Sacrifice

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Sacrifice– the word doesn’t even sound nice to one’s ears does it? It is even less pleasant to write about, but write about it I must. For sacrifice has featured many times in my life- I have been both the victim of it, and the cause of it. I sacrificed  the happiness and lives of others for my own selfish desires. Then racked with guilt I spent a few years after that willingly offering myself up as selflessly as I knew how to ensure the safety and happiness of my family and friends. But even then others made their own sacrifices along the way, either through knowing me and working as my allies or getting in the way of our mutual enemies. It seemed that even when I was putting myself last I collected some victims, which caused me great sorrow. Death followed me like a shadow- my curse saw to that.

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Of course, some of this was because of my need for blood.charity-gets-bitten I could try and fight the desire for it of course, but ultimately the cravings would get so immense that the thirst overwhelmed me and I could bear it no longer, and I knew that someone would have to offer me their blood so that I would be satisfied. At times, I was offered it almost willingly but it was nearly always to their detriment and I tried to take as little as I could, but once the hot sweetness filled my mouth I often felt crazed for more. Disgusting as this sounds, there was sometimes a special  feeling of intimacy when I felt an emotional bond with the woman I was feeding with: Josette- Roxanne- Vicki, and even to some extent Charity Trask.

For them however, there would always be a price- their life if I continued to accept their offerings to me.  Love often does mean that we make sacrifices- such as putting ourselves out to help our loved ones- perhaps missing a trip to care for them when they are sick, but to die- to die for it— no, it should not come to that. I am aware that some lyrics of popular music express the sentiments “I would die for you, I could die for love” but I strongly suspect that this is being overly dramatic- few of us would  usually equate love with death- this is more the prerogative of Romantic poets.

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Sometimes I didn’t even know whether I was the victim or being victimized such was my confusion during those dark days of 1967. Josette’s spirit left the Old House when I went to live there and I was alone in a strange century with people I didn’t understand and mistrusted their motives.

Those years of 1795-6 were still vivid in my mind- I had vowed only to hate after Josette had fled from me and fallen from Widow’s Hill, all because she didn’t want to pay the sacrifice to be with me.  Even in my anguish I understood and did not blame her for it, but my heart was broken that she was afraid of me. I staggered away from the cliffs, and later vowed before Ben Stokes that I could only hate from this moment on- love had ruined me. The subversion of love if I may call it that- of the witch, twisted into something vile, turned me into something loathsome. I was no longer the person Josette had fallen in love with. With her gone I turned my rage onto those around me in my own strange sense of justice- Nathan Forbes and Reverend Trask.

Reverend Trask despised me; perhaps he sensed that I was in a way a strange subversion of the religion he preached so avidly- his Lord had offered his own blood selflessly so that he may save the souls of others, but here was I taking the blood of others so that I would survive yet another desperate and lonely night.  In the end I snuffed out his life as he took Vicki’s life- he sacrificed her innocence for his own egotistical and misguided ravings, whilst the real witch amongst us gloated. She made fools of us all for a long time and when  I realized what she truly was it was too late.

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My own blood was spilled for a few moments of weakness and ignorance and not only my own life and happiness was sacrificed but that of my dear Josette, my poor little Sarah, my beloved mother- even my father was left a broken man once he discovered the horror of what his son had become.

For one such as I, blood, love and death became blurred- they almost became one and the same- sacrificed, sacrificing-   lusting for blood,  yearning for love, longing for death, trying to escape death,  wanting to live- seeking an end to this cycle. My boundaries became difficult to define, difficult to contain, difficult to understand. I found myself taking on various roles, not even knowing what was real much of the time, such was the depths of the deceptions I created for myself.

Slowly it all began to unravel, and I began to see that through the sacrifices I had made through my foolishness I could turn around some of my curse by using the powers that came with it to fight against evil that came to Collinwood far more than any household should ever have to encounter. The hardest thing was realizing that I could not do this alone, and that those dear to me like Julia also had to risk their own safety to help me. She told me many times that I could not be expected to risk my life for hers if I would wouldn’t accept that she would be prepared to do the same for me.

