Friday, August 03, 2007

Catching Up.

I have been invited to join Samuel on one of his reconnaissance days out. He’s still watching the candlelighters in their gradual examination of the River Loxley. And still nothing of interest has happened there. It’s been two weeks since Samuel last came to the house to let me know this. As seems to be his way, he apparently ceased to believe we existed in the meantime. The new month began anyway, bringing with it the abundance of wealth that constitutes Angela’s rent and my own minimum wage. The temptation always is to spend it all as soon as it comes in, but now Norman safeguards the money until everything is paid for. That way I don’t go bankrupt, or die of alcohol poisoning.

It was at first a relief for Samuel not to turn up, and then it became a relief not to expect him. Even given the situations that he puts himself in, I never expect him to come to harm. I just accept that he becomes distracted. I checked with Angela and Norman that he hadn’t called while I was out or at work. None of us could be certain that he hadn’t left town again, as suddenly as he’d turned up. Angela suggested that I go and see him myself, rather than waiting.

I said: “I don’t want to start hanging around the river like a weirdo. It’ll look odd.” Who to? “To anybody that sees me. What if the candlelighters know who I am? Then I’m making trouble for myself again. What reason do I have to go there?”

People do just go there for walks it’s true. But they tend to be healthy types, or families. Besides which, Angela meant to go and see Samuel at his home.
“I don’t know where he lives do you?”
“No.” She can be infuriatingly brief sometimes. “But then I don’t have any reason to see him.”
“Nor do I.”
“You don’t know that until you see him.” I prefer it when she’s infuriatingly brief.

Thankfully Norman has, in the course of being polite, as he put it, talked to Samuel about where he’s staying now. This wasn’t as specific as an actual address, more in the way of a whereabouts, round the corner from the church, which was enough to get me to the door on the third attempt.

I don’t know if you know Crookes – some instinct tells me that you do – but it’s a hell of a walk from Hillsborough if you don’t have the patience to wait for a 52. I walked past the house where Miranda lived, that Fuzz and I burgled, but it still looks unoccupied to judge by the garden. Typically, I chose the hottest day of the year so far, and I got burned red for my trouble, but I eventually reached the summit of Bole Hill and then Crookes, in all its seaside glory, so many miles from the sea.

As I say, I found the right house at the third attempt – or at least I found the next door neighbour. Samuel, naturally enough, was down by the river when I called, but the woman next door recognised the description of his leather coat and permanent sunglasses. When he came home I’d had three afternoon pints and the sun was making me drowsy, so I lay on his sofa watching Coronation Street while he fetched me water and fed his dog. It took me a while to notice the obvious.
“Why’ve you got a TV?”
“It isn’t mine.” Samuel called from the kitchen.
“And why have you got posters on the wall? Since when do you like the Blues Brothers?”
“They’re not mine either.”
“Whose are they?”
“What flatmates?”
“Where are they then?”
“At home.”
This confused me for a bit.
“You mean they went home for the summer?”
“That’s correct.”
“So you’ve got the whole place to yourself?”
“Also correct.”
“So why is it such a hole?”

I realise now that I’d only ever seen how Samuel lived with Norman to clean up after him. One modern advance he’s managed to grasp is fast food, which I suppose must be a blessing, but specifically Pizza Hut, which isn’t even the nicest pizza you can get. I’m yet to convince him of this.

When he came back into the room I asked him: “So what’s the latest, with the tales from the riverbank?”
“I’ve no evidence to suggest that they mean you harm. If that’s what you’re asking.”
Was that what I was asking? Maybe it was and I didn’t realise. The main gist of his reply though was that I’d offended him somehow, so when he asked me to join him an his next trip down, I could only postpone as far as my next day off. And then a silence crept out of our agreement.

“So, how come you’re living here?”
“It’s close to the candlelighters. They’re only round the corner.”
“No, I meant, in this house. With students.”
“They had a room free. It’s cheap.”
“Aren’t they annoying?”
“They can be. They have very little respect for property.”
“Oh. Isn’t it odd, for there to be a room this late in the year?”
“One of the previous tenants went insane. The pressure of his studies by all accounts. His parents came to take him home.”
“Oh. Lucky break.”

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Slow Trail.

Samuel has been following his Sherlock Holmes manual again, or maybe Harriet The Spy’s. Unsure of where the once-magicians of Crosspool were going, he waited at the end of their road and watched them turn right, and drive until they disappeared. The next day he stood at the next possible turning after they’d gone out of sight and stood waiting there. He did this all week until he’d followed them to where they go everyday. There were occasional slip ups, when they must have gone to the shops first, because he was left waiting for two hours and they didn’t show. But eventually, in his faithful disguise as a bloke walking his dog, he followed them all the way to where they park up outside the café and the paddling pools along Rivelin valley.

They put on waterproofs and walking boots and set off along the river. Samuel was able to follow them easily now, but within a few minutes they were wading across the water to the far bank. The path runs on the other side too, so they could just walk round. I suppose they must like doing things the hard way: if they just turned the other way out of their house they could cut their journey down by three quarters. Instead of climbing the bank, they started probing the soil with metal rods. Samuel kept on walking wand doubled back. I know the place he means well, I used to walk there all the time. Apparently they’re going back every day, moving along the river at a rate of a few metres a day. They don’t act like they found anything.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Unhappy Campers.

I once heard someone phone into the radio, during a debate on climate change, to say “Global warming, we could do with it. I’d loveto have a Mediterranean climate. We could do with a bit of global warming.” That man was an idiot. We’ve had a week of summer weather this year, and that was back in the spring. Everyone predicted back then that this would be the hottest summer on record, and it may yet be, but so far it’s been the wettest. For some reason I thought July would be a turning point, but it’s still rubbish. And I know this is pensioner-talk to be moaning about the weather, but really, this is enough: trapped indoors for hour after hour, with only so many rooms I can go in; there’s only so much consolation on an mp3.

I’m not the worst effected though. Fuzz and Pele returned from Glastonbury last week with suspected trenchfoot (four of them). Last year we’d all made the plan to go together, but Topper and Cobb have money issues – job and no respectively – and I have no desire to sit in a field surrounded by hippies who want to convince me of the power of ley lines. I watched it on TV. Much to my surprise, our Arctic Monkeys whacked it out, without the need for costumes or fireworks. The bands that did that just made themselves look smaller. Norman sat with me, as he does. He liked Shirley Bassey, and wasn’t sure about the African bands. Looking at the sea of dirty faces, he pronounced “camping’s for fools”.

And so it is – more so for the couple that got trampled to death by cows while they slept in their tent. That happened not far from us, just into the peaks. The farmer's trying not to get sued. Then there was the couple who got trapped potholing after all the rain. And ramblers generally. I might be bored, but I’d rather be indoors than outdoorsy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What Samuel Had To Say.

