Well, after crafting the basic idea for a reboot, I decided to develop it. It is both a reboot and a running commentary on the old series. And the characters are aware of the soap opera, which aired BEFORE their stories started. The assumed that it was a nasty practical joke by Count Petofi (Or rather Baron Orczy as he is known in this reality)
"You going on vacation to Maine? To visit your strange relatives?"
"David, that joke was funny the first ten times you said it. " Ellie Collins said "And If we are talking about relatives you might as well talk about Cousin Susan at the Senate"
"Senators are not as much fun as vampires and witches." David answered.
"There are plenty of weird and evil doings at the Senate"
That conversation came back to her as she drove her car towards the Acadia National Park. She could claim that it did not matter now, but as a child, growing around the hysteria of that weird soap opera, and sharing the last name of that family, she had had her share of nightmares and mockery.
And she had not yet gotten over it…
Maybe she had other issues to work out, and her discomfort at the mention of an old TV show was merely the excuse she gave to herself…
…. I should have gone West, she thought. Except that it was too hot there, while the temperature in Maine tended to be more pleasant. And there was plenty of lobster…
For God's sake, she chided herself, isn't it about time she got over that childish dislike? Yes, it has bothered her as a child, but to carry it on now that she was professional?
It was time that she confronted it and saw how silly it all was.
There was a sign on the road "Benchleytown 5 miles". She pulled her guide for more information. Benchleytown had once been a shipbuilding town and shipping port of some importance. Now it was a shadow of its former self, supporting itself by fishing, maple syrup extraction, and tourism. There were several nice restaurants, a couple of bed and breakfasts, and an "historic inn" with lectures and recreations. She was intrigued. She called the number on her cell phone and was told that they had vacancies.
She would go there. She would laugh at her fancies, and look at the real Maine history, and return a saner person.
The inn was well lit, with several parked cars. Nothing ominous about that. She went to the check-in desk and was greeted by a pleasant woman who looked somewhat familiar. She gave her the room key while pointing out all the historic background she might enjoy.
"And we got the lecture after dinner. A journey back to the glory days of Benchleytown"
She enjoyed the seafood dinner, though she wished they used more spices…. Probably more authentic, but still, not up to Italian standards. She joined the other guests, who chatted up the place. Somehow the conversation drifted to the remaining Benchleys, the remnants of what had been once the local aristocracy. "Just imagine, the old brother and sister living all alone in that decaying mansion" "Well, her daughter could not take it anymore. She married and moved into town." "And his son, which I understand was quite a troublemaker?" "In school. Comes for the holidays. But again, he does not stay long"
The lady at the desk came in. "And now our featured speaker. Mr. Amos Benchley, our historical reenactor, who will tell us of what Benchleytown used to be."
Mr. Benchley came in, dressed in period clothing. There was a strange magnetism to him. He went on the founding of the town, and the shipbuilding dynasty that had sprung for it. "Benchley ships went all over the globe, trading wherever they went."
And this… he continued ominously was what brought the downfall. Because what they traded were slaves. "It was called the triangular trade. Buy slaves for the sugar fields. Buy molasses from the sugar fields for the distilleries. Buy rum from the distilleries for the slave traders. Yes, the Benchleys grew rich from those. Alas, it was said that one of those slaves had certain powers, and he cursed them. Not long afterwards several Benchley's were killed, and the survivors were informed of why destruction came to them. The survivors wanted to buy the forgiveness, so they began supporting anti-slavery groups, first the manumission societies, then the abolitionists. They fought in the Civil War. Later on, they helped in the Civil Rights struggle. But while that stopped the violent killings, it did not stop the slow decay that took them on. There they stand, a shadow of their former selves, contemplating a past that dooms their future."
"You seem to have escaped." Someone commented.
"Have I really? I never married, had children. My line ends with me. And whatever future Dinah and Charlie have must be away from the Benchley mansion."
He continued, recounting the Revolutionary War, and the Benchleys that fought in it. He talked about those old battles as if they were still happening.
He continued for a whole hour, entrancing his audience. Between his voice, and his vivid eyes you could get lost in the narration and believe yourself in those days.
Then he finished, and left, quickly before anyone could ask him questions. It was so sudden as if he had vanished.
It was truly impressive, and the mood changed, there were still jokes, but they seemed forced. The people had been sent back to the end of the eighteenth century, and the tragedies that happened, and it was hard for them to return.
Ellie's eyes fell on the portrait – Amos Benchley in period costume, she thought…. But it looked so much in the style of that period "Is that him or his ancestor?" she asked.
"What do you think?" the manager – her nametag said Wendy Carruthers.
"Well, it might be his ancestor, the painting looks old"
Mrs. Carruthers nodded knowingly. "Mr. Benchley returned from England about six years ago. Retired, he said… and wanted to know the place his ancestor came from…His ancestor had gotten into a family fight and was shipped out by his family… he was disinherited too… Now his descendant is with us."
Then someone had to say it. "It feels like Dark Shadows, doesn't it?"
