It is night over London, once again.
This is the last night, or maybe the first; who is to know?
Sixty years have passed since I last made my way to the theatre.
A lot has happened since then.
I was always alone, but that is no longer so.
I am now a part of a group that is quite other than I could have ever expected.
We came back from the union and re-established in the drawing room; and everyone was absolutely aware that we were assuming these shapes, these ideas of who or what we might be, most possibly for the last time, ever.
It was the strangest thing.
We got dressed for the festival.
We looked at each other, talked with each other, just like humans do. We laughed and joked, tried different transformations, different appearances; there was a small undercurrent of sadness there as fourteen vampires who between them must have been millennia old played at dressing up at the old London house.
I would imagine that this game we played there was not just a way to pass the time before we finally could leave and start out on our way to our unknown futures, or unfoldments as they should be called. I think it was a way to make a binding on a different level altogether, to have us recognise each other in that human way, to learn each others names and look upon each other with a setting that precludes so many layers and so many levels, tells the story in a different way, with metaphors of clothes and skin and hair, with movements, sounds of voices, ways of laughing, turning, walking.
This game is the last for the human child within; and although it is a game, we are getting dressed up for real, and we are on our way to a real party, where the grown ups are, and where we will cause chaos, and a revolution.
I explained to Margaret in words as we stood and talked, and felt comfortable and familiar with each other as we are the youngest here by far.
“Their society was always – and still is, everywhere but here – ruled by a system of ascencion, casts of time and experience you might call them,” I told her. “The Festival is absolutely organised according to these definitions, there is a place for everyone and everyone there has their place.
“The festival is a machine that has run in the same way for a hundred thousand years, and tonight, we will blow this machine apart, and something else will have to come, arise where the machine had been, and no-one knows what that will be.”
Margaret nods seriously. She knows these things but just like it helps me explain it to her in the old familiar way, I know it helps her to hear words, and to be able to think, ask questions and respond.
She strokes her hair, but her hand goes straight through it and into her head; she laughs, shakes her head in consternation. Her eyebrows furrow and she tries again; this time, her hand strokes her hair backwards quite perfectly.
We smile at each other and she asks, “Do you think there will be trouble? Will they try and stop us? Can they hurt us?”
I don’t know the answer to that question. What we are about to do has never been done before, it has never even been attempted. Who is to know how these other vampires will react?
No-one here knows; and further, the oldest here is Gaius and he was Segar Ta Cardor before he laid that down and became one of us instead. No-one here has any idea of what the others might be like, or how they think; there are Cardor, the Essem and what about the Taray, the whispering elders?
The train of thought has disturbed me and this noticed by everyone of course; yet it is Mark Edwards who comes over to us both. He looks relaxed, charming and as though he was the host of this strange party; a cigar would go nicely with his stance and states of being.
He laughs at this my thought, then says carefully, “What we all need to do is to hold clearly to the Covenant. This is an unfoldment, absolutely. It can’t be anything else. Being an unfoldment, it is protected by the Covenant, and no-one will transgress against that, least of all the Cardor, who are the dedicated servants of the Covenant.
“They may even co-operate with us. Who is to know?”
Margaret and I are not really soothed by his speech so he laughs and takes us both by the shoulder and says, “Don’t worry. Don’t think too much. It would be a shame to spoil this night. We are together, we are in the right time and at the right place, and all is proceeding with inevitability. Soon enough, we shall also know exactly what did happen on the night.”
We smile in return, he leaves us and makes back towards his lady Adela, who is reclining by the fire place, looking as splendid as a Norse goddess might and who is clearly and deeply in love, at the very most personal level.
I don’t want to think in that direction, don’t even want to think about the fact that Catherine might well be there tonight, for that would spin me out and far away from where I want to be, so I put my focus on Margaret with some force of will.
“You know, it is fantastic,” I say to her. “I hope you get to see it as it was, at least for a little while. The Festival is the event of a lifetime, and that’s a fact, and no matter how many lifetimes you might want to count that in.”
Margaret, who has been seeking to find Steve Burrows amidst the shifting groups of people in the room, turns back to me.
“Tell me about it,” she says. “Just talk to me. If you would, John …”
I understand her perfectly and it is good to talk. I have always wanted to tell someone about my festival, and I never could. That in and of itself is extraordinary, and I wonder if this gathering is exactly what this kind of thing is about – to tidy up some essential loose ends that can only be tidied right here, and never again afterwards, no matter how high we might be flying, or what kind of gods we may become.
