Reflections

“Oh you look different!”

Different? How so?” I smiled at the little girl standing next to me peering down into the rippling water.

“You look funny!” She giggled. “Look!” she pointed. “Your nose is moving and become a funny shape!”

I looked at the face reflected back at me as it wavered over the pool.  

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“I see what you mean. I don’t really look like that at all do I?”

“No, you have a good nose,” Sarah laughed then she knelt and picked up a stone and threw at my face, or rather the face that was in the water.

My face shattered into many tiny pieces as the water claimed my reflection.

“Oh look– your face is coming back again!”

“So it is,” I agreed. The face stared back at me but this time, it changed in a curious and strange way. I bent down to take a closer look.

Then all of a sudden a very fat toad plopped into the water and broke up my face again. As he did so, a heavy cloud covered the sun and I shivered. I lifted my face to the sky and a few tiny raindrops dripped onto my head.

The clouds were coming thick and fast and the temperature had dropped considerably.

“Come Sarah,” I said taking her little hand and helping her stand up,” It’s going to storm, we’d better go back to the house.”

As we opened the front door, we were greeted by my mother.

“Barnabas, Sarah, you are only just in time for dinner. Wherever have you been?”

“Down by the pool, looking for frogs. I didn’t see even one, but a fat toad who broke up Barnabas’s face!”

My mother gave me a quizzical look.

“My reflection in the pool,” I explained.

“Oh I see, well, I will see you at the table,” and with that my mother went into the dining room.

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“Mother seems sad,” remarked Sarah as we hung up our cloaks.

I pretended not have noticed, and told Sarah so, making up some excuse that Mother was tired and did not like the rain; for by now it was raining very heavily. We had to light the candles early which made my father grumble, for being wasteful. He thought it was light enough to see to eat by the firelight and dim daylight, but my mother and I both sided with each other saying we could not see well enough to cut the meat.

That night we all retired early, and as I stood by my mirror and brushed my hair I gave my face some consideration. I was looking rather pale I thought, but my father told me that was a sign of good breeding. I laid the brush down and climbed into bed.  

Blowing out the candle I thought about the pool and how my face had changed. I didn’t mention it to Sarah for fear of scaring her, but for one moment my own reflection had unnerved me, as another face had stared back at me, grinning maliciously, with teeth that had looked much sharper than my own. My face, but not my face at the same time.   Had my eyes been playing tricks on me? I reasoned that it must have been the sunlight and rippling of the water affecting my vision just before the toad had leaped into my reflection and broke it up.

Some of the local villagers claimed that the pool could show you your true face if you looked into it long enough. Of course, it was all nonsense and my Aunt Abigail tutted and muttered about “pagan ways” whenever she heard anyone mention it.

But mirrors, well they showed you your true face didn’t they? Abigail thought so. I told her that it was impossible to see one’s own true face as it was always in reverse, and that a good artist could show one their true face more accurately.   On a whim I had a local artist paint me, and many people said it was an excellent likeness and I thought so too, although when I held it up to the mirror and looked at it and myself I could see many differences.

“What on earth are you doing Barnabas?” My father asked when I was studying the two faces in the mirror.

“Seeing which looks like me the most.”

“Well, when you have quite finished wasting your time on idle pursuits the ledger book needs your attention!”

I sighed and laid my portrait against one of the chairs. How I wished I was not my father’s clerk!

“Yes, I will see to the figures Father,” I sighed and went to the study.

I could never have known it then, but that portrait became rather a talking point over the two centuries at Collinwood.

A very clever woman came to the old house one night in 1967 and brought me a book of the family history, one that had reproductions of family portraits in it. She used this as a way to distract my attention whilst she took out a small mirror and attempted to see if I would appear in it for her or not.  

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I was very angry of course, for a vampire can never reflect his likeness in a mirror, but I pretended to believe her absurd story about checking her cosmetics. Her own vanity betrayed her: for she thought herself cleverer than she actually was. I knew she had seen only the candles in her mirror.

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But this vanity of hers became useful to me much later on, as Julia Hoffman was as determined as I that one day I would be able to look upon my face again, even if it were a version of my face.

I must also confess to a little vanity of my own, for I commissioned Sam Evans to paint my portrait, and of course everyone all thought it was of the descendent of the first Barnabas. I took some pleasure in the fact that I chose to pose in a similar way to my first portrait and was emulating my “ancestor.” I enjoyed the little joke.

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I realized too, that I was taking a risk in my identity being found out one day, but I thought myself too clever for anyone to truly know who I was.  I was new to the modern age and the tenacity of the educated modern woman such as Julia Hoffman.

To a vampire mirrors hold a morbid fascination- for my face I showed to those around me was never my whole face. The fangs hidden from view could never be revealed except for when it was time to take the blood of another.  I showed a version of my face that I wanted them to see: the human Barnabas, and the one I longed to be.