“These aren’t really for me.” Samuel said. He was holding his mobile in a pinch like it was a manky apple. “It’s better that I come and tell you personally.”

I said: “But you don’t have anything to tell me. They’ve come back from wherever, covered in mud. They could’ve been to B&Q’s car park.”
“But they’re coming and going in shifts now.” He’d already told me this once. It didn’t warrant a call round, but that’s the only time he gets a cup of tea made for him, and I suspect he’s angling for more. He claims the phone makes no sense to him, as if texting is some linguistic sudoku. I asked him if that was why he hadn’t called for the last three months.

“I followed Enright, the copy of the real Enright, to the Casino, as you thought. The state I was in , they wouldn’t let me through the door. Besides, he’d gone in there to be visible, and on camera. I waited outside. After half an hour, he must have had a call from the real Enright, and took a taxi to the house in Fulwood. This time I stayed close and hid behind the neighbour’s fence when the Enright copy was stopped at the door. They didn’t wait long, just packed everything of value and then left. I followed again, onto the M1 and then south. I needed petrol before they did, so I lost them.
“I slept at the services for that night, and in the morning I realised I ought not to come back here. It was because of me that Enright met you, found out where you live, and broke into the study. I came here to help, but I’ve endangered you.”

“He might’ve found me anyway.”
“Your father’s name was known to Enright, of course, and most of his circle, but not this location. Nor did they know he had a son, and I doubt any knew the extent of his collection. I think many were surprised he’d lived so long. Like finding out that Dickens is still writing novels.”
“But Challoner knew about my father.”
“Men like Challoner made their living by such information – collecting mentions of names and places to build them into an understanding wider than the actual magicians could bother to grasp. He could assume your father existed, because his name would recur in the rumours of others.”
“He spoke to him. And everyone I met at Enright’s seemed to know my father.”
“By the time you met them I’m sure they did. I’m sorry that I allowed you to be so indiscreet. If it’s any consolation, Enright appears to be disgraced, and his companions that night shouldn’t cause you any trouble. I tracked them down. It was your silence they wanted, and now they just want to distance themselves from the whole affair– the study to them was just a dead library.”

“Always the study.” I said. Samuel cares about it more than anything, and yet he hesitates to go in there. It’s like it’s sacred to him.
“It’s the study that puts you in danger. Speaking of which, that door will need to be stronger.” He looked out across the hallway at Norman’s shoddy refit.

“And is that why you went to Ireland and France? Tracking those others down?”
“Enright is defanged, but he was working with Alex Reeves. I needed to know whether or not he’d noticed you, or was he blinded by Enright’s scam. So I spoke to an associate of mine, and a former ally. They both hear far more interesting news than I do. Through them I found Reeves’ deputy in France, and in his office I found the letter from Crosspool. So I came back. You know this whole business of finding people or catching up with them was a lot easier when there were oracles to consult and spells that could be cast.”

“And if they move away, the candlelighters, you’ll move away too?”
“I’ll go where I’m needed”
“Like in the war?”
“Which war?”
“In Brittany. You left your friend alone, so you could go off and fight the demons you let escape.”
“You mean de Sande? He wasn’t helpless, and nor was he my friend. You’ve been talking to Norman, who really ought to work on his own stories before retelling mine.”
“You left him behind.” I said again.
“De Sande couldn’t help me, I had a duty to act. In case Norman didn’t make it clear, there was a horde of demons, set running wild over Northern France.”
“Because you released them!”
“I! The magicians released them. Trying to become power brokers when the whole world was in turmoil.”
“That’s not how it sounded to me.”
“I don’t imagine it did, second hand.”
“The way Norman tells it you’re Indiana Jones, so don’t blame him. You killed a man and then you ran away.” I didn’t mean to say that, when I started out. I’d presumed that Samuel had killed before that night, but maybe he hadn’t, from the look he gave me. I tried to get back to what I’d intended. “So is that what you do? When it goes wrong, you put duty before your friends.”
“He wasn’t a friend.”
“And what about us?”
“Me, Norman, Angela.”
“You shouldn’t imagine that we mean anything to each other.”

Friday, June 29, 2007

Samuel's War, Part 3.

Without the blanket of TV noise to hide my head in, I couldn’t tune out of Samuel’s report and conversation. Norman becomes decidedly Stepford whenever he visits, and embarks on continental recipes that won’t be done until he’s gone again. Angela simply hides upstairs.

When I was stuck in Whitby I needed Samuel to save me. Not that he could have, but until now I thought he would have. I imagined him bursting down into the cellar and cutting chunks out of the blonde; putting the fear into Sebastian. I knew he was out there somewhere. I was never worried about him. When he was here, through all the Arthur Enright stuff, he belonged with us, and when he took off after the pretend Enright, he did that for me. It has happened before, that Samuel has been dragged under by his adventures; Norman told me as much, to explain why we’d not heard from him, and to reassure himself that he was safe. But there was something in the story of Samuel’s exploits during the war that gave away the truth of things.

With the help of Joseph de Sande, Samuel had crossed the channel into occupied France, and joined the small, sponsored cult of two magicians and their dozen followers. They were not the only ones to answer the invitation: three other magicians with Celtic links had made their way, through disguise or bribery, to the gathering in Brittany. Their aim was to raise and unleash a demon powerful enough to push back the Nazis and claim Northern France as a separate, undefeated, Celtic state. Not all had come to support these efforts though – the two Bretons argued furiously with an Irish magician, O’Ceallaigh, who urged them not to provoke powers they couldn’t hope to control. After a day and night, O’Ceallaigh returned to Ireland as invisibly as he’d arrived, and the Bretons were more resolute than ever. Unfortunately for Samuel, the confrontation had put them on edge, and the followers doubled their guard in case O’Ceallaigh returned or the local garrison were tipped off.

Amongst the others gathered was the leader of the Scottish band that Samuel had disrupted. He’d come alone, and spent a fortune to reach them, hoping no doubt to recover the power that Samuel had denied him. Although panicked to find the Scot waiting in France, my father had already altered Samuel’s appearance and voice, so that he passed for de Sande’s assistant without comment or suspicion.

In the week that followed, Samuel failed to find an opportunity to get close enough to the Bretons. They were gathering the last of their resources, and training de Sande, the Scot and their last guest, in the spells of summoning and binding that they would need to perform – synchronized as one voice, and in one language. De Sande had helped Samuel to reach the gathering, but wasn’t a fighter, and though he disagreed with the cult’s plans, he found himself drawn into them, so that Samuel might find the chance to strike. The Bretons were never alone, guarded by men with rifles and revolvers, even up to the point of the ritual, in a temple-cave near Quimperle.