Mrs. Carruthers grinned. "That's what we want it to be like. A unique experience. But we are not the Collinses and the rest of them. I guess we could be if we were a bunch of idiots, but we are not."
She then talked of more mundane matters to dispel the mood. Mrs. Carruthers was a personable young woman whose easy manner did not conceal her efficiency.
Ellie was still caught in the mood – but accepted the reassurances.
"Nice tourist trap" a voice said to her.
Ellie turned. "I am sorry. Are you talking to me?"
"Do not take it too seriously." The woman said. "Sorry, I must introduce myself. I am Beverly Eagleton, the local historian. I am trying to get battle reenactments off the ground… I wanted this inn to be more authentic, but Mrs. Carruthers said that tourists do not want history lessons, but sensation. She remembered the soap opera, and when Amos Benchley came, the idea came to her to make it this way. Not blatant, but enough to make it interesting…. Alas… no one cares for historical truth."
They talked for a while, Mrs. Eagleton had a lot of interesting details to tell about the town, and there had been quite an amount of truth to Benchley's tale, once the more extravagant details were omitted.
"I insisted on it. No anachronisms no obvious mistakes."
"Not like in the show."
"No. Imagine sending Josette shopping to Paris in 1794. In the middle of the Terror. The Great Terror, when they completely dispensed with defense lawyer. Show up at the Revolutionary Tribunal and be automatically sent to the guillotine. Not a place for an aristocrat to go shopping. I do NOT allow this kind of stupidity here."
"So, what was the real story? Why are then Benchleys in decline, if not a curse?"
"Bad business judgement. They were shipbuilder at a time when Maine forests gave them plenty of cheap building material. But then ships were built in steel – leaving wood for small boats only. It was a time to diversify, but the Benchleys then did not have the business acumen to do it. So, their shipbuilding began to lose money and they had to retrench. At least they had the sense to start a cannery. And when you go through a bad economic time, personal problems and personal bad decisions have more grave consequences…. Well, so we are today. Canning and tourism…"
"And Amos Benchley's ancestor? Why did he leave for England?"
"And old story. A man brings in a new bride, much younger than himself, and in the household; there is a male relative more or less her same age. Same old story. Paolo and Francesca. Pelleas and Melisande, Tristan and Isolde…"
"Suspected affair. Enough for the Jacob Benchley to disinherit his nephew Amos and ship him off to England"
"And there were killings at the time."
"A fortune hunter had married into the family and began removing the impediments to his bride's inheritance. Fortunately, he was killed before he could finish the job. "
"Good old-fashioned greed. Nothing supernatural about it."
"You got it."
Ellie stayed a bit longer, then decided she wanted to sleep. As she went up, Beverly went to Wendy. "She seems to take it too seriously." She said.
"I guess that with her last name, she would"
"Nothing that a good sleep cannot handle" Beverly answered, as she nodded towards Amos, who was sitting in a darkened corner, having changed into everyday clothes. Amos nodded back at her.
Ellie's dream did not come easily. There was anxiety as she moved in strange places, looking for something. Something… Then there were a pair of eyes fixed in her direction. Then it was Amos Benchley in front of her. "Yes, I could be HIM," Benchley said, "If I was a blooming idiot". Then she was in the Senate, awaiting a vote…. And then she heard another voice "We wonder what De Valera will do. He cannot be brought to support the Treaty." And then she was in a strange place, a palace of sorts.
And her anxiety was gone.
She woke up, refreshed. She remembered last night, and how it has affected her… It was because of her last name. "Same as a U.S. Senator. Same as an Irish revolutionary. No need to worry about an old TV show"
She went down for breakfast and went to look at the Amos Benchley portrait. Yes, it was an unbelievable resemblance…. Except…. Except what was that Obama button doing in the background?
"You see it, don't you?" Wendy Carruthers said "Pop liked to make these little jokes. He would pain these portraits in the style of the period, and then add little anachronisms."
"So, this is Amos Benchley, not his ancestor"
"There was a painting of the ancestor, but it was ruined after too many years in the attic. Mold destroyed it. So, this is it. An Albert Pruitt original. I got several of them, if you want to buy one."
"I might want to take a look at them."
Hours later, with a few dollars less, and a fake old painting in her trunk, she drove in the direction of the Acadia National Park.
The mosquitos had been at her, she noticed. She scratched the back of her hand, and her upper arm.
And her throat, where two mosquitos had been at her during the night…
"As you said," Beverly told Wendy. "A good night sleep, and pleasant dreams got rid of all her fancies."
"Well, Amos knows how to do it. And I sold another of Pop's pictures."
Yes, those pictures help with the impression. Yes, we resemble the show. But it is a tourist trap, and not to be taken seriously.
"A tourist trap, effectively. I explained it to Amos when he was not sure. He did not need to chase them. They would come to him, pay him besides, and would bring in friends and relatives later. After all, we all live off tourists one way or another, why not a vampire, too?"