Sunday, October 12, 2014
CHAPTER 123: Flashforward
Voiceover by Louis Edmonds: “Collinwood in the year 1840 … and the time has come for Barnabas and Angelique to return to the present, where they are needed to save the Collins family once again. But a secret has been revealed, and one mortal man, surrounded by supernatural creatures, may spell the vampire’s doom …”
“Oh Father Daniel,” Edith smirked, “this can’t possibly be that Barnabas. Why, he only arrived from England but a week ago! Remember, you were,” and her lips twitched, “ sadly indisposed at the time.”
“Daniel,” Angelique said sternly, “Daniel, you must calm yourself. You aren’t making any sense.”
“What are you doing with him?” Daniel gasped. His face was an unpleasant paper color tinged with purple-blue. His hand lingered near his heart. “My god, woman, don’t you know what he is?”
“He is a cousin from England,” Angelique said. She glided toward him, her white hands outstretched, and he cringed away from them. “That is all. That is all you know.”
“Don’t touch me,” he whimpered. “You think I didn’t see the resemblance when I married you? No one else noticed, and I pretended not to, because I knew that you were a different woman, but I always wondered, I always wondered.”
“Be still, my darling,” Angelique said soothingly, reminded, irritatingly, of her tenure as the wife of Roger Collins, a time she did not like to dwell upon, not only because her own behavior was so embarrassing (and terrible, the voice of Julia Hoffman whispered in her mind, and vicious, and cruel), but because Roger was hardly an ideal husband. “Your heart –”
“But I saw the resemblance,” he said, overriding her. “The witch! How could I forget her face? Her curse? She swore vengeance on this family, and I always feared she would return one day.”
“I am Valerie, my darling,” Angelique said. She stood beside him now. Her fingers stroked his cheek, and he cried out miserably. “Valerie Collins … your wife.”
“No!” Daniel bleated like a frightened rabbit. “No, you’re not! How could you be?” His eyes skated over to Barnabas, who still stood uncomfortably and, unfortunately for this moment, beside his own portrait. “You’re like him! You’re both monsters!”
“Leave this place,” Edith hissed. She hovered protectively now between Daniel and the others. “I don’t know what he’s talking about, but he thinks you’re a danger to him. And he has lost so much this night; I will not see him lose anything more.”
“You may be a little too late,” Angelique remarked dryly.
Edith, alarmed, turned back to Daniel. His eyes had rolled up in his eyes; he made a thick, terrible gurgling sound in the back of his throat; his hand smote his chest once, twice, and then he collapsed to the floor.
“Oh, Daniel,” Barnabas whispered. “Oh no.”
Edith, kneeling beside him, looked up at the other two. “He’s dead!” she cried.
“I suppose we’ve changed that as well,” Angelique said airily and tossed Valerie’s white-blonde curls. “A refrain I grow weary of hearing.” She seized Barnabas’ hand. “Come, Barnabas. I also grow weary of this time and these exhausting people with their frustrating tendency to drop dead.”
“I promised you that I would destroy you,” Edith said. Her eyes shifted into blackness and she raised a hand that sparkled with magic.
The hand burst into flames with one narrowed glare from Angelique and Edith, howling, pressed her hand beneath the folds of her dress until the flames were smothered.
“You will keep a civil tongue in your head, Edith Collins,” Angelique snarled. “You are a novice witch; at any rate, my power will forever dwarf your own. Remember that, and mark it, before I allow the flames to consume more than your hand.”
“You can’t destroy me,” Edith sobbed. “You need me in the future! I know it!”
“The dreams,” Barnabas said in a low voice, and Angelique, glaring, nodded after a moment’s consideration.
“These dreams,” she said to Edith, who wiped away her tears with her good hand. “You’ve had them as well?”
“You honestly don’t know their purpose?” Edith asked, aghast. Barnabas and Angelique exchanged twin glances, and Edith laughed harshly. “Now who’s the novice? Fools, both of you. These dreams are to prevent the disruption of the past. If too much is changed –”
“I tell you again,” Angelique snapped, “I want to hear no more about changing the past! We have visited other times before with the express purpose of changing the events that occurred originally to save ourselves in our own time.” Her voice grew harsh as she spoke through gritted teeth. “And we have never known anyone to dream the way everyone here has.”
