Child of the Twilight - Prologue
My grandfather Frank called me his ‘child of the twilight of time’.
‘Sydney,’ he would say to me, ‘you are the promise of a different new and beautiful reality. You belong to the twilight. Twilight is the tricky hour between being and non-being, the veil between this world and the next.’
‘Frank,’ said my grandmother, ‘it is wrong to speak like that to her. She is a child like any other child.’
One late afternoon – twilight was about to fall – I heard the two of them talking in the library in the dear old house in Mendocino. They were arguing about me. Raised voices were rare in this household, but when they happened, it seems to me they always happened in the library. I thought then that library contained the history of the whole world. Now I believe it really did. This time I was on the terrace, outside the open French doors, buried deep in the silky old cushions of an armchair. The dogs were sleeping at my feet.
‘Sydney is nothing but another insect to you, isn’t she, Frank? Just a specimen for you to fabulate about. You can’t reduce every single thing to science or science fiction.’
Grandfather was silent except for a catch in his throat that was the beginning of a sob. He turned away from her and walked towards the French doors. He stopped before stepping onto the terrace, and he said quietly, in a voice I had seldom heard him use,
‘I love her. I love her with all my heart, and I wish in my unforgivable scientific arrogance to understand her being, understand her spirit. She is new, Hortense, new. Do you not understand that she is new? Oh, what’s the use? I am in awe at her courage and her strange perfection. She is a child of change, a child of the twilight of time.’
Grandmother was also very still and quiet, and she just said,
‘Sydney is a child like any other, and I wish, I wish with all my heart that you could see that and would remember that. I have said it before and I will say it again, she is not the subject of scientific enquiry, nor is she the subject of some piece of speculative fiction.’
Then grandfather walked out onto the terrace and across the lawn. He walked straight past me in my armchair but he didn’t know I was there.
I believe he later wrote a story titled ‘Child of the Twilight of Time’, but I have never read it, and don’t know of its existence either in manuscript or in published form. He wrote sci-fi under a lot of different names.
My own name is Sydney Peony Kent. Frank and Hortense have now passed away, but they were the parents of three girls, Fatima, Lourdes, both deceased, and my mother, Avila, who married Barnaby Kent. Barnaby is descended from the family that also produced Constance, a girl who murdered her baby brother and ended up as the matron of a hospital in Australia. In Sydney, as it happened. There was also a Tasmanian branch of the family that invented the cultured pearl. I am unrelated by blood to all these people, since I am the product of unknown egg and unknown sperm, implanted in Avila at her own request.
Avila/Barnaby are an infertile couple. The details of my heritage are unrecorded. Hence I will never know my true identity. I was born in LA in 1988, and have lived in Holmby Hills all my life, although I’ve spent a lot of my time travelling the world with Avila/Barnaby. He is an eye surgeon of international fame, having saved the sight of princes, popes, presidents and pop stars. Avila runs ‘Marriages Performed at Sea’ which takes her everywhere on the celebrity wedding circuit. I haven’t had an education, although I spent a short periods in various Sacred Heart schools which failed to influence me in an educational or spiritual way. Avila herself is a devout Catholic of sentimental nineteenth-century type, and belongs to the global Sacred Heart family. My principal interest is and always has been in writing novels of a traditional kind. I write in notebooks, in green ink, with the old silver Parker that belonged to grandfather Frank. Unlike most of my Facebook generation I’m not a blogger, but I am devoted to Google, to the extent that I named my beloved King Charles ‘Google’. He is always with me except when we travel. I then stay in touch with him via live feed at Linda’s Lodge of Luxury for Dogs in Santa Monica. We see and hear each other, and sometimes I believe I can smell his special mixture of earthy dog, mandrake and rosemary dog shampoo, and fresh bread. I take him for short walks on screen in camera range and he goes wild with excitement. ‘Kmmmon!’ I go, and Google woofs his funny little woof, and off we trot. I have goldfish and frogs, and a spectacular collection of snow globes, many of which contain black statues of the Virgin Mary. Did you ever have a goldfish? If you did you will have some understanding sadness, of the meaning of life and of the significance of death. I have never really made friends with people my own age, but I am devoted to Isabella, who is my nanny from Mexico. She was found by Avila when I was five days old, at the bus station in LA. Isabella goes everywhere with us, as do my imaginary native American friends Aurora Flame and Amber Moon, both named after peonies. Isabella carries with her at all times the black and shrivelled remains of her own placenta, called her ‘little coat’, which she says is God’s mark of her identity.
My novels are seen by some as evidence of my own fruitless search for identity, in spite of the fanciful plots and complex characters. I consider myself not as an identity, but as ‘material’ in a clinical sense. When I speak of egg and sperm, oocyte and gamete, I think back to the time before I became a zygote, and imagine my identity as an invisible speck. Grandfather Frank and I saw eye to eye in this. I go along with his classification of me as a child of time’s twilight, as something new and futuristic. A being from the moment between seeing and not seeing, a creature outside ordinary reality. Avila has given me to understand that this is the case. I constantly peer into the lives of those to whom I would be related, if I were related to anybody at all. Free-floating, I drift along the branches of the family trees of Avila/Barnaby, out to the very finest twigs. There I have found Roland the Good, Cosimo the Archivist, Diana the Manipulator, Rosita the Spinster, Corazón the Fertile, and Rufus the Virile. I am Sydney the Navigator, Child of the Twilight of Time.