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  • by Mackenzie O'Rear

Chapter Six - Crossroads

Edited by Brien Bigelow

Illustrations by Lucas Marra

Storms bring life. The parched soil drank deep from the rain, cool and crisp to feed the seeds within. The wind came and drove the mills, churning and grinding away the stored wheat to feed the hungry people of London. But it was the fire within the storm Frederick and Father Grigori were after.

Father Grigori had claimed responsibility for the gathering darkness of the clouds, of which Frederick denounced it as merely luck. “Parlour tricks,” he had called any attempts Father Grigori had done to persuade him otherwise, making objects move or making flames rise from his fingertips. “Smoke and mirrors,” which nonetheless had entertained Duo.. But that had not dissuaded their partnership, for together they had unraveled the mysteries of the Flamel Notes.

Untold histories laid out before them. Mathematical equations mixed in with occult rituals that, when combined, had revealed a long and drawn-out process for a singular outcome: Immortality. The resurrection of the dead, not the prolonging of life as they had suspected, but close enough that the end of one’s life would be merely an inconvenience.

The supplies had made themselves readily available, with Marlowe providing a perfect vessel in which to house the body, a gold coffin infused with mercury. Father Grigori had insisted they file away the inscriptions, citing them as ‘ancient nonsense,’ but otherwise it was exactly as they had needed it to be.

Next was a subject that came in the form the mutilated noblewoman with a deeply loving husband. If it had not been for Marlowe’s timing and charm, such a perfect specimen would have been lost to them. They had to replace many of her appendages and organs, but the result was quite convincing, with only a few scars to hint at her true nature. Overall, she was now composed of the parts from some thirty individuals, with multiples of various organs such as the heart. Nearly five times the amount that had been used in the birth of Duo.

She now lay in the modern sarcophagus, in which a small layer of mercury had now been poured, motionless and ready to receive the spark of life. Large chains had been fitted to a series of pulleys near the top of the tower where she would be hoisted. Most important of all were the copper wires that had been inserted into her body. Once she was lifted, they would connect to their mates above that led to the large lightening rod that was fitted at the behest of Father Grigori.

The black storm clouds were swirling overhead. The winds began to roar through the empty recesses of the laboratory, taking with it whatever paperwork that had been left unattended. Most important, the boom of thunder could be heard, growing louder and closer with every strike.

“We must hurry,” cried Frederick. “The storm is upon us!” Father Grigori nodded solemnly as he began the pull the winch. Slowly the sarcophagus began to rise into into the air as Frederick monitored the various gauges and apparatuses below. Barometers whirred and thermometers began to burst, one after another. The time was drawing near.

Frederick released a lever that would in turn awaken the large gears spread out through the tower. The dome at the top began to open, letting the rain pour in, dancing among the flashes of lightning.

Before it could open completely, a large groan was heard. The gears all began to lock, as the chain intertwined with them, blown into them with the aide of the gale force winds.

‘Frederick!’ Yelled Father Grigori, pointing to a snag. ‘We must do something.’ Frederick looked around wildly, unsure of what could be accomplished when Duo ran past him. Nimble as any animal, he scaled the wall of the tower, using his extra arm to loosen the gears and chain where they had intermingled. When the deed had been completed, he slid down the chain where Father Grigori had caught him.

‘Well done, Duo,’he said, ‘Well done!’ Duo beamed his toothless grin before helping Father Grigori hoist the sarcophagus all the way to the top, the wires’ connection to their intended devices with a hiss.

Finn and Sarah had barely survived the storm. Finn had just began to ask his new companion questions about why she wasn’t dead at his hands when the water began to rise at an alarming rate. The sewers that had become their haven had been flooded, forcing them into the the raging storm that had taken control of the streets above. They had spent most of the day navigating the streets of London the best they could.

When night had fallen, he became the wolf once again. He could vaguely recall hearing Sarah’s voice reaching him. It was calming, almost melodic in how it penetrated the persona of the wolf and reached the human within. From there, she had mounted his back, and he was able to climb them to safety onto the roofs of nearby buildings. Once they had found an awning suitable enough to shelter them from the rain, they sat their and waited it out.

Morning had come, and with it the end of the storm. Finn had curled up around himself, his bare skin exposed in the morning air. He looked up to see the sun rising, bringing its warmth with it. He had nearly slipped when he sat up to admire it, in awe of just how beautiful the city could be in the right light. That was when he heard her voice.

‘Such a shame,’ whispered Martha. ‘You couldn’t even drown right.’

‘What are you doing here?’ he asked. ‘You’re not supposed to be here.’

‘Did you think I was some silly hallucination from downing all that quicksilver?’ She said, smiling. ‘Oh no, dear brother. I’m quite real.’

‘You’re dead,’ he replied, closing his eyes and cupping his ears.

‘Thanks to you,’ said Martha. ‘Even Pa blamed you.’

‘It wasn’t my fault!’ He exclaimed. ‘The wolf…’

‘Bit you,’ she said. ‘But there was no coming back after what he did to me. Of course you could have sacrificed yourself to save me if you weren’t such a coward. I can still hear you crying.’ She leaned in close to his face ,where she began to cry mockingly: ‘Please, don’t hurt me! Please!’

