Unreflection

Name: Count Dracula
D.O.B: 1428
Place of birth: Transylvania
Physical Description (Photo Optional):
[IMG]

Vlad Țepeș of the House of Drăculești (AKA Vlad the Impaler, AKA Count Dracula, AKA Mr De Ville, AKA The Caped Crusader) is arguably the world’s most famous vampire and had a profound affect on both human and vampire history.A true polymath who lived many lives, Dracula was at various times a soldier, statesman, prince, real estate developer, film director and civil rights campaigner, as well as one of the most powerful vampires to have ever existed.The extraordinary life of Vlad Dracula began in 1428 during a time of great upheaval and bloodshed. The second son of Wallachian ruler Vlad Dracul, as a teenager Vlad and his brother Radu were held as hostages of the Ottoman Empire in the fortress of Eğrigöz to secure their father’s loyalty.Whilst he was imprisoned Dracula’s father and eldest brother were murdered by Wallachian boyars and following Dracula’s return from exile he quickly and ruthlessly set about reclaiming the throne and taking revenge on those who murdered his family.

Dracula’s revenge was swift and brutal: thousands of boyars were impaled on wooden spikes, and when Dracula heard the Transylvanian Saxons were defying him he inflicted the same carnage on them, impaling men, women and children.

Following his years of imprisonment and the murder of his family Dracula had come to believe that strength was all that mattered and his reign became increasingly brutal. Dracula would punish perceived slights or disloyalty with torture and mass executions, growing ever more cruel and arrogant.

When the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II demanded one thousand Transylvanian boys be given up to be raised as Janissaries Dracula refused. When the Ottomans came to take the children of Transylvania Dracula slaughtered the soldiers to a man and then marched upon the Ottoman stronghold of Giurgiu, using his fluent Turkish and knowledge gained during his imprisonment to trick his way inside the fortress.

Mehmed II led an army of 150,000 against Wallachia to punish Dracula for his rebellion however Dracula continued to defy the sultan, adopting a scorched earth policy as his army fell back and personally breaking into the Ottoman camp in an attempt to capture or kill the sultan. The sultan managed to escape but Dracula left a forest of impaled corpses as a horrific warning to any who would make war open him.

However in 1462 Dracula was betrayed by his brother Radu, captured and taken to Constantinople. The betrayal by his brother filled Dracula with rage and he spent the time of his imprisonment plotting bloody revenge against all who had wronged him.

Whilst imprisoned Dracula befriended a fellow prisoner of the Ottomans by the name of Esteban Corazon de Ablo. Dracula learnt all he could from his cellmate about alchemy and magic, desperate to find a way of gaining the power to take vengeance against those who wronged him.

Against his better judgement the learned Esteban Corazon de Ablo revealed the secret of vampirism to Dracula, teaching him how dark primeval forces could be summoned but cautioning him that such forces were not to be toyed with.

Despite Esteban’s warnings Dracula became obsessed with the idea of harnessing such dark power and mounted a daring prison escape, fleeing Constantinople for the Carpathian mountains.

Dracula travelled high into the mountains, braving hunger and storms to carry out the ritual he had learnt of from Esteban. In a lonely desolate cave Dracula completed the blood sacrifice required to summon a radiant being, older than fire and more powerful than empires.

Dracula opened up an artery to summon the being and as his life drained away in that lonely cave Dracula held aloft a chalice of his own blood, and looking up laid eyes upon Her.

Lilith. Babylonian demon, first wife of Adam, transcended C’tan, mother of the fae, goddess of night, stood over Dracula and the cup he offered.

When she spoke he voice was as dessicated as parchment and as loving as a mother’s.

“Vlad Țepeș of the House of Drăculești, you pose me a problem. You have spilt your blood, without the gift of my dark kiss you will soon die. Yet I fear giving you my gift for I see the hatred in your heart. Your lust for power and vengeance has consumed you and you seek the gift of vampirism only to take life.”

Lilith, progenitor of the undead, took Dracula by the hand.

“Therefore I will grant you the immortality you seek, I will make you a creature of the night, I will give you the strength, the speed , the sharp senses, the mastery of form and mind you desire. But I shall also give you an even greater and more terrible gift: to know thyself.”

As she said this Lilith opened one of her own ancient veins and allowed Dracula to drink of her immortal blood. Life left Dracula’s body and in the moments before death overtook him Dracula’s life flashed before his eyes. Dracula saw the face of every man, woman and child he had slain, every hateful, cruel or selfish act he had ever committed. But more than that he saw the lives of every person he had ever killed, experienced their pain, and the lives of every person who had ever wronged him, seeing himself through their eyes. In the final moment before he died Dracula began to see every human thread, the lives of everyone who had ever existed or ever would exist, to perceive how they interconnected, how all suffered, how all longed, seeing the whole of existence As criss-crossing rivulets of blood, joining to form one gushing torrent, and his own place within the flow of blood and history.