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I feared losing her more than she ever knew- although she didn’t quite know how much I cared, she trusted me to always be there for her. I couldn’t fully express my gratitude to her, and when I made attempts to she would shrug it off and state that I had helped her many times. I had lost so much, that losing my best friend was unthinkable- this was one sacrifice I was determined not to have to make, even if it meant the loss of my own life.

With sacrifices also come gratitude, or as I have come to believe, from my own experiences it is wise to never lose sight of that-being thankful for the kindnesses our friends show us. I realise that this hasn’t been an easy read, but I wish to finish with something positive, and also an apology for such a difficult subject, but sometimes my memories are melancholy and I can’t seem to help myself, and need to explain what I experienced and felt, and reflect upon it all.

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Suffering

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Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape,
With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But O too fond, when have I answer’d thee?
Ask me no more.
Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
Ask me no more.
Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are seal’d:
I strove against the stream and all in vain:
Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
Ask me no more.

When we are suffering we may inadvertently create more suffering not only for ourselves but others we hold dear to us. I should never have gone to her that night, I know that now.  But, truth be told I knew it then too, but I could not help myself. To live for eternity without her was an agony I knew I could not bear, yet to live with her meant death- her death. I was already dead, but in a cruel way also alive – and my feelings were intense, more so than when I had been an ordinary man. Now, I was a creature of the night with dark yearnings – cravings so strong that at times I thought I would go mad.

When her tearful eyes gazed into mine and she begged me to take her with me I felt an icy chill seep into my bones, for she had little idea of what this meant.  How could I explain what I had become? That my love for her would bring her suffering then her death? I wanted more than anything to keep her safe, bring her love and joy. When we love someone the last thing we want is to make them suffer. Yet, when the witch had screamed at me that all who loved me would die, that became the only thing I could bring my dear Josette.

I was suffering enormously it is true: tormented by my need for blood each night and disgusted with myself afterwards I would slink into the shadows tears on my blood stained face. 

How could I ask her to love me still? My loyal servant Ben pleaded with me to leave Collinsport for good, but I couldn’t bear to never see her lovely face again. Selfishly, I stayed and visited her of a night through the secret panel in her bedroom, taking her in my arms and loving her in the only way I knew how.

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My plans to make her mine meant that she would live for eternity as I was cursed to do, but it was a living death; I knew Ben Stokes was right when he told me I was wrong to even consider it, but I didn’t know how else I could bear each night otherwise. Centuries of loneliness and suffering stretched out before me, unless I could find someone to end my suffering. Faithful Ben could not bring himself to do it. I longed for him to destroy me – being destroyed at the hands of a friend seemed to me a kindness, laying me to rest in peace, but to have been hunted down like an animal by the authorities was what I faced (it was inevitable) which was worse.  I had left many victims of my blood lust in the short time since I had been cursed to this damned existence – already the inhabitants of Collinwood were gossiping about the  “ blood thirsty beast” in their midst.

We are often told that we should not have regrets, for they are futile as we cannot change what has been. This I find to be false in light of what I am – for if I didn’t have any regrets how could I live with myself? I may not be able to put right many of the wrongs I have done, but I have realized that the experiences I’ve had have taught me to see how precious life really is. We must never waste a moment to show our loved ones how much they mean to us; we must show them that we care. We must. Having too many  regrets eats at our souls and we cannot be at peace. 

With regrets comes forgiveness, which I have talked about before. Forgiving other people is much easier in some ways than forgiving ourselves. I know now that Josette eventually forgave me for that terrible night on Widows Hill. Even now I feel the horror as vividly as I did over 200 years ago as she slipped from my arms down onto the rocks as the wind swept the sea into  a frenzy.

