Archive for memories

The Proper Recollection of Tea

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on April 22, 2012 by vampirony

He watched with amusement as she gracefully turned the tea pot around with both of her dainty gloved hands, then took it up by the handle now facing her, and began to pour into his empty cup. When he lifted his eyes to her face, her normally smooth brow was furrowed in concentration. It teased the corner of his mouth into a smile. When she was finished pouring and her mind free to move on to other things, he watched an imperious eyebrow shoot up.

“It’s not just all the damnable coffee. They don’t even sit for high tea here let alone offer it with milk! Barbaric!” The tea pot absorbed her mood when she set it down with a thunk.

The smile fully flourished.

“Now, now, don’t be fussy,” he told her in a voice that held more admiration than reproach.

Her bottom lip pouted as she then poured the favored white liquid from a cow shaped vessel into her cup, leaving his plain. He wasn’t sure why she still insisted on pouring tea for him when he never drank it but there were manners, he supposed, so ingrained as to be habit. And he liked this habit of theirs although it had changed all of a sudden.

Most times they took tea in a dark corner of the cold and antiquated library. She never mentioned minding although there was an aloofness there that would eventually give rise to the same old discussion. The library itself had brightened several years back, as if someone had just returned to a summer house and was going through the process of uncovering the rooms and airing them out, with the library being the last to tackle.

The way the light in the hallway just beyond the door would grow, sometimes by feet, sometimes by inches, was often a topic of conversation. He could tell that she was nervous after all these years waiting. “What if she doesn’t like me?” she’d asked one particularly cold morning when a storm beat against the leaded library windows. “Maybe that’s why she never comes in here.” He’d assured her that it would happen and who wouldn’t adore her as he did. She’d worry her bottom lip, like she was doing right now, before changing topic. She’d wondered why it was rainy that day. And cold, so very cold.

But this morning, they had arrived here as if in a dream and it was bright and sunny. And definitely not the library. Their table and chairs sat on a cobbled patio just outside the house, the table an old round mahogany three legged number covered in a bright white lace cloth. The service was white bone china with traditional blue design; the pattern of most particular interest was a fire breathing dragon of Chinese variety.  Overall, the entire setting was stylish and economized, food set out but only just enough for one.

Above them, the expanse of an oak’s canopy shielded then from the indeterminate light and nearby a grand horse chestnut tree delicately bloomed in white and pink glory. All along the side of the house, the garden was in bloom and flowers buzzed with insects where the light bathed them. He could even smell the moss in between the cobblestones and the gentle perfume from a lilac bush somewhere.

That all would have been remarkable enough if somehow this little oasis was not situated just stone’s throw from a large tightly bound wooden crate. The edges of their tea garden reality didn’t reach to the crate; it stood in solemn stark white silence with one notable oddity. It sat under a tree laden with large yellow fruit.
She picked up her saucer and stirred her tea, that eyebrow still perilously arced above her critical eye as she turned her head slightly toward the crate just opposite them.

“I don’t really understand what she sees in him.”

His smile faded.  He knew they were bound to get to that but he had been hoping they could enjoy their surroundings a bit more. He was rather enjoying it himself. It had been a very long time indeed. And never in a garden such as this.

“Dear,” he let whatever passed for Vox in this place sweeten his words, “it is for her to decide. You know that.”

She set the saucer back down, the china clinking loudly. “Well, I don’t see why he gets to rearrange the furniture." She then swooped in with steely utensils for a scone with clotted cream, slapping the cream onto her plate. “And what’s our lemon tree doing there outside instead of in the greenhouse? Traitorous fruit!”

He leaned forward and covered her hand clutching the knife as she struggled to control the emotions all over her face. It had been a long time that she had been bottled up inside and she, of course, wanted to run about freely across the whole of the estate. But knowing her, she would try running things as soon as any measure of freedom was realized.

That was why he had long ago taken her to the basement, to the darkest corner of that forbidding place and shown her who dwelled there.  When she had recovered from the shock and asked him how it had happened, he had had to explain the danger of too many memories kept too close to the surface without rules. It would drive her mad.

As was often the case, his tenderness toward her made her more vulnerable and gave rise to glistening eyes. “It’s not fair. I haven’t had any time with her. I want to speak with her. I have so much to tell her.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a handkerchief. But as she looked up at him, he moved closer and brushed the tears from her cheek with his thumb, cupping her face. She smiled meekly and covered his hand with her own.

Then he watched her eyes turn calculating and steeled himself against the barbed comment that was to come.

“Dan never got to rearrange the furniture. He never even got into the house.”

