Ghosts

1795 oil

 

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.

josette's ghost

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.

Barnabas and vicki

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.

his signature

Advertisements

Awakening.

 

Barnabas.1967.photo

When I was released from my coffin in 1967 I was half mad with grief, anger, loneliness and self loathing. Many people have some aspects of themselves they do not like or wish to change, but to to be filled with loathing for oneself, one’s very being is a terrible thing to live with. I knew that I should have been destroyed once I became what I am, not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit and safety of those in Collinsport. Yet, how I longed to live! My need for survival was greater than the desire to die. So it is with all living beings.

And so it was that I lived, although dead of a day, due to the mercy of my father and Ben Stokes,  neither of whom could not bear to have me destroyed. But what life was it to become? Chained within the confines of a coffin, time began to stand still to me for all those years. I cannot explain the torment I felt being in that stifling dark prison, with no room to move, with not one thing to comfort me.  

Alone, my thoughts, my memories attacked me and haunted me during the times I was conscious. My insides clawed deep within me, my hunger for blood a thousand agonies-I was starved. Starved of light, companionship, human touch- all the things we take for granted.

And so when Willie Loomis removed the chains from my coffin and I was freed from my prison I attacked him hungrily. With his life force sustaining me I began my new life. Slumped on the floor, Willie groaned in pain and terror, and, I am ashamed to admit  that I  did not stop to consider the shock this young man was going through but fired questions at him- I had to know what world I had been released into. His clothing was very different to mine; that alone told me that some time must have passed.

“What year is this?” I demanded roughly.

“Y- year? 1967,” he croaked.

My mouth fell open. 1967! So much time had passed; there was much I had to learn about this new time I found myself in. I questioned Willie mercilessly-  was there still anyone living at Collinwood? What changes would I expect to find? Fortunately for me it was night, so I was able to go out from the mausoleum and see for myself if what Willie had told me was true, for he told me all manner of strange things about this new century.

There had been many developments since I had last walked in Collinsport- motor vehicles, telephones, women wearing trousers and short frocks and nauseatingly loud music coming from machines. It was shocking, but the shock of being free at last was the greater one, for I had long given up hope that I would ever be found.  I was certain that my father would have taken the secret of my existence to his grave.

But a few weeks later, I began to wonder if my father had decided to spare me out of hope that one day in the future someone would find me and know how to cure me of my affliction. Despite his disgust and horror at finding out what I had become, he had tried to find a way to have the curse removed, but he had been unable to. With great sorrow he had told me that I must die, and I had hung my head and agreed with him, unable to bear what I had become any longer.

Yet, I had been spared, and here I  was in 1967. I was immortal- time would now either be my friend, or it would become my enemy. I had to become a modern man, or learn to pass as one, so I instructed Willie Loomis to go and get me a suit of clothes and warned him to tell noone about me.

“You know what will happen to you if you tell anyone about me,” I said, “Be here at dusk with the clothes and make sure no one sees you come here.”

Willie nodded, “I- I understand.”

He came at dusk with the clothes as I knew he would, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they looked on me.

“A perfect fit, you have done well Willie.”

BARNABAS  old photo

Dressed in my new 1967 suit I went to Collinwood and introduced myself as a cousin from England. It was surprising how easily they believed me and welcomed me into their home. The Collins family of 1967 were far more welcoming to me than any of their predecessors would be during my travels into the nineteenth century.

Living with them was a young woman named Victoria Winters who was a governess to young David. He was often a troubled child and she showed great patience and kindness towards him. Despite the dark desires I held for her,Concern for Vicki she was innocently drawn to me, and I liked her company for she liked to hear about the Collins family history- my history, although she never found out who I truly was. I was very pleased that she was so interested in Josette.

Victoria became in time, a very important person in my life, but during those troubled times in 1967 at the Old House she became closer to me, and I began to fear myself greatly and what I might do to her. I didn’t want to admit it to myself at the time, but I began to be stirred by feelings I wished to keep buried- again I speak of friendship and love.

I told myself that my reluctance to fulfil my need with her, despite the intense craving I felt, was to avoid rousing suspicions within the Collins family regarding my true nature. Already I had caused a great deal of trouble and pain to  Maggie Evans and I had to be careful not to place myself in any more danger of being found out for what I was. I will always be grateful to Victoria- for her grace, her gentleness and kindness towards me. By knowing her I slowly began to learn how to control myself better and over the coming year we became closer, and when I was cured of my condition  and human once more I realized that I had fallen in love with her.