“I don’t understand any more than you do,” Edith said. She seemed exhausted suddenly, weary of the entire discussion. She glanced over at Daniel’s body, and a shadow passed over face. Perhaps I really do care, she thought, astonished; perhaps I’ll miss the old man after all. More than I’ll miss his son. Either of his sons.
Samantha. Quentin. Gabriel. Daphne. Daniel.
All gone, and all taken on this terrible night.
She felt a wave of sorrow pass over her, and suddenly it was gone, extinguished, as if someone had reached out and pinched the end of a candle’s wick.
Your soul belongs to me.
That was her Master’s voice. Part of her pact, she realized now.
The Master owns my soul.
Edith had another moment to mourn it’s passing, and then she simply … ceased to care.
She looked at Daniel’s corpse again, and she felt … nothing. He was only so much dead meat, another Collins who deserved to die.
“You’re feeling it now, aren’t you.” Angelique spoke softly, and Edith looked up, startled. Angelique knelt beside her, and her face was almost kind.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she snapped.
“Your soul belongs to the Dark One,” Angelique said. “When you exist in his possession, it’s so easy just … not to care. Don’t you find that’s true? Can you honestly tell me that the death of Daniel Collins makes any kind of real difference to you now, as you are?”
“He was my father-in-law.”
“And now he’s dead. Tell me, Edith Collins. Tell me how it feels.”
“You know,” Edith whispered.
“Your soul is gone,” Angelique declared. “There is a certain power in that, Edith Collins. Use it. You will rule this family for fifty years. Take consolation in that.” Now she allowed the disgust she felt to thicken her voice, to show on her face as she rose to her feet. “You foolish, terrible woman. Let your powers guide you and lead you wherever they will.” Edith’s face darkened with rage, but Angelique had already turned away from her. “Come, Barnabas,” she said again. “Let us leave this place … forever.”
As they mounted the staircase, Edith glowered, saying nothing, though a thousand curses stung her tongue. She wanted to cry suddenly; she willed tears to flood her eyes; but there was nothing. They were deserts.
She threw back her head and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
And then a cold hand dropped onto her shoulder, and a familiar, wicked voice said, “No need to howl, dear; no need to make a fuss. We’ll destroy her together, you and I, you and I, Edith Collins …” Edith turned to look upon the stone-gray face of Roxanne Drew, who, fangs bared, purred, “…I promise you that.”
Leticia Faye never looked lovelier, Julia decided, and then shook her head: What an idiotic thing to think, she laughed at herself; you’ve known this woman for barely a week. But it was probably true. And she did look a great deal like Carolyn Stoddard, which was going to prove confusing to the townspeople, but what could they do about it now?
She sat beside Julia now on the sofa in the Collinwood drawing room; her hair was pulled up and piled high atop her head in a style Carolyn herself never employed, but the sky-blue dress Carolyn loaned her brought out the deep blue of her eyes, and that, Julia thought, was a similar enough color that anyone who saw them side by side would surely think them sister, if not identical twins.
Leticia sipped at the tea a suspicious Mrs. Johnson had delivered them both, and giggled a little. “This is one thing that hasn’t changed,” she said, and Julia smiled. “Tea is tea, whether it’s British or colonial, nineteenth century or twentieth. It’s comforting.”
“You’re still adjusting,” Julia observed.
Leticia nodded slowly.
“And the dreams?”
“They’re no better,” Leticia said at last.
“I could prescribe you something.”
“I continue to forget,” Leticia laughed again, “that you’re a doctor! Another amazing fact of this century.” Her smile faded. “You don’t need to prescribe me anything, Julia. I think the dreams are important.”