The portrait in the foyer was not the real Barnabas either, for he had died long ago, even if he was now in the present. It always gave me a strange feeling to look upon it, remembering the artist painting me and little Sarah’s fascination watching my face appear with each brush stroke.

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“Will you do a drawing of me?” Sarah asked the artist.

“ If you brother says I may, “ he smiled.

“Of course,” I agreed.

And so he did a most beautiful drawing of Sarah, but sadly she lost it. One of the servants carelessly used it to light the fire- it had fallen onto the floor one night and in the early pre dawn light, the stupid girl had taken it thinking it one of Sarah’s discarded spelling papers and twisted it up to use for kindling.

We knew nothing of it until Sarah came into my mother’s room crying, saying she could see one of her eyes, and the corner of her face burning in the fire.

The artist had gone away to visit his own sister, so we could not ask him to draw another. I made some clumsy attempt to replace it but drawing portraits was not one of my talents.

But I digress.

That night in 1967, I resolved to be more careful about being near mirrors, except the one in Josette’s bedroom.  Very few people were allowed in there. Her room was to be a shrine to her memory and it drove me to do some terrible things. I made Maggie Evans sit at that mirror many times and see Josette in it instead of herself. But even I could not make this last- for when we look into a mirror, we see a version of yourself, and sometimes we will not like what we see. Maggie did not like to see Josette, and I understand how wrong that was now.

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I secretly envied her to be able to look into her own face and know who she was, although I never admitted it or even gave her a hint I felt this way. It had been a long long time since I had known who I truly was.

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Story Telling: Part One.

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It was a dark stormy night and the frigid air clung round me like death’s hand. I shivered in my nightgown as my hand trembled clutching the candle holder as I walked down the corridor to my bedroom. I had just put my hand on the door knob when the front door opened to the howling wind outside and  a bellowing made me jump almost out of my skin and drop the candle.

Barnabas! Will you come down here please!”

I peered over the banister to see my father’s face red as thunder looking up at me.

“But- but I was just going to bed Father. It’s late—”

“I know very well what time it is my boy, now come down here at once. I want to speak to you!”

Slowly, I made my way down the stairs, trembling with cold and apprehension. I knew I must have angered my father, but I didn’t know why. He’d been away for two days on business and I’d hoped to be in my warm bed asleep before he returned. He often returned in a bad mood when he had to travel in bad weather.

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“Did you or did you  not tell that hussy that you are going to marry her one day?”

I wrinkled my face up in confusion. What was a hussy?

“I- I don’t understand,” I managed at last, my voice cracking in a squeak.

My father glared at me.

“Now don’t come all that with me. You know of whom I speak!”

“But I’m just ten years old father! I don’t want to marry anyone!”

“That is may be, but did you or did you not tell that wretched girl in the village that you will marry her one day?”

“I don’t know who you mean father.”

My father snorted  and tossed his head in the air and then looked down at me imperiously.

“Remember who you are speaking to and remember the family name. Be careful how you answer me boy. You know I cannot abide those who tell stories!”

My father was a prideful man who wanted the Collins name to be one of honor and honesty. I understood that, but at this moment I simply had no idea what he was talking about.

“I am sorry Father, but I really don’t know–”

My father raised his hand as though to strike me across the face. Instinctively I stepped back before his hand met my cheek.

“That abominable creature who parades herself around the village dressed up with ribbons and bows and goes about dancing to that dimwit who plays the fiddle! That’s who I am referring to! Word is going round the village that you are going to marry her Barnabas! Oh I know it is ridiculous- as if you would marry that awful girl who is six years older than you are and a common peasant, but I really cannot have such talk about my son in this way. It shames the family!”

“Oh her–” The image of a tawny haired girl who everyone said was a harmless idiot, whose name I wasn’t sure of-  was it Betty, or was it Netty?

“Yes, her – Hetty Hicks! I was told in the inn tonight that she was buying new ribbons for her hair for when you got betrothed! They were all laughing. I never felt so embarrassed in all my life. ”

“Well, I haven’t seen her lately Father, honest!”

“Oh so you admit to talking to her then do you?”

“Only to say good day Father, she smiled at me when the fiddler was playing and I laughed at his antics. He’s funny.”

“The man is a fool!” My father shook his head. “I have no idea why he is allowed to parade about as he does, inciting people to stop their work and to act like imbeciles.”

He looked at me again. “So you deny telling this creature that you will get betrothed to her?”

I nodded my head. “Yes, I honestly did not.  Hetty must have been telling tales! I told you- I’m too young and I don’t want to get married.” A sudden chill made me shiver. “Maybe not even when I’m a man- even then!”

“Then who will carry the family name Barnabas? You are the only child I have left after the twins died.”

I lowered my head thinking of the night my mother lost a boy and girl, so malformed as to be hardly called babies.

“I’m- I’m sorry about them. I wished they had lived.” My lower lip trembled. I had so wanted not to be an only child.