He pulled his hand away and sat back with a shake of his head. She was just starting on this topic, if history was to prove. “Darcie…”

She picked up a napkin and dabbed at her eyes. “Dan never even recognized our existence. Ridiculous soulless man! To think he’s raising our daughter without supervision. Poor child probably doesn’t even know what real tea is!” She snapped the napkin as punctuation.

“Exactly my point, love. She is living her life. We must let her do that. It is her lifetime. We must stand at the ready and be prepared when she needs us.” The words were direct but necessary. Darcie knew the dangers, had seen the results, and completely agreed with the compromise. She just needed reminding from time to time.

“I know my duty. I am prepared.” Darcie shot him a steely look. “Do you think I comb through every article we’ve ever read and have written whole books full of hypotheses just to pass the time?” Her face softened in a way he loved to watch. She smiled sheepishly. “Well, I suppose I do. Mostly.” The sheep turned to wolf.

“We’ve found other ways to pass the time here. Can we not enjoy this brilliant day as well as our tea?” he asked fervently. Then, with a bit of a sulk, he added. “I’m beginning to think you grow tired of me, old decrepit thing that I am.”

She could arc an eyebrow just as well as he. “I’ll not let you derail my thoughts to that particular…bend.” Her eyes gainsaid her words.

The growing light hadn’t yet reached through the canopy of leaves above them but a few dapples of it fell upon his face, warming his cheek. They exchanged a smile knowing there was no hurry here; other dalliances could wait until after tea. He leaned his head back, hopeful. 

“We do enjoy our time together here, don’t we?” he asked her.

“Oh yes, Val, I’ll never disparage that.” She went back to her tea, sipping at it.

Confident in her admission, he pressed on. “Things are in motion. Great change is coming. She will need both of us again very soon, I feel. This puzzle he presents will require our full facilities.”

She stopped mid-sip, pulling the tea cup from her lips. “A puzzle indeed. But first some things need to be set aright.”

Valerian tilted his head at Darcie, wondering what she was on about now with that wicked smart schoolmarm look on her face. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Leave it to you to forget that the foundations of scientific inquiry are based on fact. I’ll put it down to your romantic sensibilities.” He laughed at that. She set down her tea and began straightening the silverware. He admired how her hands had to absentmindedly fiddle as she worked out a problem.

When she continued, the jilted scientist was back. “In fundamental ways, she has constructed her own memories despite us. It’s easy for you to say to wait patiently when I’m the one who has to dodge her constructed simulacra of me floating around the halls like forgetful ghosts, mute about the truth of things. You don’t even appear to her at all here, just a shadow that falls in corners and down hallways that she avoids, a page in that book that terrifies her. It’s all fine for us to try and ignore her altogether until I stumble into her direct thinking and have to stand by helplessly while you jump into the nearest cupboard to avoid being seen. What help can we provide her when she disremembers so much? No, we must air out these halls before she can access the library or all her theories will be based on error.”

Jilted was right. But adored as well. Protective to the last. Of him. He sat in awe of it, how this other self could be readying to wage a campaign of clarification on his behalf. He even saw her nostrils flare as she grabbed hold of a knife and struck at the heart of the scone as if to emphasize. It made him worry a little over what she might do, what ripples of recollection might break through to the surface.

“You have forgotten, dearest, she has come to believe you murdered me!” Darcie continued with zeal. “And that cannot stand!”

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DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: Housecleaning

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , on January 14, 2011 by vampirony

Didn’t know what happened to me, my mind was all a jumble. I had to get out of there, head bursting suddenly with places and faces and none of it made sense as to why. I grabbed the lemons. At the time, didn’t know why, just seemed important.

Grabbed the kid’s jacket and out fell the Book. Old, worn, leather, excellent craftsmanship. Fingers brushed it as if familiar. All went quiet in my mind and I remembered one singular memory: My heart in anguish as I wandered the desert alone at night. Something about blood in the sand. But the memory teased me, wouldn’t come back fully formed and the moment my skin broke contact with the book, the torrent of other lives began knocking around in my head again like so many rubber balls.

I stuffed the lemons in the pockets and I fled. Couldn’t remember how I’d wound up in such a desperate state but my impulse was to go to ground, get to the safety of my lair, try to stop the tempest in the teacup that was my skull.

I flew out of there. I never do that, not with such abandon. One moment I was standing at the doorway, the next I was at my balcony. The speed at which I had traveled only served to create more confusion but I had enough current presence of mind to push the door open and get inside.

