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Draculas
 


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Draculas


  DRACULAS

  a novel of terror by

  Blake Crouch

  Jack Kilborn

  Jeff Strand

  F. Paul Wilson

  Draculas copyright (c) 2010 by Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson

  Cover art copyright (c) 2010 by Carl Graves

  "A Sound of Blunder" by J.A. Konrath and F. Paul Wilson copyright (c) 2008 Pocket Books, originally published in Blood Lite, edited by Kevin J. Anderson

  All rights reserved.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the authors' imaginations or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living, dead, or undead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson.

  For more information about the authors, please visit their websites:

  www.blakecrouch.com

  www.jakonrath.com

  www.jeffstrand.com

  www.repairmanjack.com

  For more information about the book, please visit:

  www.draculasthebook.com

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Introduction by J.A. Konrath

  Dedication

  Draculas -- A Novel of Terror

  Bonus Material

  Interview with Crouch, Konrath, Strand and Wilson

  "Cub Scout Gore Feast" by Konrath and Strand

  "Serial" by Crouch and Kilborn

  "A Sound of Blunder" by Konrath and Wilson

  Draculas Deleted and Alternate Scenes

  Excerpt of Crouch's Desert Places

  Excerpt of Strand's Dweller

  Excerpt of Wilson's The Keep

  Excerpt of Konrath's Shaken

  Biographies of Crouch, Konrath, Strand and Wilson

  Bibliographies of Crouch, Konrath, Strand and Wilson

  Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Making of Draculas

  Acknowledgments

  Coming in 2011

  INTRODUCTION

  I grew up reading books where vampires were scary.

  This novel is an attempt to make them scary again.

  When I thought of the premise that became DRACULAS, I knew it needed to be a group project. Take four well-known horror authors, let them each create their own unique characters, and have them fight for their lives during a vampire outbreak at a secluded, rural hospital.

  This is NOT a collection of short stories. It's a single, complete novel.

  And it's going to freak you out.

  If you're easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.

  You have been warned.

  Joe Konrath

  October, 2010

  For Bram Stoker, with deepest apologies

  DRACULAS

  DRACULA'S SKULL UNEARTHED IN TRANSYLVANIA! A Romanian farmer discovered a skull with unusual properties while plowing his field near the town of Brasov. The relic, which appears to be ancient and human, has thirty-two elongated, razor-sharp teeth.

  --NATIONAL TATTLER

  VAMPIRE SKULL A HOAX? Discovered in Transylvania, the humanoid skull with sharp fangs is considered by many to be a fake. Fueling this speculation is the owner's refusal to let scientists analyze the discovery, claiming it embodies an ancient curse.

  --THE INQUISITOR STAR

  MILLIONAIRE BUYS DRAC'S HEAD! Eccentric recluse Mortimer Moorecook of Durango, Colorado, has apparently purchased the so-called "Dracula skull" for an undisclosed sum, from the Transylvanian farmer who unearthed it a week ago. It isn't known what Moorecook, who made his fortune on Wall Street during the late 80s, plans to do with the skull, though many are hoping it will be turned over to scientists for study. Moorecook, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, couldn't be reached for comment.

  --THE DRUDGE REPORT

  Moorecook

  MORTIMER Moorecook opened the massive oak door of his hilltop mansion just as the FedEx deliveryman was reaching for the doorbell.

  "Hi, Mr. Moorecook, I have--"

  "You have my package."

  "Yeah. Must be special. Only thing on my truck. Never been called out on a Sunday evening before."

  Mortimer looked at the cardboard box, covered in FRAGILE HANDLE WITH CARE stickers and some Romanian customs scrawl. His mouth went dry, and his already bowed knees threatened to stop supporting him.

  Finally.

  "Mr. Moorecook?"

  The old man glanced up at the buff FedEx driver, thinking how he'd once been that young and vital. Never could've imagined how quickly and completely that sense of immortality deserts you. So much taken for granted.

  "What?"

  "Just need you to sign for it so I can keep my job."

  Taking the pen in his trembling grasp, Mortimer scribbled in the window of the electronic tracker. Then the box was in his hands. It barely weighed three pounds, but the magnitude of its contents made his arms shake.

  "Shanna! It's here! It's here!"

  Mortimer limped through the atrium as quickly as his thin, frail legs could manage, breathless by the time he reached the study. He set the box down on the coffee table in front of the hearth and eased back onto the leather couch just as his legs were about to give out.

  His hospice nurse--a zaftig, forty-something woman named Jenny--rolled his IV bag into the study and plugged the line into his arm.

  "Oh, stop it!" He swatted air in her general direction. "I ought to get a restraining order against you people. Everywhere I go, you're always stalking me with that thing!"

