The Townhouse of Ideas

Dark Shadows Fan Fiction: “The Center of the Light”

The Center of the Light (by Barb Lien-Cooper)

“They didn’t take me as seriously as they should have… because I’m a woman.”

–Dr. Julia Hoffman, Dark Shadows, episode 338

~ ~ ~

Dr. Julia Hoffman sat in the break room of the Windcliff Sanitarium with Dr. Dave Woodard… her friend (who wouldn’t mind at all if he were more than a friend).

“All in all,” Julia was saying, “I think my first interview went well. They, of course, wondered if I, a mere woman, could handle running this place,” she added sarcastically, “but…”

“Julia, you have never been a mere anything,” said Dave.

“They were impressed by my credentials…”

“A psychiatrist and a prominent blood specialist? Of course they were impressed! It’s an interesting combo…!”

“Well, ‘the blood is the life’ —at least according to the old tales of vampires and ghosts I read when I was a child…”

Dave laughed. “A doctor who believes in the possibility of the supernatural? Better not tell anyone here, or else they might lock you up here too…”

Julia’s eyes narrowed. “I have Romani blood in me, Dave,” she said coldly. “I have a heritage that involves believing in unusual things. And besides, as scientists, we should be open to the possibilities of life… and death… and the afterlife, if any…”

Dave decided not to argue the point. Instead, he asked her out to dinner. “Dinner amongst friends is always a pleasant thing,” she said, somewhat mollified.

That night, Julia had a dream.

In the dream, a Romani woman—she wore beautiful gold rings on every finger—was laying down Tarot cards. “I represent your heritage, Julia,” said the woman, and she laid down a new card. “The card that represents you is The Magician. Your Romani blood has made you a trickster… and restless, too, eh?” Another card. “The card that represents what you want is The Hanged Man, someone who is suspended between life and death.” Another. “The card that represents your future is The Tower. You will go to a house that has secrets; a house that will always be dangerous for those who dwell there…”

“That sounds… intriguing,” said Julia…

“And dangerous,” nodded the woman. “Because you are The Magician, you need a weapon of some sort.”

“A sword? A gun?”

“A medallion. An object that will hone the power of your mind, and give you control over those who need to be under your control. Do not use the medallion for evil… but your will is strong. You shall be the one to decide what is good and what is wicked…”

Julia woke up with a gasp.

A week later, Julia was told to come back to Windcliff for a second interview.

Dave Woodard insisted on getting her a gift as a good luck charm.

Julia opened the box… “It’s a medallion that I got at an antique shop,” said Dave. “The owner said that it was of Romani origin, and, well, so—I just thought you’d get a kick out of it.”

“My, my…” said Julia. She held up the medallion. “Dave… look at the many, many facets in this thing… Try to find the center of it. Just see if you can…”

“…It’s fascinating…” said Dave. His voice sounded almost monotone.

Is he… going under? So easily? Julia wondered to herself.

“…Raise your right hand, Dave,” Julia suggested.

Slowly, in a trance, Dave raised his left hand.

“No, your right hand,” she said.

Dave raised his other hand.

Julia smiled a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile. “…Go back to talking to me, Dave… but you will forget what just happened…”

In only a few seconds, Dave lost his glassy expression. “…So… anyway… How about I take you out to dinner this evening?”

“…Why not?” smiled Julia.

A week later, Julia was sitting in the office of Windcliff’s head psychiatrist for her final interview. “I’m proud of what Windcliff has become over the years,” said Dr. Reade. “Now that I’m about to retire, I need the right man for the job of taking over from me…”

“The right man for the job is a woman,” Julia said with slightly forced playfulness, smiling and fluttering her eyelashes just a bit.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Hoffman, but I can’t agree,” said Dr. Reade, glancing toward a nearby aquarium. “Your credentials are excellent, but this place needs to be run by an iron hand… The patients can be quite a handful… I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced you would fit the bill…”

Lord, what fools these men be, thought Julia. “Let me show you something, doctor,” she said, taking the medallion out of her purse. “Perhaps you can help me. See how the light hits this crystal, here…? Try as I might, I can’t find the center of it… Help me look, won’t you…?”

Ten minutes later, Julia, with a satisfied smile on her face, left Dr. Reade’s office.

Dave came around a hallway corner, and noted her expression. “You got the job…?”

“Was there any doubt?” Julia smiled.

“Well, I—I’ve always felt that you could do anything you set your mind to do…” said Dave…

“Well, I had a little help. Your good luck charm was such a thoughtful present…”

Dave frowned. “Surely, you don’t really believe in good luck charms…?”

Julia gave him a smug, self-satisfied smile, and arched one eyebrow: “I think there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Dave… Now, I think it would be pleasant if two old friends went out to dinner to celebrate my new job…”

“Well, it’s steak night at a quaint little restaurant in Collinsport. It’s a bit of a drive, but…”

Julia readily agreed.

When they got to the Collinsport Inn, Julia told the waiter that she wanted her steak rare. “Burnt on the outside, rare on the inside, like it’s suspended between life and death…”

“That’s an odd way of describing it,” Dave said to Julia after the waitress was out of earshot. “Bit morbid…”

“It was an unusual turn of phrase, I grant you… I wonder why I said it that way…?” mused Julia.

Dave Woodard shook his head. “Your ways, Doctor, have always been a mystery to me,” he said.