I made my way directly to my study, pulling all my books off the shelf, aimlessly. I couldn’t focus on what I wanted but I kept searching. There was an annoying chirping coming from my pocket. I took out this cold piece of black, vibrating plastic, held it out in front of me. I closed my eyes for a moment. The memory of it was there, being pummeled by strange and grandiose vistas, snowy mountains stretching high into the sky, buildings clinging to these pillars. I pushed the mountains away, recoiled from the sands, antlers trimmed in fur and lace, dread and more dread, the smell of jasmine in her hair…

Calm returned. I opened my eyes. “Cell phone,” I spoke out loud.

The words on the screen said Morena. My brain remembered what the phone was and vaguely who Morena was but also did not want to currently pursue it. I finger hit a button to silence the machine and I looked back to the shelves of books. It looked much like the reception area mess.

The sense of now was returning to me. I wanted one of my journals which all seemed to stubbornly remain intact on their shelf. Volume One: mostly my human life and as much as I could remember of how I became Vampire. Volume Two: My wanderings throughout Europe and Asia. Volume Three: My life in the New World. My fingers went between Volumes One and Two. There was a gap of time in my recollections between the first two volumes. It could have been caused by folding memories too deeply or some injury which had taken me some time to recover from while I wandered.

But a new explanation dawned as keenly as the memory of anguish felt so deeply upon touching familiar pages of another book that looked exactly like mine. She laid here, between these volumes, the memory of her so fraught with peril that I had sought to wipe it out of existence. I had folded her away without talisman or gesture so that as I aged and folded more memories on top of her, she would be compressed into nothingness, out of my reach. Or so I had thought.

I had never once considered that the gift of a book of mine long ago would have undone centuries of forgetting. That a simple caress would replace the folding gesture that had become reflex and second nature to me. And that’s why I had run. I was not ready for any of this. The first memory to rise up out of the abyss was that of tormented loss. And with it, an insatiable panic.

Vessels within my chest contracted and when I placed a hand there, I found it covered in blood. Glancing down, I remembered the fight with her Halfling. My flight had exacerbated the injuries to full wounds that now needed attention. I stuffed a hand into my pocket, bringing out the lemon. I let my nails grow to pierce the rind and then stretched back my head, squeezing the juice into my open mouth.

Radiant light roared inside my mind before I blinked into darkness.

When I came to later, I was lying on the floor. As I shifted up to my elbows, I noticed my chest had started to heal. In all my vampire life, I could never remember healing from anything other than blood. I repeated the same with the other lemon, went lights out again.

This time, there was a brief smile of a memory there for me right before I awakened. A curve of skin. A dimple. My chest had completely healed and was now itchy with scar tissue. Scars. It felt so odd to have scars. I scratched and instantly drew blood from the purple skin. The panic began to grow. I had closed off this part of my life long ago; the muscles needed to tend to it had atrophied.

The cell phone chirped again. A message.

R u alright. U left ur shirt.

I laid my head back on the floor. She’d liked that shirt. I’d caught her eying it with keen, unprofessional interest. The panic began to ease, if just enough to let me breathe. I focused on my breath and somewhere, underneath layers of memories, I heard her voice, soft in volume but firm in belief: It’s going to be alright. I’m here to help you.

Hours have passed and I’m scribing again, sorting through the memories that have been unsettled. Some of them force me to reread my journal to fold them back but some, I leave open to me, questions suddenly raised all over again. If I cannot trust my own memories, than what does this immortal life amount to?

One thing is certain: her book is no ordinary tome. It was crafted from the best leather, lovingly made by hand with sycamore maple and vellum, the pages imbued with ink in a special process that allowed the scribe to bring the ink to rise up from the page rather than just adding ink on top of it. There was more than a little magic folded into the making of that book, straddling the edge of alchemy and science. It was intended to hold memories.

And as certain as I am that I crafted that book for her, I am unable to remember who she was to me except to know that her memory is a void in my own history. And whatever ancient science enabled the peculiar abilities of these books of mine, it was past to me from her.

She taught me to read. She taught me to write. She taught me to fold my memories. Something as simple as her mere gesture, one that I had repeated ever since in my own folding process, had broken open a torrent of disconnected memories that had been carefully stored away.

My powers were changing, manifesting in strange ways that threatened everything I had known for years. There was no telling how the Conclave would react to these daylight abilities, usually only reserved for our South American relations. There was heightened Vampire activity in the area that needed to be handled. Valerian and his dealings with the Conclave were becoming ever more complicated and tense.

But this woman held more power over me than I ever allowed anyone anymore and that frightened me more than all the rest.

It sent my pulse hammering. And I think I secretly liked it.