My father waved his finger at me. “Well just you mind who you talk to down at the village. Keep away from those imbeciles. If they can make up tales like that, who knows what else they might say about you and this family.”

“Yes Father,” I replied meekly. “Please may I go to bed now? It’s very cold and I’m tired.”

“Yes, go on with you.”  My father began taking off his coat and muttering to himself about fools, idiots and imbeciles.

I dashed up the stairs not wanting to hear another word of it. Perhaps he was right about those villagers,  but at least they were good natured I thought. I smiled to myself as I got under the blankets and leaned over to the candle and blew it out.

As I lay my head on the pillow the darkness enveloped me and I fell into a dream. A man stood at the edge of a cliff as the wind whipped frantically around him, pulling at his cloak savagely.

The fiddler danced perilously near the edge laughing hysterically.

“She’s gone! She’s gone! Won’t see her again. The rocks have her now!”

The man rounded on him furiously, fire in his eyes.

The fiddler looked back at him terror in his eyes. “Stay away from me!” he shrieked, dropping his fiddle and running as if the Devil himself were after him.

The other man turned to look at the fiddler and then looked down at the rocks below.

“Oh nooooo–” he groaned, his shoulders heaving in deep grief.

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Then there was an almighty bang like thunder, and I sat up, now wide awake.

Voices rose cutting into the darkness, the sound of a vase crashing onto the floor. I lay back down sighing as I heard my mother weeping. I longed to leave my warm bed, and throw my arms round her and tell her it would be allright, but I did not dare. For we both knew it would be  a lie, another story I was telling both myself and my dear Mother. I tried to go back to sleep, but the yelling of my father and my mother’s cries assaulted my ears and heart. I tried to think of a happier time, a time when my father had been away for three months and it was just me and her. Well, there was Aunt Abigail, who often scolded me for taking the last slice of cake, but she was always in her room reading the Bible and sewing stockings for the church to give to the poor.

“Oh Barnabas, you do have a way with words!” My Mother smiled, stroking my hair. “ And such a beautiful voice to do it with too. That was a wonderful story. Wherever did you get that idea from?”

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“I’m not sure. But I wanted it to have a happy ending, even if it seems improbable.”

“You mean you don’t believe in happy endings dear?”

“I’d like to, but it seems to me that they only happen in stories, which is why I wrote this one just for you Mother.”

“Thank you darling,” she smiled and kissed the top of my head. “You are so thoughtful and clever, such a clever boy. I know that you could be happy one day, no that you will be–”

At that she turned away, so that I didn’t see the tears glistening in her sad eyes. But it was too late- I had already seen them.

I squeezed my eyes tight shut, trying to not to see the images in my dream. Was that a story too? Dreams often seemed like stories to me. I had no idea where this one came from- it was so strange.

Eventually sleep claimed me and I fell into another dream, another story. This time there was a man wearing strange clothes and talking to two women in a big house I’d never seen before. They were dressed strangely too-, but they were pretty. The blonde haired one seemed very scared at the story the man was telling but the other one was listening fascinated.

The man stood in the shadows, so I couldn’t see his face, and I couldn’t hear his story either. But I knew it was a frightening tale.

When I awoke, I had forgotten this dream, this story, and it wasn’t until many many years later that I remembered it. I couldn’t remember the women listening to the man’s story, but the story itself made itself known to me. Perhaps I’d known it all along- after all it had been my dream.

A story or the truth? Maybe it was neither, but I told it all the same.

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Contrary to my father’s wishes, I became a master storyteller. I shall speak more about this another time.

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The Sun and the Moon.

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Winter Solstice has now passed and soon the days will lengthen once again until the hours of daylight are longer than the hours of night time. Of course at the moment this seems and feels very far away. For one such as I the night time is both welcome and unwelcome. Long dark winter nights can make us long for the Sun and its warmth but for one such as I am, it means death.

It must seem strange to  associate the light with death, but that is what my kind exist with- the reverse of the natural order. For it is true I have been made “unnatural” – in human terms at least; for there are animals that are solely nocturnal. So I am now a nocturnal being.

I once talked about the beauty of the night and moonlight to Victoria Winters but to my dismay she preferred the Sun and daylight. I had hoped at the time, her being somewhat of a whimsical romantic, that she might prefer the night and the soft light of the Moon.

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My heart ached as she spoke enthusiastically about the daylight and the warmth of the Sun, for I could not share this feeling with her, despite yearning to be able to. So, I convinced myself that perhaps the Moon’s beauty was the greater one and hoped to convince the lovely young woman whose face was gently bathed in its light that moonlight was the most beautiful.

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One thing I learned from our little talk  was that both the Sun and the Moon have a beauty that is of their own- different of course, but equally beautiful. There are many mythologies about these two globes, which I will not go into here, but I will talk about what they mean to me personally.

The Sun brings light and warmth and life- all living things need light to thrive. But not for me. One such as I fears its rays touching me even for a second.

