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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The Monster Within

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I have spoken before of the darkness that haunted me; terrible things that I have done, that could not be undone and my sorrow and regret of the suffering and pain I caused to others in those lost nights of 1967.

We all contain our shadow side; feelings that stir within us- jealousy, rage and even vindictiveness. However many a time we do not act upon them but bury them within and don’t  let them see the light of day.  We don’t admit even to ourselves, let alone others that we harbor  these shameful feelings and desires.   I know only too well how it is to live  with these feelings and try to keep them secret.  

To my new family at Collinwood I put on an air of charm and for a long time not one of them knew what cruelty lay within me of a night.

My condition meant that the darkness that lay within me rose to the surface more than it does for most people. I do not excuse it; for I had become a monster; craving the blood of the innocent and I became violent in my desperation to hide my needs. My very nature had been changed and I had lost the ability to find the goodness within me. I have spoken before how long it took for me to find myself again; with the help of Julia Hoffman and Dr Lang.

Oh how I despised myself! To go from being a normal human being, (with all the frailties and faults that we all possess of course) to go from what  I considered myself essentially to be- a good man- to go from this to a creature who preyed upon others for his survival, it was like living a continual nightmare.

When I became human once more I resolved to learn to be good once more, and fulfill the promise I had made to little Sarah, my dear sister whose spirit came to me in 1967 and told me that I had forgotten who I was. The shame I felt as I knelt in front of her as she told me I must change was unbearable.

Part of what it means to be human I have learned, is to feel compassion for our fellow human beings.

“Is this what it means to be human?” I asked Julia, when I could not allow Dr Lang to harm Jeff Clark in his experiment to give me permanent humanity. My conscience weighed heavily upon me, and Dr Lang thankfully listened to me and ceased his plan to murder Jeff.werewolf.png

In 1968 there was a series of severe attacks in the woods surrounding Collinwood that appeared to have been done by a very vicious animal. From the descriptions of a “man that walked like a wolf” Julia and I realized that it could only mean one thing- a werewolf lived amongst us.

We found out that it was Chris Jennings, the sister of young Amy who was staying at Collinwood and friend of young David Collins.

Chris was a very reserved young man, and somewhat of a loner, but whether that was his natural character or a result of his condition it is hard to say. He was not an easy person to get to know, and understandably reticent to form close friendships with others. Although he was attracted to Carolyn Stoddard he didn’t want to pursue any long term relationship with her, for he feared harming her- something I understood only too well.

The fear of harming those you love is a terrible thing to live with- fearing that the darkness within you will rise to the surface and overwhelm you to such an extent that you lose the power to stop it. This is what Chris faced every night there was a full moon. He became a monster; out of control, his humanity gone, not even knowing who he was- overtaken by  the desire to kill raging within him.

Those around us were in great fear of this werewolf roaming through the woods at night and the sheriff and his men  were searching for the “animal” and quite rightly, most people would say, determined to find it and destroy it.

I alone, understood the agony Chris was going through. He could not help what he became, and tried many times to stop himself by locking himself in his room, but the wolf within was so strong that it overtook him and broke free.  To make matters even more tragic, Chris had no idea why or how this had happened to him, unlike myself. He had simply transformed into this creature one night without warning.  

(Although the same could be said the same of myself before I died when the bat attacked me, she had screamed at me that I would be “cursed”, so I had had some warning that some terrible fate was in store for me). Chris was going through emotional turmoil- fear, self loathing, confusion and extreme physical pain- the transformation into the werewolf each full moon caused tremendous muscle spasms.

If it had not been for his little sister, who would have been left an orphan and all alone in the world, I believe Chris would have taken his own life; he expressed this to Julia and I after we found out his secret. We decided we had to try and help him, not only for his own sake but for little Amy who needed her big brother.

Chris expressed great surprise as to why I wanted to help him and guard his secret. I showed him the secret room in the Mausoleum (where my coffin had once been) and told him that he could not break free from there and that he would be safe. I could not tell him of course that I understood what he was going through and why I felt such compassion and empathy for him. It filled me with great sorrow.

sorrow for Chris

For when I looked at Chris, I didn’t see a monster, I saw a victim of circumstances that were beyond his control. When people do terrible things, often they are victims themselves and not fully aware of what they are doing. Chris lost awareness of who he was when the werewolf overtook him, so to my mind he was not totally culpable for his actions, much like those who suffer from insanity are  not considered culpable for theirs. Maybe you will not see it this way, but I felt that Chris deserved to be protected from himself and that is why I locked him in the mausoleum. Perhaps only a monster can truly understand another monster.  

I remember one time I visited him at the cottage and he told me:  “You’re a good man Mr Collins.” 

you are a good man mr collins

I looked at him in surprise; for it had been a very long time since anyone had called me good. I had not thought that anyone would ever see me that way again.

good man1 (1) “There have been those who didn’t think so.”  I replied. 

there have been those who didn't think so“Well we know  they’re wrong, very wrong.” Chris said, and I lowered my head, feeling embarrassed but also moved at his gratitude.

He had no idea that his allowing me to try to help him meant that I was finding the goodness within myself again- that he was helping me as much as I was trying to help him.

However, I could not reveal this to him; my own secret had to remain untold.

Chris would ask me often, “Why are you doing this Barnabas? Why are you helping me?” I would reply that little Amy needed him and that he couldn’t help what had happened to him, which was true- but I of course could not tell him how much I understood what it felt like to fear oneself of a night. I told him that Julia and I would find a cure, that there had to be a cure.  

Chris shook his head, “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but it is impossible.”

I wished I  could tell him that I had once given up all hope of ever being free of my own curse, and now here I was free to walk in the daylight, and not have to fear what my desires might lead me to do of  a night.

“Trust me Chris,” was all I could say, “if there is a cure Julia and I will find it.”

We spent many hours reading books on lycanthropy to see if there was any clues as to a cure.  We found none, but decided that we would not give up trying.  Then a strange spirit began to haunt Collinwood; eventually we found out his name- Quentin Collins. He was from 1897 and had once been a werewolf.  I suppose it will not surprise you that Quentin and I became good friends when I travelled back to 1897, for he and I shared so many experiences and had made the same mistakes and paid the price for them.  

quentin werewolf 6.24.11

I would like to say that I returned from 1897 with a cure for Chris but I didn’t- his suffering continued.  I have mentioned before how the Leviathans took control of me for awhile which meant that I  lost my empathy for Chris, I am ashamed to say.

He eventually left Collinwood, during the time Julia and I were in parallel time and none of us heard from him again.

I have known so many people that in the end, despite my desire to help them,  I could not help, or failed to. Sometimes it is through carelessness that we miss opportunities to help others or we don’t have the knowledge to help them until it is too late. If  I had known the extent of the powers Count Petofi had possessed I would have forced him to have told me how to use them to cure Chris. It would have given me great satisfaction to have used the darkness that resided in Count Petofi for good. Petofi was thoroughly evil, and it would have been a bitter  yet necessary lesson for him- that the powers of darkness can be transformed into powers of light and goodness.

It may come as a surprise to you that this can be so, yet I have found it to be true. I shall speak more of this another time.

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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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