Julia raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”
“They continue to be a mishmash of this century and my own. I dream the people here are living in the Collinwood of 1840; they all move about, intertwined, interacting, gaping at each other, the clothing, the resemblances …” She gestured to the lamp that glowed in the corner. “… the wonders of this modern century.”
“You have a great deal of power,” Julia observed.
“Which is why I’m here right now, I suppose,” Leticia sighed. “Oh Julia. Do you think I’ll ever return to my own time?”
Julia hesitated. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’m sorry, Leticia. I wish I had answers for you.”
“I miss them,” she sighed. “Quentin and Desmond and Flora especially.” A shadow darkened her eyes, wrinkled her brow. Though Julia had been initially reluctant, Leticia had finally worn her down, and the two women spent an entire weekend perusing the history of the Collins family, beginning with the fates of the people Leticia had known in 1840 and culminating with what Julia referred to as “the true history” of the family through the present day. Leticia had been greatly disturbed when she learned that Quentin died soon after her own departure from that time, along with Samantha (“She wasn’t an especially kind woman,” Leticia had observed), Gabriel, and Daniel Collins. “Such a terrible year,” she said now. “I wish it could be different.” Then she sighed. “No. No, I don’t. And it’s already different enough now.”
Julia frowned. “What do you mean?”
Leticia cocked her head. “I beg your pardon?”
“You said, ‘It’s already different enough now.’ What did you mean by that?”
Leticia flushed and sipped at her tea. “I don’t know,” she admitted after a moment. “It’s the power, Julia. Sometimes I just say things.”
“Are you absolutely certain? Think, Leticia. Think hard.” Leticia bowed her head as if she were ashamed. Julia fought the frustration that wanted to sharpen her tone. She thinks these powers are dangerous, Julia reminded herself; you must remember to be kind. “Anything you know could be helpful, or could give us some clue about what’s happening with Barnabas and Angelique.”
“Valerie,” Leticia said dreamily. “She calls herself ‘Valerie’ now … but … not for much longer …”
Julia set her tea cup on the antique coffee table and leaned over to Leticia. The other woman’s eyes had widened and stared now into a space somewhere over Julia’s head. “What do you see, Leticia? You must tell me.”
“They’re in the West Wing,” Leticia said in that same dreamy, sing-songy voice. Her eyes were even more unfocused, Julia thought. “The witch has a plan. But it’s the wrong plan. Something bad is going to happen. They shouldn’t be there.” Her eyes widened and she reached out and seized Julia’s hand, crunching together the fine bones in her fingers. Julia cried out, but Leticia didn’t release her. “We have to help them! Now! This minute!”
“We will,” Alexandra March said from the entrance of the drawing room. Julia’s face registered shock at the sudden intrusion; but Leticia continued to stare into that space only she could see. “You needn’t look so shocked, Dr. Hoffman,” Alex said. “I’m here to help. Angelique warned me this might happen. Your face, Doctor; the shock.” She sighed impatiently. “There’s no time. Drag her if you have to. We must get to the East Wing … this very moment.”
Angelique, slowly, languorously, leaned her head back, exposing the white, swan-like curve of her neck. Or rather, she corrected herself, the neck of Valerie Collins. Who is, of course, the very reason we’re here right now.
Her past self’s possession of Daniel Collins’ second wife wasn’t part of the original plan Angelique had conceived, first with Julia Hoffman and then, when the witch’s own attempts to use the I Ching to reach 1840 had failed, with Alexandra March. But she was nothing if not resourceful; three hundred years and numerous incarnations before even these had proven that to her. It did complicate things a bit; her memories of this original timeline were beginning to fade, and she knew they would soon be gone completely, but for the moment she could dimly remember the fate of Valerie Collins. Daniel had been returned to the tower room this night after the deaths of his sons, and Valerie …
… Valerie …
“I don’t remember,” she whispered.
Barnabas frowned. “You don’t remember what?”
“Nothing,” Angelique said instantly. “It’s not important.” She traced the line of her throat slowly, tantalizingly. “Do it, Barnabas.”
He hesitated again, though the hunger shown, wolf-like, in his face, grown leaner and paler since she had re-cursed him. “Are you certain this is the best possible plan?”