The Moon is not a harbinger of light but ebbs and flows, grows full and then turns  into a mere sliver in the night sky and of course it creates the tides of the Sea.

Yet when it is full it lights up the sky like a lantern. I have good night vision so I can see quite well in the dark, but I have always been glad when the Moon is full when walking at night for it is a strange comfort to me, acting as a substitute for the Sun that would mean my destruction. The Moon becomes a companion to the vampire, for it is the only natural light that he can safely raise his face to. 

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 expect that is why I have always been averse to electric lighting- for it is harsh and strong unlike candlelight which is soft and gentle on the eyes. As someone who grew up in the eighteenth century I have a special fondness for candles, although I am often regarded as eccentric for this.

Yet, I have learned not to fear the Sun any more, nor do I hate it, for I have many memories of enjoying its warmth on my face, spending long summer days on the Collinwood estate as a boy.

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The memories are bitter sweet of course, but that part of my existence I don’t wish to forget. I even had some time in the twentieth century when I could walk in the daylight again, and it was a great joy to me, even though at the time I was not able to spend as much time savoring the experience as I wished to due to poor Chris Jennings suffering from his werewolf curse.

It was a strange irony to me that he hated and feared the night time when the Moon was full, as it meant he would lose his humanity for the night and transform into something inhuman, when here I was human again and able to walk in both sunlight and moonlight and enjoy both equally. I had not forgotten how this felt, and was always expecting that it would not last, and once again I would become the nocturnal creature I had been for almost two hundred years.

Chris never knew why I felt the compassion for him I did, but nevertheless he accepted that I did and wished to help him find a cure of his affliction. I have spoken before about Chris and my failure to help him, so I won’t go over it again, but I do wish to say that for him, the Moon only brought ugliness and never any beauty.

Many people associate the Moon and night time with romance- it has been in many a love song and poems. Even I tried to find the romance in the night; courting Josette and later Roxanne and as mentioned even Victoria, but it was all hopeless as for it would ultimately have meant they would needed to have become as I am, for my nights were long, and then would become short, always opposite to theirs- Sun and Moon, night and day- opposites and often in opposition.

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Well, that is how I saw it, for how could I hope to exist in such a way all alone yet at the same time be in a state of opposition to my beloved?  I did not want any of them to suffer my affliction and came to see in time, that the only way I could exist and love was to compromise. I did not know it then but things were about to take a very unexpected turn.

Into the old House one night walked a bold and capricious woman, with a very direct manner to which I took immediate offense (although I maintained a polite facade) who would help me see a light in the dark, give me hope.

Her name was Julia Hoffman.

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The Journey of Life

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It is often said that life is a journey. But if that is so- just where are we going? What is the metaphor behind this statement? Of course we all have to go places in everyday life- that is not what I’m talking about. Life itself- a journey. Like all journeys it suggests there is a beginning and an end- to someplace from someplace. When we die does the journey end?

barnabas-in-coffin-1897If one is immortal as I am, then the journey is a never ending one. Perhaps that is neither here nor there, but it has gotten me thinking of what this could mean for one such as I. Can a mortal’s journey be completed as mine never can be?

Is  life then death the beginning and the completion of the journey, or are one’s life experiences, desires, hopes and dreams the real journey? I have seen that many peoples’ lives come to an end with the sense of not having completed what they wished to complete- there was not the opportunity perhaps, or never the time.

Time is something that passes for all of us, yes even I, although I have experienced it in very strange ways- I have gone forwards and back in time many times and found that whilst some thin430-dark-shadows-clock-barnabasgs were very different, some things were very much the same.

 Without exception, everyone I met in every time I found myself in was in some way a reflection of the time they were inhabiting. I am one example of this. Born in the 18th century, no matter how much I tried to fit into the time I was currently inhabiting, I was still of my own time- the late 18th century.

It always felt strange to me during my time travelling with Julia to refer to the late 1960s or early 1970s as going back to “my time” or “our time.” Strange in two ways- firstly, my time was the late 18th century, and secondly we were actually going forward in time ( from 1897 or 1840 and sideways too if you wish to consider 1970 parallel time ). Oh and there was one time when we actually did go “back” to our own time- from 1995. But usually we were going forwards, but Julia and I always referred to “going back” to our own time!

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In some ways I was an orphan of time- no longer living or existing in my own time, except when I briefly went back to 1796 to help Vicki and Peter Bradford ( and also a second time when I followed Kitty Soames to 1796 from 1897). Julia was very afraid for me when I willed myself back there as there was a real risk of myself becoming trapped there. It ilooking-at-portaits quite odd to think of oneself as trapped in a time that they were born in. But fate had brought me to the twentieth century, and despite the trouble that followed me there ( some of it of my own making I admit) it seemed that this was where I belonged. It turned out that the modern Collins family needed me to protect them against many evils and threats to their happiness and safety, so awakening in this new century I became part of their lives and time and the past where I was from, began to seem further and further away.