Then he died.

Dracula lay dead in that cave for three days and three nights. When he rose on that third night Dracula returned as a son of the C’tan, a vampire with a vampire’s thirst for blood but free from his thirst for revenge. Dracula retreated to his castle in shame and horror, changed by death, he now saw what a cruel little man he had been, and began to realise that blood would only ever begat blood. Dracula’s transformation was sealed when he learned that his brother Radu had died shortly after Dracula’s escape; he had been plotting to kill his last living relative when the man was already on his death bed and would now never have the chance to make peace.

Resolving to forsake vengeance and blood-spilling Dracula survived by feeding on a small retinue of loyal servants, hiding in his dark castle from the light of the sun and his former fame.

Yet around Dracula blood continued to be spilled as the Ottomans and Wallachians fought. Hoping to redeem himself Dracula disguised himself under a heavy dark cloak and begun stalking the night, protecting the weak and innocent from the ravages of war, whether they be Christian or Turk.

It was during this time that Dracula first met fellow Romanian vampire Count Orlok. Dracula yearned to learn more about his own kind and sought out the reclusive elder vampire. Dracula was keen to learn more about the nature of vampires and the isolated and deformed Orlok was gratified to have the company. The two soon became firm friends and it was through their discussions together that Dracula began to form his political ideas about Vampire Emancipation and his dream of all nations, creeds and species living alongside each other openly.

The elder Orlok was skeptical about the prospects of vampires and humans living in peace, pointing out that whilst he and Dracula may have forsworn taking blood by force most vampires continued to act as ruthless predators, and most living men would burn them on sight.

From these debates Dracula realised that he needed to spread the way of peace and self-control amongst his vampire brothers, and he began travelling Europe seeking out his brothers and sisters in darkness, preaching the idea of peaceful coexistence amongst the undead, developing a following and collecting acolytes derisively referred to as “the Brides of Dracula” amongst the rest of the vampire community.

Yet as Dracula grew in knowledge, power and influence more and more vampires took him seriously and over the following centuries Dracula’s “brides” continued to grow in number, transforming from a small group of idealists into an army sworn to protect dead and undead alike. By the mid seventeenth century followers of Dracula made up most of europe’s vampires with those who chose to hunt and kill the living now becoming the minority.

Now Dracula journeyed beyond the shores of Europe, travelling the world in a ship-hold packed with gravedirt, spreading his message of peace to vampires everywhere and freeing non-humans wherever they were subjugated. In Arabia, Dracula led the djinn to rise up against centuries of enslavement by the Alāʼ ad-Dīn Caliphate. In Sweden, Dracula created the first troll refuge. In the Caribbean, Dracula defeated the evil sorcerer Prospero and saved Ariel and Caliban from slavery. In Salem, Dracula rescued witches from the pyre. In Germany, Dracula helped Frankenstein face down a lynch mob. And in the South Pacific, Dracula attempted to free the C’tan Cthulu from his underwater prison of R’lyeh.

Dracula’s exploits did not only make him famous amongst vampires. Dracula’s legend began to grow amongst humans and Dracula realised that the time had come to step out of the shadows.

Dracula had spent centuries living under aliases, hiding his origins, remaining a mysterious dark figure to humans. But now he believed the time was right to lift the veil.

In 1889 Dracula sold his ancestral castle through an agent and travelled to England with his most trusted acolyte Mina Murray aboard the ship Demeter. Dracula arrived at the heart of the greatest power on earth, and began to court Victorian society. Dracula used his immense charisma and the fortune acquired over several life times to charm the great and the good, buying fifty London properties and throwing lavish parties.

Dracula was even received by Queen Victoria, charming the widowed queen, and became famed across the country not only as a great wit but as a great humanitarian, campaigning for suffrage, relief for the poor, the rights of gypsies, and reform of asylums, earning himself the nickname of “The Caped Crusader”.

Dracula was particularly lauded for his campaigns on behalf of the mentally ill and reform of the Victorian asylums, famously exposing the cruel experiments of the famed psychiatrist Dr Seward and personally rehabilitating a patient by the name of Renfield.

Then, at the height of his fame, Dracula dropped his bombshell. In 1890 Dracula publicly revealed himself to be a vampire.

Victorian society erupted in shock, outrage and debate. In the aftermath of Dracula’s revelation many of his followers followed suite and a number of prominent individuals “came out” as vampires. Many ordinary people had not even believed vampires were real and the revelation that this charming and celebrated man was an undead creature horrified many. Some extremists such as Van Helsing would even seek to destroy Dracula and those like him. But others would stop and take stock following the revelation, forced to reconsider what they thought they knew about vampires.