She felt that old familiar irritation with him rise within her and forced it away. “It’s the only plan. The shock will force my spirit from this body, and it will return to the wall. The spell I cast before we left the Old House will restore the wall, trapping my spirit so it won’t be able to return until Jamison and Nora release it – me – again in 1897, and Evan Hanley’s spell gives me form.”
“I have a bad feeling,” Barnabas grumbled, though she could see the crimson flaring in his eyes.
She smiled, stroking the vein in her neck. Her voice had grown husky. “Do it, Barnabas,” she said thickly. “It’s the only way.”
She could see his fangs now, and she remembered that night, months ago now – years ahead; time was stupid, meaningless – when they had taken each other outside Collinwood, loving each other again, and as he had thrust against her, filling her with his cold seed, she was warmed nevertheless by that old familiar love of him. I had forgotten how wonderful this could be, she had told herself at the time; Barnabas was a different lover than Sky, who was tender but confident; even as a human, Barnabas could be rough, clumsy, eager, but always sincere. She had realized that night that he wasn’t her so-called “one true love,” not in the way Sky was. Julia feared that the events she had experienced in the far-off year 2014 would come to pass, that, as Cassandra, the witch would give in to the Enemy and betray Julia for the love of Barnabas Collins.
But that would never come to pass.
Because Angelique didn’t love him.
She told herself that now as she offered him her throat.
She put her hands in his hair, marveling at the softness, then thrust them in deeply and pulled his head to her throat. “Do it,” she said, and her teeth nipped at his earlobe.
He growled, human and animal, and she could feel his cold breath against the sensitive skin of her neck.
She closed her eyes.
And his fangs slid, slid, slid through all the layers of skin until they reached the vein that pulsed there, waiting below the surface, waiting, and punctured it, and she screamed, and the blood flowed out of her and into him.
“… and we will both exist in that time,” Roxanne assured Edith, and stroked her hair, “so you needn’t worry, the dreams told me, but they told me as well, and I will summon you.”
“But my pact,” Edith said, “my pact doesn’t include immortality …”
“It doesn’t matter,” Roxanne said, smiling. “I am immortal. Believe me. You will exist in 1968, I swear it.”
“The fingers must touch,” Leticia intoned; the little table the three women had dragged from one of the other abandoned rooms in the East Wing served them well now; they sat around it, Julia and Leticia and Alex, and they did as she commanded, reaching out so their fingers met, and little sparks of blue electricity crackled between them as they touched. “We must create a circle of faith, of trust, of power that cannot be broken. Hear me, sisters; hear me spirits; allow me to reach my hands into the past –”
“Hear us,” Julia and Alex intoned.
“— allow me to find them, those we seek, those lost in the past, help me find them, hear us –”
“Hear us,” Julia and Alex intoned.
Outside, the lightning of an early spring thunderstorm flashed, and was followed immediately by a rumble of thunder.
Oh god oh spirit of evil power of darkness Dark One, oh oh oh
She had been the victim of a vampire once before, when Tom Jennings murdered her, posing as Cassandra Collins, and at Nicholas’ command. It had been nothing like this. The swoon, yes, the pleasure of the vampire’s bite, but this, this, with Barnabas, her most, her best beloved, and it was lies, all lies, she did love him she did she did oh god how she loved him
swooning in his arms, his teeth in her throat, the animal noises he made, grunting, snarling, slurping at her blood
“Barnabas,” she whispered. Her hands were still in his hair, and she tugged at it gently, weakly.
The first orgasm had taken her by surprise, occurring at the exact moment his fangs sank into her throat; the second built more slowly and then exploded with no preamble; the third was slow, sensual, twining around and within her, rising, rising, and then burst with such force that she was rocked backward, writhing like a cat in his arms, and she screamed again, she couldn’t help herself, the pleasure was so fine, so exquisite.
And oh how she loved him.
He can’t take it all.
“B-Barnabas,” she murmured. The animal slurping continued.