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As the elements claimed her spirit, and her broken body lay below the cliffs, my heart became as hard and as cold as the cruel stones that she lay upon, and for a long time after that I could only feel hate and despair. Many a night I would roam Widows Hill raging at the way it had stolen me from her, claimed her as its own. Her voice mingled with the ghosts of the weeping widows that haunted the place – my suffering was causing me great agony but in a perverse sort of way brought me some comfort, for I felt that one day I might find Josette again as I could often sense her presence  in the wind that whipped my cloak around my legs as if she were angry with me for causing her to die.

In the new century I found myself in Josette’s spirit came to my aid twice when I was in danger and I knew then that she had forgiven me, even if I had not forgiven myself.

In the old house

“My darling forgive me for the suffering I brought you,” I told her one night as I sat alone by my fire in the Old House, and outside the wind sighed at  the window. Perhaps I was imagining it, but I felt some peace come over me as though she had heard me.

climbed the stairs to her room and gazed at her portrait, holding a single candle above me which cast a wavering glow on her face.  Her eyes were solemn.

A knock on the door broke me out of my reverie and reluctantly I turned away and went downstairs to open the door.  It was Julia. As she walked into the drawing room she could see that my mood was particularly melancholy but did not press me on it, for I had had enough of an ordeal being bricked up by Trask’s spirit in my basement, and she kindly made a front of putting my mood down to that.

“I deserved it,” I told her simply, “for he was only doing what I did to him.” Trask had suffered and died at my hand and even though he had been a spiteful and vindictive man, his fanaticism bordering on mania, I had acted from the same emotions that he had shown to Victoria Winters – hate. Now we were even – he had got his revenge on me and his spirit lay quiet once again.

Julia turned away, pain reflected in her eyes at my words, for the prospect of losing me was as unbearable to her as losing Josette had been to me – and still was.

“Don’t Barnabas,” she said quietly and I looked down at my hands, understanding her, accepting what I meant to her.  I said no more on the subject, for I knew how much she had worried when I had gone missing and regretted that I yet again had caused her so much upset.

At this moment in time, I was no longer a creature of the night, but it still felt to me that the curse was never far away from me, and my fears that it was laying in wait for me proved to be correct. TKitty and Josettehe Leviathans returned the curse to me (although the witch made an attempt to and would have succeeded if it had not been for Adam). They prevented me from saving Josette’s death a second time, and reliving that agony once again was  one of the worst nights of my life. 

Death has touched me so many times, yet I am still alive- why, I don’t know. I have suffered and brought suffering to many; there are those who say that through suffering we can come to a state of enlightenment, or wisdom or something close to it, but I wish that I hadn’t had to have gone through all that suffering to have learned what I have. I have lost too much, caused too much losses. There must be better ways to learn:  I believe there are better ways to learn, which I will save for another time. 

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*Poem: Ask Me No More, from The Princess by Tennyson.

 

 

Power

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My condition has brought with it certain advantages. For example I possess the ability to shapeshift into a bat and travel to where I want to be much faster than if I were on foot. When I first discovered  I had this ability I found it very strange and somewhat disorientating. My consciousness would shift into another state and I found that I really needed to focus on where I wanted to be, otherwise the form I had taken would fly around aimlessly. If this sounds rather comical to you, imagine how this felt to me. It is somewhat a cliche that my kind have this ability, but I assure you it is one that exists. I have even heard that some ancient native men of America also possessed the ability to change their forms, but I suspect that this was happening on the astral level, rather than physically.

Flying in another form gold houseives one a sense of freedom and a new perspective. On occasions I rather enjoyed  the view I had over the roof of the Old House and Collinwood, the stars seeming nearer to me than they usually were, and the light of the Moon brighter: my guiding light to my next victim.

Yes, my next victim. How I despise using that word! My first forays in this form were used to hunt for fresh blood, my cravings twisting my insides with hunger and darkening my soul further with every encounter.

