In Serein


2/1: Steve Burrows, Guardian Assay

Part 2

2/1: Steve Burrows, Guardian Assay

 

Doors Unlocked

Diary Entry: Saturday, December 17th. Am left guarding nest of Vampires in Central London.

I stand before the young vampire’s bed in her rooms. I have received my instructions, and I have closed the curtains around her massive four poster bed on which I spent the night with her.

The material of the curtains is extraordinary.

It is completely flexible but made of many layers of very strange materials; the inner layer is opalescent white, like a cinema screen but soft and silky. I walk around the bed and enclose it entirely in these curtains that seem to seal themselves together where they meet and fuse; creating an effect like an oxygen tent.

As soon as I have fused the final set of curtains, two things happen at the same time. The temperature in the room seems to fall through the floor in an instant; and light begins to play behind the curtains, northern lights of great intensity, they must be, or else I wouldn’t be able to see this through the many-layered curtain materials and furthermore, there is the bright light of day streaming in through the bay windows.

As it gets cold, and colder still, it also becomes quieter in the room, more silent, more peaceful – it is now that I really begin to appreciate just how upset the young vampire lady must have been, and how much her upset had disturbed the atmosphere.

I take a deep breath and when I exhale, I am astonished to see my breath creates a cloud of steam. It doesn’t just feel cold, it really is cold in here now.

Amazing.

I stand and watch the lights play green and blue, white, hints of rose and saffron behind the closed curtains for a while and then it seems that they are settling down, dimming down, fading away – she must have gone to sleep.

And that leaves me in charge of all of them.

It’s the most extraordinary thing, and I stand getting cold and colder still and it is my own growling stomach that startles me out of it.

I draw the heavy velveteen drapes across the bay windows overlooking a completely ordinary London street below, traffic is mild, a few people walking, the sun is shining brightly outside.

It is a splendid blue winter day, dry and pleasant.

And I am left guarding a nest of vampires.

Quietly, I withdraw from the room and close the door softly behind me, even though I am pretty sure she wouldn’t hear me if I screamed and shouted and threw the furniture around; the corridor outside is much warmer and for a moment, I lean against the wall and try to collect myself.

As I look down the corridor, it occurs to me that Edwards is behind that door, just down there, the first one on this floor. I have to see him.

I have to. I can’t not.

I hope it won’t hurt him, or that no bad things will happen because of this, but there is no way I can be here and not at least try and see him.

There is a connection between me and him that is – so deep, so intense, so powerful, I can’t override it with reservations about propriety or good behaviour.

I understand completely that this is most likely because of something he did to me, back at the exhibition, out in the rainy street or perhaps when I went to see him later here, that he did some thing to me that has caused this extraordinary obsession I have with him, but knowing that doesn’t make it any less powerful, any less overriding.

I begin to walk down the corridor, very, very quietly, and so I come to stand before his door. It is just the same as all the doors here, old wood, strong and polished to perfection, inlaid with little art nouveau swirls, a polished brass door knob. It’s extraordinary that they should not even lock their doors; they really aren’t worried about vampire hunters or villagers with stakes, that much is clear.

Cautiously, I touch the doorknob and it is so extremely cold that it burns my hand.

I shake my shirt sleeve down my arm and use it to open the door.

It is dark inside but even from the doorway, what I see takes my breath away.

The curtains around Edward’s bed are not drawn.

There is no man lying on that bed.

It is untouched, completely made up.

The room is freezing.

There is a soft sheen of crystal frost on everything – and all of that reflects Edwards, and he is a galaxy, slowly swirling beneath the high ceiling in the center of the room.

I stare up at the spiral of lights that exists in its own surrounding space with diamond glittering, flashing lights and I have never seen anything so beautiful, anything so extraordinary, anything so spectacular nor anything remotely as alien as that.

It is Edwards.

This is his true form, this is what he is when he is fast asleep and dreaming.

I back out from the room, back across the threshold and pull the door to behind me.

In the corridor, I take a few more steps back and I stare at the door but what I see is the galaxy, an image indelibly burned into my mind, into my soul.

 


 

Empty 

 

In the kitchen downstairs, I lean heavily upon the polished slate work surface and try to get some perspective on myself, on this situation.

There is no food in this kitchen.

There are absolutely no utensils of any kind.

All the cupboards are entirely empty.

There are no cleaning materials, there is no toaster, no kettle and none of the electric appliances are even connected. This kitchen was installed and has never been used, not once, not ever.

For some reason, that brings the alienness of these people closer to me, closer to home, it makes it far more real than seeing that thing upstairs, that what Edwards is when he does not walk the rainy streets of London, dressed in the disguise of a man.

I try to think and organise these disjointed images and pieces of information in my mind. But it is too much, and I can’t begin to think of Edward’s vampire mistress, this unbelievable creation, not a creature, that I saw last night here in the drawing room.