He will kill you. He will kill her. And you’ll be trapped forever in this sack of flesh.
Her eyes flew open. “Barnabas, no!” she cried, and the power flared up – she had forgotten the power in all her ecstasy – and he finally flew off her, across the hallway, and struck the wall across from the ruined door that had been her spirit’s prison and would be again.
He lay where he had fallen, panting, her blood slick on his fangs, then he was up again, snarling like a beast, and his finger-talons sank into the soft flesh of her arms, but she didn’t feel it …
… and she was watching him from another pair of eyes, because she could see them both, Barnabas and the body of Valerie Collins …
… and somewhere far away, someone was chanting, people were chanting, women, and their voices were urging, commanding …
Too soon … too soon …
She was fading, and she knew that her spell had been successful, and that she was being drawn back into the wall, just as they had planned, and she reached out with all the power she possessed before the binding spell took hold and forced him backward, separated the vampire from his victim.
And then all was darkness, and she was being drawn through a long tunnel, pulled pulled pulled …
… like droplets of water sinking into stone, pressing, pressing, molecules bursting through other molecules though they don’t belong, forcing forcing forcing their way …
And Angelique opened her eyes, blinking, and drew in a deep breath, and she could breathe because she possessed a body again, and she saw that she was sitting at a table in a dim room lit only by five candles, and the other three women at the table were Carolyn (Carolyn?), Julia, and Alexandra, all blinking at her like sheep, their faces pale and shocked.
She began to laugh. She couldn’t help herself, and the wicked laughter poured out of her, growing in volume as it did. “You did it!” she cried. “I have returned! You brought me back, as I knew you would. Thank you, oh thank you.”
“Angelique,” Julia breathed, “oh thank god.”
“Thank someone,” Angelique said, her lips twitching into a diabolical smile. Then the smile faded. “But Barnabas,” she said, “where is Barnabas?”
The other three women exchanged glances. “He … isn’t here,” Julia said lamely.
“He is still in the past,” Angelique breathed. “He will be trapped there with no way to return, unless we do something.” She slammed both her hands against the table; the other women jumped. “Now,” she commanded.
The door behind which Angelique’s bones continued to quietly decompose, just as they had since that night in January of 1796 when he had first murdered her, had been restored. She was right, Barnabas thought, awed, the spell worked; though why he doubted Angelique’s powers at this late date was a mystery, even to him.
A noise behind him, the tiniest sigh, and he turned his attention back to the woman who remained, the one who bore such a strong resemblance to his old nemesis. But her face was dazed, her eyes half-lidded. Blood streamed in sparkling red rivers from the two wounds he had left on her throat, at Angelique’s orders. “Where am I?” this new woman, this Valerie Collins, Barnabas supposed, said in a voice guttural as if she had been sleeping for a long time, and reached up to touch the wounds. When she saw the blood that stained her fingers, glistening and black, she shrieked.
“Be quiet, woman,” Barnabas growled, and she was instantly silent. He longed to reach for her again, to pull her to him and sink his fangs into the soft flesh of her throat, to suck her blood, draining her until there was nothing left.
But he couldn’t. Angelique’s final spell before leaving Valerie’s body prevented him from touching her. He couldn’t help it; he cursed Angelique under his breath. He needed the blood. He needed it badly.
Her fault. All her fault.
Must have blood. Must have blood.
“Who are you?” Valerie whispered softly. “I feel as if I almost know …”
“My name is Barnabas Collins,” he said sadly, “but you will never know me.”
“I want you,” she said instantly. “I don’t understand; I don’t know how or why, but I do, god help me. I … I love you.”
“You don’t,” Barnabas said, alarmed. “It is a curse.”
“I know nothing of curses.”
“You do not love me,” he said with growing desperation. “Forget me, I beg you.”
