I shall never forget meeting her for the first time, her shy smile and light conversation; she was so full of life and promise as many young women are. Her soft skin glowed with health and youth- how could I ever have known what tragedy would lay before her? That for only a few months after knowing her, loving her, that her life would fade away, as did mine into the darkness, and for thereafter I would know her only as a ghost?
I loved her in life and I loved her in death, and for many years sought ways to cheat time and to change what I had done, change events: but time was stronger than I, and my enemies used it against me. I could not undo that had been done.
Many people today do not believe in ghosts; that those who are no longer walking this earth are somehow still alive somewhere, or that their memories somehow haunt the places they loved and can be seen and felt by the living.
It is my observation that more people experience ghosts than is actually realized; that they do not talk about such experiences for fear of being seen as strange or over imaginative. We often fear what we do not understand. If we see a “ghost” what does it mean to us? Why has this occurred?
That night in 1967 when I first walked through the doors of the Old House after being freed from my coffin by Willie Loomis my past and future rolled into one. There was an air of timelessness that washed over me as the cobwebs hung over the windows, the fireplace and the face of my beloved Josette. Through the layers of dust the 18th century was more real to me than the 1960s. At any moment I fancied that I would hear the footsteps of little Sarah running down the stairs calling my name. But she was gone, long gone and another child spoke my name instead.
Young David Collins, a strange but astute boy spoke to me of seeing ghosts in the Old House and even believed me to be one at first; he was even disappointed to find out that I was not a ghost…but yet…in a way he was correct.
I was “alive”, yet not truly alive, not only in the physical sense but also in a spiritual sense, for this time I found myself in was not my own. I had broken the laws of nature by my very existence and should have been a jumble of bones in my tomb alongside my family. But here I was, living still, walking in the moonlight of a night, when most normal people were sleeping in their beds. Perhaps I was a living ghost, for I was consumed with the past, vainly attempting to recreate what I had lost, whom I had loved.
My preoccupation with the ghosts of my past led me to attempt to turn a living woman into one, which proved disastrous. In my pain and desperation to regain what I had lost, I was suffering from what I now believe to be some sort of temporary insanity- I was blind to the depths of the suffering I caused Maggie Evans in my efforts to make her become Josette. I needed her to be Josette- in my anguish all I could see was the resemblance to my lost love and that was enough for me at the time.
To my eternal shame and regret after this vivacious young woman lost part of herself and was taken away by Dr. Woodard to Windcliff, I then turned my attentions to Victoria Winters, whom I had always felt an attraction to from the moment we first met. Her innocence and gentleness charmed me, and we shared an interest in the past and a love of literature.
Much later on, I told her that loving me would have been the greatest mistake of her life, although I wished that hadn’t been true- for by then I was human once more, with a future I felt I could offer her, (although perhaps an uncertain one) and found that my chance had been snatched away from me in the guise of Jeff Clarke.
I spoke earlier about how I came to help Vicki and Jeff – in actuality he was Peter Bradford, a man from my century, and a ghost of sorts himself. The irony of my efforts to protect Vicki from the worst parts of myself for so long, fighting against the desires that drew me to her, then the genuine love I felt for her ( finally realizing that she didn’t and would never return my love) was not lost on me when her fate seemed to be to love another ghost.
Vicki slipped into the past to be with Peter and I followed them to ensure that this time they would escape the gallows- my curse had cheated me of Josette, but I resolved not to let Vicki suffer the same fate due to the schemings of the one who had cursed me- enough had suffered due to my wrongdoings. Fortunately I was successful, but I had to hurt other people to do it, which I am ashamed of, but I won’t go into that for now.
I still think about Vicki and her preoccupation with ghosts and the past- she was very much taken with Josette for a time and I used this to my advantage and encouraged it. Was I to blame for her travelling back to 1795? I can say with all certainty that this was her undoing- for there she met Peter Bradford, who despite his love for her ( which I could see was as true as mine for Josette) sealed her fate. She would not be swayed from her determination to leave her own time and join him in the past. I learned much later on, to my great sorrow, that she and Peter had not had long together- the Leviathans saw to that, or more precisely, Jeb Hawkes. Vicki became a ghost herself- falling from Widows Hill.
I considered travelling back to 1796 again and looking for Vicki to prevent her death, but Eliot Stokes and Julia talked me out of it, pointing out to me the inherent dangers of changing events and the risk to myself.
“We have had enough messing around with time Barnabas!” Eliot stated firmly, “Look how close we came to not getting back to 1971- not to mention the dangers you faced in 1897- leave well enough alone.”
“He’s right Barnabas,” Julia said, “You can’t save everybody, and it was Vicki’s choice to go back with Peter.”
I paced the room anxiously then went to stand in front of the fireplace, leaning on the mantle.
“I know that! But I can’t help feeling responsible-”
“Oh Barnabas,” Julia sighed, “When will you stop doing this to yourself?”
“Doing what?” I said, turning round and giving her a warning look. Eliot looked at me then Julia curiously.
“You know what,” she replied quietly. Then to my relief she changed the subject, asking Eliot if he had read some medical journal she had lent him. I walked away and sat in my chair and stared into the fire, as images of so many I had loved and lost haunted me.
“You make the past so beautiful,” Vicki sighed to me her eyes shining wistfully.
“ Don’t leave me Barnabas..” Josette sighed.
“ Barnabas don’t turn away from me..” begged Roxanne.
“Barnabas….Barnabas?” I felt a hand on my shoulder. I was jolted into the present by Julia looking down at me with a concerned look.
“Where’s Eliot?” I asked.
“He left, as he has a lecture to prepare for.” Julia smiled.
I hadn’t even noticed he was gone, so far away I had been.
I stood up and realized that now at this very moment at least, there were no ghosts, just the present – in the form of Julia. She at least had never been a ghost to me- dear Julia, always loyal, by my side since I had known her; even when going into the past with me, she had always been of the present.
“Are you- are you alright Barnabas?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said, “I was just thinking about the past, but perhaps now I must think of the present.”
“Yes, the past always gets you melancholy,” she said pointedly.
“It’s a curious thing to be out of time,” I told her, “I should have died almost two hundred years ago, but here I am. Was this meant to be, like it was for Vicki to leave her own time?”
“I don’t know Barnabas,” Julia said, “I don’t think we’ll ever know.”
I thought about Quentin, perhaps he felt the same confusion and disorientation I often felt. I made a mental note to ask him one evening.
I sat down in my chair again, suddenly feeling tired.
“You look exhausted Barnabas, why don’t you get some rest?” Julia suggested.
She started opening her bag and I knew what that meant.
“No, I don’t want a sedative!”
She pursed her mouth and gave me a guilty look, knowing that I knew her only too well. She had the good grace not to try to deny it.
“Well, it’s getting late, I’ll be going back to Collinwood. Goodnight then Barnabas.”
“Goodnight,” I said. “I’ll be over tomorrow. I shall see you then.”
Sensitive to my need to be alone, knowing me as well as I knew her, she quietly left me sitting by my fireside, alone but for the ghosts that were as much a part of the Old House as the very bricks, wood and stone that formed its very foundations.
I sat silently in contemplation- I could never forget those I had loved and lost, to do so felt like I was not honouring how I had came to be in this time- they were part of my life, my story, but I also came to realize that my story was still yet to continue; this time not with ghosts of the past, but with the living, the people I knew and loved right this moment. There were many new stories awaiting.