Yet, the past still drew me back- to the nineteenth century- a time I most definitely did  not feel I belonged in. The same thing happened to Quentin- of this century, he too became immortal due to the portrait painted of him by the artist Tate and one day he turned up in Collinsport in 1970, although he took some time to remember who he was. Once he did, he seemed to seamlessly fit into the twentieth century in a way I never quite managed to do. I don’t quite know how or why he did so- perhaps he wasn’t that fond of the nineteenth century and enjoyed modern life and all the new things that could be found there, and the greater freedoms of this time.

He was never “old fashioned” in the way that I am. Vicki seemed to like this about me however, and I wish that I’d been able to share with her who I really was and my experiences of the past, the present and how they differed and yet in some ways were similar.  People still yearned to be anywhere than where they were, or who they were, wished they could change their circumstances, felt their dreams slipping away from them until they felt nothing but hopelessness. The Quentin Collins I met in 1840 even built a staircase that he hoped would take him into another time where hoped he’d be happier and have a different life. He never imagined that it would be used against him ( in the accusations of witchcraft)  and that only I, Julia and Professor Stokes would be the ones to walk up and down it into the past and then the future. In that way the staircase could be said to be a success for it worked as Quentin planned it to.

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But Vicki- oh Vicki…she belonged in 1968, yet she followed Peter Bradford back to his time. I could not stop it. She had already been back to the 18th century and nearly lost her life- I simply could not understand why she wanted to go back to such danger. Yes, I know she loved Bradford, but their fate was not a happy one, just as mine and Josette’s never was,  and much as I tried to change that, it proved impossible.  

Josette even tried herself by pulling her future self in the body of Kitty Soames back to 1796 and still Josette died young. The tragedy of that haunted me greatly. Poor Kitty suffered the confusion of her identity and time took her life prematurely from the 1897- the time she belonged in. I see now, it was wrong of me to have tried to get her to remember who she had been, but Josette’s spirit lived in her and was calling to both myself and Kitty, longing for a second chance at life- and my love. Our love. I hoped that I could bring Josette back or forward if you like, to 1897, and then on to 1969 where we could at last be together. But those hideous Leviathans captured me in some strange place between time and Josette was lost to me, in the past.

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Of a night in the Old House when Willie had gone to bed, I sometimes would sit on her bed looking at her portrait and imagine how she’d be in the twentieth century- would she feel as I felt? Someone out of time? Or would she have been like Quentin and eased into this new century eagerly? I often think that my out of place feelings were due to Josette not being with me, for she was lost in the mists of time to me, but then Quentin had lost everyone he knew too, and didn’t seem to feel as lost as I often felt.

Before my life took an unfortunate turn, I had never given much thought to the time I lived in- it just was part of who I was- I never gave much thought to the future, what another century might be like- only my own future with Josette was in my thoughts, and the family we hoped to raise. The journey we planned together, was the same as everyone else’s that we knew- marriage, children, growing old together. Instead, Josette’s was cut short and mine altered into something I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares. Yet, here I still am – having experienced travels across two centuries and time bands, hating and loving along the way, meeting people and losing people along the way.

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All these are reflected in who I am, are part of who I am. My experiences, whilst now are past, belong in the past, still live inside of me. This is true of all of us- who we meet, where we go, what we do- they exist in our minds, in our hearts and our souls. We might not be able to forget them, but giving them that acknowledgement can I have found, bring us to if not quite peace, but a feeling of acceptance.

Regrets, we are often told, should be let go of, and this is often a good thing to do, but some regrets allow us to realise where we went wrong, did wrong and vow never to make those mistakes again. The destination is important, but also the journey to that destination- how we get there is equally so. Life, if we let it, is also a lesson. I have had many lessons, so forgive me if this sounds like I am giving whoever reads this a lesson. All of us, myself included are students in life. It took one little girl to remind me of that in 1967- a very simple lesson- be good, try to be good. I had almost forgotten that. I had taught her that, then she was teaching me- in her innocence and simple beauty I hung my head in shame and regret, my eyes filling with tears as she left me- her own eyes full of sorrow for what I had become. My journey to finding my goodness again was still far away.

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New Year’s Day, 1793

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I sat back and closed my eyes contentedly, feeling the warmth of the fire on my face, and the brandy warming my insides. My belly was happily full from a good lunch. Life was good.

“Barnabas, are you going to sit there all day?” smiled my mother. She looked at me intently, as she set down a small tray on the side table.  “You look like the cat who has got the cream.”

“I’m happy mother,” I replied simply.

“I’m glad to hear it”, she smiled back at me. “Would there be any particular reason you feel that way?”

“I don’t quite know,” I mused. “ It can’t be just a good dinner,  a warm fire, this brandy-” I looked into the amber liquid and swirled it round in my glass.

I looked up at her earnestly. “I just have a feeling that this will be a good year for us, perhaps the best one we will ever have.”

“Well I hope you are right.”

“How is Father?”