It was like nothing Samuel had seen before. In Scotland, the cult had managed to summon a creature that was half bird/half monkey, small enough to carry like a book: he had crushed the thing’s skull with one blow. In the Breton caves, the ritual lasted for two days, with de Sande pretending to contribute, but deliberately garbling his words. Despite this, a pool of water across the floor of the cave became lit from within, and then opened up into a portal to another dimension. The demon that rose out of the water stood sixteen foot high, stooped by the roof of the cave, with five arms and sharks teeth. It was furious, but stood bound to the pool, as smaller hands and faces tried to break its surface. It was now that Samuel had to take his chance: the magicians were all exhausted but intently focused on holding the demon to their will; the gunmen were terrified and backed away, their eyes fixed on the giant creature and the demons writhing beneath it. Before they’d even noticed him, Samuel had run one of the Bretons through with his sword. Shots were fired, first at Samuel, but then at the demon who had stepped free of the portal, then at the horde that followed in its wake. Samuel charged the demon himself, but his blows, like the bullets, were like an oar cutting the ocean. Swatted back against the rocks, Samuel overpowered one of the cult’s guards who was firing wildly. He pulled de Sande to his feet and dragged him out of the caves. No one else came out alive, and the giant demon itself never escaped. It was, as the Breton magicians had planned, too big to go beyond the chamber it had been summoned to, with half a mile of rock between it and freedom. It was the smaller demons they needed to contain, and while Samuel shot or stabbed those that followed his route out, there were other ways – smaller, harder ways – out of those caves.

When it had gone quiet, Samuel and de Sande went back in. They found the scene of a massacre in the vaulted cave. The guards had all been torn to pieces, the magicians had sealed the pool again, but not before many of the creatures had escaped. De Sande learned what happened from the surviving Breton, who had lured the giant back into the portal, before sealing it with his own body: he remained fused to the pool. He looked at Samuel with dismay.

Some of the demons were harder to follow than others. Some did not go far – intoxicated by the simplest experiences of their new senses. Some were hungry, and left a trail of bite marks and horror stories. Others were discovered by german soldiers and handed over to their commanding officers. And others were smart, and stayed hidden. Leaving the frail de Sande to return to England, Samuel began the task of tracking each one down, acquiring the enhancements and skills he had until last year.

“So you see how he lives.” Explained Norman. “How often do I hear you complain you haven’t had time to check your emails? At the speed he’s living life, when does he get a chance to stop? You can’t just pick up the phone and start talking y’know. You have to pick your words first.”

But I’ve been thinking over this story since Norman first told it to me in February, and while he was thrilled by it, there were issues, like how he abandoned his friend to find his own way home, that I’ve now been forced to raise with Samuel: the continued power cuts have left my thoughts nowhere else to dwell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Great Flood Of Sheffield.

You will have seen on the news, depending on where you are, that a month’s worth of rain got bored of waiting and decided to jump the queue. I haven’t seen the news, because there’s no power. The shops are shut, the roads are covered in dirt, walls have collapsed, there’s a tree been pulled down river and it’s stuck at Hillsborough Corner, B&Q have been flooded out so pre-packed flooring can be seen floating down the river, and by the time I get the internet back this post will be out of date. There have been explosions, drownings and helicopter rescues, and in the midst of this, Samuel turned up to let me know the latest on the Crosspool candlelighters.

He left his soggy dog in the garden until Norman took pity on it, giving it some hard earned affection and a towel dry. The animal stinks, and not just because of the wet – I don’t know what Samuel feeds it, but it smells of bad pies.

Samuel was very business like – he has been since his return. Up until now the activities of the once-magicians have been mundane enough to rival Big Brother’s live feed: grocery shopping, furniture deliveries, decorators, cleaning. Usually when Samuel calls by I can tune out of what he’s telling me, since he’ll talk at length about implications and associations, when the only thing that maters is whether they mean me harm.
“Of the last three cults that I’ve met, one of them held a knife to my throat, one of them had me cut open my arm while I got high, and the other roped me into their OAP custody battle, only to try and implicate me in a kidnapping. I still haven’t figured out what was going on there.”
“I don’t think they’re here because of you.” Said Samuel of the candlelighters, quietly and not convincingly.
“Nor was anyone else.”

Today he reported that they’d all left the house together, in a great rush and an excitable state. They kept dashing back for things forgotten, before finally driving off. To where? Samuel can’t say – he was stood on their road with his dog and couldn’t follow them.
“They turned right, away from the city centre.” He said, confidently. “Don’t you think that’s odd? Given the rain, why would they be driving out into the peaks?”
“Who says they’ve gone to the peaks? They could’ve gone to Manchester for all you saw. Can’t blame them if they did.” The theory holds more water than I’d intended, since they haven’t come back yet.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Giant Steps.

I lost my way, following the tales only because they were magical. It’s like listening to Coldplay from a feeling for melancholy: there are dead-ends and dangerous paths that are all too easy to take.

Which brings me to the return of Samuel. His wayward path has brought him back full circle, to Sheffield again. He turned up at our door as though he’d be expected, and delivered an apologetic travelogue. After going after Enright’s clone that night, he discovered the truth for himself, and took a half hour to find another pursuit, another fight to follow. It took him to Ireland, France, and then London, before he heard about a group of candlelighters living just over the hill from here.

Samuel isn’t staying with us in the house this time, which is fine because it means he can be closer to the once-magicians. He’s bought a dog – an Alsatian of a kind – that allows him to walk around at all hours without looking too dodgy. It sits in the back garden and barks when he visits. He brings updates, rumours of his own investigation. He doesn’t know who they are or what they’re after, having found their address top right on a letter intended for someone else.

No more false promises. We will contact you again when it is found.


The address was Stephen Hill, Crosspool.

“That’s the guy from Law And Order.” Said Norman.
“Who is?” Samuel clutched the letter. His blood red eyes were altered to recognise demons, but he can’t watch more than five minutes of TV before they hurt. He's never heard of Channel Five.
“Stephen Hill. He’s the old guy. The DA.”
“It’s also a road.” I explained. “On the hill.”
“It wouldn’t be named after someone one from Law And Order though, would it?” Norman looked genuinely confused. This is how easy it is to get sidetracked by the wrong answers, until you forget how much you needed the questions. I went to see my mates one night, before Samuel got back. It was just after my return from Whitby and I wanted ordinariness. At Topper’s house it was a relief when he cranked up the stereo – I’d phased out of all the talk about exams and Uni applications long since.
“This is righteous.” Boasted Topper, waving a CD. “Wait.”

