5.2 - A MILLION LIFETIMES
They almost looked like any other couple wandering through the Goth-infused streets; arms linked, glancing in shop windows, admiring the view from strategic points during their stroll.
But, she bore a coy and slightly nervous smile while his expression was impassive, unreadable. Their eyes skilfully avoided each other, both feeling awkward although their silence had been oddly anticipated. Instead, they focused on the people they passed, affording pleasant greetings, smiles and nods.
Eventually, having crossed the swing bridge, Cain stopped in front of the iron railings at the harbour. He still had her hand tucked in the crook of his arm, his free one gently covering her fingers, reluctant to let go.
He stood, tall, straight, his eyes finally resting on her face. He could still sense the sadness which swam in and around her. She was tainted but not through her own doing, of that he was sure. He fought the urge to ask what made her so sad. He had an inkling certainly following the incident at the Abbey, but he felt there was more. She seemed to be constantly trying to hide it, cover it up, deny it. Perhaps, therefore, it was best not to pry and besides, there was the pressing reason why he had striven to reach her.
Guilt suddenly surged from deep within causing his posture to loosen, slump slightly. His initial recklessness had inadvertently placed her in the line of fire. A danger lurked not far from where they stood and although he knew not how things would turn out, nor indeed if they would continue, he felt responsible. She had been drawn into a conflict which had begun a million lifetimes before she was born and she wasn’t even aware. All because he had shown an interest. The quandary now was how to tell her without frightening her or indeed have her thinking he was a raving lunatic.
“Something happened back there. Something really weird,” she said out of the blue.
In a way, he was relieved she had opened the conversation. “Yes,” he replied.
“So I didn’t just imagine it then?” Her eyes were wide, a mixture of wonder and trepidation swimming within the brown irises.
“No. It was real.” He smiled, a lame effort at reassurance.
“I could tell by your face you had noticed it too. You know something. Explain it to me.”
There was no other way the subject could progress and yet he was stumped when she laid it at his feet. He glanced over the harbour, pensive, watching the petrol blue water turn black as night’s shroud crept over the town. He took a deep breath before he spoke. “What I am about to tell you will seem fantastic - incredible. But, it’s not. It is, in fact, very, very real.”
She pulled her hand from his arm. For a few moments, she shuffled from one foot to the other. Her hands wrung together as if nervous. Perhaps it was the daunting thought of what she might hear next or something less foreboding, such as her simply feeling cold.
“Do you wish to go inside somewhere?” he enquired, gesturing to the bar across the street.
She shook her head then looked up at him, inquisitive, apprehensive and trying hard to appear calm and collected. “Was it you?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Me?”
She huffed, shaking her head and glancing away, embarrassed. “Sorry, I’m being completely foolish. It’s just...well everything was stationary for a few moments, quiet as if it was - I don’t know...suspended! Then it all started moving again.”
“Ah.” His lips split in a semblance of a smile, understanding. “No, I did not do it. But I know who did.”
She stared at him, unblinking. Next, her brow creased. “Are you making fun of me?”
Her defeated tone pained him. “On the contrary, I am being honest.”
A slight flush coloured her cheeks and again she looked away. The tremor in her voice hinted at a fine line she was trying to negotiate - between logical thinking and what she probably considered utter ludicrous possibilities. “Are you actually saying a person created that effect?”
“Well, you did wonder if I had done it,” he said.
She sighed and looked back at him. “Yes, but I was just being stupid. It had to be some sort of bizarre atmospheric phenomenon which occurs every few years. Surely!”
He shook his head. “Nothing quite as simplistic, I’m afraid.”
She suddenly guffawed, taking him by surprise. For a few seconds, she avoided his gaze, trying to suppress her spontaneous outburst. Pulling her cardigan tight around her and folding her arms, she finally looked back up at him. “I’m sorry, it’s just...” She chewed her lip.
His gaze was intense. “Just what?”
She heaved a huge sigh. “Well, this whole weekend... I mean look at everyone!” She twisted around, gesturing with her chin at all the passers-by. Then with a soft, apologetic smile, she returned her attention to him. “Look at you! This town is a gothic and macabre epicentre, the birthplace of Dracula - all make-believe. And this weird thing happened to everything and everyone but you talk about it as if it was - real, believable. Forgive me, but I am having a hard time trying to hang onto my marbles right now.”
“Hang onto your what?” Although he did not understand the term he could not help but laugh; something he had not done for a very long time indeed. And, just as quickly he was struck by the realisation this was not an opportune moment for gaiety.
“Oh, it’s just a saying,” she explained with a sigh. “I mean it’s so easy to get caught up in all this role-play with the festival vibes that it’s perhaps understandable some people - think it’s real. I mean I don’t, but - some might, I suppose - maybe...”
He smirked, no doubt she considered him among ‘some people’. “And do you honestly think what you experienced back there was imagination? Perhaps a trick of the mind? Cajoled by the festivities?”
She stilled, a look of deep concentration lining her brow. After a moment she responded. “Okay, give me your explanation of it.”
Cain nodded obeisance. “I will. I do think, however, we would be best somewhere less noisy and busy. And warmer; you seem chilled.”
She swayed a little, still hugging herself. Again a silence ensued as she pondered. “You could walk me to the guest house I am staying at; it’s a little distance away but if we take it easy I’m sure you can relate your theory in the time it takes to reach it.”
“By all means. Shall we?” He offered his arm once more which she accepted easier this time.
“So, explain your hypothesis,” she said as they started to walk again.
His brow furrowed and he took a deep breath. “It is not conjecture, I assure you.”
“Humour me,” she smiled, tugging at his arm. “I need humouring.”