Being human again.

he sees sunrise

In 1968 I had a brief time of being human again. This was a result of the administrations of Dr Lang- a remarkable man; he succeeded where Julia failed, although I must take the blame partly for this as I was too hasty in my need to be alleviated of my condition, and pushed Julia to give me larger doses of the injections than I should have had. The results were disastrous. I don’t wish to go into that now however, perhaps another time I shall.

I spoke earlier of missing the sunrise; Dr Lang gave me the gift of seeing my first sunrise in almost 200 years, and for that I shall be eternally grateful to him. His death weighs heavily upon me; although I myself did not kill him, his involvement with me led to his murder by the one who caused my affliction so many years ago.

A man of many contradictions, Dr Lang was highly devoted to his work, and some might say his ethics were questionable. So it often is when faced with difficult circumstances, as Julia and I found out when we continued Dr Lang’s experiment and so gave Adam life.

We were ill prepared for the consequences of our actions and Adam became a problem that we could not solve. Fortunately Adam came under the care of Eliot Stokes and eventually made his own way in the world. What became of him after he left Collinsport none of us ever found out. I only hope that Adam found some happiness in his brief life. Because of him I spent a short time walking in the daylight once more and not having to fear myself of a night.

There are many small pleasures humans take for granted; although being what I am grants me many abilities and immortality, I am not as free as you might expect. I have had to learn to accept my being and how to use my abilities wisely.

During those few months of being human at Collinwood I became closer to my family- the twentieth century Collinses. Although my descendents, they became my family- they were as much part of me as I was a part of them. Time did not separate us, nor did my reverting back to my condition break this bond. Not even the influence of the Leviathans could harden my heart against those I loved.

I was glad to be able to accept Elizabeth’s invitations to lunch at Collinwood, although I was not impressed with Mrs Johnson’s cooking. Roger would complain about it to Elizabeth, but I didn’t see any improvements. Julia would laugh about it after I reverted, and say that maybe this was the only thing I would not miss about being human. (I of course, can eat, but have no need to. My needs are of a different kind). I replied drily that it was a small price to pay and that perhaps Willie might make a better chef than Mrs Johnson.

I remember one evening at the Old House in 1968, not long after I was relieved of my condition, when it was still new to me. How could I have forgotten what it felt like? As I hung my cape and cane on the stand I felt a weariness I had not felt since the eighteenth century.

Willie came out into the hallway carrying a tray of coffee and Julia’s favourite cookies.

“Where have you been Barnabas?”

“I was out for a walk,” I said. This was one habit I still had- walking at night,  even though I no longer had the same reasons for doing so.

“Well you missed your dinner Barnabas. I got some cookies here if-”

“No- thank you Willie,” I said with a small smile and moved towards the stairs.

“What’s wrong Barnabas? You don’t look right,” Willie said, concern in his eyes.

Julia got up from her chair at these words to stand and look at me. I did not give her a chance to start questioning me and fussing over me. She had been staying here for a few nights and I had had enough of it already.

“I am just tired Willie, that is all.” I started to climb the stairs. “Good night,” I said to both of my friends and they both replied “Goodnight Barnabas,” looking at each other in that conspiratorial way they often did when they worried about me.

Once in my bedroom I changed into my nightwear and lay down on my bed. How many years had I longed to sleep in the comfort of a soft bed instead of the claustrophobic confines of my coffin! Yet this night sleep eluded me; despite  the heaviness of  my eyelids and my body. Faces of those I had hurt haunted my vision so I got up and stood looking out of the window, trying to clear my mind.

How can I make amends for what I have done?” I asked myself, feeling great torment. I had no answer. I sat down heavily on my bed, my face in my hands and suddenly I found myself weeping. My sobs echoed in my chest and I heard faint footsteps in the hallway. Wilie! I knew those footsteps well. I lay down again and stilled my breathing and swallowed my sobs.

“I don’t know Julia…I thought I heard cries, maybe a cat or somethin’.”

“I expect you’re right Willie.  I wouldn’t worry about it. You did lock the door didn’t you?”

“Yeah, sure I did.”

“Well goodnight Willie, oh and I’ll be going back to Collinwood tomorrow.”

“Allright Julia. Goodnight.”

Once their doors closed I let out my breath in relief. My pain was mine, mine alone. I could not and did not wish to share it, not even with my closest friends.

I lay in the darkness, the shadows on the walls my only companions. As my cold tears dried on my face I had a feeling then that the shadows would follow me even in the daylight and I would never truly be rid of them. They would always be with me and I would have to learn to accept them as I would have to learn to accept the return of my condition once more.