When Dracula survived an assassination attempt by Van Helsing and his confederates, and subsequently showed mercy by publicly forgiving Van Helsing, it only helped turn more people to his side. Dracula began a long campaign for Vampire Emancipation, calling on the world’s remaining vampires, werewolves, elves, dragons and other non-humans to come into the open and arguing for the rights of the citizen to be extended to all sentient beings.

In 1891 a small cabal of traitors led by Van Helsing and Sherlock & Mycroft Holmes conspired to facilitate a German invasion of Britain, on the pretext that Dracula and his followers were “corrupting” the nation and that Britain needed saving from itself.

The German Empire used this pretext to justify an invasion of Britain and with access to British defense plans provided by the Holmes brothers the Germans successfully landed at Dorking, leading to a decade of brutal fighting and occupation. Thousands of vampires and other supernatural creatures would fight bravely and participate in the eventual liberation of Britain from Gemany in 1902. The sacrifice of so many vampires and fae and Dracula’a personal heroism would begin to swing British public opinion in favour of Emancipation.

Dracula’s campaign culminated in the “Midnight March” of 1908 when thousands of vampires, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of human supporters, marched through the night from Highgate Cemetery to Downing Street. The Midnight March galvanised public opinion and later that year H.H Asquith’s government passed the Paranormal Hominid Emancipation Act, which extended most civil rights to vampires and humanoid Fae. Following the passing of the act Dracula would stand in the 1910 general election as MP for Whitby and would succeed in becoming the first non-living person elected to parliament.

Dracula would serve commendably as a campaigning backbench MP however Dracula felt unable to support Britain’s entry into the First World War and resigned in 1914. Dracula was horrified by the senseless bloodshed of the First World War and was heart-broken when he learnt that Mina Murray, his greatest student, had killed Count Orlok, his oldest friend, on the battlefields of France.

Disillusioned by the tragic loss of life Dracula left his adopted country of Britain after the war. Dracula used the income from his extensive portfolio of London properties to establish the Vlad Tepes Award, the world’s most prestigious peace prize, and again wandered the earth, ultimately returning to the new world and settling in California.

Dracula would eventually become involved in the emerging film industry in California, making films under the pseudonym “Mr De Ville”, the most acclaimed of which was a 1931 biopic about his old friend Frankenstein.

Despite Dracula’s hatred of war he fought bravely for the Allies during World War II, and his particular talents made him a powerful weapon in the fight against Nazism, transforming into a flock of bats to carry out night reconnaissance, penetrating German bunkers as a cloud of mist, mesmerising die-hard SS offices into defecting, and clashing with villains such as the demonic “Hellboy” and the Themysciran Diana.

After the war Dracula remained in europe, working for the European Comission to rebuild the continent and heading up SPECTRE’s Bureau of Paranormal Threats under the direction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Following the founding of the Union of European Nations in 1978 Dracula re-entered politics after an absence of sixty years, becoming UEN Minister for Paranormal Affairs.

As UEN Minister for Paranormal Affairs Dracula worked for decades to outlaw discrimination against vampires and promote good relations between European citizens of all species. The presence of a Romanian national hero in the government of the UEN did much to warm relations between Communist Romania and the UEN, leading to Romania’s eventual liberalisation and admittance in 1986.

Dracula would serve in the government of the UEN for nearly two decades before resigning in 1997 to pursue a personal matter of significance to all vampirekind.

Dracula had learnt that in the United States those vampires who chose to continue to hunt and kill humans had coalesced around a single leader, a former lover of Dracula, the self-styled “Vampire Queen” Buffy Summers.

Buffy and her followers rejected the path of peaceful coexistence alongside humans and integration into society that Dracula had forged over the last century. They believed that the path Dracula had led the world’s vampires down had diluted and domesticated vampire nature and they rejected the notion of being bound by human laws, clinging to the old ways of hunting and draining the living.

Dracula believed that he could convince Buffy to abandon her violent crusade against humans and spent several years searching for the Vampire Queen and clashing with her followers. In 1999 Dracula finally tracked Buffy down to an abandoned high-school in Sunnydale California and after easily eluding her guards confronted the Vampire Queen.

Dracula believed his former lover could still be redeemed and he told her how, like her, he had once been consumed by violence and the desire for vengeance against those he believed had wronged him. He comforted Buffy, telling her that as a vampire it was natural to feel anger at the loss of one’s mortal life and resentment of humans, but that vampirism could be a gift, that he had achieved more as a vampire working for peace than he ever had in his short and violent mortal life. Taking Buffy in his arms he told her it was all going to be okay.

And that’s when she thrust a hidden wooden stake into Dracula’s heart.

