EMPTINESS SPOKE ELOQUENT
by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Background: I found this story in my copy of the Mammoth Book of the Best New Horror and was instantly captivated. It appeared in the 1997 edition of the series and again in the “Best Of” compilation that I have, chosen as the best story from the 1997 anthology. It can also be found in Kiernan’s short story collection, From Weird and Distant Shores.
What it’s about: “Emptiness Spoke Eloquent” is a sequel of sorts to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mina is aging, but the events of their dark adventures still haunt her. She believes she sees the vampiric, undead Lucy hovering about. Her friends die, and Mina becomes a writer of dark fiction, her ideas surely springing from her experiences with vampires. As if this isn’t enough, Mina goes home with another woman writer (who reminds her of Lucy), who proceeds to kill herself while Mina is asleep. What a bitch.
As Mina grows older but doesn’t seem to age as quickly as she should, she wonders if she doesn’t still retain a bit of the vampiric about her from the time when she was bitten by Dracula, and before she was cured. She sees a psychiatrist, which doesn’t seem to be of much help. It is strange to see the Mina from the classic Victorian tale enter the modern world, going all the way up to 1969 where there is television and the like, but Kiernan places her seamlessly into our modern world of hospitals and pills without ever losing the gothic tone of the original tale.
Why it will keep you up at night: As you can see from the description, it’s not a big gore-fest or very action-packed, but where the story succeeds is in the language. The title is extremely apropos of the eloquence of the story and the strange emptiness that seems to linger inside Mina. When you finish reading Dracula, you get a sense that everything is now right with the world, that they have won and can now live happily ever after. But never is that the case when someone goes through a great trauma, and Kiernan excellently explores the psychology of Mina’s later life with grim elegance.