“Oh his cold is still bothering him, but he will recover soon I’m sure. The hot toddy should help.”

“I hope so,” I said, standing up and going to look out of the window. “How beautiful it looks outside, the snow.”

My mother came to stand by my side. We stood in silent companionship looking at the expanse of white that covered the grounds like a blanket.

“How pure it looks,” I said at last, breaking the silence, “almost as though everything is untainted and new, cleansed almost in readiness for the coming new year.”

 

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“You sound almost poetical Barnabas.” My mother took my hand. “I’m so proud of you. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that but I am.”

“Well-” I said, my face flushing at the sound of pride and love in her voice. “I hope I will always make you feel that way, no matter what happens.”

A sudden chill came over me and I shivered, then in one fleeting moment it was gone.

“Come and sit by the fire again Barnabas, you look a little cold.”

I turned away so that she would not see the confusion on my face. I’d been so happy all afternoon and in a mere moment, something I couldn’t explain had come over me, I was not a man given to bouts of melancholy, so it was all the more puzzling to me.

“Yes,” I said, and walked over to my chair and poured more brandy into my glass, and with perfect timing in walked my Aunt Abigail.

“I hope you don’t plan to finish that bottle, and sit there stupefied all afternoon, Barnabas,” she said in a scolding tone.

“Since when have I been a drunkard?” I retorted. “It’s New Year’s Day, and I for one feel like celebrating it in a pleasant manner, with a couple of glasses of brandy by the fireside. I don’t see what is wrong with that.”

“Well you wouldn’t, so I won’t be the one to spell it out.” With that she opened the Bible she more often than not had in her hands.

I sighed, waiting for her to start quoting me chapters about the evil of “strong drink” when the door opened and in flew little Sarah.

315kl“Barnabas, let’s go out and make a snowman! Oh say you will, look I have a carrot for his nose.”

“You will catch a chill,” Aunt Abigail said, “ You don’t want to be in bed with a fever like your father now do you?”

“No I won’t!” Sarah said,” I have my new grey coat, that will keep me warm, and the mittens you knitted for me.”

My mother moved away from the window, and smiled at Sarah. “I don’t see why you can’t go out with Barnabas Sarah, as long as you wrap up warmly. That’s if he wants to go with you.”  With that she looked at me for my assent.

“Of course,” I said graciously, “ Go and get ready Sarah.”

“Oh good!” She said and handed me the carrot. “Now you take care of the snowman’s nose for me until I come back.”

“I will,” I promised, smiling affectionately at her, amused by her excitement.

My aunt made a harrumph sound and I looked over at her sitting there stiffly in her chair.

She  met my gaze, a frown turning her mouth downwards.

“Those eyes of yours will get you into trouble Barnabas, you mark my words.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said puzzled.

367-1If looks could kill Barnabas!” she exclaimed, looking away momentarily then down at the Bible in her lap.

“Now just what are you talking about Abigail?” My mother’s  voice took on a sharp tone.

Abigail had the grace to look a little guilty, but only for a moment. “Well it was the way he looked at me. That expression just popped into my head. I don’t know exactly what I meant by it.”

“And how did I look at you?”

“I don’t wish to discuss it,” she muttered and stood up. “I think I’ll retire to my room for awhile.”

“As you wish. Oh Sarah, you do look nice and warm, here’s your carrot.”

“Have a nice time,” my mother said.

“We will!” Sarah almost ran to the door. “Look out the window Mother and you can see us make the snowman.”

“I will darling.”

The snowman proved more difficult to make than we imagined, for our hands got very cold and we had to keep blowing warm air from our mouths every so often to ease the stiffness of our fingers. We soon found out wet gloves were an impediment to snowman creation.

A little bird flew down into one of the low branches in the trees and watched us set the carrot into the snowman’s head.

“Oh the bird must be hungry! Let’s go get him some bread from the kitchen Barnabas.”

If there was one thing above all I loved about my sister it was her inherent kindness, her purity of heart.

“All right, you stay there, I won’t be long,” I promised. “I ‘ll get the buttons in your box for the snowman’s eyes too.”

“Then he will be able to see, won’t he? He can look out at the trees and watch the birds.”

“He will,” I said smiling.

When I returned Sarah was playing her flute and the bird was cocking his head, appearing to be listening to the piping sounds.

“I think you’ve made a new friend Sarah.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do. Now let’s crumble up this bread and put it under his tree.”

As we neared the tree the bird flew up into the next branch watching us, then swooped down to the ground when we moved away.

“Oh he is so hungry Barnabas!”

“I expect he is, with the ground covered by snow, frozen hard with no worms for him to find.”

I took Sarah’s little button box out of my coat pocket and handed it to her. She chose two bright blue buttons for his eyes and I helped her push them into his round face.

“Oh but he has no mouth! What can we make his mouth out of?”

I reached into my pocket again and handed Sarah a piece of thick red thread.

“How about this?”

“Where did you get that?”