Smiling even as he crumbled into dust, Dracula’s last words were “I forgive you”.

Dracula had finally gone to his eternal rest. Buffy was immediately overcome by horror and guilt at the murder of her former friend and the revered father of her kind. Distraught, she walked outside into the sunlight, ending her own unlife. As Dracula’s murderer her name would forever after be reviled by vampirekind as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

Dracula’s funeral was held in Romania on August 11 1999 during a total eclipse of the sun. The state funeral with full honours was attended by two-hundred thousand humans and vampires, with eulogies given by world leaders, peace campaigners, the Timelord Maestro, and Dracula’s old friend Frankenstein. Dracula’s ashes wold be placed in a gothic crypt, the inscription simply reading:

Count Dracula
1428 – 1999
Rest in Peace

As a man who spent half a milenia upon the earth Dracula left many legacies. In Brussels and Strasbourg he is remembeted as an elder statesman, in Romania as a national hero, in England as a social campaigner, in the Middle-East as the liberator of the djinn, in the USA as a film-maker, and in France as a hero of the resistance. And amongst vampires across the world Dracula is remembered as “The Father of Vampirekind” who found a way for the living and the dead to coexist in peace and worked tirelessly to bring creatures of the night in from the cold.

But perhaps Dracula’s most visible legacy is the Vlad Țepeș Award. The peace prize that bears his name continues to be awarded anually to the person who has done most to build bridges and bring about global peace, with past winners including Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Hans Gruber, Lex Luthor, Ivan Drago and Khan Nonien Singh.

Voir dire

My first contribution to the  SCP Foundation collaborative horror-writing project. If you’re not familiar with SCP and enjoy the kind of lingering creepiness that will keep you awake in the middle of the night then head on over and check out their site.

 

WARNING: THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS DATABASE IS CLASSIFIED

ACCESS BY UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED

PERPETRATORS WILL BE TRACKED, LOCATED, AND DETAINED

___

Item #: SCP-2055

Object Class: Keter

chairs.PNG

Still captured from covert remote recording of SCP-2055-1809.

Special Containment Procedures: Best practice in relation to SCP-2055 is currently limited to constant monitoring of key personnel and the suppression of public knowledge. All Class A and Class B personnel as well as valuable civilian figures should be subject to constant automated remote surveillance using approved protocol D-11 for intelligent remote monitoring systems.

Recording and alarms should be triggered in response to observed individuals engaging in “chair-gathering”, talking to themselves, or otherwise displaying abnormal acute-onset behaviours. In the event of automated monitors being triggered the nearest available security officers should be alerted and authorised to carry out immediate physical intervention.

In cases where remote monitoring has allowed SCP-2055 to be interrupted, affected individuals have become highly agitated and resistant. As such the use of restraints is approved in order to prevent affected personnel harming themselves or others.

Once removed from the location of onset, abnormal behaviours cease, with the individual exhibiting no memory of preceding events. Affected personnel must nevertheless be debriefed in order to identify any epidemiological pattern or predictors of onset.

Where the process ends in the individual taking their own life, gathered chairs should be removed in order to support the appearance of mundane suicide.

Due to the difficulty in predicting the occurrence, prevalence or individual outcomes of SCP-2055, constant surveillance is currently the only certain counter-measure. Professor H███’s interviews with survivors of SCP-2055 and post-mortem examinations of fatalities have not yet identified any definitive aetiology or risk factors and as such further investigation is essential. Observation is therefore a priority and it is necessary that observed occurrences in non-essential populations be allowed to continue to completion in order to further knowledge of this phenomenon.

Description: SCP-2055 is a behavioural phenomenon that has been observed in ███% of the global population. Estimating the precise number of cases is difficult as survivors of SCP-2055 retain no memory of the phenomenon and it is likely that the majority of SCP-2055 fatalities have been miscategorised as conventional suicides due to the similarity in presentation.

SCP-2055 fatalities are distinguished only by the behaviours preceding death: affected individuals will, whilst alone, suddenly begin gathering any available nearby chairs and placing them in a row. Affected individuals have then been observed to talk to themselves for anywhere between a few minutes and twelve hours, moving around the room and appearing to address the empty chairs.

In 94.3% of observed cases, the individual ultimately discontinued this behaviour and resumed previous activities without any apparent memory of the occurrence. However, in 5.7% of cases the individual ended this behaviour in suicide, most commonly through the application of a ligature to the neck, although exsanguination and self-poisoning have also been observed.

Due to the lack of awareness of their own behaviour exhibited by survivors the only means of investigating SCP-2055 has been through random surveillance of the general population via █████ █████. The first case was observed ██/██/1994 and since the inclusion of ████ ██████ in commercial ███████ after ██████ it has become possible to remotely observe increasing numbers of cases.

