I have, it seems, become accustomed to the company of people who share at least some common experience with me. They are the people who understand what I am, where I am from and where I have been. They are my family – Gwyn, Wren, Bronwen, Drysi and Eilian; my extended family – Dyisi Valene, Aoibheann, and those who are only with me now in spirit – Faermorn and Maric. They all know me and know of my story, or at least those parts I have shared, and I do not need to explain.
And yet, there are times when I must move among those who do not understand, those who do not know. And, to make things worse, there are times when I would not be able to explain. There will be those to whom my story would be inexplicable. How could I explain my story to people for whom the vampire, the fae and other such beings exist only in fiction and lore? How could I explain the where and when of my journeys to those for whom yesterday, today and tomorrow happen only in strict succession, for whom the past is the past and the future comes one day at a time?
Of course, sometimes, it can come down a much simpler thing, such as the question “how old are you?” Now this is a complicated question at the best of times, even among those who understand. I was born in 1853, by the calendar I once knew. I was embraced in 1885, when I was just shy of my 32nd birthday. There followed six years of travelling in what I foolishly believed to be the real world before I fetched up in the Isle of Legacies, that strange place that resembled, yet did not resemble, the London I knew as a young man. By then, I would have been 38 years of age by the calendar, but, the embrace stopped the process of aging, so was I 38 or 32? Some while later, I found myself in Jasper Cove, which was, so far as I could tell, contemporaneous with the modern day that Gwyn knew, the 21st century, albeit somehow in parallel to, rather than part of that time. By then, perhaps two years had passed, so far as I could tell, so was I 40, 34, or was I 159 years old? Such a simple question, yet so hard to answer.
I had reason to reflect on this question recently. Lacking anything constructive to occupy my time while the Consilium Arcanum’s gears grind slowly through the process of making Awenia an open fae realm, I decided to take to the Shadow Roads and go exploring. The Cait were happy to see me, but sadly there was no sign of their queen, save for the lingering scent of mint. So, after a while, I took my leave of them and, lacking any particular destination, decided to part the veil from the Roads and, trust to chance for my destination. Well, not entirely to chance. My other ability, to walk the realms, given to me by Alec, my demonic former friend, would normally only take me to places or people I knew, however, I had learned that it could take me to other places where realm-walking was possible. So I reached out with that sense, and let that guide me, to see where it would take me.
It took me to a night club. Of course it did. Whatever the mechanisms are that allow me to travel this way, they must be influenced by experience, and after faerie and medieval castles, much of my experience has been in such places. This did not stop me being slightly exasperated. “A nightclub! Why is it always a nightclub? All of time and space and I end up in a nightclub,” is more or less what I said once I got my bearings.
I was not expecting an answer, but I got one. An elegant young lady, dressed for some evening occasion, appeared and said that she supposed there were worse places. I could not disagree, and commented that given my navigational skills, this was entirely possible. Hoping to get some clue as to my whereabouts, I asked if I would regret asking where I was.
She told me that I was in a club, in a mansion called La Chateau De La Rose. Fortunately, she said, there wasn’t an event on, because I wouldn’t have passed the dress code. This was likely true, as I was dressed casually. I promised to wear my tux next time. As to where I was, she then suggested using a smart phone or a GPS unit. That at least gave me some clue as to the when, if not the where. This place must more or less be concurrent with the time I had left. I knew that my phone was apparently a smart one and that it had GPS, however, I had not yet mastered the use of it, despite Wren’s guidance. I pulled it out and fumbled fruitlessly for a few moments before giving up and admitting my lack of expertise with technology.
And then came the question that stumped me. Well, not so much of a question as a statement that raised many questions I was ill-prepared to answer.
“You look pretty young not to know anything about technology!”
I had to admit that she was probably correct in that assumption. Whatever numerical value one might attach to my age, I look to be a man in his 30s, and it would be fair to assume that any man of that age would be familiar with the technology of the present time, which, I had to assume, was roughly commensurate with the time I had left, i.e. early in the 21st century. I prevaricated, saying that as a former night-club manager myself; I would probably not have let myself in dressed this way. She gestured to some armchairs nearby and suggested we sit. She then added a further question, asking where I had come from.
I was still at a loss as to an answer that made sense. Other than the approximate time period, I knew nothing of this place and certainly did not know how they would react to the somewhat paranormal nature of myself and my travels. I opted for a believable half-truth. “Technically, I am about 40,” I told her and explained that I had only recently been introduced to technology. “It’s complicated,” I said, adding that this also applied to the matter of my travels.
She seemed to accept that, taking this to mean that I must have been living in the woods, somewhere off the grid. I had come across this phrase before as referring to people who prefer to live a simpler life, or sometimes wishing not to be noticed by the authorities. In either case, an avoidance of technology was involved. It seemed safe enough to let her continue with this assumption. I agreed that “off the grid” was a good way to put it and said that my daughter had been teaching me about technology. That also seemed a safer option than mentioning I had also learned from a demon that went by the name of Skeleton, and from my fae queen wife.
I decided to change the subject away from possibly risky territory towards something more plausible, like me needing a job, since I had mentioned my own involvement in the night club business. She had used the word “we” in respect of having a dress code, so I asked if she was part of the club management. She was not, but gave me some names – Mitch and Amythe who might be able to help. I recorded this in my trusty notebook, as has been my habit for many years. Then I noticed her expression and thought I would show that I did have some facility with modern technology by getting my phone out and making a similar note on that. Of course, being inexperienced, I managed to set off the music player by mistake, but that turned out to be a fortuitous accident, for it diverted the conversation onto more pleasing matters.
Wren had shown me how to download music onto the phone, so when I accidentally started the player, it started playing the Overture to the Mikado. I managed to stop it after a few bars, but that was enough for my new friend to recognise. She commented on me being caught between two technologies but complimented me on my taste in music and appreciation for the theatre. I told her I was pleasantly surprised to meet a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, saying that too few people appreciated such things these days. I also thought I’d establish my more serious music credentials by singing a few lines of An die Freude. I told her a little about my mother and how she had raised me on fine literature, music and the other arts. She seemed most impressed that I had been raised in a cultured household. She used the word ‘classical’, which I thought quite amusing, as that word might well apply to my Victorian upbringing from her point of view. Of course, I didn’t mention that, but I did say I had practical skills too, learning the craft of building, and especially woodwork, from my father.
I did ask after her background, but I received no answer. She looked to be lost in thought for a while and then departed abruptly without a word. Perhaps some pager or phone message I had not noticed, or some other summons by means unknown. Or, for all I knew, she had suddenly grown bored and decided to leave. Either way, she did not return, and, lacking any other company, I decided I should return home. This place, whatever land it might be, intrigues me, so I shall explore further another day.