I looked down at her and spoke in a hushed conspiratorial tone. “From Aunt Abigail’s sewing box. Now don’t you tell on me! She left it in the drawing room.”

Sarah giggled, enjoying the secret.

“I won’t tell on you.”

We pushed the thread into the snowman’s face and Sarah pulled the thread up at each end.

“Now he’s smiling. That’s better.”

We stood back and looked at our snowman. The being of ice stood there comically, his buttony blue eyes gleaming in the frosty daylight, smiling at us as though he was very glad to have been created.

“I think he’s happy we made him Barnabas.”

“I think he is too. Do you want to give him a name?”

“Adam, like the first man in the Bible.”

“That is blasphemous,” Aunt Abigail said as we came into the drawing room to warm ourselves by the fire and told our mother about our snowman.

“Making snowmen is one thing, but only God gives life and calling a snowman after the first man-”

“Oh Abigail be quiet!” My mother tutted.

“”Well, if I don’t point out their sinful ways who will?” Her voice rose in response to my mother’s annoyance. “ This is a good Christian household, and don’t you forget it.”

“Have you not thought Aunt, that by naming the snowman Adam that we acknowledge God’s creation?” I said in my best soothing and charming manner.

“Well if you put it like that-”

“I do.” I said firmly, “Now let’s not fight on New Year’s day. I want nothing more than peace and happiness in this house.” I smiled at my mother and little Sarah. “And love of course.”

81426771-d990-4484-8fcb-67bf12af3765“You will always have my love,” my mother said warmly.

“And mine too!” Little Sarah hugged me tightly. I wrapped my arms about her warm little body and kissed the top of her head.

“Happy New Year darling,” I said softly into her long brown hair.

Her sweet face lifted up to look into mine. “It will be a happy one won’t it Barnabas?”

“The best,” I said, looking over her head gazing at the snowman stood outside, and watching our bird soar into the sky, his belly full of the bread we had given him. He flew high into the cold still air, and then vanished from my view. I had the  feeling that we would never see him again, which made me feel inexplicably sad. The sun was setting, shadows began to fall around our drawing room and I let go of Sarah in my arms and began the evening ritual of lighting all the candles.

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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.

Barnabas 1795 in the secret door

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.

 

 

Love, friendship and loyalty

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In my world and yours I have seen many acts of hate: people driven by the desire to control others, greedy in their quest for power. I make no excuses for my own acts of wrongdoing, (and I shall talk about that another time), but if you remember, I have said that I’ve had to learn to use my abilities wisely. In certain circumstances I have had to use them in order to help others. Many times I have had to do this-  hate and evil came to Collinwood all too often and it fell mostly to myself to defeat it. It was my responsibility to do so.

I crossed time to save my family from danger, and faced many dangers myself. I did this willingly- I did what had to be done.  I met many powerful and ruthless adversaries during my travels into the past, and one of the worst were the Leviathans.

The Leviathans claimed to be all powerful ancient beings and for a time they had a firm grip on us at Collinwood. Part of their power lay in their lies- they had the ability to sound convincing and their hideous appearance only added to their menace. I have not known as many beings  that had the level of arrogance they did- they acted as if they had a right to  do what they did, and truly believed, it seemed, that they were superior to us. Had I stopped to think that they had needed me to carry out their plans and were fascinated by my ability to traverse time (which they could not), then I might have got out of their grasp sooner than I did. They seized my mind and almost my humanity, but deep within, my soul still carried the love and loyalty I had for all those at Collinwood. I was lost for a time, not only to myself but to my dear ones.

Love broke their control over me. Yes love. I would not and could not betray or hurt those I loved. Their command to kill my closest friend was the beginning of their downfall.  Inside their soulless beings was only endless darkness, cruelty and coldness. They did not  know what love is.

It is my humble observation that many people in my world and yours also do not know what love is, perhaps we are all learning, myself included, so I shall not make this into a lecture.

“Love conquers all” is a saying in your world, said by an ancient poet called Virgil. I would like to believe this is true, however I found many times that it took more than love to conquer evil and hatred. I wish it had not been so. Perhaps you are shocked by this admission- that at times I have had to resort to violence in order to bring peace.

I admire the concept of pacifism in your world and those who do much good towards others by following this philosophy. However in some situations I have faced I was forced to be violent myself or not only would I have been destroyed, but those I loved. It is not something I am proud of.

I have been very fortunate in that I had a friend in Julia Hoffman. She was willing on many occasions to risk her life in order to save mine; her loyalty to me knew no bounds. I will be eternally grateful for this. Julia taught me what true friendship is, and I showed the same loyalty to her.  My love for her was brotherly, yet I could never quite find the words to express this to her, to my eternal regret.

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“Never without you,” I once told her. Without her by my side I think I would truly have been lost.

In 1967 I was full of anger and torment. My heart had been hardened to love and I scornfully saw this as a weakness, a sentimentality that had led to nothing but pain, yet there was a deep scar within myself and when alone I often stood at Josette’s portrait willing her to return to me.