No abnormalities have been identified by either psychological examination of individuals who have survived this phenomenon or post-mortem examination of those who have not. Remote recording of the phenomenon taking place has however generated potentially useful insights into the nature of SCP-2055.

Analysis of recordings initially identified a resemblance between the behaviour of affected individuals and the behaviour of a defendant standing trial. However legal experts who have reviewed recordings of affected individuals have suggested that the process more closely resembles the legal practice of voir dire: the preliminary examination of prospective jurors to determine their suitability to serve on a jury.

Addendum:

Transcriptions of remote SCP-2055 recordings gathered covertly via █████ █████:

Transcript SCP-2055-1207

[Subject 1207 is alone in his home eating an evening meal at onset of phenomenon. Subject 1207 rises from his place and silently arranges four dining room chairs in a row against one wall. Subject then appears to listen intently.]

Subject 1207: Yes, yes I am.

[110s silence]

Subject 1207: I understand.

[27s silence]

Subject 1207: I swear I will speak the truth.

[8s silence]

Subject 1207: I accept the consequences.

[6s silence]

Subject 1207: Sorry, I’m not sure I understand the question, could you repeat it?

[4s silence]

Subject 1207: Oh, right. That’s a hard one. I would say that we are the highest form of life. We are God’s children.

[5s silence]

Subject 1207: Capable of thought, compassion, love. We have consciousness.

[8s silence]

Subject 1207: No. No one.

[2s silence]

Subject 1207: I’m sure of it. No one. I mean, no one in the way you’re suggesting.

[286s silence]

Subject 1207: It wasn’t like that. It was just a casual fling. I feel nothing for her now. I may have felt that way at the time but feelings change. It isn’t fair to say that. I don’t think you’re being fair to me.

[13s silence]

Subject 1207: That was just a dream, it doesn’t mean anything. Do you dream? Do you remember what it’s like? They don’t necessarily mean anything.

[4s silence]

Subject 1207: Even if I still had those feelings, I can put them aside. I want to put them aside. I’m a very fair-minded person, really, I can be impartial. Look, I don’t see why you’re dragging my personal life into this. Everyone has a personal life, if being human means my judgement can’t be trusted then what’s the point?

[5s silence]

Subject 1207: Of course I can, listen, you need me. I understand people.

[3s silence]

Subject 1207: No.

[6s silence]

Subject 1207: I can be, I swear I can be.

[7s silence]

Subject 1207: I do!

[4s silence]

Subject 1207: I want to help.

[4s silence]

Subject 1207: [Visibly frustrated] No, you’re twisting my words. I just want to help you reach the right decision. Should caring about people disqualify me? Did none of you care about people when you had the chance?

[16s silence]

Subject 1207: Look, I understand what’s involved! I just want to help. I must help.

[6s silence]

Subject 1207: Please. [Subject A begins to weep] Give me a chance.

[7s silence]

Subject 1207: Please let me help.

[Subject 1207 suddenly ceases crying and calmly replaces the dining room chairs before sitting at the table and resuming eating dinner. In interviews following this incident the subject exhibited no memory of SCP-2055 or of his own behaviour.]

 

Transcript SCP-2055-1809

[Subject 1809 is alone in a private office at onset of phenomenon. Subject 1809 rises from his desk and arranges five office chairs in a row against one wall before pausing and apparently listening intently.]

Subject 1809: Yes.

[110s silence]

Subject 1809: I do.

[27s silence]

Subject 1809: I swear I will speak the truth.

[8s silence]

Subject 1809: I will.

[7s silence]

Subject 1809: A kind of animal I suppose.

[5s silence]

Subject 1809: Different in some ways, not in others.

[6s silence]

Subject 1809: Nothing specific, I guess I’ve never given it any thought. People are ultimately animals. We’re all just clever monkeys aren’t we?

[8s silence]

Subject 1809: Yes, many and badly.

[6s silence]

Subject 1809: Of course I do, but it is what it is. As my ma used to say, there’s no point crying over spilled milk.

[7s silence]

Subject 1809: We wanted different things.

[13s silence]

Subject 1809: I think I see people as they are. I’m gonna be sixty next year, I think I’ve reached the point where I know what’s what.

[18s silence]

Subject 1809: What will be will be. If not me then someone else right?

[20s silence]

Subject 1809: I’d say I’m pretty typical. We all want the same things don’t we?

[4s silence]

Subject 1809: It’s like…what’s his name? Maslow? The guy with the triangle?

[2s silence]

Subject 1809: Yeah, him. His triangle thing says we all want food, sex, warmth, safety. Not necessarily in that order. I’m a realist, I appreciate that there’s good and bad in all of us, that you need certain comforts to have the luxury of morality. Sometimes it is kill or be killed and when it comes down to it a starving man is much the same as a starving dog.