The dogs would howl piteously; a blood curdling sound to those who were unfortunate to hear them and even more so to those who understood what their cries signified. For it signified that I was hunting, yearning and ruthlessly searching for someone to sate my needs with. Once I had found that person, my powers meant that I usually succeeding in getting what I wanted from them.

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I was well aware of the powers I possessed after a few days of discovering just what I had become. Horrific though it was to me, I was compelled to use what powers I had to my advantage. It wouldn’t have done to have had my latest victim run away from me once they saw me open my mouth and show them what was inside there- my fangs. My eyes held the power to lock into the eyes of the one whose blood I craved and paralyze them; freezing them so that they were unable to run away but submit to my bite.

I learned much later on that I could bite and feed in such a way that the victim would feel little pain, and at times, some kind of pleasure, perverse as this may sound to you. I felt some measure of guilt at this discovery, but I reasoned that perhaps this was better than bringing someone terror and pain as their blood drained into my mouth.

However, this also became a problem, and I found that to satiate myself on someone else’s life force would always be an ethical dilemma- one that always caused me shame and regret. In time, I was able to get a better grip on managing my cravings, and going longer and longer without imbibing blood- when Dr. Lang had me admitted to his hospital after the accident with Vicki, he told me that I’d had very little blood inside my body and he had to give me a transfusion.

dangerous 1967 BarnabasWhy Julia had not tried this with me earlier I can only put down to my antagonistic and uncooperative attitude I was exhibiting towards her. I didn’t trust her for a long time and I didn’t understand why she was risking so much to try and help me. I wasn’t used to anyone accepting my state of being and seeing it as a condition, rather than me being inherently evil. To Julia, my actions were a result of an illness; I had been changed she argued to me, a physical change, which compelled me to act as I did, but the acts themselves she saw as not being who I was. I know I’m not explaining this very well, but after awhile she did give me some things to ponder upon.

Discovering I had heightened senses did not make up for what I had lost. Despite my greater physical strength, sharper night vision, shapeshifting ability and psychic perceptions, I was less than who I had been before this curse had been laid upon me. These powers and abilities of mine were born out of darkness- all a facet of my desire to prey upon the living.

I could bend people’s will to my will, manipulate them with my telepathy, call their name and create an overwhelming desire within them to summon them to my side. I am ashamed to admit that when I felt their mind touch mine and felt their hunger for me, my own hunger for them increased and excitement would course through my whole dark being. I was powerful and almost unstoppable during my first few months in my new century- I have spoken before on what I did to Willie Loomis- he was powerless to stop me.

Power used wrongly. We all have power of some kind- the power to charm others, inspire them with our creativity, amuse them with our sense of humor, and the power to do good. I believed, wrongly, that my powers could never do any good to anyone, and that is why I begged my servant Ben Stokes to destroy me in those desperate moments when I felt I could not live with what I had become, what I was driven to do. I felt I had no choice but to follow this path of darkness that she had bestowed upon me: coming from her own darkness- how could I ever know goodness again?

My lovely Josette feared me, despite her loving me still, for she couldn’t forget the man I had once been, and yet- she could not accept what I had become. I understood this well- for I loathed myself- how could I expect her to understand if I struggled to? I longed for her to help me, yet this was too much for her to cope with, and truth be told, I didn’t know myself any more. What was I? The man I had been seemed so far away, yet deep within me he was still there when in the arms of Josette.

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Being lost in darkness for so long I found a certain sort of satisfaction in my abilities- once Josette was lost to me to the rocks below Widow’s Hill I resolved to follow the path that was now set out for me- satiating my needs. My broken heart could not bear to feel any goodness- I slid deeper and deeper into darkness. Ben watched me in sorrow- faithful to the last.