  But even as he spoke, he could feel the morphine-push flooding his system like a good, wet dream.

  "Mr. Moorecook, you know what happens if we have any lapses between dosages."

  "Yeah, I might actually feel something."

  "Is writhing around on the ground in unimaginable pain the kind of feeling you want?"

  Of course not, he thought. That's the reason I...

  "Mortimer!" Shanna appeared in the doorway of the study. "It's really here?"

  He nodded, eyes twinkling, then turning cold again as he glanced toward Jenny. "Leave us."

  Shanna walked past the nurse and came around the sofa. Mortimer could smell whatever body wash she'd used in the shower that morning as she sat down beside him, her brown curls bouncing off her shoulders like an honest-to-god shampoo commercial. She was thirty-five, had been single when she moved out to Durango at Mortimer's request, but in the eight weeks she'd been here, she'd met a sheriff's deputy and inexplicably fallen for him. It remained beyond Mortimer's comprehension how this gorgeous biological anthropologist had seen anything in that redneck, who, as far as Mortimer could tell, was the epitome of what made the world throw-up in its mouth when it thought of Red State America.

  Then again, he was old and dying, and maybe just a little bit jealous.

  "Help me up, Shanna."

  With the morphine flowing, it felt like he floated over to his desk.

  He opened the middle drawer, glancing out the big windows into the San Juan Mountains beyond a gaping canyon. The peaks were flushed with alpenglow, the snowfields pink as the sun dropped over southwest Colorado.

  Lost in thought, Mortimer hitched up his tailored black pants--so loose now he had taken to wearing the gold-buckled belt left to him by his father--and ran his fingers over the Ouroboros insignia sewn into the breast of his red, silk robe. Then he reached into his desk drawer and took out the bottle he'd been wa
iting years to open, fighting a moment with the wrapper and cork. At last, he splashed a little of the rosewood-colored liquid into two tumblers.

  "I'm not really much of a whiskey drinker," Shanna protested.

  "Humor me."

  Mortimer raised his glass, already catching whiffs of the fierce dried fruits and peat wafting toward him.

  "To you, Shanna," he said. "Thanks for spending these last few weeks with me. I haven't been this happy since my Wall Street days, raiding companies. I ever tell you--"

  "Many times."

  They clinked glasses and drank.

  "That's disgusting," Shanna said, setting her glass down.

  Mortimer shook his head.

  "What?" she said.

  "Nothing, it's just that this is a fifty-five year Macallan. I paid $17,000 for that bottle many years ago, knowing I wouldn't crack it until a night like this came along."

  "You paid too much," she said.

  "Some things are worth the price. Shall we?"

  They returned to the couch, and Mortimer sat down and dug the Swiss Army knife out of the patch pocket of his linen shirt. It shook in his hands as he opened one of the smaller blades.

  "Let me," Shanna said, reaching for the knife.

  He recoiled. "No!"

  Mortimer inserted the blade and gently tugged it through the tape. He put the knife away and opened the box, pulling out wads of crumpled, foreign newsprint until he felt the smaller box within the larger. He lifted it out, set it on the glass.

  It was some kind of black composite, sealed with a steel hasp on each side. He'd had the box specially made, then sent it to the farmer to ensure safe delivery of the item. Its key hung around his neck on a gold chain.

  He unlocked the hasps and flipped them open, gingerly lifting off the top half of the box, bringing it onto his lap as Shanna leaned in. They could only see the back of the skull, the bone deep brown, heavily calcified, full of hairline fractures and several larger cracks, one square-inch piece missing entirely. He worked his fingers down into the hard black foam that had protected the skull on its journey across the ocean, and carefully lifted it out.

  Shanna said, "Oh my God."

  Mortimer stared into the hollowed eye sockets, and then the teeth, which more resembled the dental architecture of a shark than a human being.

  Not at all what he'd been expecting, and it didn't match the artist' conceptions in any of the scandal rags. This wasn't a skull from an old Christopher Lee Hammer film. This was an affront against nature. Mortimer found it difficult to breathe. But he also registered something else, something he hadn't felt since his diagnosis.

  Excitement.

  "May I?" Shanna asked.

  Reluctantly, Mortimer handed Shanna the skull. He didn't like it leaving his grasp, had to remind himself that this was what he'd been paying her so handsomely for.

  Shanna examined one of the yellowed teeth.

  "Coffee-drinker," she quipped, and then her eyes narrowed and Mortimer watched as her inner-scientist took over. "They're at least an inch and a half long, every one of them, even the molars. Huh, weird."

  "What?"

  "These canines are hollowed."