[16s silence]

Subject 1809: I don’t know. I guess I’ve thought about it too much. We can never really know can we, but I’ve tried to live my life right without worrying too much about what I can’t change. I’ve never really been what you’d call a believer, but here I am talking to you so I guess all things are possible right?

[8s silence]

Subject 1809: Ah, good question. I’d say Hollywood, the way it used to be…or Paris, Paris is nice.

[5s silence]

Subject 1809: I dunno, the Holocaust I guess?

[8s silence]

Subject 1809: I can’t possibly know is the simple answer to that, but we all find out in time.

[5s silence]

Subject 1809: Honesty.

[6s silence]

Subject 1809: Self-delusion.

[5s silence]

Subject 1809: [Laughing] I’ll take that as a compliment!

[37s silence]

Subject 1809: Yes, I understand. I am willing.

[44s silence]

Subject 1809: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure and I’ll do my best to justify your confidence. So I guess I do it now then? Here goes…

[Subject 1809 then removes his belt and smilingly tightens it around his neck. Post-mortem examination confirmed death by hypoxia.]

Who’s there?

Originally wrote this as part of my english lit degree, four years and several drafts later I think I’m more or less happy with it.

“Who’s there?”

“Everyone who matters.”

“So we’ll be presenting to an empty room then?”

I give Harry my best cheesy grin and he dutifully grimaces. But I can see he’s building to a speech before we go in. I’ve seen him composing it in his mind as we’ve passed hurriedly through security, up flights of stairs, down the wrong hallway for ten minutes, pretending not to fear fouling the opportunity to talk about our project with people who actually have the power to make it happen. Harry is going to tell me that I don’t need to be here. He’s going to try and be understanding without embarrassing me. He’s going to say he knows I’ve been through a rough patch of late, that he can handle the pitch, that he won’t think less of me. But he’s not going to say it yet.

“You should make the jump to comedy with a wit like that. Fine, let me lay it out for you: in the room will be the commissioning editor for drama Clyde Lundi, his assistant Cecil who I spoke to on the phone, Cecil doesn’t really seem to get the treatment, the woman in charge of programme planning, plus legal people, creative consultants, chair-fillers essentially.”

“He doesn’t ‘get’ it?”

“My impression from our conversation was that Cecil may possibly be a fuckwit, he doesn’t understand The Prince, but that’s okay, his job in there is essentially to agree with the commissioning editor and if Clyde didn’t like your treatment we wouldn’t be here.”

We round a corner and find ourselves before the door. I think perhaps as we’re running late Harry will skip his speech but he pulls me aside in sickeningly rehearsed style.

“You know, if you’re not up to this you don’t have to go in there right?”

“I’m fine.”

“I know its been a rough couple of months for you-“

“Yeah, because I’m the first person in history to…my watch says twelve, we’re going to be late.”

He peers at me, intently, searchingly, I’ve seen him give the same look to his sudoku.

“You don’t have to pretend, if you’re not ready to go back to work I can make your excuses. I mean this project is yours, of course I want you in the room, but you’ve been through a lot recently. There’s no shame in talking to someone.”

“If it’ll make you feel better to see it I can put on a show; wail, gnash my teeth, stop shaving, ruin a perfectly good suit with a black armband. Or we can act like professionals and go into the meeting. I realise I haven’t been myself of late but I’m okay, really I am. This is where I need to be.”

“I don’t think you should go in.”

“What are you gonna do, put me in a headlock?”

He pretends to consider it, that’s right Harry keep it light. Why are you asking? What’s your game? Is it really just that you feel obligated to give me a last chance to back out? Are you scared for me? Or scared of me?

“Okay, okay, I’m not sure they’d appreciate it if we go in there wrestling. Right, we’re here, this is it, we’re doing this. Right. Okay. Come on.”

He puts his hand on the door.

“Time to put our game faces on.”

“I’ve only the one face Harry.”

We enter the room with a definite élan and for a moment I feel a rush of the excitement and purpose I once had on tap. But as chairs are offered with thin smiles and a passive-aggressive determination not to acknowledge that we’re late, my heart sinks. I look at the arrayed grey faces and I wonder why I’m here.

There’s a patrician-looking gentleman in his mid-sixties sitting at the head of the conference table. He introduces himself as Clyde. The big boss. He reminds me of my dad.

“It might be helpful if we first just go around the room and explain a bit about why we’re here. For my part, as commissioning editor for drama I’m here to introduce you to the process. If a decision is made to develop your treatment, and I think you’ve got some great ideas, then I would be working closely with you in the early stages, essentially acting as your guide, along with Cecil and Gemma. At this point we really would just like to have an informal, open discussion about the proposal, raise any possible issues and talk about the possibilities for taking it further.”