Saxophones started, like a game show theme, then a drum a drum break to introduce the host, but no words came, just more saxophones, and pop-along bass. Then one saxophone went off on its own riff, and I realised – this was no sample: Topper had put on jazz.

The album was Giant Steps by Jonnie Coltrane. He hadn’t bought it for a bet. He kept slapping his knee and jolting his head about while he told us what results he needed to get into Edinburgh. The others didn’t say anything, and I wondered when this must have started. Did they have jazz in their collections too?

When asked what I thought of it, I still wanted an uncontroversial night – there’s whole can of Meat Loaf and soft rock that can get thrown back at me if start anything – so I was charitable. I said Jazz is a musician’s duel with a song over their love of the instrument, pulling it one way and then the other. I appreciated the skill. But when that album finished and he put on Bitches Brew, I went over all Scrooge-like for charity: I said listening to jazz is listening to someone who’s learnt how to play an instrument, but they’ve forgotten why. They’ve stuck a knife into the guts of a song and pulled out a bloody mess. It’s like listening to an amnesiac trying to hum the top ten. It’s the sound of music drowning. Jazz is an act of contempt and ego. It’s like Samuel and his need for a quest, hopping from one country to another: giant steps might sound like a good idea, but where’s it lead you?

Topper still has his poster of The Beatles on his wall, but I doubt it’ll make the move to his halls of residence. He’s started to spout the argument that they’re overhyped and an average pop band. The poster is the quartet of head-shots, hippy-era and facial hair, rendered in psychedelics. They look like gods, surveying a universe that they control and ignoring the weaknesses that were already splitting them up. I can see why people like Topper might need to attack that, if they can’t see past the reputation, but there’s no need to resort to jazz. Next time I go round there he’ll be listening to country.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Howling Place.

As I was led towards the ritual that night, along the cliffs and past the campsite, there were a few people about, walking their dogs. I paid them no mind at the time, and the fact that their dogs were barking – well that’s what dogs do. I remember now that I’d seen a dog going mental around the same place, when I’d taken the daylight hike to Robin Hood’s Bay. Again, I gave it no mind, since dogs are nothing if not stupid. It turns out if you let them go along that path, they run to a particular spot and start howling. You could get fifty dogs up there and they’d all get as close as they could to that same spot and start howling their heads off. It was this that drew Challoner to Whitby in the first place.

Maria and Sebastian led me up there on my last day on the coast. It turns out that their relationship is the only thing that was honest – they really have fallen for each other, with all the vile gooiness that that involves. I’d begun to suspect I’d been led to the restaurant the night that I saw them together – as part of Sebastian’s devilish deception – but they really were meeting in secret. It was Maria who said I should see the howling place, against Sebastian’s wishes.
“After all,” she argued, “it doesn’t come under what you were told in confidence. You already knew about the location, before you met any of us.”
“And what is it?” I asked, but nobody knows for sure. I asked again while we were up there, a few metres inland from the path. I thought I’d have to wait for a dog to run up off its lead, but Sebastian had marked the spot with a stack of pebbles. I stood right over them, but couldn’t tell if I felt odd because of anything real, or because I was consciously aware that I should. I felt my scalp tingle and go cold, and then I felt alone – I had no sense that Maria and Sebastian were right next to me, even though I could turn and see them. As I broke away there was a flash of malice. Like I say, those weren’t unnatural feelings to be having in those days, given where I was and who I was with, but there was an alien quality to it, like hypnosis.

“So what is it?” I asked again.
“Nobody knows.” Sebastian said, in his authoritative manner that I now know means he’s keeping something back.
“Nobody knows. But everyone’s got a theory, right?”
“Of course.” Sebastian looked at Maria, who nodded.
“And what’s your theory?”
“The phenomenon was first reported three days after Halloween. It’s on a route half way between Whitby and the old lighthouse, which you now know to be-”
“You think it’s to do with them.” I pointed at Maria.
“Are any of them missing?” Sebastian asked, keeping to his agreement with the blonde.
“Not that I know of, but I haven’t spoken to any of them in a week. Unless you mean. Oh. You mean their master.” I tried to imagine it, but I’m ashamed to say I filled in the master’s part with a stock vampire image – black cloak, white ruffled shirt, talcum face. I imagined him in town, suddenly feeling weak as the magic that held him together ebbed away, so he raced back for his home, falling on the way, and then breaking into dust on the spot where I stood. “You think this is where he died?” Sebastian didn’t answer me. “So what’s with the dogs? If there’s no magic, then why’s there anything to howl about?”

“There’ve been some studies into the relationship between magic and psychic energy, all needing to be rewritten now, of course.” Sebastian began, keeping deliberately to a general topic. “Arguably the mind is the most sensitive instrument in the universe – given that it is essentially a device of perception. It is natural therefore that magic’s distortion of the perceived universe should register some form of psychic shock. Last Halloween our universe was wrenched into a different state of being. There are bound to be rips and punctures where the old way of things resisted. Like ripping a shirt when you take the price off, except these holes are harder to find.”

I stood on the spot again, letting the cold hate and panicked loneliness console me. It was like listening to a song about being dumped when you’ve just been dumped.
“Everyone’s been chasing around, trying to get this patch of mud authenticated because some dogs like barking here?” I sneered. I haven’t sneered much before – it feels weird. “That’s why Challoner sold the roof from over your head, and why you sold me out to a bunch of vampire roleplayers? And all the time, just back where you started, there was an actual, real life woman stuck between realms. Quite a visible rip in the fabric that one, wasn’t it.”

Sebastian mumbled something to defend himself, but I wasn’t listening. I told him I didn’t care about his investigations or what they meant anymore – and at that time, I meant it.

I caught the train home – arrived in Sheffield’s revamped station, with its wall of steel and water, lit up red and steam blowing over the path. Recorded messages warned me not to give money to people in the station, not to leave my bags unattended, not to litter. It’s always nice to be welcomed by a tape recorder – after over a month in Whitby, it was like arriving in the future.

Even nicer was the feel of my own bed again – the body groove worn deep. It felt odd to be there – as though the walls were recreations, stuck onto the hotel’s. Not least strange was the gradual creep of personal items that had washed up from Angela and Norman, with gizmos and whatsits apparently in the places they belong.

I phoned up my mates, met up, played some tunes, made some cans fit for recycling.

I made an appointment with the nurse to have my stitches removed – not without suspicious comments. There’s a nice cross hatched scar down my arm now. I pretend it's the morse code for idiotic.

