There are five vampires in the room, one distraught and terrified woman, and then, there is me.
I am standing in a circle with these others and I still can’t get used to the idea that I should be welcome here, that I am in all actuality a part of what is happening here. But I am, I can feel it; I know it and it makes the hair at the back of my neck rise.
There is a silence when Edwards and the Chinese girl arrive, simply materialise; but this silence is a cacophony of events flying backwards and forwards; a veritable storm of interaction is taking place here and I am only aware of this at the most outside of levels.
The Chinese girl vampire giggles out aloud; and this shifts everything. I can see Edwards and the blond vampire starting to smile as well as though these three were sharing a secret joke, but then the smile spreads to the lady by the door and her lover, previously stern and steady, seems to melt and smile with a very sensuous aspect as well.
Oh damn, I wish I was in on that joke! Oh damn this, I wish I had been chosen! The lady speaks.
“You have been chosen, John,” she says and I am immediately entirely captivated by her and yet aware that she is speaking in an official capacity, on behalf of the entire group of vampires.
“This is a time of tremendous change,” she says slowly and deliberately, addressing herself entirely to me. In her voice, I feel as though I can hear echoes of the others, speaking in unison. It is fascinating, frightening, and yet I am deeply honoured by the attention they should give to me. In the back of my mind, a hope begins to awaken. It is an old hope, one that I have carefully laid to rest, buried in a deep casket made of perfect steel, buried deep down below and not even a grave stone to mark its place of rest, but even though it was contained in that way, it never ceased to be.
It is the hope that I should be like them – not to age, not to be in pain, to be beautiful like them, to be immortal.
I could not afford to carry that hope with me as I got older and as the years passed by and I was nothing but a servant, and I would be nothing but their servant, just like old Mr Peterson who died in their service, and who had only me to sit with him when he did. I realise that there are many things that I have buried deep.
I remember holding his thin hand of fragile twigs and autumn leaf skin, cold it was and it wouldn’t warm, it drew the warmth from my own hand, and I wasn’t looking at him, I was looking at the door and praying that one of them would come, and do something. To stop him from dying, to take his pain away, to bless him, or something.
No-one came, and old Mr Peterson took a long time to die. I stayed with him until the end. I oversaw his funeral at which there was only me and the undertakers, and the only words that were spoken were, “Rest in peace.” It was in December he died, around the time of Solstice; the Festival of Blessings, they call it, and I stood at Mr Peterson’s grave and I stood at my own grave, just the same.
It wasn’t as though they ever promised anything else than that.
They didn’t lie to me, gave me any illusion, any false hope in word or action.
But the hope remained.
I could not kill it, no matter how I tried.
So all I could do is to bury it deep and tried to forget.
And here she stands, the lady, and she speaks with a voice of many, and she says, “You have been chosen.” Tears are streaming freely down my face as from the deepest inside of me, the buried hope, perhaps my buried soul begins to flare and shake the foundations of me, bursts through the barriers, crashes out of its confinement and blows apart the cemetery at the center of my being.
The hope flares high and wide and bright and I know that it touches them all, that it blesses them all and showers them in gratitude, that it is my payment for their kindness, their acceptance, for their decision to spare me that fate I thought was mine for all this time.
I can feel them touching the flaring sun at the center of my being, I can feel them being drawn to it, I can feel them coming close and wanting to know of it, asking me for more, to give them what I am, and one last time, I ask the question, “Do you really want me?” and I receive a fivefold affirmation, a fivefold invitation, and so I let myself fall back, release the last restraints and let myself explode at last, and so I die in one extraordinary starburst that has waited all my life to come to pass.
Phoenix I stand in the room with the others. On the sofa, the woman Margaret has fainted and lies as if asleep, her head supported in Steve Burrows lap. He has taken the woolly hat off and is stroking the woman’s grey hair with long, pale fingertips that are entirely of light in essence and yet real enough to straighten her tangled hair, making it smooth, making it flow over her head, over her neck.
It is a beautiful scene; he has such love for her.
When she will join us, and it won’t be long, she will be able to see this, as I see it; it will help her make that transition smooth between the then, and her new futures, whatever they may be.
I am tranquil.
Around my feet, there lies a pile of ashes, white silver grey, slightly sparkling.
This is what my body has become.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Mark Edwards comes towards me and places his hand on my arm.
My arm? My arm is on the floor, in pieces.
“No it isn’t,” Xiao Hong says gently in her sweet voice, she sounds like birds at the beginning of the day. “This is your arm, this is your body. It is all new.”
I look at my arms and my hands. They are just the same as I remember them, I’m even wearing the same crumpled suit I was wearing when I was still – alive?
