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Behind the Scenes

To celebrate Mediabistro’s upcoming Media App Summit, we hosted The World’s Longest Literary Vampire Remix writing contest.

With the help from writers around the country, we rewrote Varney the Vampire–a bestselling vampire novel from the 19th Century filled with enough star-crossed romance, vampire action and purple prose to inspire another Twilight trilogy.

Below, GalleyCat reader and contest winner Monica Valentinelli rewrote her passage as as a spooky film shoot. 

Behind the Scenes by Monica Valentinelli

 “There is some one concealed there.”

 “Marchdale” rolled his eyes. Eleven o’clock on a Saturday night. Wasn’t rehearsal over yet? “Varney’s gonna bite you. WOOOOOOOOO…”

“Pay attention, Marchdale,” Henry Bannersworth said, wagging his cane. “We film tomorrow!”

“Whatever.” Marchdale shrugged his shoulders and pulled out a flask out of his suit. “Where the hell’s George, anyway?”

 “It’s his day off.” Henry smoothed out his coiffed hair. Even when they weren’t filming, the actor was such a prima donna. “Thanks for ruining the twenty-third take.”

 “Can’t help it,” Marchdale whined, collapsing into an ornate chair. If he didn’t need the money, he never would have signed on for such a boring film. “Guess I’m still not feeling the creep factor.”

 Bannersworth pulled out an ivory pipe and lit it. No doubt, the Victorian relic was authentic. If it wasn’t for Henry’s strong whiskey, he’d tell the jerk to save it for the camera. Hell, the actor even insisted they stay in character. What was that about?

 “I suppose that’s why they call it ‘acting,’ Marchdale,” Henry quipped, interrupting his thoughts. “Maybe you should take some lessons from—”

“—Varney, right?” Marchdale suspected his co-star had a crush on the would-be vampire. Henry was always visiting his run-down trailer.

“Yes, Varney.”

Marchdale swallowed the contents of his flask. He could tell “Henry” wasn’t all there, but he wasn’t sure why. Drugs, maybe? Sex? Both?

“How about a little improvisation? To help get you in the mood?”

Marchdale sighed. “I told my girlfriend I’d meet her at midnight.”

“We have time,” Bannersworth assured him. “I’ll retrieve—”

“While you’re out, grab me some more of your whiskey.” Marchdale tossed the empty flask at his co-star. He caught it easily. “It’s good stuff. Tangy, but smooth.”

“Of course, Mr. Marchdale.”

Twenty minutes later, Henry returned with “Varney the Vampire.” His make-up - pasty-white complexion, black beady eyes, and blood-red lips - was flawless and his dark costume was impeccably tailored, like it was stitched out of shadow.

“Damn! Who designed—”

 Henry bent over and placed a slender finger on his lips. “You should not be talking.”

“You’re a pussy, Bannersworth.” Marchdale spat. “You know what? I’m done for the night. I need to see my girl.”

“I learn by example. Acting, remember?”

“Asshole!” Marchdale tried to jump out of his chair, but couldn’t. His legs were frozen in place and he could barely move his head. Worse, something slimy wormed its way under his skin.

Henry smiled and stepped behind Varney. “That’s it, Marchdale. Feel.”

Marchdale wanted to flip his co-star off but, like the rest of his limbs, his fingers betrayed him. If that wasn’t frustrating enough, the actor did sense something was invading his body, but he wasn’t sure what “it” was. He assumed “it” was bad - very bad - and that there was no word for “it” other than…unnatural.

“Speak.” A puff of stale ash escaped from Varney’s waxy lips. Was Marchdale losing his mind? “What are you feeling now?”

Marchdale’s teeth chattered uncontrollably. “S-s-s-s-s-s-cared. Like I’m s-s-s-s-s-starring in my own horror movie.”

“Good. Will you deliver your lines accurately?” Varney lifted Marchdale’s wrist and slowly licked it. The vampire’s tongue was cool, scratchy.

Marchdale forced a nod and shuddered. If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny anymore.

“Finish this documentary?”

At the mention of the word “documentary,” Marchdale closed his eyes and squeaked: “There’s no such thing as vampires.”

Henry scoffed. “What do you think I’ve been filling your flask with, old boy? Tomato juice?”

Marchdale wanted to laugh, to run, to tell “Varney” and everyone else to fuck off - but his mouth was glued shut. He wasn’t just afraid anymore: he was terrified.

“Is he ready, Bannersworth? Has he ingested all the blood I’ve given you?”

“Yes, Master. I’ve mixed your blood with alcohol. He’ll fall in line, like Chillingworth, George, and the others.”

“Join your fellow vampire hunters,” Varney urged, stroking Marchdale’s cheek. The vampire’s fingertips were ice-cold. “Film the truth.”

Suddenly, Marchdale felt a sharp pain in his chest, followed by a loud pop. He was free! “Are you g-g-g-g-g-going to k-k-k-k-kill me?”

The vampire chuckled. “I will allow you back into the world, unharmed, after you finish my movie.”

Marchdale pinched the back of his hand (to make sure he wasn’t dreaming) and stood up. His body felt strange, like it didn’t belong to him. “Then I’m ready.”

“So you are,” Varney said, fading into the hall. “Good-bye for now.”

After the vampire left, Bannersworth tested him. “You sure you’re all right, Marchdale?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” he lied. He was still angry with Bannersworth for… What was he mad at him for again?

Henry stepped back into position and yelled: “Chillingworth? You there?”

“Here!” a voice called faintly. “Still waiting!”

Henry hopped up and down. “Right-o, chaps. Let’s rehearse this scene properly.”

Marchdale nodded, then glanced at his watch. Two-thirty. Where’d the time go?

“George says, 'Now go, Henry. I prefer a weapon of this description to pistols much. Do not be gone longer than necessary.' And then I reply with, 'I will not, George, be assured.' After which, I’ll meet you in the hall. We’ll leap over the balcony and regroup with Chillingworth in the gardens below.”

“Good recap, Bannersworth.” Marchdale paused. He was forgetting someone, but who? “Man, I gotta hit the pillow soon. Dizzy.”

“Don’t worry! Take twenty-four’s the last one.”

“Twenty-three. Right?”

Henry laughed. It was an eerie, high-pitched cackle. “And vampires don’t exist.”

“You are, no doubt, much surprised at finding me here,” said the doctor; “but the fact is…”

“Right,” Marchdale muttered, massaging his chest. “They can’t be real.”

“We are much indebted to you, Mr. Chillingworth,” said Henry, “for making the attempt.”

Marchdale grinned. He couldn’t believe his luck. Not only was this gig a lot of fun: that “Varney” fellow fascinated him.

“I am prompted to it by a feeling of the strongest curiosity.”

Monica is an author, editor, and game designer who lurks in the dark.

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