It was three days before I could repeat what I’d been carrying in my head since I got on the train. Maria said goodbye to me at the station – I’d made it clear I had nothing more to say to Sebastian. She said I shouldn’t judge him too harshly: “He’s just trying to find out if he’s lost a friend or gained a rival.” She meant Challoner, of course, but at the time I thought she meant me.
“You think what he did was wrong.” She said. “Because you thought you were being heroic, but instead you were being as stupid as he’d predicted. Meanwhile you were happy to lie, happy to steal, happy to let him feel guilty and indebted. What we’ve been trying to show you is that your moral compass doesn’t hold a true course – the ethical north is always wherever is most convenient. And you’re a fool to believe you know the limit of good.”

I told Maria I was annoyed with Sebastian because he’d wasted my time – but I’m annoyed with myself for this more. I’d gone to Whitby on a whim – with nothing better to do, and no idea of what I’d find there. I’d let the wrong people lead me when I had no idea what I wanted from them. And I’d let Naina, the most fascinating person I’ve ever nearly met, disappear without a clue how to find her, distracted by a group of fantasists who can’t admit they’re mortal, and deceived by a man who doesn’t sound lost, only because he’s got a posh accent.

I’ve been forced to admit one thing though. I wrote this down after talking everything through with Norman and Angela. There are questions I’ve been avoiding. Like, how old was my father? What did he do? What really killed him? Am I in danger? Who can I trust? And of course, there’s always the question I ask every time I write anything here – who are you?

“You’re a fool to believe that just because you know the answers, you never need to know the questions.” Maria said, at the end of her lecture on morality at the station. I only thought on the train to say back “At least I know the answers are right and wrong, instead of obsessing about the questions like they’re riddles.” But at the very least, the escapism of the group has made me face up to my own situation. Them, and the fact that Samuel’s come back.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Coming to.

I spent the next few days after the ritual, in the hotel room, not coming down to eat, not even getting up to wash. Sebastian had the good sense to leave me alone. Early one morning, I crept down when only cleaners and restless pensioners were about, and went down to sit on the jetty. I was left alone there all day, until hunger dragged me back inland. I had treated the ritual like a joke. There’s a mirror in the blonde’s house, into which he would stare, fascinated by his own reflection; one of the others told me that it used to show nothing, and was proof that the vampire blood had died in his veins. I kept it to myself that I thought the mirror was previously enchanted, and had simply become a normal mirror. I kept it to myself that I thought the same was true of their master, and the same about their vows. The last few weeks were like a hole I’d fallen into, or an irreparable insult. I felt stupid for ever having gone there.

I’d been told nothing, after all I’d done, and the time I’d given them. When I woke up from the stupor, still thinking slow, the wound in my arm stitched up, it took a while to remember that I’d seen the blonde and Sebastian talking while I repeated the ritual again and again, feeling proud and elated with my success. I remember that quite coldly now, that they made me think that I was doing well.

After the day on the jetty, I was free of the soup brain mess of thoughts, about home, about Samuel, the past, money and friends. I forced myself to think about that night, which still isn’t easy, and asked Sebastian: “Did he tell you about Challoner?”
“Who?” He realised this was pathetic as he said it. “Oh, the blonde. He did, yes.”
“And what did he say? What’s happened to him?”
“I know where he went. I’m afraid I can’t say more than that.” Sebastian moved off his bed and began to pack. “You seem well enough to go home now. Are you up to the journey?”
“But I earned that information. It was because of me that he told you.”
“Sort of. But you didn’t do what they asked of you.” He made a pretence of organising his clothes.
“What d’you mean?”
“You didn’t let me do the ritual. You didn’t let me down. As I knew you wouldn’t.”
“Did the blonde explain it to you then? This act of betrayal idea. It was what they wanted, I didn’t think you’d mind, since it was-”
“It was what they asked of me.” Sebastian cut me off, before I could say how mock-villainous I thought the whole thing was. “That’s why I called you to Whitby. I’m sorry, but I don’t know many people who are so naïve. You were the obvious choice.”
“You supplied me to them, for the ritual?”
“Actually the inclusion of the ritual of the bloods was my idea. I’d never seen it performed, and it seemed appropriately macabre, without being fatal.”
“You betrayed me?” I said, with the confusion of the last few days descending on me again, but keenly focused into anger.
“That’s the price they demanded, of me, of David, and the man David was following. And you, it turns out. So really we were in a win win situation.”
“And where did Challoner and this other man go?”
“That’s as much as I can tell you.”
“Because it’s your secret?”
“Because that’s the agreement I have with the blonde.” Sebastian’s voice was half apology, half condescension.
“So what? You’ve got what you want, don’t pretend you can’t tell because of some meaningless promise.”
“It isn’t meaningless. Not to them. They take all such bonds seriously, which is worth remembering, since you’re bound to them now.”
“But that was nothing to them.” I was now shouting. “You just said it was your idea.”
“And it was, but it met no protest. They must have had their reasons, but I assure you, they will hold you to the vows you made.”
“Rubbish.” I could have happily slammed the suitcase on his fingers.
“Not for them. So if it makes it anymore palatable, it wasn’t easy for me to do this to you. I thought when we met, that you were a good boy.”
“Good boy? Sounds like you were getting a dog put down. It’s odd though, that they signed me up for their group, since you’re the one that showed the right credentials.”
“I’m sorry. It truly wasn’t easy to know what to do. I hope, but I doubt, that David will say the same when I find him.”
“Why, what did Challoner do? Or can’t you say?”
“No, I can tell you this much, since I already knew before I reached Whitby. David obviously needed a great deal of money, because his house went for a quick sale, as did our offices, along with my flat. I suspect by the time he found the blonde, he’d already met their requirements in severing ties.”

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Ritual Itself.

I can’t really explain why I went through with the ritual, once I’d seen what was really to be done. It’s one of those things you do, like a petty theft or a sleazy thought, but you don’t want to have to talk about it afterwards – it made sense at that moment, but hindsight’s like the Gestapo. Why didn’t I just get up and tell them all to grow up or shut up and wise up? Why didn’t I just go round to Geoff’s after work one day and smash him in the legs with a hammer until he told me what I wanted to know? I wish now that I was the sort of person who’d do that, but I guess I’m the sort of person who believes the only options are the ones they’ve been told about. And it’s easy to be sceptical, here in Sheffield. There’s an effect though, of becoming so used to the insanity of others that it becomes the normal world, and being normal means it becomes defensible. I’d spent so much time with the group, whatever the situation they’d put me in was half-obvious, because it had the momentum of all that preceded it.

