Twist of Fate #1: A Fate Worse than Undeath?
Written in 1994
Previously published in the Dark Shadows zine "Wolf Tracks" and the APA zine "The Collective".
Disclaimer: Dark Shadows is the creation of Dan Curtis.
Arms outstretched, Naomi ran to embrace her son. "Barnabas - You've come home!"
Tears glistened in eyes reddened by too much drink. In them too, numb grief gave way to confusion.
"But...How can this be?" she said, as if to herself. "My son is -"
She reached out to touch his cheek. But Barnabas shrank from her her, retreating to the french window through which he'd entered.
"Mother, don't. I - "
"Naomi!" interrupted a stern voice.
Mother and son turned in unison as the master of the house stalked into the drawing room, his face set in its usual uncompromising lines. Joshua stared in consternation at the strained reunion he had interrupted.
"I heard you cry out," he said to his wife.
She went to him, exclaiming joyfully, "Our son has returned to us."
In reply, Joshua pushed her roughly away. "This...creature is no son of mine."
"How can you say that? Don't you recognize him, Joshua?" Her bemused gaze swept uncertainly between them. "It is Barnabas..."
"No," her husband said flatly. "Barnabas is dead."
"Go to your room, Naomi." Joshua made a dismissive gesture. "I would speak with...him. Alone."
With a stubbornness born of too much gin, she refused . "I want to talk to him, too!"
"Please yourself, woman," her husband snapped. He had more on his mind than her momentary defiance. He thought of the pistol on the mantle. But it was loaded with a lead ball - and lead, as he now saw with his own eyes, had not done the job. Barnabas had tried to warn him as much, begged him to use silver. Joshua found himself wishing he had listened.
"You should have honored my wishes, Father," Barnabas said sadly. "I haven't the courage to seek that particular solution again. And you cannot know what torments I have endured these last two nights."
Turning away, Barnabas stared out at the night. The waning moon lit the clouds with its surly light. But it would wax full soon enough. Too soon.
"Even from her grave, the witch will not be satisfied with less than her full measure of vengeance..."
He turned back to his parents, reading dread in his father's eyes, love and hope in his mother's. Gently, he said, "Mother - What I am now, you can never hope to understand. And for that, at least, I am grateful." He faltered. "I should not have come here tonight..."
She reached to draw him back, only to have her husband restrain her. "It doesn't matter! Whatever has happened, you belong here. With us!"
"I'm sorry, Mother..."
"But this is your home!"
Barnabas looked around him, at the familiar furnishings, comfortable and inviting in the warm glow of the candlelight. Home... Perhaps, someday.
But not now.
"Let him go, Naomi," Joshua said quietly. Despite the harshness of his words, Barnabas sensed the hidden grief behind them. "There is no place for him here."
"He's right, Mother," Barnabas whispered. "Good-bye."
Behind him, his parents stood locked in their separate griefs. He hesitated on the threshold, but did not look back. If he did, he knew he lacked the strength to go. But he also knew that to stay would be to condemn his family to even greater grief.
He looked again at the sky, at the sullen moon that was his curse.
With a faint shudder rippling through his body, he stepped out into the night.
Author's Note: This is the first in a series of connected short stories I wrote back in the '90s. Most were published in the Dark Shadows fanzine "Wolf Tracks", as well as an APA I was part of at the time,"The Collective". I plan to clean up the formatting on the rest of the fic in the "Twist of Fate" series and post them (or repost, in some cases). Even though these are old stories, feedback is always appreciated.