Huge thanks to Caleb Cade for stopping by and agreeing to an interview! So Caleb, why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers.
Thank you so much for having me Shera. In truth I’m not a man much used to talking about himself, partly due to my natural modesty, but mostly because I have done so many things that you do not really discuss in polite society, not if you wish to avoid a horse whipping or the hangman’s noose anyway.
However, for various reasons, I have taken it upon myself to try and find the man I might have been, so perhaps your interview will be of some benefit to me. Though generally I sidestep awkward questions through the simple, but rather effective, expedient of lying through my teeth, I will attempt, this once, not to lie to a woman.
So, who am I? Well, I was born shortly after the Great Fire that destroyed much of London in 1666. My earliest memories are of the city being rebuilt, the songs of saws and hammers are more familiar to me than my mother’s lullabies. I was brought up in a strict Puritan household; my father was a teacher and lay preacher, a zealous man with little time for fools, which was a condition he considered to afflict pretty much everybody else.
I was the only child to grow into adulthood, most of my siblings dying from one illness or another when they were little and I recall them only as transient bundles of swaddling and grief. I was close to one brother, but he was murdered. My father did not kill him, but I blamed him all the same and left home as soon as I was old enough, my heart turned cold and bitter by my grief.
I was forced to flee England when I was 20 after losing Henrietta, the only woman I ever loved; I travelled for 20 years around the great cities of Europe. I pursued pleasure and happiness, bedded many women, drunk an inordinate amount of booze and gambled my money away whenever I wasn’t in bed with a woman or dead drunk.
I have recently returned to England after unfortunate events in Venice, the road having returned me to whence my travels began for I have nowhere left to run. My journey has turned out to have been nought but a grand debauched carousel, upon which I found only loneliness and a deep sense of despair at the man I have become, a man who lives behind a mask, who has no substance or purpose and who has wasted every opportunity he has received.
There was no grand plan in returning to London, the road simply brought my home, perhaps it has always been bringing me home. All I knew was that I could not continue as I had, if there was any idea behind my return, and if there was it was only of the very vaguest kind, it was to find the man I might have been if my brother had not been murdered, if my heart had not been broken, a grand old house had not burned in the snow and I had not run into the night to become a thief hiding behind a charmer’s mask.
Instead I came home and found monsters, mad men and, possibly, redemption.
Many people after meeting you claim that you’re a thief, womanizer, drunkard, gambler, and . . . well other unpleasant things. What do you have to say to those claims?
Hmm, this is where I have to be honest isn’t it? Ah, lying is so much easier…
By the time people realised my true nature, the road had usually taken me away again, so I rarely got to hear those accusations. Though when I did it was from some outraged husband/brother/father that was rather keen to run me thorough or beat me to a bloody pulp. In such circumstances I found a fast horse to be of more use than a debate over my good name.
However, now that you put it to me so boldly, I cannot deny any of those things… and worse besides, but they are matters I only discuss before the jury of my own conscience.
For people who don’t know him, who exactly is The King of Winter?
When I was a little boy my brother told me stories of distant fantastical lands, of dragons, heroic knights and beautiful princess.’ The stories I always recalled most vividly however were the ones he had told me about Jack Frost, the King of the Winter. Each year he would venture out from his castle built of storms to ride the north wind, bringing the night and the cold with him. He came in search of bad children to steal away to his kingdom that was forever cold and dark and bound by ice. My brother would often tell this story when we shivered together in bed trying to keep warm, for our house was always very cold in the winter. He would whisper how you could always tell if Jack had been peering into the house looking for naughtiness, for his frozen breath would remain upon the windowpane as crystals of ice.
I used to cuddle up to my brother for warmth after he had fallen asleep, afraid that Jack was plotting outside to steal me away for whatever misdemeanour my father had reprimanded me for last. I would peek over the edge of the blanket to stare at the little dirty window in our room, waiting for that pale face with icicle hair and cold blue January eyes to appear. Although I was scared of Jack, my brother had told him that the King of the Winter had weaved a magical cloak, using snowflakes as cloth and the north wind as thread and when Jack was about, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, snow would tumble from his billowing cloak to fall upon the streets below. I had thought that would be such a thing to see, a cloak made from snow and wind, so even though I was afraid, I often tried to stay awake in the hope of catching a glimpse of Jack Frost and his wondrous cloak.
