The Season of Denial: The Beast

Fiction for the 2004 film ‘Van Helsing.’
A haunted man is a hunted man.

=====

“There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or for what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature that every fibre of the body, as every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful impulses. Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their will. They move to their terrible end as automatons move. Choice is taken from them, and conscience is either killed, or, if it lives at all, lives but to give rebellion its fascination and disobedience its charm. For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning star of evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Prologue [†] The Beast

Although Van Helsing had left Transylvania with Friar Carl bearing witness by his side, he could not escape the place. The entire voyage back to the Croatian ports, over piercing mountains and through sleeping valleys, while he soothed the horses and skinned small game, he lived in only one moment, a moment which refused to heed its own passing. The moment latched on to his back with a razor grip, tore at his shoulder blades like a rabid cat and whispered itself into his ear in an eternal mantra.

He had wanted to remain a werewolf.

His hands ached for claws, his mouth for fangs, his eyes and ears for the heightened senses of the beast. When he yeilded to his desire, while numb from riding or reclined beside a crackling campfire, he salivated; and when he steeled himself against it, his paltry muscles cramped and his skull throbbed. As days of travel passed the physical symptoms subsided, but the moment remained. Memory remained. Anna Valerious remained, gripping the threat of her syringe, throwing herself toward him at a desperate pace with the purest intent to rescue him from the very thing he had come to want more than anything else, more even than to protect her from harm.

It was not the wolf who had killed her. The wolf had only tracked down the part of his soul that longed to be monstrous and delivered it the means. He had known her intent, found her a nuisance and murdered her himself. Of course it was that way. Of course the beast had not overrun the will of the man. If it had, it would have been too late, and the antidote Anna thrust into his gut as he destroyed her would have had no effect upon him at all.

So, absent any other choice, Van Helsing lived in that secret moment. He looked into the wild eyes of snared rabbits, then broke their necks as he had broken hers. He skinned them having never undressed her, he gutted them having never entered her, and he cooked them over her pyre; and, because his journey found the weight and care of cutlery impractical, he consumed them without civility, tearing mouthfuls of meat from their carcasses with itching teeth. The first time he ate such a meal he vomited his full belly into a quiet creek, but after that he was all right. He would be all right.

=====