I’ve spoken about the time I was human once more in 1968- losing the powers that came with the darkness meant that I was an ordinary human once again, and vulnerable. I was glad of it- for it meant my connection to those near and dear to me was equal and real. I was one of them once more, no longer an outsider. Of course  when I was a being of the night I was vulnerable during the day, which was a constant worry to me- the possible discovery of my true nature. I mean true nature in the sense of what my needs were, and not being awake during daylight.

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I came to see after a long time, that my true nature was not to seek the destruction of others, to prey upon them, to manipulate them to do my bidding- the darkness  within me was bestowed upon me- a curse. I cannot fully explain what it means to be under a curse- it creates compulsions that feel at odds with what you know yourself to be, twists the mind to such an extent that you begin to associate yourself with that darkness. I am not excusing myself, so please don’t misunderstand me. I still had choices, but being cursed means that much more effort needs to be made when making choices that don’t hurt others around you. This has become both my challenge and my lesson in life.

When I reverted back to what I was during my time in 1897 I found that some things were different than they had been before. I craved blood still, and was revulsed by needing to satiate myself with it, but found that I had better control over this than I had previously. My fangs were put to use when I needed to find out information that would allow me to learn more about this strange time I found myself in, and all the goings on as Ben Stokes would have described it. The Collins family of 1969 were depending on me to stop David being possessed by Quentin. I was forced to do whatever it took to prevent the death of this innocent child.

I regretfully had to take the innocence of one young woman named Charity in order to achieve my aims.  The daughter of Gregory Trask, a self styled man of the cloth, I have no idea how he could have sired such a sweet creature. Although I did notice upon first meeting her that she was beginning to exhibit some of the negative qualities of her father- judgemental and hypocritical. At once I saw the danger she and her father posed to Rachel Drummond, who so closely resembled Josette. I was falling in love with Rachel and desperate for no harm to come to her. I was struggling not to let myself feel too much for her, for I knew from experience that love for me in my current state was bound up with my darker desires and sooner or later my fangs would find themselves sinking into her soft neck.

Charity gets bitten

Instead I wasted no time in sinking them into Charity’s neck as she lay in her bed, and she became my assistant, coming to me when I needed her, helping me and even hiding me when her loathsome father was looking for me. I regret that I bit Charity, for she liked the experience far too much, and yet she found some new sense of herself despite it- courage, a desire to know more about the world and a realization of her beauty.

“Barnabas, my father told me it is a sin to seek beauty in oneself,” she told me one evening at the Old House, after we had shared the intimacy of feeding.

“ However can anyone think such a thing?” I replied.

Charity looked into my eyes. “You told me I am beautiful. Is this not vanity? Me wanting you to find me beautiful?”

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“I see you,” I smiled down at her. “Beauty is knowing goodness, kindness. Vanity is false beauty- seeking for others to do your bidding simply because they find you pleasing to the eye.” The last, I said with some shame, for I knew what vanity was, having used my charms many times to get what I wanted.

“Oh, “ Charity whispered. “ You know so much Barnabas, I never thought of it like that.”

“You have helped me see that my dear,” I told her, and meaning it. I was feeling a lot of regret that I was using her for my needs, no matter how much she enjoyed the time we spent together. I tried to reconcile this within myself by this knowledge and observing how she was coming into her own as a person, the grasp of her father’s control over her loosening. True, I was also controlling her by my powers, but I needed someone I could trust to help me, and I couldn’t see any other way of doing it. I simply couldn’t risk David’s life over trusting someone who may have betrayed me. Charity’s need to be with me ensured she couldn’t betray me- she longed for me too much.

I tried to apologize to her for what I was doing to her but she stopped me.

“ Don’t Barnabas- I- I wouldn’t change it now. You’ve showed me more of the world. I can see now there’s more than what my father would have had me know at the school.”

I could see that life with her father at the school must have been tedious and limiting. I knew full well the Trask tendency to religious fervor- one of the worst kind- hypocritical, self serving and intolerant. Trask was a man with a powerful presence and used that to his advantage- controlling Judith Collins. That however, is a story for another time.

