Johann – 2.18.7

Content warning: Something kind of like drowning

Johann laid a wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead. 

“Get this goddamn fish off my eyes!” Leonard shouted.

Johann laid another wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead.

“I’m serious!”

Johann laid a third wet cloth across Leonard’s bruised forehead.

“Damn you!” Leonard tried to struggle, but he had many heavy blankets on him, and he was as weak as a little baby right now.

“It’s not a fish,” Johann said.

“Yes it is! I hate you!”

“It’s a wet cloth, and it’s going to help your concussion.”

“Why would a fish treat a concussion?”

“It is not a fish, Leonard.”

“You’re a quack German fish doctor.”

“I am not, and this is not a fish.”

“Yes it is, and you’re only treating me because you’re irreparably attracted to me.”

“No- Well, yes, I kind of am, but that’s not why I’m treating you, and this is not a fish- stop struggling, dammit, I’m trying to help you!”

“Damn you!”

Johann held Leonard’s arms down. “Leonard, you have to stop struggling.”  

“Get the fish off my eyes first!”

“Leonard.”

Leonard fell silent for a moment, which disturbed Johann slightly. Still, it was nice to work in peace for once, especially since he had to turn around to get things several times. 

When he was done making Leonard as comfortable as he could be with his severe concussion, Johann sat down on the end of the bed. “Leonard?”

“Where is Serena?” Leonard asked.

“Serena?”

“Yes, my wife. Where is she?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can you ask her to come here? Please?”

Johann sighed and stood up. “I will try to find her.”

He went downstairs and pulled on boots and a raincoat. Rain was coming down in sheets outside, and enough fog had rolled in off the harbor with the storm that a ship carrying Enoch, who had left for the twenty-third and should have been back today, could not dock. Johann imagined Enoch grumbling and groaning on the ship, and smiled. He could be hilariously dour sometimes.

Johann stepped out the door, and his glasses were immediately both fogged up and covered in water droplets. He cursed and took them off. There was actually no reason to keep wearing them.

Upon taking several steps along the sidewalk and realizing that people would be able to see him, he took the glasses back out and put them on again. 

Johann walked down Broad Street first. He stopped a worker outside the Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory, because the man seemed to be headed in the same direction he was.

“Have you seen a woman named Serena somewhere around here?” Johann asked. “Long black hair, dark brown skin, on the shorter side in terms of her body?”

“Nah,” the man said.

“Alright, thanks anyway.”

“Any time, my friend.”

Johann tipped his hat to the man and continued walking. There were docks at the end of Broad Street that made him slightly nervous after the events of Thanksgiving day, but he figured that was where he was most likely to find Serena. 

A fisherman was calling out the daily catch of shellfish. “Clams! Lobsters! Crab! Bay Scallops!”

“Have you seen a woman named Serena?” Johann asked.

“I haven’t,” said the fisherman. “Are you going to buy anything?”

To appease him, Johann bought a clam, shucked it, and ate it raw right there. The fisherman went back to calling out his catch.

“Have you seen a woman named Serena?” he asked a pair of young girls playing in the street.

The girls looked at each other and shook their heads.

Johann walked out to where some people were jumping off the docks. It was still pouring rain, but they didn’t seem to have any fear, especially a petite dark-haired woman who was swimming further out than anyone else. Johann grinned and took off his hat and coat. He dove into the water and swam out to where the woman was. “Serena!”

The woman turned around, and Johann saw that she was distinctly not Serena. He immediately felt bad, and would have apologized, if he hadn’t instantly been pulled down into the dark water. 

Something was clamped around his leg. Johann tried to pry it off, but he dropped his hands away when he saw that it was some kind of seal… thing. He tried to swim for the surface, but it dragged him down, and down, and down, into a cave at the edge of the land. 

Fortunately, it then threw him up inside of the cave itself, which was above the water line. 

It was a small, featureless rock cave, with nothing in it except for an oil lamp which lit it. How had that gotten down here?

The seal-thing flew up out of the water, momentarily scaring Johann out of his skin. It landed on the rock on two human feet.

It was Serena, wearing only a sealskin frock coat. She grinned at Johann and tossed her wet hair back behind her back. “Dr Faust! How are you doing today?”

“Well, you might have taken three years of my life away just there. I didn’t know you were a selkie. I must confess, I thought you were just Scottish.”

“That’s right, a Scottish selkie I am, and a Scottish selkie I’ll always be.” 

Johann stood up and ruffled his wet hair. “Good to know.”

“What brings you here today, Dr Faust?”

“Your husband.”

“Aye, my husband?”

“He has a bad concussion.”

Serena instantly went from happy to concerned. “He does? How? Who? Where is he?”

Johann pointed. “He’s up there. In Monica Carter’s house.”

“Take me to him. Please.”

Johann dove back into the hole. She followed him, and when he poked his head up above the water he found that it was raining even harder, enough that the youths at the docks were no longer there. Johann climbed up onto the dock and put his raincoat, which was now soaked inside and out, back on.

Serena followed him, still wearing only her frock coat, back to Monica’s house. When Johann came inside, he was barely able to step over the threshold before Joseph, Monica’s son, screamed “Mama, someone’s coming inside all wet!”

“Sir, you are committing a crime,” Monica said from the study. 

“Sorry,” said Johann.

“Go upstairs and change your clothes immediately.”

“That’s what I’ll do.”

“Oh, and don’t get any mud on my hallway carpet.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“There’s some half-naked woman with him, Mama,” said Joseph.

“Johann, I don’t care if you want to fraternize with a woman, but please refrain from teaching my son the birds and the bees several years too early.”

“This is Leonard’s wife,” Johann said.

“Oh. Carry on, then.”

As Johann led Serena up the stairs, he heard Joseph ask, “Mama, what are the birds and the bees?”

Johann opened the door to Leonard’s room and let Serena inside. She went up to him and took his hand in hers, murmuring something too soft for Johann to hear.

“Tell that goddamned doctor to get this fish off my eyes,” Leonard said.

“That’s not a fish,” said Serena.

“Yes it- Oh, who cares. Thank you for coming to see me, dear.”

“Of course.” Serena kissed his cheek and smiled at Johann. “Would you mind giving us a few minutes alone?”

Johann shrugged. “Take as long as you need. Just don’t do anything too straining, if you know what I mean.”

Serena laughed. “I do.”

Johann closed the door and went up to the room he had been sharing with Deirdre. Monty had moved back into his old farmhouse, but otherwise, all of his other friends still lived with Monica full-time. Luckily, she didn’t seem to mind. Johann checked on Deirdre, who was passed out asleep in their bed, then went up to the attic.

He almost tripped over Sylvia, who was clearly high as a kite on laudanum again. Wilhelm and Alice were playing a dice game, and Richard reclined on a pile of blankets, reading by the gray light of a small, circular window. 

Johann sat himself down between Wilhelm and Alice, purposefully interrupting their dice game.

“What?” Alice asked.

“We’re going to steal the body of Mrs Fuller,” Johann said. He turned back to look at Richard. 

Richard turned the page of his book calmly. “Yes?”

“We are stealing a body.”

“That’s nice.”

“You’re expected to help with this.”

“And so I will.”

“Good.” Johann turned back to the others. “Sylvia-”

“Asphsyibfhifvjnbhsuj.”

“When you’re sober I’ll expect your help as well.”

Sylvia groaned. “It’s already happening.”

Johann turned to Wilhelm. “Wilhelm, you stay by me.”

“Okay, Dr Faust! I love working with you anyway.”

Right. He’d forgotten how irritatingly happy Wilhelm was. “Alice, Richard, you can-”

“I’ll do whatever,” Alice said. She unwrapped a candy and popped it in her mouth. “This candy is really good, by the way.”

“You’ll do whatever, and Richard will make the plan.”

Richard nodded and went back to his book. Johann took that as a sign of assent. 

Johann sighed and flopped back against the wall. “Nothing to do now but wait for Mrs Fuller to die.”

Notes:

Fun fact #1: the whaling museum that spoiled the entire plot of Moby Dick for me is in the Hadwen & Barney Oil and Candle Factory today. It’s an interesting place, if very spoiler-y.

Fun fact #2: This is completely unrelated, but:

  • The words homosexual and heterosexual were first used in a letter from Karl Maria Kertbeny to his fellow gay rights activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, in 1868.
  • The word bisexual was first used by Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s in his book Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. The book was translated into English in Charles Gilbert Chaddock’s translation in 1892.

Just some random fun facts!

Thank you for reading!

Monica – 2.17.4

Content warnings: Death, gore, some very weird imagery, near-drowning, discussion of slavery

The Speaker sat on the sofa across from Monica and Leonard. They were a short, stout figure that looked an awful lot like jellified Bird’s Custard in a suit, thanks to the fact that they were only an imitation of human form. Their skin was sallow and stretched too tight, their eyes were like glass marbles that had been dropped into pits slightly too big, and their shoulder-length hair was the dull color of the dead leaves that skirted across the paving stones in fall. All over, they looked like the imitation of a person, like a human created from scratch from someone who had only ever had humans described to them by unobservant people who were bad at describing things.

“Good morning,” the Speaker said. “Duke Mephistopheles. Senator Monica.”

“Good morning,” said Monica. She shook the Speaker’s hand. “What should we call you?”

“Speaker Delta, thank you.”

“Are you… male or female right now?”

“Neither, thank you.”

“Good morning, Speaker Delta,” Leonard said.

Speaker Delta shook his hand, then sat back against the cushions of the sofa. “I understand that Senator Monica has invited me here today to speak with you on the aims of the Shaw-Captains during wartime in America.”

“Do we have confirmation for this war yet?” Leonard asked.

“Yes,” said Monica. God Himself had told her. 

“Alright, then.”

Speaker Delta pulled a folio out of their jacket and took out some papers. “Here I have the general logistics of the proposed strategy among the Shaw-Captains in the event of a civil war in America. We mostly rely on southern plantations for the production of cotton and tobacco, both in very high demand in Faerie, and on the North for the manufactured goods of textiles, leather goods, and firearms. Slave labor also drives most of the South’s economy – they have a deep economic investment in this war. The North does too, of course, because their merchants’ exports to Europe account for so much of the national income from exports. Who was it that said a few years ago, ‘cotton is king?’ He wasn’t wrong there.”

“It was James Hammond, a Southern senator,” Monica said. “What he really said was ‘What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what everyone can imagine, but this is certain: England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king.’” Monica prided herself on having an almost picture-perfect memory. She could memorize whole speeches having read them only once or twice.

Speaker Delta looked impressed with her. “Well, I see that you keep up to date on politics, then, Senator Monica.”

“Yes, I do.”

“That’s very good. Continuing with what I was saying, there have been several proposed solutions to the issue of slavery, such as the federal government buying out all slaves – which would take an incociveable amount of money, by the way – complete emancipation, sharecropping, et cetera, but I don’t see any of them as feasible, and looks America agrees with me, because war is presumably the direction America is going in.