“You are alive,” says Edwards and he smiles at me, moves his head to the side and down to catch my eyes, “You are very much alive.”
I have to smile back at him because he is right. I am very much alive indeed. I feel more alive right now than I ever have, I look at my old hands and the crumpled suit sleeve again. Can I do this? I feel the others surreptitiously sliding a little closer, lending me a helping hand; I can see myself from their perspective, all different angles, and the first thing I try to do is to straighten the suit, but as I do, a memory takes over of the favourite suit I’ve ever owned, hand made in Savile Row, a navy blue pinstripe suit that somehow made me feel better dressed than anything else I’ve ever worn. I waver and ripple just slightly and I can see in the many visions, many mirrors of myself in the eyes of the others that the suit becomes; it becomes with a perfect matching shirt and tie and waistcoat; the shoes and socks as well, that makes me smile even more.
But it doesn’t quite fit.
It doesn’t belong to this old man, it belongs to another, another me from another time and even as I think it, I become it and I am stunned to feel the feelings that I felt when I was that – in my prime, no longer awkward with the limbs of youth, walking in power and in confidence, feeling at home inside my self and quite invulnerable, safe.
The whole experience shifts me into an elder state but that dissolves into the then and now as well, and a merging happens that makes me one and the same – I am old and I am young, I am vampire and I am human, I am – just me.
I make the movement of taking a deep breath and look up from my new manifestation at the assembled group, and all of them bow and smile; there is a feeling of applause in the air, of being proud of my accomplishment, and being happy for me that I managed to do this thing, which now I know would take a Cestra decades to perfect.
I really and truly have become one of them.
In the drawing room, the vampires are socialising.
Gaius and Xiao Hong are flirting; he is leaning against a dresser by the window and she is standing before him, small and frail, exquisite. They are playing with one another, getting to know one another.
Steve is still sitting with the unconscious woman on the sofa; Alexandra sits in the far right corner, opposite me, and Mark Edwards has taken the other armchair to my left. We are simply interacting, becoming comfortable with each other across the levels, and in many ways, I am sure this is designed to help me settle into all of this.
As I look around and let the conversations, communications and alignments unfold without as yet taking a direct part in any of these, I become aware that it’s not just about me.
It is about all of us.
I didn’t realise that Steve Burrows had himself been entirely human only a few short days ago when I first saw him; I didn’t know that everyone had thought that he had killed Xiao Hong, or that Mark Edwards had been catapulted into being the leader of this house in an equally short time span.
Every one of us has been through a major transformation, and we all need time to settle, even Gaius; a strange and ancient vampire who just happened to pass by and got caught up in the whirlpool of unfoldments here.
Unfoldments. What a strange word that is, why I did I choose that word?
Ah … of course.
The Covenant. The vampire’s bible and their law. My law! I laugh to myself and shake my head. I don’t know about the others, but I am far from settled in all of this, and I deeply appreciate the time we are spending, simply being here, in these comfortable, soothing surroundings which indicate a sense of home, of belonging.
Alexandra heard me laugh and asks me, “How are you feeling, John,” which is nothing more but an opening to a form of energy exchange, if truth be known.
“I am feeling very well, thank you,” I say and I really do want to append to that statement, “My lady,” but of course, Alexandra knows this and she laughs in delight. Steve and Mark pick the vibration up and both laugh as well. Steve says, “You can call her that if you want to. It is nothing but the truth.” Alexandra smiles, looks down but is clearly pleased; it is fascinating and in a way, extremely delightful that in spite of everything, we are still all really very human, in many ways.
Mark says, “This is something I have always found surprising. How – human – we all still are. Even my Lady Adela …” and there, he becomes wistful, saddened.
His sadness touches me deeply; his longing strikes me deeply and I am confounded for a moment that I should feel so intimately for another, but it also connects me to him more deeply, and it makes me want to alleviate this, help him, support him.
I feel a strange sensation then, and I realise that I am falling in love with Mark, with all of them. With every moment that passes, with every thing I learn about myself and every one of these, our relationship gets closer, more intimate, more profound. Is this a good thing? Into my mind whispers the Covenant.
The first law is love. It is a good thing.
Oh, but it is.
Steve speaks softly. “Will you invite the Lady Adela to join us here?”
Alexandra looks to him swiftly, then across to Mark and says in a rush, “Oh Mark! Oh Mark please do! I miss my lady and I wish she was here with us, right now!”
Mark Edwards looks shocked, then pained. He places a hand to his temple, shakes his head. His shoulders drop and he says quietly, “She is Ferata now. She is unreachable.”