Clyde our guide is all open smile as he speaks. Firm handshake, eye contact. Relaxed. At no point does he tell us that he’s the one who will make the decision, that we’re pitching for our project, he wants to put us at ease.

“My name is Cecil, My role will be to assist Clyde in working with you, as well as…and this is of course predicated on a decision being made to develop the project as Clyde just pointed out, though we are all, that is the whole team, very excited by this project…working in conjunction with Gemma, head of long term programme planning, to oversee and provide what assistance is deemed necessary in developing the project as an in-house production; that is to say a production produced via a collaborative process between yourselves and our in-house team which, as I said, would include Clyde, Gemma and myself at least at the initial stage, working in conjunction with you, yourselves, as part of the collaborative process, by which I mean-”

Harry was not wrong in his assessment of Cecil. My head begins to hurt.

“Hi, I’m Gemma, head of programme planning. My role here is essentially to help assess and possibly develop the project in terms of future strategy, acting to ensure the best interests of the network and our commercial partners moving forwards in the long term, as well your best interests of course, part of my remit is to look out for you as independents.”

I smile and nod as everyone introduces themselves. I try to focus. I am out of joint. I keep on thinking about the book in my briefcase, the book that’s been there for the last year. Maybe it is too soon, everything has happened so fast. I wish I could of told Harry the truth: I honestly don’t know if I’m really okay or just pretending to be. Clyde is speaking again.

“So for those of you coming to the project fresh, the current proposal is a loose adaptation set in the modern day, to be produced through the drama department and broadcast in two one-hour segments, working title ‘The Prince’. ”

Cecil chimes in:

“Its a good title, ‘The Prince’ is good. And the bard is pretty big right now, I mean we have to consider if he’ll still be big a year from now when we go into production, but still, right now he’s one of the hottest writers working today” .

“Uh, yes, actually the name of a work by Machiavelli isn’t it?” Clyde asks barely missing a beat, he must be very used to this. I nod. Clyde continues with easy charm.

“But perhaps it would be better if you could briefly outline the treatment in your own words for us, it is after all your project and I’m sure you can do it justice better than me.”

I know I need to speak, I need to take this opportunity, but my tongue feels weighed down, the moment feels wrong and when it is done feeling wrong it is over. I am waiting for a prompt that does not come. Harry talks for me.

“Right, well, essentially The Prince is about a young man named John Amleth whose father is the managing director of a large London banking group. When his father falls from a thirteenth floor window, an apparent suicide, John returns from university for the funeral only to discover-”

Harry pauses dramatically, I know what he’s about to say, he promised he wouldn’t.

“-all is not well in the state of the London financial sector! Looking through his father’s journal John begins to suspect foul play may have been involved, and the chief suspect is none other than the new managing director, his own uncle. As John investigates, he falls deeper and deeper into a world of corruption and conspiracy, unsure who he can trust and locked in a sexually charged game of cat and mouse with his old flame Sophia.”

“Sexy is good, sexy cat and mouse.” Cecil pipes in again.

I cannot stand Cecil and his empty eyes. But the commissioning editor is worse, too quick to understand, to keen to be friends, too secure, too satisfied, too comfortable in his chair and in his skin. I find myself taking comfort in imagining him doing terrible things behind closed doors. What is wrong with me? As I listen to Harry outline the main ideas it is hard to believe they were mine. Did I really once care so much about The Prince? What is he to me? What possible relevance does his story have for me now? The words of a dead man, the words of the people slowly dying around this table. I feel like I’m decaying even as I sit and nod thoughtfully. I want to get up and leave, I want to speak out. But I remain, and I remain silent.

I try to tune back into the conversation. Gemma and Harry are arguing over how long you can leave the pause between the first and second syllables of “country”. Gemma thinks longer than two seconds will constitute obscenity. But I realise that the commissioning editor isn’t paying attention to their debate, he is watching me. Someone is trying to work me out again. Shall we stare at each other across the table? If we spend an hour, a day, a year, dumbly looking into each other’s eyes will you understand me? Will I understand you?

“The protagonist’s voice over, I’m not sure it works.”

I feel sick, it is so hard to focus, so hard to understand what is being said. Gemma the programme planning woman hammers me with her objections, her plans, as if it belonged to her.

“We get the whole film noir angle, really we do, but I’m afraid black and white just isn’t a realistic possibility, at least not for the whole thing. Its not something we do here, it can be very alienating for the viewer in a contemporary drama, people think there’s something wrong with their signal. We are committed to a policy of high definition colour whenever possible and our promos are based around this. I get what you’re saying, but our commercial partners won’t touch black and white, and ultimately we would be irresponsible if we didn’t look out for our collective interests.”

Clyde then clears his throat and interjects in gentle diplomatic tones.