I leave the kitchen which is not a kitchen but just an empty shell, a pretence of a kitchen behind and make my way to the drawing room.

It is empty, there is not a trace of the events of last night, it has been cleared and cleaned to perfection.

Slowly, I walk across the deep green golden carpet to the corner table where Edwards and I had been sitting, and there I find something that stabilises me immensely – there are two pale white crescent moon shaped marks on the highly polished mahogany table, clearly visible water marks. I knew I was making them when I put my champagne glass there. I know what French polishing entails, and I know about the preciousness of these fragile antique tables. My parents had those in the family home, and it was one of the many ways I fought my endless guerrilla war against them. Two small water marks.

It happened. I had been here.

It was real and I was not insane.

It was as it was, and it was all true.

Now, what was I to do? I pulled out the chair in which Edwards had been sitting and let myself sink down into it. I felt light headed and sick, and that gave me a clear thought to hang on to – low blood sugar, I must get something to eat.

I look up at the windows. I can’t leave here. I promised Alexandra I would stay here and stand guard. I’m babysitting. You can’t pop out, even for a cup of coffee, if you’re babysitting.

Hell.

That’s when I get up to start exploring the house, and I find a pleasant sitting room at the back, overlooking the garden, and it has a large four seater sofa, comfortable arm chairs and even a TV and some video equipment, which I find surprising, and then I find the office, and there are the monitors for the surveillance cameras covering any angle at the front, in the entrance, around the back in the walled garden, and a telephone.

I feel an extreme sense of relief when I pick up the telephone and hear the dialling tone, and even more so when I ring my own home number and am rewarded shortly after with hearing my own voice, from a time way back when, saying, “Don’t talk to me unless you have something worth saying. So don’t leave a message unless …” There’s the beep and I say, “Galaxy,” before putting the phone down.

The phone works, there is no weird dialling out procedure. I can order a pizza.

I sit down in the chair before the surveillance cameras and laugh for a while, with my head in my hands. I’m going crazy. Yeah. I’m going to order a pizza and some coffee. I’ll do that first.

The desk and the room in general doesn’t seem to contain any paper. There is no printer or anything remotely relating to bills, or invoices or any kind of normal human activity. There are no pens, and this is office is clearly no more an office than the kitchen is a kitchen, or Edwards is a human being.

Damn … I check the pocket of my brand new tuxedo, and find the credit card I put in there just in case I needed a taxi on the night or something. Then I dial directory enquiries, who helpfully provide me with the phone number of the nearest Pizza Palace. They deliver coffee. I moisten my fingertip to draw the number on the wooden desk, and dial swiftly and before the traces have faded.

I end up ordering half their menu and when that’s done, I make my way to the front door to see if I can get that steel safety door open to let in the delivery. There is a manual override; I will be able to get to my pizza, chicken legs and coffee when it arrives.

That gives me a great sense of relief.

Back in the office and watching the monitors, I search around for any clues or information, but there is nothing. There is a computer, and it is connected to the Net, but I can’t get into any of the files, the whole thing is locked and password protected.

Vampires surf? I shake my head and refuse to try and imagine what kind of passwords they would use. Their birthdays. Tenth of February, 1209 … I sit back in the chair and watch the monitors.

People are walking by the house, totally oblivious of what they’re passing by.

I think of the vampire girl, Alexandra.

She was scared half to death that she was doing something wrong. Scared of Edwards? She was also so … so devoted to authority. She was looking for leadership so badly that she even took it from me, and that really threw me for a moment when I noticed that, upstairs there on her bed. She was following her orders. I wondered if that was who she used to be, when she was still a real young woman and before she joined this – oh man, this what is this, what have I let myself in for? 

The amount of control Edwards had and has over me is something else. I can’t fight that, it is – just complete possession. I have always wanted to be free, wanted to be me – is this whole vampire deal just a great big leap from the frying pan into the fire? Am I too going to become a mindless slave to Edwards and others like him, shitting myself in case I make a mistake or don’t follow my orders correctly, at the mercy of just anyone at all who offers a command, a structure, gives an order? And then I think, is it worth it to one day, become a galaxy when I’m asleep? 

When I do, I see it again, I feel it again and I know deep inside that anything would be worth that, anything at all.

I would give myself up completely and be Edward’s slave for as long as it took, if that’s what it would take to be like that, experience what it was like to be – that.

It is a strange sensation to realise that about me.

It is a complete 180’ u-turn on all I ever held to be true, held to be holy.

I don’t know me at all.

I never did.

But I was right on one count.

Here was a chance to find out the truth – if I was brave enough to face it.

 


 

Underworld 

 

I ate my pizza in the garden.