I was ill prepared for the arrival of Julia, who wished to help me. I was cruel to her many times and suspicious of her motives, yet she did not waver in her determination to help me. Perhaps I was cruel to her to test her, to see how far her loyalty would go, and test her I did, and for a time I almost drove her mad with fear.

For a long time we had a very uneasy partnership (I would not call it friendship then), constantly trying to outwit each other. I once tried to allude to our growing friendship as I mistakenly saw it at the time, and Julia replied that I was devious, and she was correct. She understood me well. I am ashamed to admit that she began to be drawn into my devious and questionable activities and became very distressed.

Much later in 1970, I made attempts to apologize for what I had put her through, but she did not wish to hear it.

“Oh Barnabas…don’t…” was all she said to that.

So my words were left unsaid, hanging heavy in the air above us. It was as though she could read me like a book that she had read many times before.

I was left wondering what to do about this. I respected her wishes not to talk of those terrible times in 1967, yet I wished to clear the air, seek her forgiveness. Perhaps there was some element of self indulgence to it, yet I truly wanted to her to know how sorry I was.

I spoke to Quentin about this; if anyone could understand how I felt it was him. He and I shared so  many similar experiences and regrets. We both knew what it was like to live under the constant shadow of a curse and to fear oneself of a night.

And so I went over to Collinwood and found him standing pouring himself brandy into a glass and looking pensive. I wondered if it was the right time to speak to him, as he was much preoccupied at the time with his own problems, and growing distant.

He turned around as I came in.

“Oh Barnabas, it’s you. Care for a brandy?” He gulped down his drink, then poured himself another one.

“No thank you,” I said, thinking that perhaps he’d had enough brandy himself.  

“Quentin, I need your help,” I said, deciding to get to the point.

“Oh?” and he gave one of his little laughs, “Well what can I do for you Barnabas?”

“It’s Julia, well I- you see I haven’t treated her very well in the past, and I want to put things right. I can’t explain it all now Quentin, but you know what it is like to live under a curse and have done things that you wish could be undone.”

“We can’t change the past Barnabas you know that.”

“Yes,” I said looking down at my hands. “I have tried to apologize of course, but she didn’t wish to hear it and changed the subject.”

Quentin fiddled with his brandy glass. “Well I don’t see what else you can do.” He then smiled. “Why don’t you give her a nice gift ?”

“A gift?” I repeated. No gift could ever  make up for what I had done I thought; what on earth could I give her?

“Yes, something to show your appreciation. All women like that sort of thing, I’m sure Julia is no different.”

“Perhaps you are right,” I mused, “but I have no idea what to give her.”

“I’m sure you will think of something Barnabas,” he said setting down his glass on the table, “If you will excuse me, it’s late. I am tired and need to go to bed.”

“Of course,” I said, “Goodnight.”

“Good night Barnabas,” he said and went upstairs.

I stood staring into the fire, wondering what token of my appreciation I could give Julia, the one person who had been by my side through so many difficult times, even when I had been very unkind to her. I knew her so well, yet I had no idea what I could give her.

I lowered my head, realising the one thing she did want from me I could never give her, and felt ashamed that I could not do so. I wished it could be different, but I could not change that. How different she is to Angelique I thought, for Julia accepted how things were, how ever much she wished they could be different. This was one of the things I admired about her.


I put on my cape and picked up my cane to walk back to the Old House.

As I opened the door the night air cooled my hot brow and I looked up at the night sky. I felt a glimmer of the unwelcome craving inside me, and shook my head a little. 

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No, I will not give into that, I told myself. I walked through the woods telling myself as I had told myself a thousand times I would feel no comfort afterwards, only shame and regret.

Willie was in bed when I got back to the Old House. I did not think he would have been much help to me, so I was glad to be alone with my thoughts.

I sat in my chair by the fire, thinking, and then it came to me.

Of course!” I said out loud.

At dusk I opened the gate of the basement, ascended the stairs and walked into the parlor to find Julia looking at the table.

“Who sent me these?”

“ I did,” I said.

The look of surprise on her face delighted me.  ”You?”

“Well I  had to send Willie to order them as I couldn’t go myself,” I said dryly with a small smile playing on my lips. “But yes, they are from me.”

“Oh Barnabas!” She picked them up, admiring them, and then noticed  the card I had tucked inside. She gave me her quizzical look then read what I had written on it.

Dear Julia, although these flowers will last only a few days, our friendship will bloom for a very long time. Your devoted friend, Barnabas.”

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

Her smile as our eyes met, showed me she understood what I was trying to say- what had passed between us all those years ago was gone. I could not change what had happened, nor forget it, and neither could she. I had to accept that as she had done. The look in her eyes as she held the flowers I had sent her showed me that I had been forgiven. The gift she gave me in that moment was one I would never forget.

“No, dear friend, thank you.” I said.

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