Although I often awoke to find Jack’s breath had painted the window, or snow covering the streets to show he had been about on his business, I never stayed awake long enough to see him. I had always fallen asleep to the comforting beat of my brother’s heart and had awoken safe and sound in my own bed the next morning, rather than in the icy realm of the King of the Winter.
After my brother’s murder I dreamed often the King of the Winter was out and about looking for me, all sly of eye and cold of heart, because my naughtiness had got my brother killed and he wanted to take me to his kingdom of ice and wind as punishment for my wickedness.
He is only a childhood bogeyman, but he has stayed with me all my life. I have done so many wicked things if ever a naughty boy deserved to be taken down into Jack’s Kingdom it is me.
My dreams haunt me you see, still to this day, be they the King of the Winter, Jack Ketch and the thief he couldn’t hang, a terrible old yew tree above my brother’s grave that has always wanted to put its roots through my bones, a faceless woman caught in one last dance or a house burning in the snow. They whisper to me that they haven’t forgotten my sins and are waiting patiently for me by my grave.
Me and thee and the King of the Winter…
Vampires apparently are not myth and you’ve met a few. How do they differ from legends, and do you have any advice for dealing with them?
I have only met three vampires and therefore would not consider myself an expert by any means; you would need to speak to my recent acquaintance Dr Rothery if you require a more detailed opinion, as he is quite the expert on the matter. However, I have been privy to some of Dr Rothery’s work and born witness to the application of his curiosity and can say this; to all intents and purposes their appearance is indistinguishable from any normal person, save perhaps in respect to their eyes, for each of the three I have known have possessed the most extraordinary eyes, so deep, vivid and captivating. Whether this is some physical manifestation or simply due to the fact they have seen so much more than human eyes, I cannot say.
It is only when they feed that their appearance changes, their skin becoming bloodless and mottled with the faint blue lines of the veins beneath, their eyes become larger and their faces elongated. And their teeth of course. They change too.
It is Dr Rothery’s contention, however, that it is their blood that is their most extraordinary feature as it has the ability heal and possibly even prolong mortal life beyond its natural span of years. It is his desire to find this “vampiric essence” that drives his work, but as I said, it would be better to speak to him.
As to how you deal with them, well, Captain Lazziard would say lopping off their heads is the far most effective method, however, I suspect he may be as much of a monster as any vampire, so I would not recommend his advice. In my experience vampires appear to be as different from each other any ordinary person might be from their fellows, so each one needs to be dealt with accordingly.
Of the three I have known, one was a man whose love was so consuming it destroyed everything that he held dear, one was a monster who delighted in decadence and slaughter and one… well, that would be a very long tale to tell…
Since you live such a crazy life, what are some of your fondest memories?
Well, there were these two sisters I lived with when I spent a summer in Corsica… but that really didn’t end very well. You know how unreasonable fathers can be sometimes?
I suppose my fondest memory has to be my brother, as that is the one that has stayed with me most strongly – and led me to have numerous conversations with thin air over the years.
My brother aside, the memories that mean the most to me relate to the only two moments of pure happiness I have experienced in my life. The first was in a room infused with rose scented steam where I lay with Henrietta for the first time. I had loved her for a long time, but thought her so unattainable it had been a torture to even set eyes upon her, though it was a torture my eyes could not resist for she was quite beautiful. The second time was twenty years later, in a dark fetid alley where I fell into the depths of a vampire’s eyes and accepted oblivion, in return for feeling love again for one final moment after 20 years of emptiness.
Both turned out to be deceits and both people died because of me, so perhaps “fond” is not the most accurate word to describe my feelings regarding those two memories, but, looking back, it seems they were the two moments of my life where I felt most alive and when you have lived most of your life feeling dead inside, that is a precious thing indeed.