It was walled all around, very high, but big enough to still have a small pool of sunlight left from the low, small, golden winter sun this day.

There were a lot of strange plants, and some were in flower even this late in the year, small orange blossoms on fine, black twisted stems that caught dew drops in their angles and made the bush sparkle.

I sat down on a wet stone bench and enjoyed the sensation of the cold penetrating into my buttocks, reminding me that I was here, that I was alive.

I ate and drank the coffee, and I could hear the sounds of the city far away behind the walls, and I could feel the reality of all of that receding more with every heartbeat, and a stillness coming to me, a satisfaction, yes, perhaps even a joy at this day, being in this place.

I remained there until the sun sank below the level of the western wall and it got very cold. I wondered what it would be like to be here and not feel this cold, to be able to remain here in stillness and wonder until the first stars of night would begin to unveil themselves against the orange glow of the city lights, and simply to be here and watch them move across the sky, until the dawn would come and a new day would rise before my tireless and immortal eyes.

The thought made my still human eyes fill with tears of longing and of gratitude both.

Slowly and stiffly, I rose and collected the remains of my dinner, those incongruent cardboard boxes with their green and red print and empty polystyrene cups, items that did not belong here, not in this garden, not in this house, and it was those items that were anachronistic and of the past, when the old house itself and all the life here in this garden was of now, and of the future.

I listened with all my senses when I stepped back into the kitchen, but the house was silent and very still, dreaming and restful, welcoming, beckoning me to join in this, to lie down and enter into this festival of peace, and of silence.

But once again, my otherness was brought back to me with sharp and shock when I collided painfully in the dark with the corner of one of the work units, dropped what I was carrying and hardly stifled a cry in time.

I was freezing, my hip hurt like hell and I was me again.

No timeless vampire, no welcome guardian, powerful and strong, I was not a member of this place, not at all.

I was just a man, a human, and me at that, which made it worse.

I felt my way to a light switch by the kitchen door and turned on the lights. The blue white artificial brightness exploded around me with such violence, it blinded me and by the time I had recovered from that, the pain in my hip had receded somewhat and I was suitably humbled in all ways.

Now, I need the bathroom.

In the bathroom mirror, I stare at myself for the longest time. I look terrible. Pale, gaunt, big shadows under my eyes like bruises. My hair is a mess, a full day’s stubble doesn’t help. The shirt I’m wearing is crumpled, so is the suit.

I am crumpled.

I take some time to sort myself out, wash, run my hands through my hair with water to control it to some extent, then I wander back through the house, aimlessly.

At one point, I come across the corridor behind the stairs, the one that terminates in the huge golden mirror, the one where Edwards disappeared with his mistress in a rushing storm right before my eyes.

I try and remember what happened, what happened just before that, what we were saying and doing, but it is unclear and as though every time I think about it, the pictures in my head slide like a waterfall straight back into that moment when Edwards cried out, spun around and the woman appeared right behind him, caught him in her arms and then the entire place just spun into madness, a crazy whirlpool that sucked me in, a leaf in a hurricane, and such confusion … 

I shake my head to try and clear those images, those sensations and I try to stop myself short of that moment when I felt something in all that confusion, when I felt Edwards disappearing, a tearing sensation that was horrendous, so painful that I don’t have the words to begin to describe how it made me feel, and I screamed, I think I screamed … 

I have to lean against the wall and try to control my breathing. Think. Think of before that. When you came down this corridor, with Edwards at your shoulder, and you looked into the mirror and saw only yourself. For some reason, that makes me smile and I push myself away from the wall then and stand right in that place, in front of the mirror, and remember how he phased into the picture and how fascinated I was to observe that, from nothing into a denseness that revealed itself only by distorting the wall behind us at first, and then it became a swirling cloud that took his shape, before he was right there – brilliant bright, and absolutely real.

Why had he brought me here? To show me the mirror trick? I look up at the ceiling, at the walls. I back up further and go to the end of the corridor, try and work out the layout of the walls and the staircase, and then it becomes clear to me what I probably already knew subconsciously – this corridor should not be ending there.

There is more to this house, there is room behind the wall with the mirror.

The mirror is an entrance door to a secret place within this house, and that’s what Edwards wanted me to see, that’s what he wanted to show me.

I look into the mirror and for a moment it is as though I see him, standing next to me, immaculate and perfect, smiling. Edwards wants me to see what is behind the mirror.

The thought becomes like a command; like a challenge and instruction; a legacy from beyond the grave.

There must be a way to get behind this mirror.

Is there a way? Or can only vampires pass through it somehow? That can’t be it, I must be able to gain entrance or he wouldn’t have brought me here.

I step up close to the mirror and begin to trace the frame with my eyes, with my fingertips. It is heavily carved, deeply carved with floral interlacements and looks as though it was covered in gold leaf only yesterday afternoon, so bright and fresh does the gold look and shine.