“So, what does this mean for our trade? Well, we expect the borders of the South to be tight in particular, because we expect that if and when war happens, it will be fought on Southern soil. The North will probably be consumed with manufacturing goods for the war, which means we won’t be able to purchase many things for our own trade. The Shaw-Captains intend to stay out of this mortal war, as they always have, and are at the moment considering buying from sources other than America for the goods America would normally provide. We expect trade to be slower for a while, though I can’t even dream of a day where trade among the Shaw-Captains halts entirely. In fact-”

Caro threw open the door to the parlor. “Mama, a murder, a murder!”

Monica and Leonard both stood up at the same time and spoke simultaneously. “A murder?”

“Yes, yes, Mrs Phebe Fuller, the ole’ widow who lives on Silver Street, she’s been attacked, maybe killed! You know Ca’pin Fitzgerald? The old man?”

“Yes,” Monica said. She was deeply confused by the entire turn of events – especially the part where it was Caro who somehow knew what was going on.

“Well, see, one of Mrs Fuller’s friends came in to see how she was, since it’s Thanksgiving, you know, and well, she found her knocked out with an old whalebone fid. She got Ca’pin Fitzgerald, and the doctor, Dr Sherman, and this other guy, Mr Macy, and I followed them, and because I’m very small I got to see what was what, and, oh, Mama! Blood everywhere! I never knew that a human head did such a funny thing when split open!”

Monica practically ran Caro over running for the door. She was out on the street in an instant, shoving past the gathering crowd to get to the front, where Mrs Fuller’s front door was thrown open. 

“Doctor,” Monica said, seeing Dr Sherman coming out of the house. “What happened?”

“I told you-”  Caro began to say.

“Hush, Caro. Doctor, what happened?”

“Mrs Fuller has been attacked.” Dr Sherman wiped off his bloody hands with a rag. “She’s still alive in there, though. Barely.”

Doctor Johann Faust, one of only two of the people in the crash who had been able to move out of Monica’s house for the time being, shoved past her to speak with Dr Sherman. “Sir, I have medical training. I attended several prestigious schools in Europe and I know- well, let’s just say I know a trade secret that you don’t, shall we?”

“I have this under control,” said Dr Sherman.

“I think you should let me help you,” Faust said.

“No,” said Dr Sherman.

“Please, Dr Sherman, let me give you a second opinion on-”

“No, and if you don’t stop asking, then I’m afraid I’ll have to remove you.”

“No police force on Nantucket,” Faust said.

“No, there isn’t, but don’t think I won’t beat the living daylights out of you if I have to.”

Monica should have stopped this conflict. She wasn’t supposed to let the humans fight each other. But, she did sort of want to see Faust get punched in his smug, atheistic face, and she also had Caro with her, and she should get Caro home and away from the scene of the muder. Caro… where was Caro?

“Caro?” Monica asked. She’d slipped out of her grip, and Monica didn’t see her anywhere in the crowd or along the street. “Caro?”

Down the street, at the edge of the dock, she saw a flash of golden hair. Caro and another boy were pushing each other back and forth at the edge of the water. Cathy the doll was abandoned on the ground. Monica’s heart just about stopped. 

“Caro!” She shouted. The boy she was fighting with looked like he was Maxwell, the blacksmith’s son. They were good friends, weren’t they? Why were they fighting?

Monica made her way as quickly as she could through the crowd to the side of the dock. Caro had the boy’s wrists in her grip, and she was slowly shoving him off the side of the dock.

“Caro!” Monica shouted. She grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back, trying to get both her and Maxwell away from the water. Instead, she made Caro overbalance, and Maxwell flew backwards into the harbor.

Monica shoved Caro backwards and jumped off into the water without a second thought. She cut through the water easily, swimming down, down, down, much deeper than she should have been able to under the dock. The bottom, where the boy lay prone, was eternally right in front of her, just outside her grasp. Too late, she realized that she wasn’t going after a human boy. 

Monica tried to swim for the surface. She wasn’t sure exactly what had taken up residence under this dock, but she knew it was hungry for anything it could get its teeth into, up to and including one of God’s own angels.

Walls of darkness closed in. Monica’s lungs were about to burst. Why weren’t angels able to breathe in these human vessels? She cursed this fallen world and tried to keep swimming, but found that her limbs were sluggish, and she couldn’t think straight.

The surface was right next to her. The surface was there with its green – no, blue, remember your numbers – sky. Monica should flap her arms up because that would propel her to the sky. Or, she could stay here and let the blue blackness of the ocean swaddle her forever. 

There was a long pole above her. Monica grabbed it inquisitively, and found herself being ripped out of the ocean and thrown onto the dock, where she promptly lost consciousness for a few seconds.

When she awoke, it was because Leonard was pumping her chest up and down to get the water out. Monica vomited up more seawater than she would have thought her lungs could hold and sat up.

“Th- tank you, Duke Mephisto,” Monica said.

“Actually, you have Miss Sylvia to thank for your life,” said Leonard.

Sylvia Sapping waved from behind him. She was on crutches, because it was her leg that Monica had taken a broken piece of wood out of, and her chest was bound up from her broken ribs. She must have stuck one of her crutches in the water to pull Monica up.

“Thank you, Sylvia.”

Sylvia shrugged. “I only put my crutch in the water.”

“We have to kill whatever that was in the water,” Monty said. “I’ll sail out on the the water to find and kill it. Who will-”

“It’s off the dock, idiot,” said Sylvia. “We can kill it right from here.”

“What is it?” Deirdre asked.

“Bad,” said Monica. “Leonard, would you take Caro home?”

“I had Johann take her so that he wouldn’t fight with Dr Sherman.”

“Thank you.” Monica groaned and vomited up more seawater. “Ugh. I hate this.”

“Don’t worry,” Deirdre said. “We’ll kick that thing’s arse for you.”

Sylvia gave her a shocked look. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you swear!”

Deirdre shrugged. “I thought the situation deserved it.”

“Clear the area,” said Leonard. “Anyone without combat abilities needs to leave. Someone get the civilians out of the way so that we can deal with whatever the hell this thing under the deck is.”

Monica stood up, shaky at first, but getting stronger. She wasn’t supposed to harm anything in God’s creation, but something told her that this thing was outside of the Lord’s jurisdiction. She walked home, only to get her flaming sword out of the attic and strap it to her waist. 

“What’s going on?” Clarissa Janson asked.

“We’re going to fight a nightmare beast,” said Monica.

Clara’s eyes gleamed. “Let me get my shoes.”

The two of the walked back down to the dock, where Monty, Sylvia, and a huge man with auburn hair were standing around sharpening their weapons. Monty had a whaler’s harpoon, Sylvia a small knife, and the other man… nothing, apparently. He must have been very confident in his hand-to-hand combat abilities. 

Leonard came loping down the street a few minutes later. He had a massive medieval greatsword, the kind typical of demons, who were seemingly stuck in the middle ages. He also had a crossbow slung over his back, and a row of bolts across his chest. 

“Is this all?” Monica asked.

“There’s no police force,” said Leonard. 

“Is anyone else coming?”

“Yeah, one more person.”

“Who?”

Leonard shrugged and murmured, “I don’t know when she’ll get here.”

“We should walk along the beach and wade over to under the dock,” Monica said.

“That’s a good idea,” said Leonard. “Do you want to lead?”

“I’ll hang back. Defend the flank.”

“Alright.” Leonard turned back to wave at the others.  “Everyone, we’re going to wade down under the dock.”

He led them down off the dock, down onto the dark sand. Monica’s shoes sank into it and wet her feet a little, since they were so close to the waterline. She hiked up her skirts and followed the small group into the water. When they were all waist-deep and Monica had given up trying not to get her clothes wet, Leonard stopped and whispered back, “We’ve only got a little ways left to go, so listen to what I say when I say it. This might be quite dangerous, so keep close.”

With that, he started moving again. Monty seemed to dawdle for a moment, before Monica nudged him with her elbow and he jumped back into motion.

“Duke Mephisto,” Clara said, moving up to the front. “What exactly is this thing?”

“I don’t know,” said Leonard.

“You don’t know?” Clara asked.

“I think it might be a Thing,” said Leonard.

“What’re Things?” Sylvia asked. 

Monica sighed. Ah, the innocence of humanity and not knowing what a Thing was. 

A pale white tentacle burst out of the water, grew a face, and screamed at them. At least twenty more around them followed suit.

“Well, the Things usually defy definition,” said Leonard, “but I would say that that’s a Thing for sure.”

There was a moment of presumably horrorstruck silence as more and more tentacles burst out of the water, grew faces, and joined the cacophony of otherworldly screams. Monica tried to stay calm, reminding herself that this Thing could not kill her in any way that mattered, and that she had successfully fought and killed Things before. 

However, the humans presumably had not. They stood there facing these horrible monsters, as the moments drew past impossibly slow, probably waiting to be eaten alive. Even Monica herself was feeling the oppressive emptiness of the Things, and beginning to doubt that she really could win against this Thing. She struggled to silence that part of herself, wrestling the Thing’s mental attacks back away from her mind. If only there was some sound to distract her! The screaming had gone disturbingly silent as the tentacles wove back and forth hypnotically. There was no sound but for the quiet lapping of the small waves, and the silence was crushing.

That is, until Monty began to shout.

“Great hammerheads are an ocean fish. They are four feet long from head to tail tip. They live in warm, shallow seas all over the world. Great hammerheads eat stingrays, squid, other sharks, crustaceans and octopus. They surprise stingrays hidden on the seabed by crushing the stingrays onto the seabed with their “hammer”. All hammerheads use their “hammer” to fight and defend but the great hammerhead is the most aggressive (and the biggest). Great Hammerheads have a large number of ampullae of Lorenzini. They also have very small mouths.”

“What in God’s name?” Sylvia asked.

“Do you hear how quiet it is?” Monty asked. “I have to make some noise!”

“That’s a good idea,” Leonard said. “It isn’t attacking us yet because it’s waiting to see if it can possess any of us. Keep up the distraction, Monty.”

“I- uh- Oh! On April 18, B.C. 100 a cheese fight broke out. Many types of cheese were thrown. It wasn’t a very effective war though: most people just ate the cheese that was thrown at them. Some types of algae would agree that “it was a very tasty fight”.  Even though they couldn’t see it, because they were underwater. The fish  agree with the algae. The astoundingly large number of casualties: -1,000. A riot was started to collect more ammunition (cheese) and many shops were raided. The horrible criminal who started it all is Tarf McTam, [23] captured by detective Whodunnit last night. A picture of Tarf Mctam can be seen above.

What in God’s name?” Sylvia asked again.

“He’s just-” Clara began to say, but was cut short by the screams beginning again and reaching a crescendo. The first tentacle to reveal itself threw back the upper section of its head, flipped itself inside out, and revealed that the tentacle was full of teeth.

Leonard drew his longsword. “Kill it!”

Monica threw a splash of water enhanced with angelic strength that way, and knocked the tentacle back. Almost instantly, she threw her left arm wide, and twisted her sword around to bring up a barrier of holy fire to block a toothy tentacle that was reaching for her head. She held her sword in her right hand, holding it up and ready while keeping up the fiery barrier. If Monica held the sword at the right angle, she would be able to keep up the barrier of fire. If not, that side of her would be defenseless.