Many have claimed you’re, well, not all there. That you’re even haunted by the ghost of your bother?
My brother died when I was young, partly it was my fault, or at least my foolishness started a train of events that led to his murder. We were very close and I was devastated. After his funeral I thought if I just tried hard enough to remember him I could keep some part of him alive. Every night I would lay awake in bed, with my eyes screwed shut trying to remember every little detail about him.
I tried so hard to remember him that, in the end, my memory took on a life of its own. When I was young I could see him as clearly as any real person and he became my only friend, we talked of all manner of things, he was my companion, my confident, the only person I showed my real self to. He never judged me, never mocked me, was never repulsed by me. And he always laughed at my jokes.
As I have grown older, my memory of him has faded, now I can only see the indistinct form of a long haired boy, just a shadow of the boy he was and the man he might have become. I cannot even tell where the memories end and the darkness begins anymore, as his form has been so dispersed upon the breath of time.
I have wondered, sometimes, if he really is a ghost rather than my memory for he seems so real and comes and goes as he pleases rather than at my command. Perhaps the truth is that I am just insane and that is how my madness manifests itself. Someone once told me that we are all lunatics, ‘tis only the manner of our asylum that differs. Perhaps that is what the memory of my brother is. My asylum.
I am grateful, whatever he is, for my life would have been even more dark and bitter without him.
For would be thieves out there, what wisdom would you share with them?
Find a better career.
I have been lucky not to end up dancing in the air on the end of a noose. My father used to take me to the Hanging Days at Tyburn to watch the public executions (he considered them educational). I saw numerous thieves sent to eternity by the hangman Jack Ketch, if there is anything else you could do with you life, do it, for ‘tis a terrible way to die. Unfortunately I’ve only ever found one way to make money.
Caleb, you’ve been on the go for so long. Have you ever wanted to settle down, or found someone worth settling down with?
I never set out to spend so long on the road; I left England as a young man because I would have ended up on the end of one of Jack Ketch’s fine ropes if I hadn’t. I found myself in Amsterdam with a bag full of jewellery and a broken heart. As I moved from town to town I discovered the jewellery was easier to dispose of than the broken heart. In every woman I met I looked for something of my lost love in the hope I could find the happiness I had briefly known with her, but when I found nothing I moved on, until, one day, the jewellery was gone, frittered away in taverns, brothels, gambling houses, on fine houses and fancy clothes, good food and better wine, till I had nothing left but the broken heart that I had started my journey with.
It is, I think, God’s bitter little jest with me. You see women fall for me as easily as ripe autumn pears in the breeze; I lie, I cheat, I steal, it makes no difference. They still fall in love with me. Yet I never feel anything in return, as if my capacity for love was burned out of me when I was 20.
So what was I to do? Alone and penniless in – I think – Bavaria. I had one talent, so I used it. Instead of looking for women with whom I might find the happiness I once knew, I looked for women who were lonely, or unhappy, or unloved. Just so long as they were wealthy. I wore a charmer’s mask to hide the bitter, broken man I was and I made them love me. Fooled them into thinking I cared for them. For a little while I made them happy, then I disappeared into the night with their money and jewels. I became a thief like the men my father had taken me to see Jack Ketch hang. I became a sharper of hearts and each day that passed I hated myself a little bit more for what I had become, but I was unable to stop for the road had become my mistress and she whispered lies into my ear, sweet little lies that there might be another woman I could love like Henrietta just over the next horizon.
I know now, after all that has happened to me, that I was a fool. I was searching for something it was impossible to find, for the love you feel at 20, your first love, is something that can happen only once and when it has passed it ceases to exist. You can find other love, other happiness, other fulfilment, but by its nature first love can never be repeated, can never be recreated. If only I had known that earlier, perhaps, I would not have spent 20 years looking for something that couldn’t exist any more. I might have well spent 20 years searching for Atlantis.
So, in answer to your question, yes, I always wanted to find someone and settle down. It was that burning desire that kept me on the road for 20 years…
Any parting thoughts you’d like to leave readers with?
Never tell a charming man where you keep your best jewellery…