If it was Jana who first invited me to a Vampire Gathering, it was Cat who pushed me through the doors, literally in my case. Admittedly it had been on my mind ever since I interviewed Jana in Edinburgh the other week but in spite of the fact I’ve met quite a few vampires over the last month, the idea of being surrounded by them made me a little uneasy. It felt as if I was crossing a line in the sand or in this case a line painted in the Debenhams restaurant in the St Enoch Centre. In my case it happened completely by accident when I bumped into Cat and her daughter, Samantha in Debenhams. I was minding my own business as I queued to pay my monthly bill and trying to remember if it was due today or tomorrow. For those who know me best, I’m one of those people who pays bills on the day they’re due or shortly afterwards. A sudden tugging at my sleeve turned out to be Samantha who was in town with Cat for a bit of retail therapy. When they invited me upstairs for a cup of coffee I agreed.
“You spoke to Jana,” Cat stirred her cappuccino thoughtfully.
“And?” Cat looked up at me and raised an eyebrow.
And what? The question was obvious and I admit I felt slightly embarrassed and a wee bit paranoid. Of course Jana would have spoken to Cat about me before and after the interview. Security is a given in the vampire world and I am a relative newcomer to their world. Accorded exclusive access but still kept at arm’s length for now. Jana’s offer had piqued my interest but I was still skirting around the issue until that day in Debenhams and now a woman I’ve come to trust is wanting to know my answer.
“What happens at these Gatherings,” I lower my voice conspiratorially.
“We gather,” she smiles, “to talk.”
“Our feelings, how we’re coping in our new roles or retirement, what bothers us, and if we need to get something off our chest then the Gathering is the place for it,” she scoops up a spoonful of frothy milk.
“The vampire nation may be divided into clans who don’t see eye to eye, and even within a clan there are definite divisions, but fundamentally we’re all vampires, all afflicted with the vampire virus and subject to similar pressures. Left to our own devices and cut off from our support networks that pressure keeps building until it explodes. The Gathering and fellowship with like minded individuals is a release valve that keeps us in check. At Gatherings we unburden ourselves, help out newer members, which in turn helps us out, they’re a vital part of the vampire world,” she takes another spoonful of froth.
I’m beginning to get the picture but I am still curious about the difference between an Open Gathering and a Closed Gathering.
“An Open Gathering is where mortals are allowed to attend as visitors and observers. The name is a wee bit misleading because it’s not as if any human can walk in off the street. If you’ve been invited to a Gathering then it’s a sign that we trust you not to open your mouth to the press or the authorities. You’re there as an observer to hear our side of the story and hopefully come to a better understanding of vampirism. Some mortal observers are also Candidates and Nominees, who at some point in the future will become vampires. We’ve found it good practice to get them involved in Gatherings before they’re turned. There are so many negative influences out there and more than a few traps for the Newborn. A Gathering is where they meet different members and develop relationships with other vampires,” she pauses.
“A Closed Gathering is not entirely closed to humans but you’d need to be a Candidate or Nominee to be allowed into the meeting. It’s where we discuss matters of local or regional security, or matters that are intensely personal, although that last one is usually resolved in private. A Closed Gathering can be called at short notice in response to a situation and usually just involves a few people. The Open Gathering is almost always held in the same place once a month and the attendance ranges from a dozen to as many as a hundred, although between thirty and fifty seems to be the norm. If a Gathering is regularly attracting a hundred people then it’s a sign it’s too big and needs to divide and restart again.”
She can see I’m becoming interested and nods at Samantha.
“Sammie has started going to the one at Kelvinside just recently with Tom. I try to get to the monthly meetings but my shift patterns don’t always allow it. I am in regular contact with members here in Glasgow and all over the world,” she peers at me over the rim of her mug.
“Have I convinced you yet?”
Almost, I’m definitely curious but haven’t quite made the plunge just yet.
“So what happens at a typical Gathering?”
“There’s a speaker, usually chosen in advance who speaks for about half an hour or thereabouts depending on the people running the meeting. The vampire can speak about any subject they care to name, from historical recollections to something that’s happened just recently or issues pertaining to the vampire nation that concern them. We call that last one the guru factor. There are members out there, usually quite young who seem to think we older members just need to understand the depth of their wisdom. After the short speech, other members will comment on what the talk meant to them and hopefully add their wisdom. If it’s a small Gathering then everyone gets a turn but much larger meetings mean the chairperson has to ask if anyone would like to speak up. That lasts about half an hour and then we break up and there’s blood for the vamps, coffee and tea for the mortals and finger food. At many meetings you’ll find that fellowship continues outside the hall and groups will end up at a cafe or pub, I’ve had members back at my house many a time.”
It all sounds so normal and I say something to that effect and Cat grins.
“Being one of us isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You could taste your drink while I can’t, you’re not forced to hide your identity but I must be vigilant at all times lest I be discovered and outed. The value of Gatherings is beyond value. We had been gathering together from time immemorial but not like this in such a structured fashion. The Gatherings unite the vampire nation like never before because you leave your clan rivalry outside the building and pick it up when you leave if that’s what you want. Inside a Gathering we are no longer members of the Greys or the Whites just to name two clans, we’re all vampires, divided into clans and yet united in common cause. We are the Children of the Raven and if we don’t stick together then we are doomed.”
“I’ll go,” I find myself saying, “this place in Edinburgh.”
“Good,” she smirks, “I’ll be the lead speaker, pick you up tomorrow at six?”
I swallow my nervousness and nod.
“Six it is.”
To be continued…
When my stepmom’s plane went down a part of me died, Cat was my world. In her place she left us to her friends, the Grey Ravens. Over the years I slowly came to realise her death was a mere facade. When we were reunited I learned the truth about Clan Grey Raven and her remarkable history. Some people will always love. Some people never lose hope. Some people never die…