There was also a momentum in my state of mind that night. Feeling like the hero, because I’d saved Sebastian from the ritual, I couldn’t then back out. The blonde was reciting his opening words again, confirming the solemnity of the ritual: “The quest that has existed since consciousness dawned, to split or unite the body and soul, is here subverted. We rewrite the contract that exists between the two halves of our existence.” I remember this bit, because it’s the closest I ever got to what their master must have told them. “All acts of betrayal will be met with torment and hopelessness.” He went on to list specific tortures. I gather it owed a lot to the masons.

While he spoke, I wiped the blood off the knife with my robe, and then held it over the candle flame. I can’t pretend that this sterilised it or anything, because the candle blackened and dirtied the blade, but it made me feel better at the time. I drew the dagger up the inside of my arm, to match the cut on the blonde, not only cutting me but burning me. The pain is sort of funny now – my whole body sending waves of panic to try and stop me doing what I was doing, while I looked on, oddly detached from the blood that now trickled into the wooden bowl.

The blonde prompted me to speak the opening vows, which I’d memorised: “I forswear my mother, my father, my friends, and all former loyalties. I forswear the pleasures of the flesh: vanity, lust, and gluttony. I forswear love, and cowardice. I forswear justice.”

I spoke these words like they were instructions for assembly – any impression of passion came from the pain in my arm, and my disgust as the blonde toasted the vows by drinking his blood. I had then to do the same, but only raised the bowl to my lips, staining them. Then we swapped over bowls, and I did the same, not even able to taste what I’d done. But then the blonde took the two bowls and mixed the two bloods, swirling them together. He divided two equal measures again, and drained his half. Despite what this sounds like now, I’m not entirely stupid, I know enough to be worried about disease, but I’d heard somewhere that the stomach can deal with all sorts of infections. I’ve read since that I was massively misinformed, especially dealing with a group that shares blood at every weekend, but again I was caught up by the momentum of events, so I tipped back the bowl, the blood was already clotting into knotty strings and lumps. It should probably go at the top of a list of stupid things that I’ve done.

I felt sick. The blonde smiled, and reminded me to deliver the closing vows. A little breathlessly I said: “I embrace the laws of cunning and strength. I embrace surrender. I embrace the knowledge of the body: pride, possession and hunger. I embrace the life beyond life.”

I was confused by these last words, and I said them again. My words were slurred. I would have tried a third time, but the blonde was telling me something. His face was all his mouth was all his teeth. I didn’t get it. My hand was lifted up and placed over the candle flame, just as the blonde was doing. The burn on my palm woke me up for a second, and I wondered if I felt so weak because of the loss of blood, but we’d not bled that much yet. Distracted by this train of thought, I forgot to move my hand away from the candle, and that’s when I realised I’d been drugged. Too late. I was already falling sideways.

They left me there, which confused me. I thought I was supposed to be special, so why was the blonde taking Sebastian to one side? They were shaking hands, and the blonde presented him with a piece of paper. I was dimly aware that Sebastian had climbed up and out of the room without me, when I was propped back up, and the group all moved round one place, so that the ritual could be performed again.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Reflections on Deception.

It’s now been two weeks since the ritual. I’m back home now, back in Sheffield, where I’d hoped to free myself back into a normal life, but something has happened to make this seem unlikely. I suppose I should start by telling you exactly what happened in those last days in Whitby.

On the night of the 6th of May, I met Geoff alone on the empty east jetty. I expected to be escorted to the blonde’s house, with all the grim purpose and ceremony they deemed worthy, but instead I was taken up the steps that lead to the abbey, past the church with its fallen dominos graveyard, past the abbey’s screening wall, and out of the streetlit gloom, into the darkness. Geoff produced a torch for himself as we split off from the road, and onto the cliff top path. Protected from the drop into the sea by thorns and a strip of wire, the path, at least as far as the campsite, is wide and well trodden. Geoff said nothing, just turning occasionally to check I was still there, otherwise he was no more than the circle of vivid green illumination pulsing in front of us. At the campsite – a combed and polished shantytown of static caravans – children were still playing with a football in the dark, and silhouettes loomed against the gas lit windows. The path then became thinner, dropping into the steep banks of brooks bleeding into the sea. Only now did Geoff hand me a torch for my own, that I aimed straight at my feet, to avoid the snagging weeds or grabbing roots, or the sharp turn, tumbledown corners of the path itself. We climbed up the far bank, onto a shoulder of farmland, before the next dip and scramble.

While I was there, however long that was, I never gave much thought to the sea. It was pleasant to look at, and to hear, but I was only half conscious of it as the edge of the landscape. I think it’s that sense of the edge that I miss, now that I’m home, surrounded by unfolding streets. I miss that dark presence of the other half of the world. Although I couldn’t see it in the night, I could hear it whisper, as the path edged up onto a rough drive, with a house on the cliff just ahead.

“How are you feeling?” Asked Geoff. “Are you ready?” He had stopped, and shone his torch into my face. I had the suspicion he wasn’t allowed to talk to me. I told him sure, I was fine. After all it wasn’t me that I was worried about. I had been along this path weeks before, on an empty day’s stroll down to Robin Hood’s Bay, and I had seen the building that we now approached. It was an old lighthouse – a long white building with huge spotlights like conservatories for a lamp fanatic, and foghorns mounted on the front. I had taken it for a holiday cottage when I’d gone past in the day, because it looked used but empty. I even think I saw toys in the garden, but I realise now that they were props. I was led to the front door and taken inside, where I realised, as though he was there to greet me himself, this was their master’s house.

Inside, it was not the deliberate decay of the blonde’s, who ushered me downstairs, through a room of antiques and steel shuttered windows, and through a hatch in the floor – a trapdoor. I was stood on stone slabs, in a whitewashed cellar, lit only by church candles in each corner. Surrounding me were the group – the blonde, commanding me to stay with his hand raised – his face a mask of furious concentration. He was dressed in the same black robes as Liz and Brian, and also Geoff, who climbed down into the room as soon as he’d changed. A set of the robes was thrown at my feet, and I put them on, undressing beneath them, as the others were. It reminded me of frat house scenes in college movies – a sarcastic voice in me was still sneering at the suggestion of frustrated masochism.
“Are you prepared?” The blonde’s voice shouted of the walls. “To do what we have asked of you.”
I said I was. We waited then, and I thought it was going to be a long wait for midnight, stood in silence, supposedly in meditation. It was only a few minutes though and then there were voices above us. Geoff had closed the hatch when he came down, but I could still make out the muffled words: “It’s a wonderful place… amazing… you don’t live here all year?” It was Sebastian, talking to Maria, whose voice now broke clear as she lifted the hatch: “It’s down here. Climb onto the ladder.” The blonde pointed at me to step back, so that none of us were seen until Sebastian was halfway down.
“What’s this? Hello?” Sebastian then saw me. “What are you doing here?” He looked up to where Maria, now in black robes, blocked his route back up. “Darling? What are you doing?” She didn’t answer him.
“Come down.” Commanded the blonde. “This is the night of the ritual. You knew that.”
“Yes but-”
“It has been performed once. Now it’s time for your initiation.”
“But, you said.” He looked despairingly at Maria. “They can’t be…”

