The biggest celebration I am ever likely to see in my lifetime. New Years Eve at the turn of the century. Fireworks, street parties, the whole country in fevered uproar and anticipation. Yet my thoughts were only on one thing. Perhaps this is indicative of an obsessed mind and something I should take care to avoid. This may be a turn of events I will live to regret, having missed out on something so extraordinary, perhaps not. The promise of having my questions answered after so long is a heady tonic, and one that forces all other thoughts from my mind.

It is better to know the answer, than it is to live with the question.

With that in mind I had checked my coordinates. Checked them and checked them again. Packed a bag with my warmer kit and a few meagre provisions and set off back in the direction of Southampton. I did not want to go anywhere near that place after the hellish night I had spent there. A night which still chills me to the bone and disturbs my sleep, but there was no mistaking what my mysterious tormentor had written.
After several days travel I thankfully managed to find lodgings just outside Southampton. In fact, so close was my room to the city that I could see the glow of the festivities from my window. Although the sound of revelry was everywhere until the small hours of the morning, I awoke early, refreshed and in good time for the last leg of my journey.
Just after mid morning I found myself standing at the boundary of the New Forest. I was well aware how treacherous the place could be as I stood almost knee deep in the snow. There were many twisted roots that could trip a man and send him head long into a sheer drop. The forest itself was almost a maze to anyone not suitably prepared for the perils it held. People have been lost in here for days on end, some only found again through sheer good grace of fortune. Telling myself I would be foolish to turn back however, I set off into the heart of it.
I had been walking for several hours and my clothes were heavy with snow by the time I reached a small clearing which, according to my map, was my destination.
There was nothing there.
I stood in the middle of the forest and there was nothing to be seen but trees, snow, gorse and mud. This is not how I had envisaged starting the new century. I checked my map reference again. There was no mistaking it. My orienteering skills are far from flawless but these were the coordinates he had given me.
Screwing my eyes shut and pinching the bridge of my nose I could not help but smile as I started to curse my stupidity. Why had I trusted that man? He had lead me a merry dance ever since I had reached these shores and yet I had dared to travel many days from home, in the dead of winter, to the middle of one of the wildest woodlands in England at the behest of a man who had done nothing but infuriate me ever since the first moment I saw him. What a damned fool I had been, this had been nothing more than a wild goose chase, another of his follies.
Taking a deep breath I opened my eyes to assess my situation and start making plans for the long journey home.
As I opened my eyes however, I was stunned to silence. The first thing I saw was his smiling face.
The forest had been deadly silent as I stood in contemplation and I had certainly heard nothing of his approach, yet there he stood in front of me wearing that same damn smile he always did.
Before I could marshal a thought he extended his hand. Calling me by name he said how glad he was to see I had found him and, making no apologies, he suggested that we had perhaps got off on the wrong foot. Still confused by his sudden appearance I could think of nothing more to do than extend my own hand. Grasping it with a firm shake, he introduced himself as Alfred Jennings, or Jennings for short. I must admit, as I look back at the moment, he did seem genuinely pleased to see me.
Still grasping my hand he looked me in the eye and asked if I had brought my necklace. Unsure as to whether or not I could trust him my mind raced to find an answer that would not betray me either way. As my lips started to form around the words his smile returned and he said,
“Good, then let us go and get you your answers”.
I cannot deny that my spirits were lifted greatly by this and, shouldering my bag once more, I followed him as he walked deeper into the forest. We passed under low branches and through bushes and shrubs. In many places the path appeared hidden to me as I walked a few steps behind him. Several times he ducked into gaps that I would have simply passed by had I been walking alone, gaps that only revealed themselves to be paths when I looked behind to see where we had come from. I will freely admit to being completely lost.
Before long however, we found ourselves on the rim of huge basin in the earth. The dense woodland and thicket that surrounded it kept it perfectly hidden. Had it not been for my guide I would never have found this place. The path we took began to slowly descend as it wound itself down to the basin floor and the smell of a log fire rose to greet us. With every step I took the feeling of excitement grew. I still cannot fully explain why but I felt exhilarated, almost giddy as I took in the beauty of this place. The path reached its end between two enormous stones, each much taller than a man, and the floor levelled out. It was then that I noticed something odd. Cut into the huge standing stones were a series of strange circular symbols with odd letters and markings, the likes of which I had never seen. The markings on the stones faced each other and were placed in such a way that anyone taking this path had to pass directly between them on their way in or out.
I stepped between them and looked to make sure I had not lost sight of Jennings again only to see him standing a few paces away and watching me intently. For a split second he gave me an enquiring look then, with a raised eye brow and that same smile, he simply gave a shrug. I was about to ask him why he was showing such an interest, but I immediately fell silent. The scene around me, even in the dead of winter, was one of such tranquil beauty that it stole my very words away.
A small cottage lay nestled here and smoke rose lazily from the chimney. High in the face of one wall of the basin, water ran from a small cave mouth and over the thick icicles of a waterfall to flow freely under the frozen patches of a small stream. Birds perched on several wooden platforms as they shared a bounty of breadcrumbs. Towering above the tiny dwelling was an enormous Fir tree and by its door, glistening with deep red berries, grew a large holly bush. The green of its leaves showed forth, dark and healthy, from under a dusting of snow.