Monica twisted her wrist, and chopped at the bottom of a tentacle. She leaned the other way and stuck again, lopping the root off. It flew off to the side, and there was another crescendo of pained screams. A toothy tentacle swung down to knock her head off, but she matched it with her sword, and cut it in half with one clean swipe. That got her more screaming.

For a moment it looked like Monica might have been winning, and she allowed herself to feel a bit of elation. This wasn’t so bad! 

Then the bloody stump of a tentacle flew down and slammed her in the side of the face.

Monica saw stars. She was thrown into the water, sword knocked right out of her hand, which made her fire shield gutter out. Monica rubbed the spot where she’d been bruised, watching how the sky spun and how the two bloody tentacles in front of her swapped sides, in and out of focus, mirroring each other. Vaguely she registered Leonard screaming something as he cut a tentacle in half, but then the image of him was blocked by a toothy tentacle slamming into her arm. It was strangely painless, warmth spreading from that point onward to her entire body. 

Monica swore and rolled away. That was poison.

She heard someone yelling something at her, but she ignored them and dove her head under the water to retrieve her sword.

That was when she had what seemed at the time to be a fantastic idea. Some Things had some kind of heart in their material forms, which was a strange weakness in what were otherwise beings of complete strength. If she could find that, Monica could root it out, and dispatch this mortal form.

Monica grabbed her sword and crawled along the bottom, only coming up for air when she was about to pass out. The tentacles didn’t seem to see her crawling under there even when she slid past the tangle of pale flesh into the center of the monster, where there was a pulsating, throbbing hole that she immediately knew she had to climb through.

Crawling through the hole was disgusting, but when she got to the other side, she was in a room made of living flesh. It was only big enough for her to stand and possibly lay down at full length – which she wasn’t going to do – and in the middle sat a sort of pedestal, with an eye sitting on it.

Monica picked the eye up. She cocked her head and smiled at it, watching as the pupil turned to watch her.

She was not supposed to kill anything in God’s creation. Did this eye count? It looked like something the Lord would create, but it felt distinctly like it wasn’t – but it looked like something He might create. She hefted it and tossed it from hand to hand. Had God made it? Had He not?

They should have sent someone with less limitations to destroy this thing. Monica realised that one of her arms was numb. The poison the teeth had given her was taking control. 

She couldn’t destroy the eye if it was something God had made. Monica crawled back out of the hole, pulling it behind her. Why did it seem so much heavier?

The only person she saw was Clara, slashing and cutting at toothy tentacles like a woman possessed. Where were the others?

“Leonard?” Monica croaked. He had been fighting for sure, because there were crossbow bolts sprouting all over the monster’s tentacles. She spotted a form lying in the water, holding something long and skinny. Was that Leonard? Ishmael?

Suddenly, every tentacle turned towards her.

“Destroy the eye, Monica,” Clara said. “Please.

“I- I can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because-”

A tentacle slammed into her stomach and sent her flying. The eye flew out of her grasp, but a harpoon shot out of the water and skewered it mid-air. 

Thank God for Ishmael.

The monster screamed louder than it ever had before. Monica slammed her hands over her ears and shook her head, trying to drown it out. Her head began to pound, until it felt like it was about to explode. She fell to her knees and plunged her head into the water, seeking some release. It did nothing.

Then, as soon as it had begun, the screaming stopped. Monica tentatively lifted her head above the water and saw Clara and Ishmael picking up an unconscious Leonard. 

In front of them was the bloated corpse of a dead whale. Monica and Ishmael locked eyes, and suddenly something clicked. She knew why he hated whales so much. She knew why he had gone whaling.

“We’ll take him home,” Monica said, pointing to Leonard. It was time for her to play the leader. “Get yourselves home, too. Have Faust attend to you.” 

“And you?” Clara asked.

Monica swallowed hard and turned back to the bloated corpse. It was already starting to stink, as if it had been dead for weeks. “I’m going to take care of this dead whale.”

Notes:

Fun fact! The whole thing with Mrs Fuller actually did happen on November 22nd, 1860 (apart from Johann and the Carters, of course). The murderer turned out to be a woman named Patience Cooper, and the case ended up being a big deal because Ms Cooper was African-American, and a judge was called in from mainland Massachusetts to give her a fair trial, which was huge in a time when slavery still existed. Ms Cooper was still imprisoned, because it was really obvious that she’d done it. At this point, however, Mrs Fuller was still alive, and had not woken from her coma to incriminate her attacker yet.

Thanks for reading!

Leonard – 2.16.6

Leonard was good at taking care of people when they were ill. In fact, when he’d been a small boy, he’d had to take care of Lavinia for five weeks after she’d nearly died of pneumonia because her caretakers were gone. He would take care of Richard, too, until Richard’s concussion had healed and he was back on his feet, even if that mostly meant sitting in a dark room reading by the light of a candle or simply being alone with his thoughts, while Richard slept off the medicines he was given for most of the day.

By November 22, which the Americans celebrated as Thanksgiving, Richard was much better, sitting up in bed with the windows open. He and all the other victims of the wagon crash were staying in the home of Monica Carter, the angel, because she was trained as a nurse. Leonard had also been staying over, though he avoided Clarissa and Ernest Janson like the plague. Serena came to call sometimes, but Leonard knew that she was spending most of her time in the sea, which was her natural home. He didn’t hold it against her at all, in fact, he was happy that she was getting to be in the place she loved so much.

On November 22, Leonard had been sleeping on top of the covers of Richard’s bed – with his permission, of course, having a pleasant but bizarre dream that somehow involved the French Revolution, which he had been reading  about before bed. He was torn from this dream by Mrs Carter practically breaking down the door and kicking him awake. 

“What the hell?” Leonard asked. He immediately winced, because making any reference to Hell or damnation on an angel’s property was physically painful, similar to the way that making any references to the Bible or prayer was on a demon’s. He had also sworn in front of Mrs Carter, who was a woman, but he figured she wouldn’t mind.

“That probably hurt,” Mrs Carter said.

“It did.” 

“Look at the paper.”

Leonard skimmed the first section of the newspaper that had been shoved under his nose. His eyes caught a few words in particular – Lincoln, President’s Message, Congress, secession, Union, compromise, Cabinet, and dissolution. A stone of dread hit the pit of his stomach. “Oh, no.”

Mrs Carter slapped the paper with the back of her hand. “Nothing’s happened yet, but I see foreshadowing for what’s about to happen. I think the South is about to secede.”

Leonard sat up and cracked as many of his aching joints as he could. He yawned, and looked out Richard’s window into the gray evening. His sleep schedule had suffered greatly, as evidenced by the fact that he had evidently slept the day away. “You can’t possibly be sure of that.”

“Do- do you remember what happened just before the Fall?”

He glared at her. “This is nothing like that.”

“I disagree.”

“They’re humans.”

“Which means they will kill each other.”

“But-”

“Do you follow American politics, Duke Mephisto?”

“Not really.”

“Slavery has been a debate since this country was formed. Some people think it’s great, some view it as a necessary evil, some people – myself and everyone on this island included – think it’s just evil, and some people don’t care. However, I’m sure you can imagine the friction between people who love slavery and people who hate it.”

“Yes, I was there to witness it in England,” Leonard said. “I was a staunch abolitionist, myself.”

“That’s good, you’ll fit right in here.” Mrs Carter paused. “Did you pay attention to the election?”

“I paid as much attention as I could without leaving this room.”

“That’s good.” Mrs Carter sat down next to him on the bed. “Who did you support?”

“Lincoln, I suppose. I want slavery gone worldwide, and I follow anyone who has that as their goal.”

“Us too.” Mrs Carter handed him a piece of paper with a lot of numbers on it. “The election results. Lincoln united the Republicans and won most of the North, though his win was mostly through the electoral college. It’s odd that he didn’t get any votes from several Southern states – Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, or Tennessee. He only got one percent of the votes in Virginia, as well. Do you know how the electoral college works?”

“No,” Leonard said.

“It’s a thing that’s a big part of the election. No time to explain further. In any case, these are the states that have been supremely angry about slavery, and now that Lincoln’s president, they’re even angrier. I think they’re going to secede over it. Though, Texas might not join in if they do secede, because their governor, Samuel Houston, says that it’s folly to leave the Union or, God forbid, start a war over it.”

Leonard looked at her paper of election results for a moment longer, then looked back up at her. “I’m glad to know all this, but why are you telling me this now?”

“Because you’re in America at present, and it’s a big deal. You need to know about it.” Mrs Carter sucked in a breath. “If the South does secede… it’s going to impact everyone. Think about how much of England buys cotton from them, and how important their ports are to international trade. Or, think about what’s going to happen if America fights a civil war. Think about how that might impact politics.”

“The Shaw-Captains buy cotton from the South,” Leonard said. “But Hell is for the most part self-sufficient. We have sinners to do our work.” 

“A kind of slavery in itself,” said Mrs Carter. 

“They put themselves there, and they could leave at any time. Besides, they do get paid for it. And we have straight feudalism, unlike America.”

“It’s still slavery.”

“We pay the sinners, and we don’t own them.”

“We can agree to disagree, but we still need to talk about how this might impact both of us, Above and Below. One of the Shaw-Captains sent a Speaker to talk to us about how they’re dealing with the high cotton prices and the possibility of the industrial production in the North being halted for the war. We also need to talk about… um…”

Leonard knew what she was about to say. He had had this exact conversation with Harriet and Tecualt through letters, and he knew how they were handling it. “The possibility of an influx of souls in the case of a war.”

Mrs Carter nodded. “Yes, that. What are you doing about it?”

“Tecualt has mobilized a force specifically for escorting the souls through to my land, and taking them to Heaven if they manage to redeem themselves. He has another force ready to keep things under control in the case of the soldier souls making trouble when they get down there. Other than that, Tecualt is fighting off the rebellion, which the possibility of a war up top should quench entirely.” Leonard ticked things off on his fingers as he spoke. “Harriet has families lined up to adopt any dead children who might need to spend time being punished in purgatory, or, unfortunately, children who might have to be condemned to Hell. She also somehow managed to find people to help soldiers with any psychological problems they might have gained. She’s offering extra food and days off work for anyone who stops their usual work to build new housing for the soldiers and anyone else who might have died. She’s rearranging who gets what jobs so that the slave owners are punished more harshly, and the people who died as young soldiers or civilians get easier jobs. She has people ready to train said soldiers for multiple of these jobs depending on what they did in life. She’s also asked people to open their homes to the possibility of new souls needing housing.”

Mrs Carter nodded along with him. “Good. We’re not expecting as many new arrivals in Heaven, but we’ve still prepared in much of the same ways you have, building new housing, mostly high towers into the clouds, finding positions for new arrivals, getting together psychiatric help for the people sent to their deaths by the war, mobilizing a militia of souls who were soldiers to get people from Hell and Purgatory if they’re sent there mistakenly in the chaos, buying the few things we can’t instantly make from the Shaw-Captains in bulk, getting people together to adopt dead children, building new schools for the education of anyone who didn’t get it in life – especially the children. The democratic assembly has issued multiple statements on what it’s probably going to be like, so that the souls are generally prepared for the chaos and know the protocol to deal with it. Some of them are also prepared for new additions to their families should a soul with no family arrive, and a lot of souls are pooling resources for the souls that will go to purgatory.”

