing and saw a vision. A dream – no, a nightmare – being replayed in front of me, through me! It was suddenly a moonlit night and a pretty young woman with ginger curls was cowering in fear at my feet. I was the beast and she my prey, and, oh, how powerful I felt! I was consumed with lust like I had never felt before. I lunged at her and a scream pierced the night and I had one delicious taste before Oscar burst into the clearing.
“My God, Stoker,” he yelled. “Have you gone mad?”
I awoke from my trance and the daylight returned. I was hunched on all fours over a patch of grass that was matted and covered in blood. I had found the spot where she had been killed!
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