Help me, Edwards, I think to myself.

Where is the mechanism to open this door? I close my eyes and let my fingertips stray across the frame, no, it isn’t here, it’s on the other side, it’s on the right, lower down, lower down – there.

My eyes snap open and I kneel down to see that my hand has found a triple interlacement of leaves that is not repeated in the pattern above, or below.

I hold my breath and place three fingers, one in the center of each leaf, and press down gently. The leaves give, softly, and deeply, they disappear into the frame and then I meet a resistance. I push harder and there is an audible click, then a whoosh as with a fast movement that frightens me and makes me pull back my hand as though it had been burned, the entire wall slides backwards a good three feet, then slowly begins to move away and to the left, revealing a darkness, and a green glow ahead.

Into my head floats a single word, clearly defined – Underworld.

I have found the entrance to the underworld.

 


 

Arada 

 

I take a deep breath, as though I can breathe the light that exists here in the corridor and it will hold out when I step across the threshold and be with me when I enter there, like a diver; then I start forward and step into the resonant darkness beyond.

I stand on a wide platform that falls off steeply and I look into an underground room that is wide and huge, huge arched ceilings reaching up to more than three times my height, and wide stairs sweeping down in a slow spiral to the ground.

Slowly, my eyes begin to adjust and I can make out shapes below, just a few in a green swirling mist that seems to glow from within, then I begin to make out other colours as well, soft, fine colours emanating from the shapes.

I won’t gives these shapes the designation of “coffins” for I know, I feel that they are no such thing; and this entire beautiful room is not a vault; it is a place full of resonant life that I can sense at the furthest edges of my awareness.

Slowly, I begin to descend the stairs.

Behind me, the entrance closes softly, inaudibly. I know that it does because I can feel and see the effect of the reduction in the light as it slides back to its original position, and when the last shimmer has gone, and the vibrant dark is all there is, my attention to what I find here is complete.

I can’t take my eyes of the shapes, rounded shapes, just seven, all told, in the center of the floor, in a circular arrangement, and each one contains what seems to be a sleeping human being.

A sleeping, dreaming human being.

This is the transformation in action; this is where I will be when I am chosen and have been selected to become a part of Edward’s house.

I am absolutely fascinated.

The floor beneath my feet is soft and giving; slow swirling mists of subtle greens play around my feet and my footfalls are inaudible as I cautiously and reverently make for the first of these resting places, dreaming beds or altars they might be, so I might take a closer look.

Before me lies a very young woman, of perhaps 18 years of age, with long dark hair and a strong oriental flavour to her features, in a white gown that leaves her neck and arms bare. She is as beautiful as I have ever seen anyone to be.

I look at her face, her skin; her expression is one of utter calm and relaxation, with perhaps the smallest shine of a smile around her lips. Her skin is smooth; translucent; and as I look at her, am drawn more and more to her, to want to know her, know more about her, connect with her in a deep and profound sensation of desire and longing both, I can see that she is surrounded by those soft, fine veils of colour; but no, that’s not quite right and then I understand that she is both the body and the colours, that they are her, a part of her and that what I do want from her is not her body but her colours.

They are precious beyond belief.

I have always had a love for colours; it was what first attracted me to paint, and brush and to materials, stone and gem, to sky and forest; night and day; these colours I perceive are her are of such brilliance and purity as I have never known, they are a joy and a healing, an intoxication and a festival and I have to get closer to that, make that my own – I have to taste her ruby, her enchanted emerald and her eternal sapphire blue; I must know the touch of her splendid ultraviolet and the sensation of her gold, in my mouth, in my fingertips, inside of me.

I bend over her, and entirely overcome by my hunger for her colours, I begin to kiss them at first, touch them with my lips, with my tongue, and they come to me most willingly, and slide towards me, first the faint and sensuous opalescent white that weaves amongst them all, containing tiny starbursts of many colours in its very essence; and I nearly faint with pleasure for it tastes so good, flows inside me so readily and with such deep conviction, with compassion, wants to fill my need for what this is, my hunger, and it an old hunger, an ancient hunger that I thought would never now be stilled, would never find fulfilment and yet here it is, and it is more fantastic and more thrilling, more delicious and more available than I had ever dared to dream.

I drink hungrily then, draw this unbelievable essence of beauty and of splendour deeply right into my deepest structures, and then the colours begin to rush; first one, then another, faster, more, more richness, more depth, more desire; I have to have more, all, everything – COME TO ME! 

And it comes, it all comes, a huge and glorious flood wave of everything, it arises at the far horizon, high and higher still and it comes closer, closer – I open myself to be as wide and far as all the worlds and then the wave that contains all the colours, all at once, comes crashing to me, roaring into me and I am ecstasy and then, I cease to be at all.