“I should buy up what I need from the Shaw-Captains,” Leonard said. “That’s a good idea that I hadn’t thought of.”

They fell silent for a moment, before Leonard said, “What if there isn’t a  war?”

Mrs Carter sighed. “At this point, I can’t see there not being one. Besides, our orders to prepare for the war came from on high – literally.”

“Oh. Everyone in Hell is mostly just doing it out of panic.”

Mrs Carter laughed.

Richard sat up. “Mrs Carter. Good morning. I see I missed a party.”

“Not quite,” Leonard said. “We were just talking about the possibility of an American Civil War.”

“Oh. Is it very likely?”

“It would seem so,” Mrs Carter said.

Richard pulled his legs close to his chest. “Well, I suppose it’s a good thing I can’t be drafted, then.”

There was a heavy knock at the front door. Mrs Carter stood up. “That’s the Speaker. I’m sorry, Richard, but we really do need to go talk to this person.”

“It’s alright. I hope you enjoy yourselves.”

Leonard laughed at how dark that now-humorous statement was. He followed Mrs Carter downstairs and into her parlor, where the Speaker waited for them.

Notes:

Sorry that this chapter is basically just another infodump! The action picks back up again soon, I swear. In the meantime, there’s a new drawing of Monty on the art page that you can go look at! Fun fact: That needle-like thing on his jacket that you’ll see is called a chockpin, and it’s something used on a ship. Harpooners would wear them to mark themselves as having killed a whale, which was a major and laudable feat back before humans realized that whaling is really, just, not good at all. And, I mean, if I killed an enormous animal with a bit of iron from a fragile wooden boat, I too would probably want to brag about it. You can see them having chockpins to mark themselves as harpooners in In the Heart of the Sea (2015), a very good movie about the Essex, the real life tragedy that inspired Moby-Dick.

Clarissa – 2.15.5

Content warning: politics and discussion of slavery

To Clara’s understanding, there was a lot riding on the United States election. From what she knew, the election was going to be the next in a long line of bloody conflicts over slavery that had been happening practically since the United States was formed, but had especially come to a head in the last few years. Monica had made her up to date on all the politics over the days before November sixth – election day – and reiterated all of what she had said on election day itself. She was jittery and nervous, and her attitude had spread to Clara, who could not focus on the family history Enoch was trying to explain to her.

“My sister has you all worked up over the election, doesn’t she?” Enoch said. 

When Clara nodded, he sighed and said, “I can’t stand politics.”

“I don’t usually participate,” said Clara. “But Monica makes it sound like-”

“Like this is going to be the end of the world, yes, I know. She’s very passionate about the issue, as is Father, and as was Grandfather, supposedly. We’ve harbored slaves in our basement before. I’ve harbored slaves in my basement as well, in Boston, but not as often. Apparently, this makes me a part of the Underground Railroad.”

“That’s good,” Clara said.

Enoch shrugged. “But Monica has you all up to date, I would assume. You know all about slavery and Bleeding Kansas and Lincoln, don’t you?”

“I do. I don’t have the ballot memorized, or anything, though. I don’t even really know who’s running for president.”

“Lincoln is the spindly, honest lawyer from Illinois. He’s a senator, I think. Maybe. I might be wrong. Either way, he’s a Republican, which means he’s forward-thinking in terms of abolition. There’s also Stephen Douglass, the Democratic nominee, who works for the South and wants slavery there to continue. There’s also John Breckinridge, the current Vice President, the Southern Democratic nominee. He’s pro-slavery and supported by James Buchanan, our good current president. There’s John Bell, a Tennessee senator who’s for the Constitutional Union party, which is essentially the old Whig party under a new name, and he’s avoiding the issue of slavery. Lastly, there’s Gerrit Smith, who claims to be in ill health, and is for the Liberty party, also known as the extremely radical abolitionist party.” Enoch closed the big family book and put it back on the shelf.

“And, who’s Monica voting for?”

“Lincoln. She says he’s not too radical, but also anti-slavery.” Enoch picked a duster and started dusting one of the higher bookshelves. “Monica’s always been rather critical of politicians. According to her, thinking a politician will do what they say when they’re elected is like thinking the prostitute actually loves you.”

Clara snickered.

“No, really,” Enoch said. “Anyhow, it’s election day. We’ll wait and see who gets elected. I suppose we’ll know in,” he checked his watch, “approximately twenty minutes. I suspect we’ll know right away, because Father – your brother, actually – has, or had, friends in the government.”

Enoch quietly dusted the shelves of his library, before going into the kitchen to wash the dishes. Clara followed him, unsure why he was doing this if he had servants, but she realized a second later when she thought about how he, who claimed to not like politics, could rattle off details about each of the presidential candidates out of nowhere. He probably just wanted to keep his hands busy.

Clara had nothing else to do but follow him downstairs to watch him make the beds in the servants’ quarters. She had started to help, when the door burst open and footsteps that were unmistakably Monica’s pounded across the floor upstairs. 

“Enoch-Clara-Howard-Ambrose!” Monica shouted.

Two people who were presumably Howard and Ambrose pounded down the stairs. Enoch’s hands were badly shaking. Even Clara felt nervous, even though she had never given a second thought to American elections before today and probably wasn’t even an American citizen, either.

Monica was standing in the foyer, grinning. Was it good news, then? Had Lincoln won? 

“Well?” Enoch asked.

“Lincoln’s elected.”

Ambrose whooped and threw himself at Howard for a hug. 

Outside, people were partying. Clara heard them singing through the windows, and even though the Carter household seemed pleased, Nantucket Island was partying, and even Enoch was in better spirits, something nagged at Clara and told her that the issue of slavery would not be so easily solved by a Republican president.

Notes:

Apologies that today’s chapter is so short! Also, for anyone who isn’t American: the two current major political parties are the democrats and republicans. In 1860, there was also the whig party, though it was drawing to an end. Most of the background on the American Civil War (which I never actually intended to write a story about, but here we are) is explained later on in the story, so you don’t exactly need to be a history buff to understand where this story is going.

Monica – 2.14.3

Content warning: graphic description of injury

Monica had been trained as a nurse when she was little, which was probably why Caro woke her up in the middle of the night instead of someone else. 

“Mama, mama, mama,” Caro said, shaking her.

Monica groaned and sat up. “What is it, dear?”

“There’s some people who need you to nurse them.”

“Where?”

“Out there on the side of the road. I woke up Duke Mephisto, too.”

“Where are they?” Monica stood up and threw on a dress over her nightgown. “Why were you out on the road, Caro?” 

“I was getting water. Someone bought it from me and gave me money from England.”

Monica pulled on her boots and picked Caro up. She went out into the hallway, where Joseph and Millie were standing around looking confused.

“What’s going on?” Joseph asked.

“Some people are hurt,” Monica said. “Come with me if you have to.”

Joseph grinned and ran back into his room, presumably for proper clothes. Millie went more slowly, but she went all the same.

Duke Mephisto, a tall man with a flaming red beard and an angular face, was standing at the bottom of the stairs. “Mrs Carter. I apologize for waking you.”

“No, it’s fine. Where do I need to go?”

“Your girl told me they’re somewhere along ‘the road.’”

“That’ll be one of the roads out of town. I know where she goes to get water.” A servant handed Monica her bag of medical things, and her and Duke Mephisto set out walking, Caro in tow. They’d walked a ways when the other two children, Joseph and Millie, ran past them, evidently racing. After that it was uncomfortable silence the rest of the way, because Monica knew she was walking with a demon lord. What was she supposed to say to him? 

At last, Duke Mephisto broke the silence. “I can carry that bag for you, if you want.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Your home is nice.”

“Thank you.”

They were silent again. There were things Monica wanted to say, like do you regret it and would you like to become an angel again and what is hell like, but she didn’t say any of them. How did she start that kind of a conversation?

“You know…” Duke Mephisto said. “I had a dream last night.”

“From the Man in Red.”

“Yes.”

“Who do you think the prophet is?”

“I have a few guesses. It could be anyone who’s died in any way related to liquid.”

“Which are your guesses?”

“Erm…”

Monica stopped walking. “Listen. If the Man in Red sends both angels and demons concerning messages, then…”

“You think he means for us to sort of… unite.”

“Maybe. I mean, neither of us want to utterly destroy creation, do we?”

“Negative.”

Monica held out her hand. “Then how about, if only you and me, call a truce?”

Duke Mephisto shook her hand without hesitation. “Yes.”

“Then tell me your guesses.”

“You tell me yours as well.”

“Deal.”

“Deirdre, the Irish girl Johann’s with. She drowned and she’s a dead banshee, but she might not know it.”

“This girl Caro, right here. She drowned, too, and came back as a ghost without explanation.” 

“Mama?” Caro asked.

“We’re talking about grown-up stuff, dear.”

Duke Mephisto smiled. “Well, Caro? Are you a herald of the apocalypse?”

Caro grinned. “Yes.”

Duke Mephisto laughed. Evidently, he had a very strange sense of humor.

“Any more guesses?” Monica asked.

“Ishmael Carter. He died at sea and has said he’s a prophet.”

“My opium addict relative?”

“…Yes.”

They had to stop the conversation there, because Monica heard commotion up ahead. They must have looked very strange coming down the road like they were. There was Duke Mephisto, impeccably dressed in a crimson waistcoat over a pressed, pale red shirt, black pants, and shoes that looked like they were made of polished coal. There was Caro, with her curly, messy, blonde hair, green dress, and giant pink bow adorning her head. There was Monica, black hair tied up into a loose bun, wearing a simple dress that was tied at the waist, and carrying a medical bag. They looked like all three of them were going to a different engagement: Duke Mephisto was going to a ball, Caro was going to a playdate, and Monica was going to a battlefield.

“Mama!” Joseph shouted from the ditch at the side of the road. “Look what I found!” 

Monica climbed down into the ditch, and saw an upturned wagon. A young woman with a broken piece of wood going straight through her calf lay half under it, unconscious. “Joseph, Millie, Duke Mephisto is going to lift the cart, then you’re going to pull her out gently. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mama,” Millie said.

Duke Mephisto was barely able to lift the cart, even with demonic strength, so it took the children a moment to get the young woman out. Joseph held her leg up, while Millie did most of the work.

When they had gotten the young woman out, Millie turned to her brother. “Can you do that?”

Joseph glared at her. “Maybe I can,  booty.”

“Booty.”

“Booty.”

“Booty.”

“Booty booty booty booty booty booty,” Joseph said. “Booty booty booty booty booty booty booty booty booty.”

Millie pushed him back. “Quit it.”

“You quit it,” Joseph said, shoving Millie.

Millie pushed him again. “You started it.”

Joseph ran forward, his head down like a battering ram. He crashed into his sister and she laughed. 

“Do you actually think you’re hurting me right now?”

Joseph roared, and backed up for another strike. 

“Children,” Monica said sharply.

They glared at her, but stopped fighting for the moment. Monica looked down at the young woman and did a quick analysis of what was wrong with her. She probably had several broken ribs, as well as a lot of surface lacerations that didn’t look very deep, and of course, the piece of wood going through her leg.

“I’m going to look for other survivors,” Duke Mephisto said.

“Wait. What’s her name?”