“I’m glad you brought this up, I wanted to t talk to you about just that point. I think we have some concerns about playing up the noir angle in general. Audiences understand adaptations of these plays, but they have to be positioned in the right context…”

Something is being lost here.

“Obviously you’re both very attached to the project as conceived but you have to be realistic…”

To stay or to go. For a man hanging from a window ledge by the strength of his fingers it is such a painful struggle to keep holding on, so easy, such a relief to finally drop. How many close their eyes in their beds at night hoping never to open them again? ‘Eternal rest’ is a gentle phrase to let us know they are at peace but what if laying in the ground he is having bad dreams still? All is corrupted or corruptible. The broken hearts, the departed friends, the thousand disappointments and frustrations and little failures people suffer before noon. The unceasing treadmill that triples its pace when you double yours. How many more would jump from thirteenth floor windows if they weren’t terrified that there might be something more to come? Afraid to live, afraid to die, afraid to stay, afraid to go. It is so much easier to put off resolutions, to wait for the right time, to spend energy in making excuses for the way things are rather than take the risk of trying to change them.

“Does it have to be bankers? I’m just asking because I’m not sure a story about bankers is what people want right now, even if-” Cecil allows himself a little chuckle “-they are getting thrown out of windows.”

“It could just as easily be a television executive.”

Did I say that? Everyone turns to look at me. Cecil’s smile falters. I have a voice after all.

“Ha, well quite, Its not a bad idea actually.” the commissioning editor says giving me a friendly wink, Cecil the faithful lackey takes his cue from Clyde and decides to find me funny.

I must act, I must act now.

“I don’t think any of you really understand The Prince.” I say slowly before Harry dives in to save me:

“What I think my colleague here is trying to say is that there’s some qualities in the original play that we really want to bring out in what we’re doing, and we think a film noir aesthetic could be a really effective way to pluck out these themes. I mean, in a way he is very like the protagonist of a film noir.”

“Oh absolutely, absolutely. We’re definitely keen to play up the connection with the play. But we don’t need to go Humphrey Boggart via Kenneth Brannagh to do that.” Clyde again, full of ideas. “I mean, if you really want to express the themes of the play there are other ways to go about it, to draw it out through references. The company could be called Denmark Incorporated, the protagonist could have a skull on his desk, we could set John and Sophia’s scene in the Tate with them standing in front of that Milliais painting, I’m just thinking aloud here but you get the idea don’t you?”

I try to tell him that’s not what I meant but the tea lady comes knocking at the door. I expected executives to all drink espressos but instead it’s those silly-sounding flowery teas, juniper and lemon for you, peppermint and nettle for you, rosemary and fennel for you. The girl hands them out with a daft smile, I don’t point out to Gemma that she’s taken the cup meant for me by mistake. Instead I make one last attempt to explain myself.

“It’s not about working in references to the play, it’s not even about the plot really. It’s about capturing something.”

I look around the table at half a dozen faces trying to understand me.

“It’s about trying to capture something of a person’s insides, the inside world and the difficulty in really understanding anyone else’s. It’s about the tension between thought and action. Its about mummy and daddy issues and feeling alone in a room full of people and friendship and weariness and dying. It’s an adaptation of that, trying to find a way to express those things. It isn’t  about the King of Denmark, or the managing director of Denmark Incorporated.”

They do not understand, but they want to keep me on side. I will be drawn, from point to point, we will talk it out. Everyone will agree to pretend there was a consensus. We will leave congratulating ourselves. Maybe we will get the call, maybe we will not. I have known writers who would fight to the death over the smallest point, a name, a line, a single choice. In their preciousness they thought compromise worse than murder. But when they stormed out, the knew who they were. One hand would have to be taken from the window ledge to pull yourself up.

I think about what I have lost and what I hoped to regain. Clyde is quoting one of his favourite lines:

“There’s a special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be
not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:
the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves,
what is’t to leave betimes? Let be.”

I excuse myself to use the bathroom, when I reach the lobby I call Harry and tell him that I have to leave for a while, that I’m letting go. I tell him that I’m handing The Prince over to him, that whatever he wants to do he has my voice. I ask him to tell my story for me. I don’t tell him that I’ll never see him again.

It only took Dickens six weeks to write A Christmas Carol…

A Halloween Carol has finally reached its conclusion after more than a year and a half. It’s been an interesting and sometimes frustrating experiment in telling a story in a different way and I’m glad to have done it, but I’m also excited to be returning to the short story form.

 Speaking of which, a new short story will be up next week, with more to follow shortly, in the meantime it’d be great to hear your thoughts on the blog. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the box below.

A Halloween Carol – The End

A Halloween Carol – The Magic Word

A Halloween Carol – A Reasonable Response