“The music is … otherworldly,” I begin slowly. “At the time, I thought there were musicians playing these unheard of instruments, I also thought I saw them. But then, later, after learning things from Gaius and from Mark, I think I know now there are no musicians at all, no musical instruments. It is …” I stop, because I don’t want to use the word, a mind game.
It isn’t that, and it really isn’t. It is far more, deeper, richer.
“It is the vampires singing. Not one or two, but all of them sing together, sing softly, that’s the music we potentials hear, that is what makes us dance.”
I want to sigh.
“You can sigh,” says Margaret gently, kindly. “You can breathe. It is comforting to do it, even though it is illusionary.”
I look at her and I am sincerely grateful for her presence, for her poise. She has taken this whole thing in her stride much better than I have. She is precious, and yes, I love her. And then I start to breathe, breathe deeply, rhythmically, in and out, and Margaret matches my breath, and she is right, it comforting, more than comforting – it is pleasurable and to remember to keep the rhythm makes all these other thoughts just disappear. The lights seem slightly brighter, the colours more pronounced, the room more stable, more familiar, far more resonant.
So we keep breathing, and we stay together until Steve and Gaius who seem to be our time and space keepers make the statement that it’s time to go.
Fully dressed and fully manifest, and in our case, even breathing, we begin to file from the room, through the doors and from the house, out into the street.
I make an adjustment and my illusionary breath becomes visible, misty steam; the others laugh and copy what I did, and now we start on our way into the night, the longest night, with footfalls, with voices, with swishing clothes, with shadows and with steaming laughter breath, a party on their way to theatre.
It is Wednesday, December 21st, 7.30 pm precisely.
So we walk.
We walk in the night air.
The night is calm, cold, dry and bright with stars.
There is the city.
We walk just like anyone else on this night and every step is a step into the future.
It always is, and it always was.
How strange that I should never have appreciated the truth of this until right here, and now.
We don’t talk.
We are aware of each other, but here, on this strange journey we have chosen to take in this way, we are people in a way. We are individuals, and each of us has their own path, even though we walk on the same pavements, stop to wait for traffic lights, then cross the road to the other side to continue on.
Past rush hour, the traffic is still extremely heavy.
Bright, blinding lights, shops, people stream in the opposite direction, and we walk amongst them, walk by them, each step a footfall into the future that becomes the past as soon as the contact is made, and the next step after that opens the door to yet another unfoldment.
So it is, so it goes.
Voices. Sirens. Engines. Music drifting. Behind that, the hum of the city, and behind that, the hum of the world.
It is the same road I walked down so many years ago, it is the same even though the buildings have changed, the signs have changed; still, it is the same road.
As then, so on this night I begin to become aware of the others who are walking towards a place where our futures intertwine; they can never meet for in time and space there is only room for a single one, no matter how hard we try to forget this and ignore this simple fact. We all become aware of the many potentials who are on their way to the theatre.
They stand out in dress and attitude, even if an unknowing observer was to study this street with a camera placed high above; even without awareness of that shine of otherness that suffuses the potentials, each and every one, there is a similarity about them all, a group mind in action.
There are others here as well, tourists, locals who have noticed our congregation and they stop and stare at all these people who are making their way to the theatre; a small, old-fashioned theatre, so it seems, in a back road off the beaten track and yet there are hundreds of people streaming towards this, and a slow group is surrounding the double door entrance, where two stout men in dark suits with their hands clasped behind their backs stand a silent guard.
We simply fall in step with the movement of the potentials.
I am forward pointed, half in the past, half in the future and a third half of me is aware of this present; I sense Margaret close by, she is nervous and wishing that Steve Burrows would take her by the hand.
I check for him and find him likewise seeking comfort in familiarity; he is shadowing Mark Edwards. I take a moment then to scan for everyone who is in our group, and everyone is forward pointing, just the same as I was and will be again, but there is something here that makes me want to take the view, photograph in my mind their faces as they look up at the entrance steps, the gathered crowd of potentials and are in so many times all at the same time as they are right here.
It is extraordinary.
It is otherworldly.
This is not as it had been when I was here and utterly convinced that inside, my lady Catherine was waiting.
The thought draws me into a tunnel of then and now, and both align – inside, this time, my lady Catherine might well be waiting.
Where else would she be?
And this time, I am not a star struck potential any longer.
It matters not if she is a Docem now – I shall recognise her, and I shall make myself known to her, and I shall on this night of nights finally put the time to rights, and claim my union.
I have thought it.
I have decided it, and thus, I’ve made it real, and now.
And now, there is no-one else.
There is the theatre, and the festival below.
I shall enter it entirely.