A little bit of a twist on a birthday story by Berni Stevens here – and a rather famous hero Read on to find out who it is and to enter another birthday competition!
A blank screen never helps. I peered at the document on the screen, hoping inspiration would hit me. Nothing did. I needed to come up with three thousand words by Monday. The clock was ticking. I had a title, Obsessive Love in Gothic Literature. I love Gothic literature, so I’m well aware what year it is. June 2016. The bi-centennial of the birth of Frankenstein, and Polidori’s The Vampyre. So … Happy Birthday to them, but why couldn’t I think of anything to write?
‘Where’s Byron when I need him?’ I muttered.
I decided to Google Lord George Gordon Byron, look at some portraits of the great man, and hope inspiration would hit me. Even in portraits he looks charismatic, dominating the canvases on which he’d been painted. He was once described as ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ and he looked it. I sighed. How I wished I could talk to him about his various affairs, his passions and his poetry.
I brought up a list of Byron’s poems, the list went on for ages, and I clicked on To Romance.
‘Parent of golden dreams, Romance: Auspicious queen of childish joys…’ Well I didn’t think I could top that, so I started off the essay with the Byron quote. Only two thousand, nine hundred and ninety words to go then.
My text alert buzzed near my ear and I sat up, startled. I must have dropped off. That’s not a good sign when even Byron can’t keep me awake. I checked the text. Only a sales message. Not surprising, everyone I knew would be working on their essays tonight. I looked at the offending screen – it had gone into sleep mode, so I tapped the mouse. Obligingly the title came into view, complete with the Byron quote underneath. Perhaps I should forget him altogether and concentrate on Mary Shelley or even Heathcliff. A different approach might help my writer’s block.
I suddenly became aware of the gentle fragrance of roses. Odd. I rarely bought flowers for my room in Halls, and even if I did, it was unlikely to be roses. A slight movement in the corner shadows of the room had me jumping to my feet, my heart thumping.
‘Who’s there?’ Yes, I know, very sensible to call out to a burglar.
A tall figure detached itself from the shadows and came into the pale light of my desk lamp.
‘What…? Who …? How …?’
‘Very good questions all.’ A deep masculine voice answered, with more than a hint of sardonic humour.
I stared at the man. Something about him seemed familiar. But that way lay madness and possible incarceration in padded cells. Probably for a very long time.
‘Where did you come from?’
‘You called me,’ he answered.
He gestured at the chair opposite and made it a request. I nodded. It couldn’t hurt, clearly I was dreaming and dreams didn’t hurt. He sat down and I studied the handsome face in front of me. He was even better looking than the portraits conveyed. An angular, aristocratic face, framed by a mop of black hair, and dark hypnotic eyes fringed by thick eyelashes. His lips were full and sensual – a poet’s mouth – and for the first time in my life I understood that expression. It had probably been written just for him.
‘Lord Byron.’ I made it a statement.
He inclined his head, his lips favouring me with a slight smile. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and drew out a slim silver cigar case. Holding it up he asked if I minded. Under normal circumstances I would have minded a lot and asked him to go outside to smoke. But this was a dream, and dreams don’t smell. Except I could still smell roses. I noticed he had an ivory coloured rosebud in his lapel, and I imagined the scent came from that.
Having been given permission to smoke, he lit a small cigar, and the fragrant smoke immediately wafted up to the ceiling.
‘How can I help you?’ Intelligent dark eyes stared into mine. It was obvious now how he had managed so many affairs. Charisma emanated from him in waves.
I explained about the essay. It seemed to amuse him. Then he just talked about his life and the women – and men– with whom he’d had romantic dalliances. Plenty of information for my essay. The basic information I knew of course, but now the man himself was telling me his innermost feelings. Dream or not, I knew what I would be writing. The difficulty now would be keeping it to 3,000 words.
When he stopped for a moment, I plucked up the courage to ask a question I knew every scholar of Gothic literature would want me to ask.
Outside, the unseasonal winds threw heavy rain at the window. How fitting.
‘Did Polidori really write The Vampyre, or is it your work?’
The handsome face broke into a proper smile, transforming his face into a more boyish one.
‘Ah, John … physician extraordinaire and aspiring writer. What do you think?’
‘I think it’s your work. At least I think it was your idea.’
The half smile was back.
I really hate stories where everything was just a dream, so when I woke to an empty room several hours later, I felt more than a little annoyed. Except once I started typing, I found the words flowed with ease. The ideas had to come from somewhere.
Also by the keyboard was an ivory coloured rosebud, scented and perfect, whilst the faint aroma of cigar smoke still hung in the air.
Berni writes such good dark, brooding heroes – and Lord Byron is the epitome of that (although not a vampire!) Fabulous story
If you enjoyed Berni’s story and would like to read more of her writing, then you’ll love this competition. For a chance to win a copy of Dance until Dawn and some goodies, simply tell us what you think of the story, either in the comments below or on the relevant Twitter/Facebook post. We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts
You have until Friday 17th June to enter.