The blonde took a hold of Sebastian’s sleeve, urging him down to the floor. Geoff, who had moved beside me, now spoke in a half-whisper: “You’ll have to convince him.”
“Of what?”
“That he’s to perform the ritual. Tell him you already have. Tell him it’s safe.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He knows us too well to believe us. But he trusts you.” Geoff’s voice became a low growl. The blonde had probably told him I’d follow orders.
“No, but I thought.” We both looked over to Sebastian, who was being reassured by Maria. “I thought you needed it to be me.”
“It was always him we wanted, but until he’d let you go through it, it was too easy for him to refuse. We need someone who can compel Challoner to honour his agreement. Besides, you don’t deserve it.”

I have been thinking for the last two weeks what he meant by this: did I deserve better or worse? There are reasons to believe he intended either. I was taken forward to meet with Sebastian, who was asking Maria if she meant what she was saying. We were left alone in the middle of the room – the duped and the reluctant hoaxer.
“You’ve done this?” He asked, incredulous.
“I told you I was.”
“But the full ritual? You drank their blood, everything? That’s not what you told me you were doing. I would never have let you.”
“You’ll be fine. It’s meaningless.”
“It’s not meaningless to them. This is their lives.”

I calmed him down, told him it was no more than roleplay. After a minute he started to agree, started to tell me the same things, as though in reassurance: “It’s just play acting. It was easy wasn’t it?” I could see desperation in his eyes as he accepted. He was given his robes.

We formed a circle around him, and the blonde produced two wooden bowls, and then a knife. A bowl and a candle were put either side of Sebastian, as we all sat cross-legged on the floor. The blonde began the ritual with his opening declaration. The stone floor chilled the flesh in my legs, but Sebastian’s forehead was breaking out in sweat. Knowing the ritual, I was to prompt him with his vows. The blonde took the dagger and dragged its tip along the inside of his arm, opening up a three inch cut, parallel to an old scar. He let the blood trickle into one of the bowls, and passed the blade to Sebastian, indicating the second bowl. Sebastian turned to me with his fear collapsing beneath disgust. “What do I do?” He asked me.

This was the act of betrayal: I was to let Sebastian sign his soul over to new masters; I was to hold his hand as he did it. It didn’t matter that there was only superstition left. It didn’t matter that the ritual was a lie – because there was no vampire. It was true to them, and it was true to Sebastian. That was what Geoff meant when he said Sebastian knew them too well: he knew enough about their ritual to believe in it himself. He was immersed in the world of magic, where it becomes a matter of beauty or terror to declare your allegiance, whereas to me it would only ever have been a false promise.

I realised this before he could put the dagger in his own arm, and I called out for him to stop, against the blonde’s indignation. I knew what I wanted out of this, but I also knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I couldn’t question that.
“It should be me.” I said. “That’s what we planned. That’s what I’ll do, if needs be. Take me, or neither of us, if that won’t buy us what we want.”

The blonde thought about it, and agreed. Sebastian stood, as I did, and he almost hugged me with relief as we swapped places. I sat down, with the dagger now in my hand, and committed myself to the ritual.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A State Of Readiness.

Today is the night of the ceremony – The Ritual Of The Bloods. I overheard one of the group ask, the other day, if I knew that it was for real. The version I’ll be performing is not the full blood swap they all did, but I know what she meant; they’re all very concerned that I take it seriously. And I will – I’m prepared now.

Last night I was joined by the blonde, along with Brian and Geoff. The blonde was telling me how he hadn’t seen any of his family since the century began, and how he did mental exercises to erase them from his memory, when he broke off to ask why I seemed so distracted. He demanded to know, as is his manner. In truth, my mind was still on Naina’s disappearance, but I didn’t want to tell them about her so I made out that I was worried about an elderly relative.
“As I’ve been trying to explain to you.” Said the blonde. “These people will become irrelevant. It’s in your nature to worry about those close to you, but you need not worry. They won’t matter anymore.”

I pretended to be cheered by this, and as though I too believed the ritual would work. Something in what he said troubled me though. It took a few minutes to place it, but then I remembered that he’d used a similar phrase when talking about Sebastian coming to harm – only he didn’t bother to add that I shouldn’t worry because Sebastian was irrelevant.

I listened to them in turn for another hour, and then feigned that I was feeling tired. Such excuses of bodily weakness don’t normally go down well with the blonde, so I backed it up with a desire to mentally prepare myself in isolated contemplation of mortality, and that did the trick. Sebastian had been a bit more open about where he was going on his dates lately – being as specific as to say he was going for a meal or just a drink. Last night he didn’t eat with me because he was meeting his woman – and also because he’s still hardly speaking to me over the Naina thing. I started at the hotel and worked around, down, up out of town, eventually seeing him through the lead paned windows of a restaurant on the road to the library. In the hour I’d been searching, I’d been thinking of what to say, what my fears actually were; I couldn’t let him down again; I couldn’t take a chance with the blonde – the others were just play acting, but he was committed to proving how little regard he had for life; I needed to share all I knew with Sebastian; the ritual was never anything more than nonsense, not since magic died.

I saw Sebastian through the restaurant window, and for the first time I saw his date. It was Maria, not wearing her normal black, nor the metal collar that she always wore with the vampire group, but it was her. My first thought was that all this time he’d been hiding her from me, pretending that he had no idea who the rest of the vampire group were, that he’d only met the blonde, that he needed me to talk to them for him, but in fact he was in cahoots. Then I looked at Maria again: not only was she not wearing her normal goth clothes, she was wearing make-up and a floral dress. She was in disguise. The blonde had no doubt pointed out Sebastian to her, and then she made her move on him. He’s going to be at the ritual tonight, but had he been told, or was she going to lure him on some other pretence? I went into the restaurant, intending to join them at the table, to see how she reacted, but when the waiter came to ask if he could help, I said nothing. Sebastian’s face when he thought about his mystery woman always went like he was sucking on a clotted cream toffee. It’s possible that he’s fallen in love with her. I don’t know the part I’m supposed to play in this, but I think the betrayal of Sebastian will be the breaking of his heart. The blonde probably sees this as an instruction in mortal weakness.