“The girl? Sylvia Sapping.”

“Alright, thank you. You may go. Children!”

Joseph and Millie came running. Monica took several bottles out from the medical bag, and began to pick at Sylvia Sapping’s leg wound. She pulled the cut open, probing it for complications or broken arteries that would be hard to repair. Luckily, she found none, and was now satisfied that she could safely remove the branch from the leg. 

“Millie, you get on that side,” Monica said, pointing to the other side of Sylvia Sapping. “Joseph, you get this side.”

The two of them got into position, each taking a part of Sylvia’s leg. “Lift on three,” Monica said. “One, two, three!”

They both pulled upward at once, lifting the leg and the stick in it off the ground. Monica saw that the stick didn’t actually go all the way through, just very very deep into the flesh. That was a relief. Monica slowly slid the stick out of Sylvia’s leg, then said, “Alright, every lower her leg to the ground. Gently.” 

Luckily, they listened to her. Joseph stood up and threw the offending stick into the tall grass at the side of the road.

“Bad stick. Bad.”

Millie had turned back to Sylvia. “Will she be okay, mama?”

Monica shrugged. “Sadly, I’m not sure yet. She may live, but I need to check her over and assess the damage before I tell you anything for sure. Why don’t you kids go home and get the real doctor? Take Caro with you.” She shouted to Duke Mephisto. “Is that quite alright with you?

“Whatever!”

Millie and Joseph went over to where Caro was twirling around in the grass clearing and singing nonsense words to her doll.

“Hey, Caro, we’re leaving now,” Millie said.

“Where is Mama?” Caro asked.

“Mama’s going to stay here to help the people you found,” said Joseph.

“Oh.” Caro paused. “I want to stay with Mama, thank you.”

Millie shook her head. “Come on, Caro, we need to go.”

“I want to stay with Mama,” Caro repeated.

“No, Caro, we need to go.”

“Yeah,” Joseph said. “It’ll be fun.” He grabbed her hand and tried to lead her off, but she yanked her hands away.

“I want. To stay. Here.” She smiled at him, then turned around and went back to playing with her doll. Monica applied antiseptic to Sylvia’s wounds.

Joseph jumped back, eyes wide. “Oh dear.”

“Caro, put your shoes back on,” Millie said, pointing to Caro’s abandoned pink boots, lying over in the shade of the silver birch tree. “We have to walk back.”

“No, I want to stay with Mama!”

Millie sighed, then went over and picked up Caro, throwing the girl over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. 

“NO! Mama! Mama!”

Monica looked up. “Oh- Millie, would you put her down?”

Millie ignored her. “Get her shoes, will you, Joseph?” 

Joseph ran and grabbed Caro’s shoes. 

“I want to stay with Mama!” Caro shouted.

Millie,” Monica said sharply. “Put her down.”

Millie did not listen. Caro whacked and punched her sister’s back, to no avail. Apparently seeing that punching was futile, Caro went on to kicking, and eventually landed a solid kick in Millie’s stomach. She dropped her with an oof, and Caro ran over to where Monica was.

And then, the worst possible thing happened.

One of Caros’ obsessions was milk. She would often drink nothing but milk, and didn’t really care where it came from. So, when Monica poured milk from a flask into a bowl so that she could soak the iron instruments she was about to use on the faerie Sylvia in it, Caro suddenly forgot all about wanting Mama.

She crawled over to Monica, and looked up at her with large, innocent eyes. 

“That’s milk.”

Monica looked at her and smiled. “Not right now, sweetheart. I’m using this to help the girl here.”

“Hmph. Please, Mama?”

“Maybe later. You drank nearly an entire cow at breakfast.”

  So, Caro walked up to Millie.

“Can you ask Mama for some milk?”

Millie raised an eyebrow. “What did Mama say?”

“Mmm… Go ask her for milk?”

“No.”

“Ask!”

Lilia shook her head. 

“ASK!”

“Hey, Caaarrrooo! I have miiiilk,” Joseph said, sloshing around what was obviously water inside a canteen.

“MILK!”

Joseph was laughing as Caro went running after him, trying to get the ‘milk.’ He ran off down the road, sisters in hot pursuit.

Hopefully, they would find their way home, and hopefully, Millie would remember to get the real doctor. Monica focused back on Sylvia.

“Is there anything more you can do for her?” Duke Mephisto asked.

“I don’t think so, no. Not here. We have to wait for her to wake up.”

“I found another girl back along the road, but I think she’s dead.”

Monica followed him back to where a young woman with short, choppy blonde hair lay. Her throat and chest were badly scratched by some unknown blade, but she was still breathing. Barely. 

“What should we do?” Duke Mephisto asked.

Monica felt for a pulse and found the girl cold and clammy. Her pulse was slow and sluggish, and her breathing was slow and shallow. “Severe blood loss.”

“What do we do?”

“Stop the bleeding.”

“Right, I probably should have figured that out.”

Monica grinned. “Here, take some of the bandages from the bag. Do you know how to dress a wound?”

“Not really.”

“We need water.”

Duke Mephisto got up for a moment and returned with a heavy iron bucket full of water. “I have no idea what this was doing by the side of the road, but here it is.”

“I’d like to bless whoever put it there.” Monica dipped a rag in the water and showed Duke Mephisto how to wash a wound, add antiseptic, and place a gauze dressing over it.

“Seems simple enough,” Duke Mephisto said. “I can already bandage a wound.” 

“Good. There’s bandages in the medical bag. You work on her arms. I’ll do her throat and chest.”

They worked on the girl for a long time before she was all bandaged up, and the bleeding had stopped for the most part. When they were done, Monica went to attend to a young man with a broken collarbone, a young woman covered in dirt and scratches and bruises, a boy with a broken leg, and lastly, her relative Ishmael Carter, Monty. He had a broken shoulder, and the other young man he was laying next to had a head injury that would probably result in a concussion.All of the victims of the crash were covered in long, shallow scratches that seemed like they had been inflicted by an animal’s claws. What could have done this to them? Was it a demon, or a faerie, or a werewolf, or something else entirely? The thought of something else on an island that she had long ago claimed as under her protection made Monica angry. This was her home, and she would protect it.

Notes:

Sorry I forgot to update yesterday! Something came up and I unfortunately didn’t have time.

Fortunately, I had time to update today, and I have several edited versions of the first few chapters (which are… rough, to say the least) that will be released as part of the extra content released during November and December.

Monica – 2.10.2

Monica was eating breakfast with Howard and Angelica when a servant ran up to her with a calling card. 

Lady Clarissa Janson

Woman of the gentry and unicorn of the Seelie court

Monica handed the card back to the servant. “See her in. I’ll meet her in the front parlor.”

“Janson?” Howard asked. “I know that name.”

“He’s an important duke from England,” said Angelica.

He was also the demon Mephastophilis, which put Monica on edge. However, Clarissa Janson claimed to be a faerie, and no faerie who was allowed to refer to themself as such would align themself with anyone who worshipped or honored any kind of superior force. That was sometimes the only way to tell faerie from werewolf: the werewolves honored the Things. The faeries honored nothing and held nothing sacred.

So, hopefully, Mrs Clarissa Janson wouldn’t be serving Satan now. Hopefully.

Monica went to the front parlor, a small room with two sofas facing each other and a fireplace on the back wall, and sat down on the sofa facing the window that looked out onto the street. Caro wandered in a few minutes later and sat down on the sofa next to her. She had her doll Catherine, and was busily sticking pins into its arms.

“Aren’t you hurting her?”  Monica said.

Caro shrugged. “Wanna see something funny, Mama?”

“Alright.”

Catherine the doll had a hard head made of plaster and wood. Caro threw the doll across the room and laughed gleefully when its head thwocked on the hard wooden floor.

“Caro!” Monica said.

“What?”

“That wasn’t very nice to poor Catherine.”

“She’s only a doll.”

“But you threw her across the room!”

“So?”

“You wouldn’t like it if someone threw you across the room.”

“My head doesn’t make as funny a sound when it hits the floor.”

That was a relief to hear, at least. 

A servant opened the door. “Mrs Janson here to see you, ma’am.”

“Thank you, please let her in.”

“Do I have to leave, Mama?” Caro asked.

“No, you can stay, dear.”

The door opened again, and a young woman with platinum blonde hair came in. She was a handsome young woman, with a round face, button nose, and sparkling eyes. She wore a red dress in the latest fashion, which contrasted against her pale skin and hair.

“Mrs Carter,” Mrs Janson said. “Good morning to you, and to your… daughter?”

“Yes, Caro is my adopted daughter. Say good morning to Mrs Janson, Caro.”

“Good morning, Mrs Janson!”

Mrs Janson smiled. “Good morning, Caro. How are you today?”

“Very good! Do you want to see something funny?”

“Alright.”

Monica knew exactly what she was going to do, but Mrs Janson presumably didn’t, which was probably why she had such a horrified look on her face when Caro threw her doll across the room again.

“You mustn’t be so cruel to your doll,” Mrs Janson said. “They have eyes and ears, you know. You should be careful or it might just take you away while you’re sleeping.”

What kind of a comment was that? ‘Be careful with your doll, little girl, or it might abduct you while you’re sleeping.’ Monica stood up and led Caro out of the room. “You go play with your siblings, alright? Go see what Charlotte is doing.”

Charlotte was her second youngest daughter, and Caro’s constant companion, especially during the summer months. Caro bounced off, and Monica went back into the room with Mrs Janson. “Sorry about that. Caro is a bit of a wild child.”

“Oh, no, it’s just alright. You’re Monica Carter, right?”

Monica sat down on the sofa, unsure why this Englishwoman would be so interested in who she was. “Yes, that’s my name.”

“Well, Mrs Carter, you see, I… erm…”

“If you’re about to say something related to the Seelie court, know that I, as an angel, am ready to believe you.”

Mrs Janson looked shocked, but relieved. “Oh. That’s good.”

“What did you want to tell me?”

“I was raised by King Oberon and Queen Titania on the border of the Unseelie court, but I am not their biological child.”

“No?”

“No. In fact, I am told that I belong to this family.”

That was unsurprising, given the faeries had a history of stealing babies from their cradles. Monica went and got the family Bible, with the family tree in it. It took her a moment to find anything promising, but then she spotted a baby girl named Clarissa who had ‘died’ just after being born in 1814. Monica handed the book to Mrs Janson and pointed to the child. “I think that this might be you.”

“Yes, that looks right.” Mrs Janson craned her neck to get a better view. “Oberon said that my father is Percy Carter Sr.”

“That’s my grandfather,” said Monica. He was also possibly the father of her adopted daughter, but she didn’t say that.

“It’s nice to meet you. Are any of my brothers and sisters still alive?”

“Yes, there’s my uncle Joseph and his wife Josephine, and my aunt Emily, and her husband my uncle Robert, but he’s bedridden and likely won’t be with us much longer.”

“I want to meet Robert before he goes,” Mrs Janson said.

“You will.” Monica stood up and rang for a servant. “Why don’t you come with me and I’ll get a bed prepared for you and your husband to sleep in tonight? It’ll be a lot better than a hotel.”

“I would like that.”