“How can I? You made me yours. I feel it; I know it. This is all I know.” She was coming closer to him; apparently Angelique’s spell allowed this. She reached out for him and he recoiled. “You don’t have any idea what my life has been like in this house,” she whispered. Tears stood out in her eyes. “Hated by my husband’s children … by their jealous wives … unable to turn even to my husband, because he is a madman! Waiting for something, day after day, allowing this house to drain me down to nothing because all all all I can do is wait for something to happen.” She touched his face gently. “And it has. It finally has. Because now … now there is you.”
This couldn’t be happening. What was Angelique’s plan to wrench him from this time and return him to the present? She had never told him. And now here he was, trapped with this woman so deeply under his spell that she was placing herself into dire peril, peril, he knew, for her immortal soul. Valerie Collins never became a vampire, Barnabas reminded himself, and took some comfort in that realization – but for a moment only, as he further realized that he and Julia and Angelique may have changed the past irrevocably.
Perhaps there is no future to return to.
He had to get to the Parallel Time room. It was his only chance.
“Forget me, my dear,” he said, as tenderly as he could as Valerie reached for him again. “For your own good.”
“I will never forget you,” Valerie said, and the fire in her eyes was unmistakably Angelique’s. Could they be related somehow, even now?
He didn’t know. Couldn’t care.
“It’s better this way,” he said, and faded away.
Valerie cried out, reaching for him through the air that was empty now, and she sank to her knees, screaming her loss and misery and crushing, rending disappointment. “Barnabas!” she screamed. “Oh, Barnabas!”
But he was gone. He had left her alone. She hated him.
She loved him.
“Don’t worry, pretty Valerie,” Roxanne Drew said, and Valerie screamed again, in fright this time, for the woman in the lavender gown that she barely recognized as Samantha Collins’ tempestuously-tempered younger sister had appeared from nowhere. “You’ll have your Barnabas again. I swear it.”
Valerie’s eyes widened. “Why,” she said, amazed, “why, you’re like him! What’s happened to you, Roxanne? What’s happened to all of us?”
“You will know,” Roxanne whispered, “in time. In time, you will understand everything, even my plan for you.”
“Plan?” Valerie whispered weakly.
Roxanne’s smile revealed a hint of her fangs. She opened her arms. “Come to me,” she whispered.
“Angelique?” Barnabas cried, though he knew it was a dangerous word to speak in this room, in this house, in this time. If, through some perverse trick, the Angelique of 1840 was again in possession of her own mind and will, then he might accidentally summon her, and one interaction with his insane ex-wife was already one too many.
But he had to try. He had to leave this time. They never should have come; he knew this now. It had been a mistake, another in a long line.
I should end myself, Barnabas thought desolately. I should just leave this house now, for the last time, and face the daylight. Allow it to destroy me once and for all.
He bowed his head, ashamed at the cowardice, the weakness such a thought demonstrated. But I am a coward, he thought; I am weak.
Still: he couldn’t do it. The lives of his loved ones, his friends and his family, were all at stake. The Enemy’s shadow continued to fall over them all, as did that of Angelique and Laura and Roxanne.
“Hear me, Angelique,” Barnabas whispered. The power of the vampire was also the power of darkness, he remembered, and he closed his eyes, the better to channel those primal forces that waged war inside him. He must use those forces to open the way. “Hear me and help me. Open the way. Bring me back to my own time, to 1969. Open the way, I beg you!”
… Barnabas, Barnabas, Barnabas Collins …
Voices chanting. Somewhere. He could hear them, he could almost see their faces …
BARNABAS. BARNABAS COLLINS.
“Help me,” he whispered. “Vicki. Julia. Angelique. Help me, help me if you can.”
They heard him! He could feel them … he could …
The room gave a hitch.
Brilliant white light flared up.
Took him away.
After a moment, the light cleared, and the room stood empty.
Outside its door, Edith and Roxanne laughed together. Roxanne held the dead, drained body of Valerie Collins in her arms. One single drop of blood fell from the wounds in Valerie’s neck and struck the floor of the hallway.
Valerie’s eyes opened. They were red, vulpine. Her teeth were fangs.
Edith and Roxanne laughed and laughed.
“Barnabas,” Valerie whisper-hissed. “Barnabas Collins.”