I didn’t go in and join them. I’ve been asked by Sebastian to do what is necessary to find out where Challoner went, and that means indulging in the fantasies of others. Who’s to say that the group’s fantasies of immortality and an existence beyond humanity is any more ridiculous than Sebastian’s fantasy of happiness with a woman who has no feelings for him – just because one is dressed up in pantomime and the other happens everyday. Sebastian will get hurt – that’s what both these fantasies demand. Besides which, not everything I do needs Sebastian’s approval.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Return From The North.

Sebastian was clearly confused: it didn’t take Carol and Gregory long to accept that he knew nothing about the cottage, beyond my telling him the ghost story. Carol, since there was no secret to protect anymore, told him everything she’d told me. Sebastian looked at me in disbelief.
“So where was she?” He said to Carol, still looking at me. “When her powers failed. What was she doing?”
“She was elsewhere. She mostly was. She described it as a brighter world, of which this world was only the shadow. The town was here, and her home, but it was not this town.”
“She hid in other realms.” Added Gregory. Carol described him as Naima’s creditor, but she never said what the debt was for. Sebastian asked for her state to be described again, but not by me.
“And who else knew?” He asked.
“No one. Absolutely.” Carol and Gregory agreed. “That’s why we’re here. There’s no one else. We haven’t even told our closest friends.”
“I meant, who else knew where she was last Halloween, and then heard the ghost story.”
“And then saw us arguing in the street, like oiks.” Carol shook her head.
“It’s not an easy conclusion to reach, but if someone knew her power.” Sebastian let the thought hover. Carol couldn’t believe that anyone who knew her could wish her harm. “But that was before she became so valuable.”
“Why would anyone steal her?” I asked. I understood that she was fascinating, but valuable?
“Desperation. It sounds as though she had the potential to be…” Sebastian looked at Carol and chose safer words… “Worth attention. If she’s holding on to a magical realm, or at least her means of reaching there, then she could be a key. Or at the very least, a foot in the door. Either way, there’s evident potential.”
“For what?”
“For the return of magic.”
Gregory curved over uncomfortably on his seat. Carol looked amazed and then puzzled: “But what will they do to her?”
“Hard to say. They need her alive, obviously. But, do they care if she’s safe? The best parallel I can offer, is that she’s the mouth of a mine – the wealth of which is magic. The priority for those who exploit a mine is efficiency, not the well being of the way in. I really wish you’d come to me sooner.”
“And what could you have done?” Asked Gregory. I wasn’t sure where he stood on the idea of exploitation – again there was the issue of her debt. Was he appalled at Sebastian’s clarity on the issue, or was he sore about an opportunity missed? It was odd how he and Jack had tended on her, like a bonsai tree – as though obliged by both duty and a sense of opportunity.
“I would like to have seen her.” Sebastian said, to me.

He returned from Edinburgh last night, and went straight from the hotel to his girlfriend. This morning he let me know that Edinburgh had been a washout – with only second-hand reports of seeing Challoner, and sketchily, similar faces. To the once-magicians he was only ever a groupie, or a voice on the phone. It was unlikely they’d know him for sure.
“Any news on your ghost?” He asked.
“None. The woman you met has gone home. So’s that bloke. We swapped numbers, but I doubt I’ll call them.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me earlier.”
“How d’you mean?” I’d found out about Naina on my own; it was my thing. I don’t understand how Sebastian’s decided to assume this authority over me, or claim ownership of anything magical, this moral propriety.
“You should have told me about her, after you’d been to the cottage. You know you should’ve done. What did you hope to accomplish there on your own?”
“I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. I was just… looking I suppose.” I was sure I’d been helping somehow.
“Precisely. I never expected you to let me down quite so badly.”

His disappointment hollowed out the questions I’d been storing up about Naina and what he’d meant by exploiting her, or what he could have done himself. Of course he’s right, that his expertise would have been useful from the start, but it’s too easy to say that now. It’s too easy to confuse a person’s worth with their position and their true self.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Sebastian has gone to Edinburgh. He left yesterday. Very little was said between us.

On Sunday, I’d become bored of Sebastian’s gratitude filled questions about the ritual, and wanted to avoid the vampire group like them and the early summer. My thoughts were still at the cottage: I wanted to get in there again, try and get some answers from Gregory. I’d phrased up a lot of persuasive arguments to get one party talking to the other, as if I cared about their differences, when in fact I was solely fascinated by Naina, phasing into half invisibility, no longer needing air. I’d been thinking of her constantly, as if she was a fairy tale princess, left to time and tourism. They all knew more than I’d been told, but if they started to trust each other, then maybe they’d begin to trust me.

I went to The Duke Of York in search of Carol, but only found Yvonne, sunburnt and nervous. She told me the others were all at the cottage, because something terrible had happened. She didn’t believe I didn’t already know.

At the cottage, the shouts and accusations could be heard from outside, where the man selling tiles shook his head at the loss of trade and peace. I was greeted at the door by Jack bellowing:
“Who’ve you told?!”
Gregory restrained him and Carol took my hand to invite me in. Clive was with her, sat on the stairs, ready to put down anything physical.
“You see. He’s here.” Said Carol, triumphantly, as if I’d been invited.
“Doesn’t mean anything.” Snarled Jack.
“Why would he come back?” Said Carol. I’d clearly vindicated her somehow.
“What’s happened?” I asked. “Is she okay?”
“You tell us.” Spat Jack.
“She’s gone.” Carol said.
I didn’t understand how this could be my fault: “She’s dead?”
“No. She’s gone. Stolen.”

Gregory and Jack had woken in the night to noises from below, but found the hatch down from the attic was blocked up. They had to call the landlady for help, who in turn had to come back with her husband, to help unwedge the hatch. The landlady was a believer in the ghost story, so saw nothing strange in the bed being empty, but Jack set off straight away to find Carol and launch his first version of accusations. Suspicions had since been redrafted for me.
“You understand it’s very dangerous.” Reasoned Gregory. “She needs specialist care.”
“I honestly don’t know anything.”
“It’d be natural enough if you mentioned it to your friend.” Added Carol. “He’d be the obvious person to turn to for advice, since we kept you in the dark.”
“Did you tell him?” Jack was stood behind me.
“My friend? Do you mean Angela?” I’d not even mentioned her name before, just the things she’d done.
“Wilson.” Barked Jack.
“Sebastian? I’ve not told him anything.”
“Well,” said Carol, trying to calm the room. “Maybe we ought to ask him.”

It only occurred to me on the walk up to the hotel that I’d never talked about Sebastian to anyone involved. I couldn’t be certain that I hadn’t referred to him in the context of plans, but they knew his name, and at the hotel, Carol walked straight for him without any indication from me.

The blonde and the rest of the vampire group are due back any moment, so I shan’t risk the discovery of this record any further than necessary. It was Gregory who asked Sebastian how much he knew.