  "What's the significance?"

  "I don't know. It's not dissimilar to venomous snakes." She opened the mandible. "Look at the articulation. That range of motion is unbelievable. The jaw structure is...reptilian. There are literally too many teeth to fit in this mouth. See how they overlap? They would've shredded the lips off, most of the cheek, exploded the gums, ripped apart the ligaments in the mandible."

  "What are you saying? It's fake?"

  "It looks real. No doubt. But it's just anatomically impossible."

  Mortimer leaned closer. "Is it human?"

  "Does this look human to you?"

  Shanna's words hung in the air like a crooked painting.

  "So...what is it?" Mortimer whispered.

  "It's certainly hominoid. But unlike anything I've ever seen. Nothing like this exists in the fossil record. This shouldn't exist."

  "But it does exist. It must be real."

  "Look, we'll have it tested. It's possible the skull is authentic, but the teeth have to have been implanted."

  "Do you know what I paid for this?"

  "No, what?"

  "Just give it back."

  Shanna handed Mortimer the skull and stood up, smoothing out her slacks.

  "Mort, I'm really excited for you. Really. And I can't wait to get started studying this."

  Mortimer's eyes went wide with surprise. "You're...going? Now?"

  "I want to stay. But I promised Clay. He wants to take me--wait for it--to the Tanner Gun Show in Denver. We're supposed to hit the road tonight."

  "Jesus Christ. He must have elephantine genitalia."

  "Mortimer!" She gave him a playful bump on the shoulder.

  "What? There's no other explanation. I mean, really? Another gun show?"

  "Maybe not."

  Something in her eyes...trouble in paradise? He hoped so.

  He held up the skull, cradling it in both palms. "This is the reason you're here, Shanna. This is what we've been waiting for."

  The mandible was still open. The old man grazed one of his liver-spotted fingers across the points of the teeth--razor sharp. He was sure he was only imagining it, but they seemed to send an electrical current through his body.

  "Mort? You gonna be all right?"

  He looked up at Shanna. Beautiful, youthful, Shanna.

  To be young enough again to satisfy a woman like that.

  Mortimer smiled. "I hope so."

  Then he pulled the skull into his neck, clamped shut the ancient jaw, and the last thing he felt before losing consciousness were those razor teeth sinking through the paper-thin flesh of his throat.

  Shanna

  JENNY, the hospice nurse, had acted quickly and professionally. Within two minutes, she had bandaged the wound and controlled the bleeding, but that was the least of Mort's problems. Seconds after stabbing himself with those horrid fangs, he'd dropped to the floor in a violent seizure. Shanna had been ordered to stick something between his chattering teeth to prevent him from biting off his own tongue. She'd tried to use a ball point pen, but her benefactor had snapped it in half, blue ink mixing with the white foam that churned between his lips.

  "Get something under his head," Jenny told her, her voice up an octave. Shanna removed her jean jacket--a gift from Clayton--and balled it up for Mort to use as a pillow. Mortimer's hand shot out, grabbing Shanna's shirt. She yelped in surprise, pawing at his wrist, trying to free herself, but Mort had a grip like stone.

  The warm, acrid smell of urine wafted up as he wet his pants, and the convulsions intensified, his limbs banging against the hardwood floor with enough force to split his skin.

  When the seizure refused to abate after two minutes, the nurse scurried off to call an ambulance.

  When it passed the five-minute mark, Jenny shot Mort full of sedatives and anticonvulsants. At ten minutes, Jenny was practically crying in despair, Shanna right there with her. They each had their full body weight on Mort, trying to pin his bloody hands and feet, but they could barely keep him down, Mort choking and gagging on his own blood, coughing out bits of his lips and tongue that he'd chewed off.

  Twenty-three minutes later, when the ambulance finally arrived, the nurse and Shanna had to assist two burly paramedics to get Mort strapped to a gurney, where they finally jammed a rubber bit between his snapping jaws.

  The ride to the hospital was a blur, Shanna physically and emotionally drained. She managed to call Clay, but got his voicemail and had to listen to his outgoing message of Clint Eastwood saying, "Go ahead...make my day. BEEEEP!"

  She left a monotone message that Mort had had an accident. She was on her way to Blessed Crucifixion Hospital, and he'd have to pick her up there.

  Then she wept.

  Arriving in Durango two months ago, Shanna had thought she'd landed her dream job. Bein
g paid--and extremely well--for pure research. While many of her contemporaries loved field work, Shanna got off on studying what others had found. She was an expert on the evolution of primates, and when the so-called "Dracula skull" had been discovered four months ago, she'd regarded it with the same blanket skepticism as the rest of her colleagues.

 
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