The darkest power in 1897 lay within Count Petofi, who sought to travel forward to 1969 and escape the gypsies who were seeking him and he stole Quentin’s body for a time. A disgusting man, of whom I don’t wish to talk about quite frankly, as he tried to destroy me also, and caused the death of Rachel Drummond.

I have said before that I wished I had known the extent of his powers and been able to have forced him to use them to my advantage. I myself used my own dark powers to achieve a greater good, although I did some terrible things along the way. It gave me satisfaction to work against my inner darkness and find the glimmer of light that was fighting against it- to use the powers that the darkness gave me to help others. Petofi is one who would have scoffed at such a thing, but I would have loved to have forced him to use his powers to do a kindness for someone against his will. I wonder if this would have instigated some change within him as it started to do for me?

Back in 1967 Jason McGuire was threatening Elizabeth Collins with ruin and forced her to agree to marry him. I was new to the family then, and she was keeping a lot from me, yet I watched from a distance and warned Maguire that I was not plea243-dark-shadows-jason-barnabassed with his behavior. I could not have my own family threatened in this way especially a woman- despite the monster I had become, some sense of honour still existed within me. The darkness within me was unleashed upon McGuire and he was no more under my hands. I felt no remorse over his death, but a smug satisfaction that he would trouble my cousin Elizabeth no more.

Now, of course I see it differently- I needn’t have killed him,  but warned him off- he was leaving Collinsport anyway. His mistake was to come and try to steal from me, and being as I was then- cruel and ruthless if anyone threatened me, and discovered my coffin as he did- they would pay for it with their life. Is it ever necessary to kill? I found myself in so many circumstances that forced me to do so, which I find hard to live with. Darkness in the light, light in the darkness- are they different or one and the same?

I have used myBarnabas-Collins-1970-dark-shadows-28790711-120-90 powers for good and for evil. I have walked in darkness, seeking the light still. If there is one thing I have learned that is in the darkness we discover our potential, what we can be, not necessarily what we ought to be. I  now know what I am, and know what I want to be. Never again shall I let the darkness claim me.

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Ghosts

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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.

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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.

Barnabas in the Old House

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.

ghosts of the past

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.

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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.”

Stokes

“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.

Julia

 

“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.

In the old house

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.

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Belonging

Barnabas in Collinwood

 

Each one of us has the desire to belong; not only to somebody, but somewhere. Our sense of self can be determined from where we came from, and perhaps where we are going. In modern times many people do not reside in the family home, the place they were born in – but another place, and sometimes not even in the same country they originated from.

I am sure you have all heard the “There’s no place like home,” which suggests that home for us is a safe place, one that brings us fond memories.  I awoke in 1967 in the same place- Collinwood, but in a different time from the one I came from, and in a sense I was no longer “at home”. When you have lived a life as long as mine, and travelled through different time periods, home takes on a different meaning.

I was essentially orphaned, for my family were long dead and I found myself with people who bore my name- Collins, but they were strangers to me. So, I invented the story that I was a distant cousin from England- in order to account for my sudden arrival that would not raise too many questions. I was at once a stranger to them, but also a member of the family. Eventually I became part of their family, and loved them dearly.

I needed to belong to them, and them to me, even though I could not tell them the truth of my origins- that I was their ancestor and belonged in Collinwood as much as they did, if not more so.

It may surprise you to know that despite all the terrible things that had happened at Collinwood, I felt a deep connection to it, and many years before my curse was placed upon me I had spent many happy times at The Old House where I was born. Of course we did not call it the Old House back then, it was simply Collinwood, and when the larger mansion was built we called it the New House for a time until my family moved there.

The Old House was to be given to me and Josette for our new home after our marriage, but that was never to be, and I found myself instead living there in a marriage I was forced into by the threat of the murder of my little sister Sarah.