There came a humming, faint at first but enough to draw my attention. As I watched, a small figure approached from around the back of the cottage. Obviously immersed in his inner thoughts, he seemed to dance to his own tune as he walked. His eyes widened and a broad smile spread across his face when he saw us, his enthusiasm seemed to grow as he made his way over with a quickened pace and, taking Alfred’s hand said
“Jennings! Good, good. Is this he?”
Whoever this man was he had me at a disadvantage, “He?” he who? It was obvious that I was expected, even more, I was already known to him. Jennings confirmed that I was indeed “he” and we were ushered inside. The cheerful little man asked me to make myself comfortable as he and Jennings had a few things to discuss in private and they departed to another room. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to warm myself by the fire. It was most welcome and within minutes I could feel the chill leaving my bones and my toes and fingers coming alive again.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the light I started to realise what a funny little place this was. Odd little ornaments filled every shelf and dusty corner. The mantle was home to many strange and wonderful things and as I looked around the room I saw glass cases and picture frames of all different shapes and sizes. I saw one or two things that seemed Egyptian in origin, in fact there seemed to be things from all over the world judging by their appearance and style. The closer I looked however, the more I came to realise that if these were things from all over the world, it was not a world I had ever been too.
There were things stuffed and mounted in some of the cases but they were creatures I have never seen with names I had never heard mentioned in any of the natural sciences. Metal objects that ticked and moved on their own, or opened and closed in time with something unseen. I was about to reach out and touch one curious object when the two men entered the room behind me and my strange little host asked me over to the table saying that it was high time we took a look at my necklace.
This was it. I would finally have my answers. The demons I had brought back from that night in Cairo would eventually be laid to rest. All the sleepless nights it had caused and the frustration of searching for the answer to a question I had never known, much less understood. This was the man who could tell me all I wanted to know. My heart was in my throat.
I took the thing from the pocket inside my jacket and, unwrapping it carefully, laid it out on the table in front of him. He leaned over it to take a closer look. I watched with bated breath. After only a little while he straightened again and I waited for him to speak. These were his words.
“Hmm, it’s a gateway stone. Quite a nice one too, useless now though. Still, take it home, keep it safe” And with a smile he pushed it back across the table to me.
I sat speechless. That was it? That was all he was going to tell me after the weeks I had spent in torment? He obviously saw my disappointment, I was about to raise protest when he went on to say that the necklace was just that now, a necklace. What it had been though was something much more.
We sat for hours and I listened to them speak of other realms and planes of existence that ran alongside, around and through this one. How man existed on many levels, but mainly five. The physical being, the mental being, the spiritual being, the astral being and the ethereal being. I found some of it hard to understand and an equal amount hard to believe, but I listened all the same. In time my host introduced himself as Nathaniel and told me exactly what it was that I had encountered that night in Egypt.
I could hardly believe my ears when he told me it had been a Vampire. I had never read any of the penny dreadfuls other than the one Jennings had left me, but surely Vampires were nothing more than fiction? A horrific fantasy found only in a novel, stalking the villages of Romania in search of innocent virgins to drain of blood.
Nathaniel went on to say that, although they have appeared several times in fictitious writings, vampiric entities have existed for as long as man has walked the earth and they certainly did not drink blood.
He spoke of ancient Egyptian scripts that told of methods by which the spirit of a man, or his ethereal body, could live on after the point of physical death. These had sometimes been called “Khu”, which roughly translated, meant “luminous ones”. To survive in this state however, the spirit requires certain things. First of all, the mortal remains have to be kept safe and in such a state of preservation that the spirit has a place to reside during the day. Sunlight is harmful to the etheric body and must be avoided if they don’t wish to pass through the second death. Running water also proves fatal to a Vampire as does a chemical compound known as allicin, which is found in most members of the onion family but is strongest in garlic. All these things can weaken the hold an etheric entity has on this dimension. The most important thing to the survival of a vampire however, is the steady supply of etheric energy needed to sustain it, and allow it to carry out those duties it has chosen to stay behind for. Leaving such offerings of sustenance had originally been the job of a Ka priest and was a prestigious occupation indeed. The problems had arisen however, when man started to abuse these rites. Men, overcome by greed, malice and fear had performed these ceremonies in order to cheat death and, with no one on hand to supply their sustenance, would prowl the night looking for unwilling victims and drain them of their vital energies to the point of death.
My thoughts returned to my good friend Meni. I could still see him laying there, a shell of the man I had known with the haunting look of terror in his eyes as he passed from this world.
Nathaniel told me that I had destroyed it that night. It had passed back into the sanctuary of its body using the necklace as a gateway. When I tore the necklace from it and set fire to the corpse I had destroyed its only link to this world and forced the ethereal remains to pass through the second death. The necklace was now just a trophy and that I should keep it as such.
With that, Nathaniel raised himself to his feet and made it clear that we should all get some sleep. He looked at me with meaning in his eyes and said,
“You have a long and hard day ahead of you tomorrow, but if what Jennings has told me is true, hopefully you’ll make it out intact”
Somewhat bemused, he showed me to this small room and here I lay. This has been a most extraordinary day

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One comment


excellent, the plot thickens..

May 13th, 2013 at 12:08 am

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