Her heart lay with another however, to my sorrow, but Victoria was sensitive towards me in her rejection of my love and gave me a different kind of love- that of a true friend. By knowing her I began to see what love meant, and sometimes it means watching the one you love be happy with another, and accepting it. I empathized with Vicki when she lost Peter Bradford to the mists of time, and  even though Eliot Stokes and Julia tried to dissuade me, I was willing to take whatever risks I might face in order to reunite Vicki with the man she loved. I shall however, save this for another time.

A being such as myself inevitably has many enemies. As much as I loathed myself, others would loathe me more so- and fear me. They had just reasons to fear me, as I had little self control in those first months of my awakening. I make no excuses for my actions; I only seek to explain how I came to be the way I was. Isolation, grief and pain led me to losing most of my humanity and sympathy towards others. How I envied other people their humanity- how simple their daily lives seemed to me!

In those early days in Collinsport I would hide in the shadows of a night and watch people going into the Blue Whale, watch them talking and laughing and my sense of isolation would intensify. I would see people courting and  a pain like a stabbing knife would pierce my heart and Josette’s beautiful face would haunt me. In those moments I would almost wish that someone would come by and know what I was and drive a stake into my aching heart. It was moments like these that drove me to go down to the docks and alleviate my pain by sinking my fangs into the soft flesh of some helpless victim. This was always only a temporary comfort however, and as the warm liquid reached my throat I felt only a brief enjoyment, tainted by self disgust.

I was careful not to feed for too long as I did not wish to kill those I fed from, and with my powers of hypnosis I made some forget that they had ever met me, so that they would never remember what had happened to them.

As my confidence grew through the Collins family accepting me  I began to grow in my arrogance; I began to grow careless and  started to spiral out of control. I faced a crisis. Julia’s treatments  to cure me of this affliction failed and the people in Collinsport were anxious over my violent actions and what I had done to Maggie Evans (although they did not know I was the one who had done these things, soon I knew I would be found out if I carried on as I was). I had to change, find myself again, for I was lost, and even Julia was struggling to help me and critical of my actions.

1967 Barnabas

I was hardened to the sufferings of others; in fulfilling my needs I ignored the pain I caused them. Yet, the very need that I secretly yearned for most, was the one that would release me from much of my troubles and fears. Love. I had lost Josette and everyone I had ever loved, and I feared loving anyone ever again, for I knew what would happen if I opened my heart to love again: destruction.

How can I explain how it feels to fear loving someone? That by loving someone you will condemn them to death, either directly or indirectly?

So now perhaps you can now see why I rejected gentleness, kindness…for they can lead to friendship and love. I thought by remaining cruel, cold hearted and friendless then she would not return. Turning love into an agent of destruction is truly despicable and only she would have thought up a curse so cruel. I was heading towards my own destruction through my actions, as it was only a matter of time that I would be discovered, even though Julia and  Willie protected me and kept my secret.  

I have already spoken about Julia’s loyalty to me and her dedication to seeking to cure me of my condition. Willie, too was loyal though I am ashamed to say that this was not because he liked me- he did not, but because of the power I had over him. As with Julia, I later on sought to seek his forgiveness for how badly I treated him (which I shall talk about some other time).

I was astonished when Julia offered herself to me one evening, seeking to help me fulfil my needs without having to go out of a night and prey on a stranger. I abruptly refused her offer and did not tell her why- the truth is that I was filled with shame, and felt awkward that she would even consider accepting such an act from me.

I did not know it then, but my reluctantly agreeing to work with Julia and take the help she offered me was the beginning of my journey back to finding my humanity; for not only had I to learn what true friendship was, but I had to learn how to trust again. Trust was one of my earliest lessons. This took me a long time, for I lived in fear every night. I feared loving again, I feared friendship and I feared myself.

With the help of Julia (and Vicki although she didn’t know it) I slowly regained my ability to trust, form friendships and to be able to love others again. However, the fear, although it lessened, always remained.

I discovered that I had an innate ability to see what others around me could not see, and I began to use the heightened senses that came with my condition to my advantage in order to help those I cared about. I had to learn to find a way to live with myself. The awakening of my humanity lessened the darker needs that lurked within me, and by other people’s acceptance of me, I began the long journey towards self acceptance.

his signature