Old House

A house is much more than bricks and mortar, more than shelter; it holds our dreams, reflects who we are, and in some ways reflects back at us what we long to be. It can become a symbol of love, hate, take on our name or even be a place of menace and foreboding. Collinwood was all these things and more besides.  It had a kind of presence to it, which was noticed by everyone who came to live there; it changed people- nobody was ever the same once they had been touched by the spirit of Collinwood.

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The Collins families down the centuries had all shown an unusual relationship to  the mansion- fighting for ownership, at times willing to commit murder in order to possess it. I often wondered if the house was possessing them rather than them possessing it. What was it about this house that brought out the worst in those who bore the name Collins? I do admit however, that it wasn’t only those named Collins who also were so affected- Gregory Trask in 1897 was so powerfully led by his desire to own Collinwood that he murdered his own wife and, contrary to what his Christian faith taught him, enlisted the help of the black magician Evan Hanley in order to do it.

What drives us to seek this sense of belonging so strongly? In some people the need to belong is less to do with a physical home, but an identification with others they share kinship with. Magda and Sandor Rakosi, the gypsies who lived at The Old House in 1897 were such people. They were travellers, never settling in one place for long, and whilst glad of the shelter the Old House gave them, they had no attachment to it, nor sought it. Their sense of belonging was with their people. In some ways I admired this in them, for they had less to fight about, and Magda and Sandor had a better relationship than those at Collinwood did. When Sandor died I understood Magda’s loss far more than she ever realized- even though I never told her just how much I understood. For the woman I was meant to belong to- Josette- would never be mine, nor me hers.

I speak of “belonging” not in the sense of possession- for we can truly never own another person, and if we seek to possess another only disaster can follow, as I found out and became what I am now. I shall not go into that now, however, but perhaps another time.

The belonging we feel towards  another comes from a sense of sharing, knowing that the other person understands us and accepts us for who we truly are, and brings out the best that is within us.

“What is love but sharing?” Roxanne asked me once, and I found out that she was correct. I was for a time afraid to share what I am with her, and despite her courage and willingness to love me, I felt only fear.

We should never be afraid to love, to belong, to find out who we are, even if it means taking risks, and many risks I have indeed taken- and many of them brought me a lot of trouble.

Elizabeth Collins was one of the most accepting members of my new Collins family, and despite this was not that agreeable at first at my request to live at the Old House. Fortunately for me I was able to persuade her that I could restore it to its former glory. I could not explain fully to her of course why I needed to do this; and it was not only for the reason that I needed a safe place to hide my coffin; but I needed to feel that I had come home.

My heart ached when I first opened the door to my childhood home.

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The air of desolation hit me as the Old House mourned with me- it felt as lonely and bereft as I did. Under the layers of dust and cobwebs the sweet voice of Josette echoed in my ears and heart. Her portrait hung over the fireplace just where I had hung it in 1795 all those years ago, and I felt a strange sense of the past and present mingling. I felt disorientated- almost 200 years had passed since I had hung her portrait there and gazed at her beautiful face, and my wife had been angry that the one I loved would look down upon us, ever present, a shadow reminding us of how we had caused her death. It felt only hours away rather than over a century away.

“Josette…Josette…why won’t you come to me?” I begged as I stood looking at her portrait in 1967. Young David Collins had told me he had seen her ghost many times when playing in the parlor, and he was distressed when he told me that since I had arrived Josette had gone. I once more belonged to the Old House, and would make it my home for the next few years, but Josette did not belong to it; only on a few more occasions did she return from the grave to help me, out of her love for me when I needed her most.

The Old House became my sanctuary, a place of secrets, both of heart and mind. Alone of a night with only my memories as company, I sat by the fire, reliving what I had done, wondering how I could have done things better, my eyes warmed by the flames of my desires, my love, my pain.

Barnabas by the fire

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Reminiscing.

 

Reminiscing

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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