Steve sits up. Quite sharply, he says, “She is reachable. You know her. We can find her, anywhere, in any state, and we can bring her here.”
Across the room, Gaius and Xiao Hong break off their conversation and come forward to join us.
Gaius says, “I have no doubt that this can be done, and I have no doubt remaining that the Ferata stage is just as much a waste of time as all the others are. There is no reason to spend centuries as rocks and trees, not now.” His presence and his voice is shocking in its depth and resonance; he is an amazing being and I deeply drawn to him, to his knowledge and his wisdom; but as I follow with this drawing even faintly, it does not lead me towards him but instead, it leads me into me, for I have gained all that when we exchanged ourselves, when I exchanged myself with all of them and gave them me, and in return, they gave me what they are.
This is inconceivable.
I cannot be like … him …
Mark is shocked by Gaius’s statement. He says nothing but he is clearly unhappy, and it is Steve who says to him, quite gently but with much authority, “Mark, your dedication to do the right things and follow the laws, such as you knew them, is commendable. But I think you will find, if you look inside yourself, that the way you are feeling right now is based on an old state that has now gone. I think you should go and find the Lady Adela, bring her home to us. I believe it will finally cure you of the misinformation, and the hold the old rules still have on you.”
Mark is contemplating this and what it would entail, then Alexandra speaks and ask, “What of Satari? I miss my Cestra sister. Can she rejoin us now?”
I search for information on the topic and find it easily and clearly. A beautiful dark young maiden with the liquid eyes of a deer, Alexandra’s friend and Cestra sister. Gaius took her and placed her into a stable house when all was falling apart here and she was too frightened to continue.
Steve and Gaius speak in unison, a double resonance that creates the effect of sounding like an oracle, a message from above, “She is resting. We should leave her be.”
“Whose house is this now?” I ask and I am confounded by the sound and the experience of thus having spoken in this group.
Alexandra looks to Steve for an answer, Mark looks to Gaius, Xiao Hong looks to Mark and Gaius looks at me and smiles.
I think loudly, All together now … and we all say it at the same time, an amazing theatrical chorus that makes the windows vibrate, “This is our house.”
Then we all laugh and I lie back in this armchair without having a body and just let the situation be, don’t try to think or analyse this any further, for what good would it do? Mark says, “I will do it. I will seek and find the Lady Adela, and I will bring her back to join us. We shall all go to the festival together. The house of us.”
We send affirmation and delight that he has come to this decision.
I have another question.
“What of Margaret here?”
Steve answers immediately.
“If there is one living human I would want to be here with me and share this, it is her. She is a wonderful person, true, trustworthy, so much more than she thinks herself to be. I would not want to leave her behind. That is why I called her to be here. I will transform her and then she shall join us as an equal.”
We acknowledge and respect his decision, but I do have to ask.
“Will you give her any choice in the matter?” Steve looks across the table, straight at me, and I know that he will not; that there is no choice. Even if he was to present her with the options, and ask for her opinion, it would still not be a choice, for she simply could not say “No” to the proposal or walk away. I nod and acknowledge fully, when Gaius asks, “How will you do the transformation?”
A fast smile streaks across Steve’s lips and there is a definite sense of mischievousness about him; it is something about him that is refreshing, and attractive, something that makes him very different from the rest of us.
He leans forward and gently takes the unconscious woman by the shoulders, straightens and lifts her, lays her against the back of the sofa where her head just falls to one side.
He arranges her until her position is stable, then he turns to me and flashes me a brief look before slowly and with great care, turning her head so it is facing away from him. He brushes her hair away, pulls her scarf from her coat and thus has exposed her neck.
A tremendous sense of amusement comes from him as he slowly bends down and then seems to bite her in the neck in the classic Hollywood vampire style – I see that he has indeed, bitten right into her energy system, created a great breach and her life force is flowing straight into him, a tumbling cascade of all the colours of the rainbow pouring fast and faster into Steve who absorbs it just as fast and it is not more than just a few seconds later, and the woman’s shape collapses right into itself and all of her, her clothes and everything, has totally disintegrated and now drifts in tiny sparkles down and onto the floor, onto the couch, revealing the space that once she occupied.
It was absolutely fascinating to me to experience the reactions of everyone to this event.
I personally was partially amused, partially jealous and partially dismayed that Steve Burrows would do something as dramatic as that with such nonchalance, and as though it was absolutely nothing – a brief TV sketch, an imitation of the vampire myth for his own amusement. Should there not have been more ceremony? More preparation? Should the woman not at least have been awakened and at least a show of co-operation attempted?