Monica led her upstairs. There was an empty bedroom with a double bed right by the staircase up to the third floor, which she didn’t have any plans for in the near future. It was a good sized room, with an adjoining closet and bathroom, that she figured Mr and Mrs Janson would find quite adequate for their needs.

“Thank you, Mrs Carter,” Mrs Janson said. 

“You’re very welcome, Mrs Janson.”

“Please… I know I’m older than you, but I still feel younger. Please call me Clara.”

She wasn’t older than her, since Monica was an angel who had existed since time itself was created, but it would have been rude to correct her there, so she didn’t. “Alright, Clara, I can call you whatever you want.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Would you and your husband like to dine with us tonight?”

“We would love to.”

Monica smiled at her. “Very good.” She took Clara’s hand and led her upstairs to the room where Addison lay abed. “Addi?”

He looked up from the whale book he was reading. “Mama?”

“This is Mrs Janson. Say hello to Mrs Janson, Addison.”

Addison smiled politely. “Hullo, Mrs Janson.”

“Hullo, Addison,” Clara said. She shook Addison’s hand. “What’s that you’re reading, there?”

“It’s a book about cetology.”

“Do you like cetology?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“What’s your favorite whale?”

“The right whale. It has all the right things.”

“That’s a good choice.”

“Thank you, Mrs Janson.”

 Monica felt Addison’s head to check for a fever. Luckily, he seemed like he was just fine. She kissed his forehead and led Clara down to James and Joseph’s room. 

Joseph was fiddling with something small and wooden rather than doing his schoolwork. Monica gently took the thing out of his hands and put it in her pocket. “Joseph, darling, you need to focus.”

He was obviously angry. “I’m sorry!”

“Joseph.”

He glared at her and pointed to the door. “Close it!”

“Say hullo to Mrs Janson first, Joseph.”

“Hullo, Mrs Janson.”

Monica closed the door and went downstairs. “There’s also James and Mildred, my eldest, and Charlotte, Joseph’s twin sister. They’ll be there at dinner tonight.”

“That’s nice to hear. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of your family.”

Monica smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. I was going to go take a little nap. Do you mind if I do that?”

“Of course not.”

Monica left Clara with Angelica, and went upstairs to her bedroom. She slipped out of her dress and undid her hair, then climbed into bed and shut her eyes.

She wasn’t physically in her home in Heaven, but she could have information from there given to her when she dreamed. She saw an ancient library with a well that contained something terrible, watched over by a figure in a red monk’s outfit who had served as sentinel for ages beyond counting. He was reading when she arrived, but he was quick to talk.

“I would assume you know what the antichrist is?” the Man in Red asked.

“Yes, I know what that is.” 

“And you know what the Things Without Faces are?”

“…Yes.”

The Man in Red bookmarked what he was reading and closed the book. “Gods will have their prophets.”

“They are not gods.”

The Man in Red shrugged. “They might be.”

“They aren’t.”

“They have a prophet all the same.”

“Who is it?”

“Someone visited by one of them regularly.”

“That’s too vague.”

“Someone baptized by death in liquid. Seawater, maybe, or blood.”

“Does the person know?”

“They might. They might be a person who does and says odd things because they know. They might be someone who represses memories of their death in liquid. They might not have returned yet.” The Man in Red lit a candle. “They might be dissatisfied with their lot in life, or they may have a reason to live. In any case, they’ll be ready for change, and even if they don’t know it, they’re doing that by heralding the Things in.”

“It’s not Doctor Faust, is it?” Monica knew about that. Everyone who was anyone knew about that, and the ripples it had created. 

“It’s not. He’s still on his first life.”

“You’d love to see your kin back,” Monica said.

“Alas, I admit it.”

“I’ll bet you created the prophet yourself.”

“Maybe.”

Monica stood up. “You’re giving your enemy an advantage.”

The Man in Red laughed in a low voice. “Ah, angel. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch.”

Johann – 2.3.5

Content warning: On-page drug use

Johann Faust slammed his hands on the table, and screamed, because the table was metal and it hurt. Ishmael Carter, who liked to be called Monty for some reason, looked up from where he was pinning up a sheet to close off part of the basement they lived in now, and grinned.

“That hurt, didn’t it?” Monty said.

Johann snarled at him, and he grinned and shrugged. Johann turned back to his makeshift table, where his medical tools were spread out. He was taking inventory, making sure that he had plenty of clean, usable tools, chemicals to last him through any problem that might come up, bandages, and any store-bought medicines that he had deemed safe to use. There wasn’t enough of anything, of course, and he didn’t currently have the money to buy more. He should have asked Duke Mephisto for money!

Monty looked around the sheet he was pinning up, and went to the door. Johann heard him open it and start talking with someone, but he was too focused on ways to make quick money for medical supplies to try to identify who it was. He was already selling his services as a doctor, but he could start charging more, or even get a job as an actual doctor, at a hospital. That seemed like a good idea until he thought about the \ time Mr Lister was having getting hospitals to institute hand washing. Johann would never work for an establishment like that. What other skills did he have? He’d been in seminary for a long time when he was younger, and his father had been a pastor, so he still knew how to give sermons and speeches. Could he do something with that? There were a lot of illicit operations he could perform that he hadn’t been, and he could charge more for those. He could get a factory job, but the mere idea of a man such as him, who was destined for so much more, working as a simple factory worker, made his blood boil.

“My good doctor,” Monty said. “There’s someone here to see you.”

“Did they send a calling card ahead?” Johann’s words dripped with sarcasm.

“I don’t think so. Oh, there’s a few people, actually. Say, sir, where did you get that cane? I could use one.”

“At a shop down the street from a drugstore near my house,” Richard Golson said. “Here, let me write down the address for you.”

Johann put down the instruments he was fiddling with and stepped out from behind the curtain. He wasn’t sure if Richard, also known as the Ghoul, also known as the man who delivered him bodies to operate on, would recognize him these days. Johann had grown a neat beard and had started styling his hair differently, not brushing it at all so that it gave him a wild but intelligent look. He had also found his old spectacles, and he wore them now even though Duke Mephisto had fixed his eyes. It made him look more learned.

“Ah, Dr Faust,” Richard Golson said. “That’s you, isn’t it? You look different.”

“Yes,” said Johann. “I’m aware.”

“I’m so sorry that your building burnt down. Truly. If there’s anything I can do to help you, you need only ask.”

Johann hesitated. “I need connections.”

“Connections of what kind?”

“Connections to criminals. Do you know anyone who needs illicit surgeries performed? Anyone who might need the services of a man who knows all there is to know about medicine?”

Golson shook his head. “No one can know all there is to know about anything.” He sat down at the small table.

“Actually, that’s where you’re wrong. I do know everything there is to know about medicine.” Johann sat down next to him.

“Oh? Well, do you know anything about drowned ghosts, Dr Faust?”

Johann laughed, and remembered how he’d declined to go to the afterlife. “No, I don’t.”

Golson looked disappointed. “What about people who give apocalyptic tidings? People I’ve known from a long time ago, some people who are already dead. They tell me that you have to stop whatever it is you’re doing, and that there’s some kind of god up there that’s sleeping and wants to wake up. They say you’re waking it up.”

A chill went through Johann’s body. Richard Golson didn’t know what he was saying. He couldn’t. This had to be a coincidence. Golson was mad, he had to be, he had to be a madman who had in his madness accidentally made connections that most sane people couldn’t. Johann smiled nervously, and reassured himself that whatever Golson might think, he was wrong, he was stupid, he had no idea what he was talking about. Nothing that Johann did would have lasting consequences for the human race. In fact, it was progress, and progress was always a good thing. “No, Mr Golson, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you feeling alright? You know, if you’re seeing things you should-”

Golson sighed and rubbed his temple. “You know, maybe you’re right.”

There was his chance to get Golson to leave. “As a doctor, I know I am.”

“Alright, thank you. I’m sorry for bothering you, Dr Faust, it looks like you have quite a lot of work to do today.” He took a wad of money out of his pocket and put it on the table. “Here, take this. It’s to find somewhere better to live. I’ll contact you in a few days with news about connections, alright?”

Johann was staring at the money. That was an obscene amount for Golson to be simply carrying around. He managed to tear himself away from looking at it, and look Golson in the eyes. “Yes, that’s alright. Do get some more sleep, Mr Golson, I think it would be beneficial to stop your hallucinations.”

Golson tipped his hat and left through the front door. Johann let out a shaky sigh, and stood up. “Monty.”

Monty bounced out from behind the curtain. “Right here!”

“I’m going to inject myself with something.”

“Oh! Morphine?”

“No, not morphine. It’s… erm… something else.”

“What is it? Can I try it, too?”

Johann paused. Should he let someone else come to the place beyond death with him? Was that a good idea, or a bad one? Monty looked hopeful and excited, and Johann felt a little bad telling him that he wasn’t allowed to try the drug that took him beyond. He sighed, and took out the bottle that held the drug itself. There was probably enough in there for two doses. “Alright, fine.”

“Oh boy! What drug?”

How to answer that question? “Um… it’s something I developed myself.”

“Very well. Hand it over.”

Johann prepared the syringes, and handed one to Monty. He took a moment to unwind the bandages around his arm which didn’t seem to cover any visible wound.

Johann disinfected his arm, and would have done Monty’s as well, had he not shied away from the cloth. He then sat down in a chair at the table and injected himself. Johann closed his eyes, but not before seeing Monty doing the same across the room.

When he opened his eyes he was sitting on a golden throne in a cavernous medieval throne room. The roof was of glass, and the walls of gilded tan stone that were painted with murals of great battles. The wooden floor was carpeted with red silk leading up to the throne. Bells rang a pleasant music, the seat was very comfortable, and the air smelled of rose petals. A heavy crown rested on Johann’s head, and he held a scepter. His throne was on a raised dais with stairs leading up to it, and Monty, dressed as a fool in motley, sat on the steps.

There were mobs of people standing all around the room, from the guards that stood next to the dias, to the courtiers crowded on either side of the carpet, to the servants who scattered rose petals on the floor. Johann shifted in his seat, feeling like something important was about to happen.

Two women blew a pair of trumpets in unison, drowning out all the other commotion with the thunderous noise of their instruments. Monty stood up and danced over to the carpet in front of Johann.

“My good king,” Monty said. “Hark, a visitor at the door, announced by trumpets and fanfare! Do you care to let them in? They come bearing gifts and change!”

“Should I let them in?” Johann asked. “Would that be wise?”
Monty’s smile was more sinister than it should have been. “Why, a man is no one to curse and deny them.”

Well, if they came bringing gifts, that was a good thing, right? An advisor with Leonard’s face tapped his cane. “My good King. Remember when I gave you the throne, and you promised to listen to me? Do not let these visitors in.”

Johann pointed at the man. “You can’t control me now. Off with his head!”
Leonard screamed and struggled as a group of guards pulled him to his knees and took his head off right then and there. His black blood pooled on the ground and soaked through the carpet, but no one seemed to care.

“What kind of methods did he use to get you on the throne?” The question was asked by a child with Richard Golson’s voice. “Perhaps if you don’t know their nature, or the nature of the visitors, don’t let them in.”

“I say go ahead and do it,” said another advisor, with the face of Duke Janson. “Let them in. This power is yours to wield.”

