“It is a dreadful thing to be possessed, to be invaded by a spirit woman who commands your body and soul and looks out at the world through your eyes. It happened to me in 1778. Pray it will never happen to you.” Adele’s diary tells the story of her domination by an incubus Lynne, a serving girl in a London ale house who died a violent death and commandeered Adele’s body for eight years. Can Adele be held responsible for Lynne’s crimes? Will the evil spirit return and renew her tyranny over Adele’s mind? Lynne has moved on into the 21st century, but the transmigration has left her emotions flat. Lynne is eager to go back to her first life and experience once more the passion she felt for her lover, Jack. To do so, she needs a channel to the past: the manuscript of Adele’s diary, if only she can find it.
A time-slip novel set in contemporary Los Angeles and 18th century London, The Loneliness of the Time Traveller is a story of love, crime, and adventure combined with fantasy, a little bit of Jane Austen-style irony, and a healthy serving of social criticism.
While I was afraid of Lynne, she was afraid of the Reverend. I would not have thought it possible that anyone could affect her thus, but the Reverend had dropped a word that terrified her: exorcism. He mentioned certain tales circulating about a Bristol man who had fits. According to the gossips, a local clergyman cured him by performing an exorcism that cast out the evil spirit within him. I could not tell whether the Reverend was only making conversation when he told me the story or was giving me a hint that he had guessed the true nature of my ailment.
I don’t know if Lynne believed in God, but she certainly believed in the devil and the power of dark rites. She sneered, but she was afraid.
”Next thing, the old codger will pray over you, Adele, and light candles and burn incense, or whatever it is exorcists do.”
She was afraid the Reverend might succeed and drive her out, and make her die again. That is why she was determined to get rid of Percy Stockdale before he could get rid of her. She saw her chance when Mrs. Trescot, a friend of my late aunt, invited us to spend a week at her house in London. The Reverend thought the diversion would do me good and offered his carriage and his company. He had business in London himself, he said. I was not keen on his company, but I liked Mrs. Trescot and was looking forward to getting away from Hinxworth, which had become a place of sorrows for me.
Six months had gone by since my aunt’s death, and I was now in half-mourning. It had been a relief to take off the crape, that scratchy piece of silk around my neck, which reminded me every morning of the sad day which had robbed my aunt of her life. Now that I was in half-mourning, I could at least wear a gray dress – a drab mushroom colour, but better than the dull black of paramatta silk which swallowed all light.
Lynne had gone into a spin of happiness, when our journey to London became a certainty. She rattled my heart and made my temples pulse. The day of our departure arrived. As the carriage left Hinxworth, I could barely respond to the Reverend’s polite conversation for all the stirrings within me and all the giddy talk echoing in my head. Lynne was full of London memories. In the afternoon, as our coach rattled through the suburbs of London and then threaded its way through the city, she was straining to see and hear everything. She made my eyes bulge with her curiosity and my mouth gape with her greed to breathe the city air, foul as it was. My ears were ready to burst, but she wanted to catch every sound, the cacophony of rattling carts, the scuffle of vendors and workmen, people shouting and cursing, the bursts of coarse laughter, the rough talk as we rolled through the poorer parts of town, the civilized tones as we reached the fashionable streets and finally, Mayfair and the townhouse of Mrs. Trescot, who had offered me hospitality. By the time we arrived there, I was prostrate with exhaustion from Lynne’s harangues. She wanted to go to the Bullfrog, the ale house where she had been a serving girl. She complained vigorously of being confined to my body and strained against her prison. My head was aching intolerably. I could take only a little tea and nibble on a biscuit before excusing myself and sinking down on the bed in my room, half-dead. I was battling Lynne in vain. She was determined to return to her old haunts and find Jack. But even she wasn’t bold enough or couldn’t devise a way to escape, when I was surrounded by witnesses. She clawed at the back of my head, the bony walls of her prison, screaming “I want out! I want to look for Jack!”
But only I could hear her anguished screams.
“How can you long for such a man—a violent scoundrel?” I said, or rather thought, for she was a party to my thoughts.
“You’d know why, if you had felt his hands run over your body, and the touch of his hands on your breasts,” she said, making me wince with pain and the crudeness of her remarks. “Jack was the best lover I ever had. I wish I could see him again.”
“He is a criminal. For all you know, the law may have caught up with him. He may be in gaol.”
She cried out. She wouldn’t hear of her beloved Jack being in gaol. She couldn’t bear the thought. She was drowning in a pool of longing.
“I never loved anyone as much as Jack,” she said, rocking me back and forth, banging her head against the walls of my brain.
I am rocking back and forth with desire for Jack. I want him back. Now. I want my old life back, I want to slip away from my glass and steel apartment in the Villa into the crooked streets of London.
“I’ll go to the Bullfrog and find out where he is,” I said to Adele when we were finally alone in Mrs. Trescot’s spare bedroom.
“Nonsense,” she said. “Why would you want to go back to that wretched place? How can you still have feelings for that man? I thought Dr. Worth is occupying your fancy now.”
I sobbed in her eardrum. “But that’s not love. All I want is a fling with the doctor. And that can wait until we’re back in Hinxworth. Right now it’s Jack I’m pining for.”
I was burning for him. I am burning for him now.
I breathed words of fire into Adele’s ear. I made her blood tingle like quicksilver. She did not have the strength to resist me. She could not prevent me from escaping the confines of her body. She was in an agony of fear that we might be discovered leaving the house, but our relationship had reached the tipping point. When I materialized that evening, I no longer worried about staying away too long. I no longer felt like a spirit in a borrowed body, a mere guest dwelling in Adele’s mind. What part of her was left behind in the bed that night when I materialized? A phantom of a woman, with a residue of life twitching feebly within her?
I left her shadow behind on the bed, got dressed, put on a hooded cape against the rain, pulled a shawl over my hair and ducked into the corridor. I made my way down the back staircase, slipped into the kitchen and took a knife from the drawer for protection. A key was hanging on a nail beside the back door. I took it down and unlocked the door. I waited on the threshold for a moment, listening to the deep silence of the sleeping house and the mournful rushing of water in the gutter outside. Then I locked up behind me and pocketed the key. I stood in the unlit alley behind the kitchen, bracing myself against the gusts of wind. It was good to listen with my own ears, to see the world through my eyes only. No need to share the hazy image of the world tinged verdigris, tattered and old in the rain and the mist, and yet I thought I heard Adele’s voice ringing in my head, screaming No, don’t, Lynne!