Mark Edwards is absolutely shocked and perfectly horrified. Gaius is very amused and there is something that he knows about this situation which doesn’t seem to be common knowledge – I wonder what it might be?
Alexandra is actually scared and tries to withdraw; Xiao Hong on the other hand, is giggling at Steve’s vampire impression and sees no problem in Margaret’s instantaneous dispatchment from life to afterlife.
Steve is still leaning forward, across a now empty space. He is glowing again, pulsating, charged, electric. He brings out his hand and traces the silver dust on the sofa with an outstretched fingertip, then he lifts his hand and points – the silver dust begins to rise as though it was magnetically drawn to his finger, from the sofa and from the floor, it streams up towards him and he straightens, pulls his arm back and now a complete train, a veil of dust follows his movements. He weaves it here and there and we are all completely transfixed by this his manipulation of material matter, watching the sparkling dust behave like a flock of tiny birds on a still winter day, with one mind, with his mind; it forms into a wavering oval, then into a circle that becomes denser and denser, smaller and smaller, tighter and tighter; as it contracts more and more, it becomes brighter too until it is a tiny star that floats in mid air. Steve drops his hands and closes his eyes. The star travels slowly towards him, then it enters his forehead straight between his eyebrows and disappears.
A smile travels through the entire man from head to foot; he smiles and when he opens his eyes to find us all staring at him, he says, “That was absolutely delicious.”
Alexandra slides off the edge of the couch and sidles around the room, around behind my chair and until she is close to Mark’s, there she sits down, close to his knee, like a child would seek the protection of her father.
It is Gaius who addresses them both.
“The wilderness is a fantastic place,” he says and although his words do not make sense to me at the conscious level, they soothe me most profoundly, as though the room was filled with fragrance of elder forests, slow life, immutable and perfect, silent, full of grace.
“Don’t be afraid of it. It holds treasures like we could not have guessed; and all of those are now at our command, available to us, just for the asking, and for the courage to forget the old, and instead, trust in the Covenant and face the new with jubilation in our hearts.”
It is a misty, orange hued London night.
I am walking down the street, my hands which aren’t hands in the pockets of a coat which isn’t a coat, and the misty cold streams into me; I breathe it in, all of it, including the many scents and strange pollutants, the atmosphere.
It is some hours past midnight, and the streets are mostly empty here; there are a few cars still, an empty brightly lit bus in the distance, and most of the houses are asleep. I walk and make a point of making sure that my footfalls produce an echo sound, a contact sound. It amuses me for a while until I feel that I’ve got it right. I could walk like this forever. I would never tire, never cease. There is a man walking in the opposite direction; he is well dressed, hurrying. I can see him on the straight pavement from the distance, and I can see his layers and his levels, all it takes is just a slight adjustment in my vision.
It is fantastic to be here, to have all these choices.
I could be a real vampire of the song and tale, enchant this man on this dark street and take him, leaving absolutely not a trace behind; I could just sneakily tap into a particularly tasty aspect and take a sip here, a sip there, snack on his better facets; I can let him be.
As we come closer, as I tune in more finely, further options come to my awareness. There are places within him that are empty, dark; I could fill these, light these. I could place a small candle or a star in the midst of these dark places and that would bring him life and new unfoldments.
There are other places, pathways, channels that are in some disarray; I could straighten these and make them flow again as they were once designed to flow and I have not a doubt that this would brighten him.
We are healers?
Ah, but this is extraordinary, exquisite.
I know and I remember that there used to be a thousand rules regarding conduct of this kind, and all of it most strictly not allowed, forbidden in the absolute. The likes of us were never to look to his kind for entertainment or for purpose; we were incestuous to the extreme and kept away from these, for so long.
A hundred millennia, maybe more? Why? I am slowing down in order not to have this end so soon; I want to keep watching this one, finding out about him, finding out what else I could do to him, with him, through him that I don’t yet know I can.
I have commanded him without intent on my part, it was just a thought but it travelled straight across to this stranger in the night, and he received it and now we are both walking very slowly, still on a trajectory that will cause a meeting in the middle, should we thus continue and neither was to step aside.
Then it hits me – I can fly!
I must be able to fly.
I can shape and shift myself into any density, oh my dear Lord above! The man is forgotten in an instant as I reach around and inside, try and find the right weight, the right state, and it’s there, it is absolutely there, of course it is, they know, I know, oh dear Lord, here it is! I laugh aloud and spread my arms, lean forward and adjust myself, think myself forward and up – and instantly, I rise, I fly, fast, very fast I swoop forward, the angle is a little too shallow and causes the man to drop to his knees, raise his arm before his eyes as I rush straight over him, up and out, into the night sky.