“You monster,” said his daughter, Clarissa Janson. “You can only ever make the situation worse.”

“Quiet, woman,” Duke Janson snarled.

Deirdre walked out of the crowd, Sylvia trailing behind her. “Don’t do it, Johann, please. I know that this is a bad idea because- well, because-” she wrung her hands and disappeared back into the crowd.

Sylvia shrugged and chugged a bottle of laudanum. “Whatever.”

Johann surveyed the crowd, and saw a smirking Jean Gévaudan standing next to an equally smug Albert Janson. Edmond Oberon and Helen Titania glared at him, vines twisting threateningly under their feet. An emotionless little ghost girl he vaguely recognized from a trip to Nantucket many years earlier grinned at him, then up at her fierce, defiant mother. A woman he knew as Camilla Chambers was nodding eagerly for him to let them in. 

It was a hard decision on who to listen to, but eventually Johann stood up and pointed his scepter at the door. “Let the visitors in!”

The doors opened, and the hall instantly became black and white. The throne dias disappeared beneath his feet, and Johann fell backwards into an inky void. He struggled to breathe, clawing at his throat desperately to try to escape the horror he had just willingly let in. It wasn’t his fault, was it? He had been led into it by Leonard and Monty and Camilla, right? Right?

Right?

Johann fell without an answer, and when he looked up he realized he could see stars above him. He reflected on his choices in the past year. He had gambled away his soul, he had reversed death, he had gone beyond and talked to incomprehensible godlike beings… and he had ruined a marvelous dreamland by his own bad decisions. Hopefully this wasn’t a premonition of anything. He wouldn’t make any decision so blatantly bad in real life, would he? He’d be able to see the signs there, right?

There were no answers here. Johann reached up, and realized he could scoop the stars from the sky in the palm of his hand. He smiled. That was some relief, at least, that was some beauty.

And then he was still falling, but this time out of his chair and onto the ground of his basement home, onto the hard packed-dirt floor. Johann hit his nose when he hit the ground, and it started bleeding almost instantly. He pressed a handkerchief to his face and eased his aching body back into his chair. That seemed like it had been a lot less time than before, but when Johann went to the door he saw that it was dark outside. If he had taken the drug at noon, then hours and hours must have slipped through his fingers.

Monty was lying on the floor with his distinctive hat pulled over his face, either still in a trance or fast asleep. Johann went to his workbench and started cleaning his scalpels again. They didn’t need cleaning, but he did it anyway, if only to get his hands moving. He thought about the marvellous court he’d ruined and told himself over and over that it wasn’t really his fault. He’d been pushed into it, he told himself. He hadn’t known the consequences.

There was a knock at the door that startled Johann out of his frantic cleaning. He went to see who it was, and was horrified to see Camilla Chambers.

“Where’s Monty?” She asked.

“Monty?” Johann gestured to where the man was in a heap on the floor. 

Camilla pushed past him, another woman he’d seen but never been introduced to trailing behind her. Granted, he’d only ever met Camilla once, at the dinner where Leonard had challenged Duke Janson, but after the dream he felt like he’d known her his whole life.

Camilla and the other woman pulled Monty to his feet. He groaned, and they shoved him forward so that he had to support himself. 

“Really?” Monty asked. He was standing on his own now, but hunched over significantly, and rubbing his arms like they were sore. “Couldn’t you have waited? Let me sleep just a little little bit more?”

“You’re going to be late to the meeting,” Camilla said.

“I don’t care. Let me sleep.”

“No, you have to come with us. We need you there for support.”

“What would you need me there to support? What can I do?”

“You’re good at public speaking and making things up on the fly. Come on, Monty, we need to get to the meeting or we’ll be late.”

Johann tapped her shoulder. “Excuse me, but what kind of meeting?”

“A meeting of the Faceless.”

Johann had heard that name whispered before in the shadows. It was some kind of society of people who wanted to radically change the world, how, he didn’t know. They were dangerous, he’d heard, and would bring about the downfall of society. Those facts only intrigued Johann more, and made him want to find out more about them, even join them if he could. He nodded excitedly when Camilla mentioned them, and said, “ah, the Faceless. You’re part of this group?”

“Yes…”

“Would you let me come to your meeting? Please? I’ve been so curious for so long.”

Camilla looked at the other woman, who shrugged. She looked back at Johann. “Listen, you come to this meeting, you don’t repeat a word of what you hear there. Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes, I understand.”

“Good.” She hauled Monty out the door, Daisy trailing behind. Johann followed them more slowly, so that he could lock the door behind him. They went down an alleyway, across a street, into another alley, over a wall, out onto another street, down that street, made several more turns, and finally went into a club called The Winded Bird.

The club was dimly lit and smelled of smoke. Johann followed Camilla into a back room, where a group of people were clustered around a large oval table.

Johann was surprised by how many of the people he recognized. There was Jean Gévaudan, and Emma Janson, sitting next to Tate Johnson and Hai Daiyu. There were more people who he didn’t recognize, too, such as a tall African man with sharp, intelligent features and yellow eyes, and a young woman with blonde hair and big, watery blue eyes.

Camilla took her place at the head of the table, with Monty and Daisy on each side of her. Johann sat next to Monty, fascinated and ready for anything.

“People in attendance?” Camilla asked.

Daisy read off a list. “Camilla Chambers, Daisy Pickman, Alice Egerton, Jean Gévaudan, Emma Janson, Tate Johnson, Hai Daiyu, Barrorah, Johann Faust, and Ishmael Carter.”

“My name is Monty, not Ishmael!” Monty shouted.

“It’s for official records,” said Daisy.

“Yeah, a secret anarchist meeting in the back of a club, really official.”

“Ishmael Carter-”

Monty shot out of his chair. “My name is Monty!” 

“God, sorry. Calm down and sit, Monty.”

Monty slowly sank back down into his seat. 

Daisy looked around for any more dissenters, and saw none. “Good, now, can someone tell Faust what we’re doing here? I don’t think he knows.”

Johann was glad they were finally paying attention to him again. “I’m content to sit and watch.”

Daisy ignored him. “This is a meeting of Faceless, the underground society who seek the radical change of society and government at the current day… as well as the return of the Things Without Faces. Do you know what those are, Dr Faust?”

“Not really.” Something in the back of his mind told him that he had met them before, in some place that he had forgotten, but he wasn’t sure how to tell her that without sounding like a lunatic.

Daisy smiled. “Would you like to learn?”

Johann shrugged. What could they teach him that he didn’t already know?

Camilla Chambers grabbed his arm and straightened it out. Daisy approached with a needle. Johann sighed and let her inject him for the second time today. He closed his  eyes and sat back in his chair, waiting to slip away.

“Just relax.” Camilla’s voice sounded distant and hollow. “You’ll see something eventually.”

Johann opened his eyes, despite them still being closed in real life, and saw that he was standing in the middle of a pitch black void. There was something here, something dark that knew his name. He swallowed hard and boldly reached his hand into the void, absolutely sure that nothing could hurt him in this dream. He smiled triumphantly, and held his hand up to see the black gunk dripping off it. Johann flicked his fingers, and some of the stuff splashed into his eyes.

There was no describing what he saw next, and no remembering it. It was gone in an instant, but it was the most terrifying thing he had ever seen in his life. 

Johann tried to open his real eyes, but found it impossible. He was trapped here, inside his mind or in whatever place he was at the moment. There was no escape until he had learned what they wanted him to.

Notes:

I accidentally published this on Monday because I thought that Monday was Tuesday (it wasn’t, unfortunately). The publication schedule will stay the same.

Monica 2.1.1

Content warning: The death of a child

She’d always had trouble with her youngest two, especially the girl, Caroline. Addison was easier, because he didn’t yell as much, or say strange things, or seem to act on a different moral compass from everyone else. Addison was a normal, well-adjusted child, as far as Monica knew, but he was often sick, and hardly ever went outside. That wasn’t good, but at least he had Monica’s brother Percy to stay with him and tell him stories. Percy was a walking bundle of issues in most other ways, but at least he made sure Addison was happy.

Caro, on the other hand, had had a completely normal childhood, but was one of the most unhinged people Monica had ever met. She ran feral around the island, causing all sorts of problems and angering all sorts of people, and all attempts to rein her in had been futile. She was only eight years old, too, so there was no telling what she would be like when she was older. 

Well, Caro was allegedly only eight years old. Monica was holding a small portrait of a Mr Percy Carter Sr, with his son James and daughter Caroline, if the back of the frame was to be believed. The man looked like all the other paintings Monica had seen of her grandfather, showing a thin man with a toad’s face who was balding even in his thirties. The boy, James, looked enough like the other paintings and photographs of her father when he was young, illustrating his long face, dramatic widow’s peak, flared black hair, and round glasses even at the age of five and a half. They were both exactly what she’d expected to see from a painting of her grandfather and father.

However, the girl was the spitting image of Caro. She had the same bouncy blonde hair that shouldn’t have appeared in a family of people with black and dark brown hair, the same bright green eyes that sparkled with mischief and knowledge beyond their years, the same nasty grin, and the same chubby, childish arms. 

Monica didn’t know what to make of the painting. Caro wasn’t her child, she was a girl who was somehow connected to the family that had been dumped at her door a few years ago. Monica already had five children, and an enormous house she shared only with them, her husband, Ambrose; and occasionally one sibling or another, so she wasn’t going to turn out a poor girl who needed a home. She’d accepted Caro as her own, and told most of her children that she was a cousin who’d come to live with them permanently. In fact, that was completely false, and Monica had no idea where Caro came from or who she was. She had written to her brother Enoch a few months ago, demanding he find out who this girl was, after a particular incident Caro was implicated in somehow that had involved one boy drowning in the ocean.

Enoch had just arrived on Nantucket Island from Boston yesterday, and he had shown up after breakfast to present Monica with his findings.

Enoch Carter was one of the two middle children of the Carter family. He was tall, with neat gray-brown hair that came to his long, pale face in a widow’s peak. There was an intelligent sparkle in Enoch’s eyes, and a tilt to his mouth that made him always seem like he was about to say something profound. He hardly ever smiled, but when he did it always seemed fake, like he was only smiling because he knew something everyone else didn’t, and that simple fact made him instantly superior. 

Enoch was the one who had handed Monica the portrait, and was the one who was sitting across from her at the table right now, his face unreadable.

“How about that?” Monica asked. “This girl looks exactly like Caro.”

Enoch handed her a birth certificate. “I found this in my attic, in a box of Grandfather’s. I’m sure I went through it when he died, but this must not have seemed important at the time.”

The birth certificate was for one Caroline Carter Warren, who had been born on Nantucket Island in 1806, and whose parents were Elizabeth Warren and ‘blank.’

“The father is almost certainly our grandfather, Percy Carter Sr, or Percy Carter the first, after the birth of our brother dear. I did some more digging, found out where the baby was born, that kind of thing, to back up my hunch, and discovered that Caroline Warren spent a suspicious amount of time here, at our house, with our grandfather. Hence this painting, which was probably painted in honor of her fourth birthday, if the dates match up correctly.” Enoch took out another paper, which was a sketch of Caroline Warren. “Here she is again. This was drawn by our paternal uncle, Joseph, when he was fourteen, which means that Caroline must have been with the family at least until she was five years old. Unfortunately, these dates also validate this, which is from a few months later.” Enoch handed Monica a death certificate and a newspaper clipping. Apparently Caroline Carter Warren had drowned in the harbor at the age of five and a half, having been pulled down by a rope off a whaling ship. Her body had washed up a few days later, and she’d been buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave somewhere on the island by her mother.

