Stephen King’s and Bram Stoker’s Night In
It’s a dark, rainy night in a small New England village. Fog can be seen wafting towards the hamlet over the top of Blighthaven Hill. The year is 1911, and in a few weeks, the first snowflakes will start blanketing the tiny burg. However, the people have been feeling the effects of the cold for a couple of months now.
Three have fallen to consumption thus far, their pale, sickly bodies interred in the nearby Blighthaven cemetery. A fourth, the priest’s son, is currently in bed with a fever, unlikely to survive the night.
As the village doctor snores the hours away in his shabby, yet oddly comfortable bed, he gets enveloped by a bright light and suddenly wakes up. As he snaps awake, he can hear knocking on his door. He gets up, puts on his slippers and robe, exits the bed chamber, and makes his way to the front door.
The knocking is only getting more fervent, and as he approaches the source, he can see a white light briefly flashing under the doorway. He reaches for the handle and opens the door. Despite obviously expecting the man to answer, the person on the other side almost tumbles inside the house.
“Once again…welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring,” says Bram Stoker, catching the priest by the shoulder so as not to fall down. Behind him, the novelist dressed in the doctor’s robe can see a gathering of villagers.
With a pleading look on his face and tears in his eyes, the priest asks him to come along. The villagers are convinced that a vampire is responsible for the recent deaths, and are sure that they’ve determined who it is. It had to be the first victim, a young woman in her early twenties.
The plan is to go up the hill to the cemetery, find the grave of the vampire, cut out its heart, put a stake through it, and then burn it. Looking at the priest like at a crazy person, Stoker glances behind him, visually searching for anyone who looks like they might listen to reason.
He notices an older gentleman standing somewhat away from the crowd, studying the increasingly riled up procession. Stoker then tells the priest that he’ll go with him, as long as they take it slow and meet back up in an hour.
Hesitantly, the priest agrees, looking like a man on the brink of a mental breakdown. He somehow manages to convince the townsfolk to meet in the town center in one hour’s time. In the meanwhile, they are to prepare torches, stakes, pitchforks, crucifixes, and anything else they might think can put a dent in the undead’s plans.
As the crowd disperses, the observant gentleman seems to remain behind, wanting to talk to the novelist. Stoker invites the man inside for a warm beverage. The stranger agrees, enters the house, and takes a seat as Stoker starts boiling the water.
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” says Stoker, pointing at the lingering crowd through the window.
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win,” replies Stephen King, as if that was a good explanation for why a bunch of villagers was going to desecrate a young woman’s body.
“I sometimes think we must be all mad and that we shall wake to sanity in strait-waistcoats,” replies Bram Stoker, shaking his head in frustration.
“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones,” explains King in a calm tone of voice, rubbing his right knee as if the weather is upsetting his bones.
“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot?” asks Stoker in an unbelieving, yet hopeful tone.
“The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle,” replies King.
“[You are not from around here, are you?],” asks Stoker as he goes to fetch the water. “Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.”
“In small towns, people scent the wind with noses of uncommon keenness. [But worry not] I guess when you turn off the main road, you have to be prepared to see some funny houses,” laughs King amicably.
“Take me away from all this death,” whispers Stoker in a defeated voice as he returns holding a tray, a kettle, and two simple cups. “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
“Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free,” says King awkwardly, somewhat taken aback by his host’s request. “[But it is] life, often unsatisfying, frequently cruel, usually boring, sometimes beautiful, once in a while exhilarating.”
“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be,” says Stoker while pouring coffee. He is obviously less shaken, and the guest can see a determination in his eyes which wasn’t there before. “There is a reason why all things are as they are.”
King nods knowingly and reaches for his cup. He takes a sip, makes a horrified face and smiles politely. “My wife and kids drink coffee. But I don’t. I like tea.”
The two just sit in silence for a minute, Bram drinking his coffee and steadying his nerves for what is about to come.
“This night our feet must tread in thorny paths,” utters Stoker finally. “It is a strange world, a sad world, a world full of miseries, and woes, and troubles. […] Though sympathy alone can’t alter facts, it can help to make them more bearable.”
“People who try hard to do the right thing always seem mad,” replies King, referring to the grieving priest. “A lot of us grow up and we grow out of the literal interpretation that we get when we’re children, but we bear the scars all our life.”
“There is a method in his madness,” Stoker admits reluctantly. “[But in the end] we learn from failure, not from success!”
The masters of horror realize that there is no escaping what must be done this night. The town is scared, bereaved, and in a frenzy. If either of them tried to stop the mob, they would most likely be accused of colluding with the vampire.
“When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, ‘Why god? Why me?’ and the thundering voice of God answered, ‘There’s just something about you that pisses me off,’” King says out of the blue. Then, worried at his host’s previously-displayed weakness, “[Are you sure you can handle this?]”
“I’m a hard nut to crack, and I take it standing up,” replied Stoker, smiling coyly. “Despair has its own calms.”
“A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark,” muses Stephen, glad at his host’s good humor. “[But] remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
As they sit there thinking of hope and despair, the pair realizes that sound of rain is steadily being covered by the murmur of crowds. Lights from what can only be improvised torches can be seen through the rain-covered windows. The night is about to begin in true.
“Ah, well, poor girl, there is peace for her at last. It is the end,” says Stoker with a final sigh, getting up.
“Go now. Our journey is done. And may we meet again, in the clearing, at the end of the path,” says King with sincerity.
As he starts to get up, he notices that his companion is being covered by a white light. He looks down at his hands and sees that the same is happening to him. The two are fully enveloped for a brief moment, and then the light fades, leaving behind the village doctor and a farm hand.
A knock comes on the door, and the doctor, surprised to see the young farm hand, goes to answer. The night has only just begun.