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So many memories. To have lived a life as long as mine has been means much of my life is bound up in memories. Time stretches before me, ever present and the past often comes to haunt me. My Josette once told me that I am “the future.” But what is the future, but tomorrow’s past?

I was born in the late 18th century, and in many ways I am of my time. To be immortal is something many people wish for, but it comes with a price, and one I have paid for dearly over and over again.

My dear little sister Sarah…..never was there such an enchanting child. From the moment she was born I loved her dearly. Our bond was strong, and I vowed to protect her as any older brother should. Little did I know that I would fail her in the most horrifying circumstances.

Those early years before that terrible night I was changed forever were filled with sunlight, laughter and long walks on our estate. Sarah loved to ride in the carriage with me and stop and pick flowers for our mother.  To see my mother’s sweet smile of delight when Sarah would hand her the flowers gave me happiness. I was very close to my mother.  She and Sarah would sometimes dry the flowers and press them into books, or Sarah would glue them onto paper and write stories underneath the flowers.  She was an imaginative child and had she lived to adulthood I think she might have been one of those lady novelists.

How simple life was then, despite my often troublesome relationship with my father.  He and I seemed unable to understand each other, and he often expressed his disappointment of me. He rose early of a morning and expected me to do the same. He took a small breakfast and then would work at his desk until mid morning, and then go out and take care of his business affairs.

He was a proud man and much concerned with honoring the family name and making good connections. He sought to instill this in me as being his only son, much of the future of our family would continue with me.

I remember coming down to breakfast one morning to see my father frowning. As he often wore a frown I did not think much of it.

“Good morning Father,” I said as I sat down and poured myself coffee.

“Is it a good morning indeed? Isn’t it about time you got married Barnabas? Collinwood needs an heir.”

“When I find the right woman Father,” I said.

“Oh, you’ve been saying that for years! You’re not getting any younger Barnabas. What if something should happen to you?”

“I am strong and healthy Father, nothing is going to happen to me,” I said biting into my buttered toast.

“I am glad that you can see into the future and be so sure!  I want you to start considering looking for a wife instead of gadding about.”

I made to leave, feeling irritated, but he had not finished; once my father started he hardly knew when to stop.

“Now you stay here and listen to what I have to say. I blame your mother for all this romantic nonsense- always sitting there with poetry books and sipping sherry and sighing. It’s her influence on you, that is why you are this way! And what are you laughing about now? You are far too frivolous Barnabas!”

“I am not laughing at you Father if that is what you mean.” I held out a piece of paper. “Look at what Sarah drew for me this morning.”

My father eyed the paper quickly and grunted.

“Do you not find it charming?”

“Well, what is it supposed to be?”

“It is a view of the dawn sky she saw this morning, can’t you see it?”

“If you say so,” he said getting up from his chair. “Now finish your  breakfast and get on with the accounts I have left you in the study, and remember what I said- I mean it Barnabas, you have a responsibility to this family. Do not forget it.”

I could not forget it: responsibility to the Collins family, he reminded me of it often after that. We could never have foreseen just how far my responsibility to the Collins family would reach. Long after he was gone, it fell to me to protect my descendents, a role that I took seriously. There was never any time for the “frivolities” he so often accused me of.

I shall never forget little Sarah’s drawing of the dawn sky. Something so simple, a pleasure I expect many of you reading this will take for granted. When you can no longer see the dawn, forced to live at night only, the dawn becomes precious. To feel the sunlight warm your face no longer, only the cold light of the moon night after night, and only shadows instead of the vivid colors of daylight.

his dawn

I wish I could still look upon Sarah’s dawn, but one of the maids twisted the paper up and used it for kindling to start the fire a few mornings later. I was more upset over this than Sarah was, and my father found yet another reason to regard me frivolous.

He was a man of contradictions my father. He would have had me marry any frivolous heiress so that the Collins name would continue, but  in doing so denied me the chance to find love if I had not stood firm in my convictions- I would marry for love, or not at all. And I almost did- but my dear Josette was taken away from me in the cruelest way imaginable.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had married one of the many young ladies my father had encouraged me to court, none of which I may add whom I felt the slightest love for- what would my life have been like?

Almost certainly I would never have been cursed to live as a being of the night. Would I have been happier for it, to have never met my Josette? My family would not have suffered so- for many years I blamed myself for this. My loyalty to the Collins family of the twentieth century became my reason for living; somehow I had to make amends for all the misery that had been brought to my immediate family, and learn to use the powers that came with my condition to prevent even more suffering. It was not always possible for me to not bring more suffering to others, however, which is something I shall talk about another time.

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