“Well, that’s upsetting, but doesn’t tell me anything about my adoptive daughter,” said Monica. “I already know that people go to Heaven or Hell when they die, and I know that outliers are few and far between.”

“I found something else,” Enoch said, “that might prove you wrong. It’s another newspaper.”

He slid it forward, and Monica picked it up to read it. It was from 1857, the year Caro had appeared on Monica’s doorstep. The heading image was a picture of a tree that had randomly uprooted after being struck by lightning in a storm. That was extraordinary enough, but there was also the fact that whoever had discovered it had also found a small skeleton tangled in the roots, where it had evidently laid since burial many years earlier. The article itself mentioned Caroline Carter Warren as a child who had died many years earlier, and entertained the idea that this could possibly be her skeleton. 

“It’s a skeleton,” Monica said. 

“That was torn from the earth by lightning mere days before Caro showed up here. Look, Monica, I’m not asking you to believe that you’ve been housing a ghost… but look at the evidence and tell me you haven’t been housing a ghost.”

Monica sighed. “Alright, I’ll entertain the idea that I’ve accidentally adopted one of the few outliers in the Heaven-Hell system. What do you want me to do about it?”

“Well, keep her here, maybe. She could use a second shot at being a child, don’t you think? She came straight to you, Monica. You should be honored that a dead ghost girl thought immediately to become your daughter.”

She sighed again. “I should try to raise her as correctly as I can, shouldn’t I?”

“Yes,” Enoch said. He was fond of being right. “You should.”

“That’s what I’ll do, then. Are you going to stay on Nantucket for a while, or are you going straight back to Boston?”

“I’ll stick around as long as I can, if that’s not too much trouble. I’d like to look at the bay scallops around here, and document their shells.”

“Very well, would you like to stay at the house, or at a hotel?”

“I’ll stay here, if I can.”

“I gave your room to Thom, but I can have one of the guest rooms made up for you.”

“I thought Addison had my room?”

“No, Addison has Percy’s room.” Monica paused. Percy was a sensitive subject with Enoch especially. “They’re very close. He isn’t here right now, though.”

Enoch huffed. “I can tell.”

One of Monica’s older children, James, came running in. “Addison fell and hurt himself in the yard.”

Monica stood up. “Show me.”

James gave her the full story as he led her outside. “Howard’s there with him, but he’s crying, and I don’t know how bad he’s hurt. He fell out of the tree in the back, and he might have broken his ankle when he landed.”

Enoch had followed them, apparently. “I’m a doctor.”

He was indeed a doctor, and had studied abroad in both France and England, at some of the most pretentious universities in the world. Monica let him follow them into the backyard, where they found the other children standing awkwardly around Howard and Addison.

Howard Carter was a slightly overweight man of average height, with neat black hair, a thin face, round glasses, and bright gray eyes that were permanently shadowed with a lack of sleep. He had a lazy, tired smile, and a slow, thoughtful way of moving that denoted a man who spent a lot of time thinking. 

Howard was a philosopher of sorts, someone who did a lot of thinking and learned a lot about a lot of different subjects so that he could talk about them. He believed in things that you couldn’t feel or see, which put him at constant odds with Enoch. They shouted at each other about what was real and wasn’t real, what was worth studying and what should be ignored. Monica tried to remain neutral, preferring to hear about the mysteries that Enoch wrote on the side to pay the bills, or see the sketches of birds Howard had done. Conflict was a part of life, but these men often took it to an extreme. 

Addison, a small boy with shaggy black hair and round glasses, was laying on the ground clutching his leg. He’d evidently stopped crying, but he still sniffled when Monica crouched down next to him.

“Show me where it hurts,” she said.

Addison half-heartedly lifted his leg, and winced. 

Monica could see that the ankle was twisted, so she picked Addison up and carried him up to his room, which was on the top floor of the house. His room was small but cozy, with a bed, dresser, two stuffed arm chairs under a large window, a desk, and several bookshelves. There were exposed rafters, which he sometimes tried to climb on, to little success. Monica laid Addison down on the bed, and went for the bandages that were kept in the cabinet behind a bathroom mirror. 

Enoch was bent over, holding Addison’s ankle when she returned. Monica crossed her arms. “And what’s your professional opinion on this patient?”

“It’s only a sprain. We’ll elevate his leg, wrap it with bandages, and I’m sure it’ll heal.” Enoch stood up. “He’ll need to stay in bed until it does.”

Addison groaned. “I don’t want to!”

“Too bad. Look, why don’t you read something while you rest? You have so many books.” Enoch picked several books off the bookshelves at random. “The Swiss Family Robinson? Sleepy Hollow? Classic Fairy Tales? A Collection of Stories of the Unknown? That’s an adult book. Why is it here?”

Monica shook her head and took the book from him. “Sometimes Addison takes books from my room to read. You’re too young for this, Addison.”

“But Mama, I want to read it. I can handle it, I swear. I was already reading the first story, and I like it. The ghost boy reminds me greatly of Caro.”

Monica shivered, but quickly composed herself. Enoch shot her a meaningful look, which she ignored for Addison’s benefit. “Alright, but Addison, darling, books like this are usually full of things little boys like yourself are too young for. Not to mention how scary they can be. I know you don’t like being scared.”

“I like being scared!”

“No, you don’t, and I can’t have you crawling into my bed late at night when you have a sprained ankle.” Monica kissed Addison on the temple and handed him his copy of The Swiss Family Robinson. “Here, why not read this instead? I know you love adventure tales.”

Addison grumbled, but he took the book. “Will you buy me a book of whales when you go out? I want to draw them.”

“Of course.”

“Thank you, Mama.”

“You’re very welcome. Ring a bell for the servants if you need anything.” Monica led Enoch out of the room, and downstairs. “I’m taking the rest of our siblings, as well as James and Mildred, to see a play tonight. Care to come?”

“No, thank you,” Enoch said. “I’ll stay in to observe the stars from the widow’s watch.”

“Very well, have fun.”

“Thank you, I will.”

Monica went downstairs to her bedroom to get ready for the play. Ambrose, her husband, was away on business at the moment, so she was meeting up with Percy and Angelica on her own. She put on a blue dress, powdered her face, and brushed and did up her long black hair. Monica then left her rooms to go and find the children. James, who shared a room with his brother Joseph, had been in the bath, so he was in his room in front of the mirror, playing with his curly brown hair instead of getting fully dressed. Monica cleared her throat from the hallway, and James smiled guiltily before shutting the door and reaching for his jacket.

Millie was waiting in the front hallway downstairs, making a doll move for a delighted Caro. 

“My name is Catherine,” Millie said, moving the doll like she was talking. “I like to play games? Do you like games?”

Caro giggled. “I like games. Don’t you? Of course you do. Everyone likes games, after all.”

Mille moved the doll closer to her, moving one half of it at the time so that it seemed to be walking. “Let’s play a game, then!” She tossed the doll to Caro, who jumped up and ran off with it.

Monica watched the entire exchange from the stairs. Caro seemed solid and normal enough. She didn’t look like a ghost, but then, ghosts usually looked just like normal people did. They normally had serious trauma, as well, especially attached to the event of their death. She would have to ask Caro some questions later, see if she was afraid of the water. That would help to prove Enoch’s hypothesis either right or wrong. 

James came down the stairs, dressed in a new suit, and hooked his arm around Millie’s. James was fifteen, Millie fourteen, and both of them were tall for their age, with straight black hair, extremely pale skin, and long, bony faces. Millie took after Howard in that she tended towards being more flesh on her bones, whereas James was so stick-thin that it was a little distressing. Millie was beautiful, too, in a way that James, who had a weasel-like face, simply wasn’t.

Monica held open the door for them, and followed the two out to the front of the house, where her siblings were already waiting for them.

First, there was Angelica, Monica’s elder sister. She was short, with long brown hair that was the same shade as Enoch’s, and a face that was an unfortunate echo of their grandfather’s. She wasn’t noticeably fat or thin, though the dress she wore and the light set off her face to look more plump than it actually was. Angelica, despite her constant frown and looks of displeasure, was one of the sweetest, most innocent people Monica had ever known, though some of that innocence had been shattered by the loss of one of her children. 

Monica had lost three children in her long lifetime. She knew exactly how that void you could never fill felt, how it was to bury the children who you had birthed and held and cared for. They were always there at the back of your mind, even on good days, even when you had been living for thousands of years and this was your fifth incarnation. It still hurt, and it hurt like nothing else ever could or would.

The other sibling who was present was her third brother, Percy. He was also remarkably short, with a shock of shaggy black hair, a long, gaunt face, and an uncanny smile that made him always look like he was holding something inside his mouth. Percy had a variety of facial expressions that he would make, but there was never anything behind the eyes. You could always tell that despite the sadness or joy or disgust on his face he didn’t actually feel any of them, except maybe that last one, when staring at a plate of peas. 

Percy was a sensitive subject with their family. He had always been sort of strange, what with the fact that he hardly ever slept, he inhaled new knowledge like a lesser mind might inhale air, he isolated himself on purpose, and he had never seemed to feel much of anything. Monica knew that his hair was gray, too, even if he was only twenty-three, and that he colored it to fit in better. There was always just something fundamentally wrong about Percy, something that made her skin crawl and made her want him gone, even if he was her brother and she did love him. Sort of. He had run off to college in Europe on a scholarship after a childhood that was eventful in all the wrong ways, and promptly dropped out to do as he pleased with his friends, including a girl Monica had known when she was a girl named Camilla Chambers. After that Percy had seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth for a little while, only to come back without a trade but with a lot of experience that he shouldn’t have had, and no intention of changing any of that any time soon. Their father resented him for the wasted opportunity, and though Monica knew a man judging another man was wrong, she sympathized.

Percy smiled at Monica as she came out, and took her hand to help her down the stairs. “Did I hear that someone was hurt earlier today?”

“Addison,” Monica said. “He fell out of a tree and broke his ankle.”

“Oh no! Well, I’ll send a book to your home to speed his recovery. He likes whales, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he requested a book of whale drawings just today.”

“Good, that’s what I’ll send him.” Percy hooked his arm around Monica’s, and walked by her side down the street, the two of them leading the small group.

A short man and a tall woman, the man with darkish skin and curly black hair, and the woman with long blonde hair and pale skin, were running down the street towards Monica’s group. They came to a stop in front of them.

“Excuse me,” the woman said. Her accent was Scottish. “Can you show me how to get to this address?” She showed Monica a paper that had Monica’s own address written on it.

“Um…”

Percy intervened. “Just keep walking straight. You’re almost there.”

The woman saluted her, and she and the man resumed their run. Both of them were dressed like they ought to have been in the French Revolution rather than Nantucket in the year 1860, and had strange, fey looks about their faces. 

“What a strange couple,” Monica said.