‘Shut up!’ Yelled Finn, taking a swing at Martha, only to have it pass through her.

‘Such a dumb pup you are,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘There’s only one way to get rid of me.’ She took her finger and slid it across her neck. ‘Too bad you lack the nerve.’

‘Is she bothering you, Finn?’ Martha looked around widely, as Sarah stepped from around the corner of the awning. ‘I don’t like how she talks to you.’ Finn looked at her.

‘You can see her?’ he asked, bewildered.

‘In a way,’ she replied. ‘She’s not as clear as some. Who is she?’

‘I don’t like her,’ Martha whispered, backing away. ‘Finn…’ Sarah took a step towards her.

‘She’s my sister,’ said Finn. ‘Half sister. Back in Ireland.’ Sarah raised her hand in the direction of Martha.

‘What is she doing, Finn?’ said Martha, panicking. ’Make her stop.’

‘I know a thing about family,’ said Sarah. ‘Their cruelty more than anything.’ She clenched her open palm into a fist, and Martha screamed. One moment, Finn’s sister was there, and then she wasn’t.

‘She’s gone,’ whispered Finn. ‘You got rid of her.’

‘Temporarily,’ said Sarah, crouching down to look at Finn. ‘You will need to be the one that puts her to rest…eventually.’Finn looked away, ashamed of himself.

‘She was right though,’ said Finn. ‘It’s my fault she died.’

There it floated in the ether, rain mixing with the swirling mercury. The wind whipped around the corpse as if she were the eye of the storm. Her soul was seeking to return. Despite the rage of the storm, all had gone for the three. They could hear not the rain nor the wind nor the thunder over their own beating hearts. Soon heaven’s wrath was upon them. Lightning began to strike, bolt after bolt, hitting the lightning rod and surging into the body of Lady Corrine.

As the lightning surged down the copper wires, they turned to ash. They were merely the vessel toward the destination, yet it still worried Frederick as it hissed. It was as if God Himself had taken an affront to their creation and was determined to destroy it. Sparks flew from every conceivable connection as gauges whirled, overcharged with power. Glass began to shatter as the building shook with the strain of Atlas holding up the sky.

The storm itself would go on to become legend to the people of London. They would remember the flooding brought by the rain that had washed many a loved one out to the river, never to be seen again. The chill of the wind would sink into their very bones, embedding in them the memory of its howl. And then the thundering silence.

Father Grigori released a lever nearby, which caused the platform to descend, as Frederick turned a great crank to close the roof. When he was done, he joined Father Grigori and Duo just in time for the sarcophagus to slide into its cradle.

For a moment, the corpse within was just that, a corpse. They watched with bated breath, waiting for any sign of the new life they had given it. They stared until her chest began to slowly rise up and down, the breath of life flowing within her. Frederick grabbed a notebook and began to furiously scribble his observations. She was alive, unconscious, but alive.

Her mismatched fingers began to twitch as the impulses from her brain began to race through her body. Soon, her emerald eyes, now shining with the spark once more, opened. Lady Corrine sat up and looked at her resurrectors.

‘What happened?’ asked Sarah.

‘Pa wanted me to learn how to hunt. Made her take me with her out in the woods,’ said Finn. ‘We were deep in when something like me attacked us. It only bit me, but it would have killed me if she hadn’t taken a shot it. Made it right angry with her. Thats when…’

‘I see,’ said Sarah. ‘The wolf chose you, Finn. It gave you a gift.’

‘How you could say something like that?’ he asked.

‘You will see in time,’ she replied. ‘Or so the spirits say.’

‘You can see ghosts?’ said Finn. “Like Martha?”

‘Your sister is different, though I can’t say why,’ said Sarah. ‘But yes. I walked the earth for a year before my resurrection. A tethered spirit, unable to pass on. I existed somewhere between the world of the dead and the living. I learned much, even from the gods themselves.’

‘I guess you’re still somewhere in between,’ he said.

‘You are quick learner, Finn,’ smiled Sarah. ‘I am glad you are the one that found me.’

‘Couldn’t just leave a poor girl like you all stuffed up in that coffin,’ he said. ‘Shame I lost that quicksilver though.’

“You need not rely on a crutch, Finn.’

‘It’s how I kept the wolf docile before you,’ explained Finn. ‘How do you do that anyway?’

‘The wolf may be your body,’ she explained. ‘But the spirit is still yours.’

‘Oh,’ replied Finn. ‘I don’t get it.’ Sarah laughed at that. It was the first time he had heard her express herself like that. It was nice and light, something that was made to lift spirits. She froze for a moment in shock and checked her bag, nodding once she counted all her jars.

‘Glad you’re having a good time,’ he said, smiling. ‘I’m freezing up here.’

‘Oh!’ She said. ‘Your clothes.’ She reached back into her bag and pulled out his trench coat. She handed it to him.

‘Thank you kindly,’ he said appreciatively, pulling the coat around him close. ‘Much better. I run a bit hotter than most, but nothing beats a nice coat.’ He stared out at London as it began to wake up. ‘So what do we do now?’

‘We must find the others,’ replied Sarah. ‘They will help us.’

‘Who are the others?’ asked Finn. ‘Another wolf?’

‘No,’ she answered. ‘They are like us, but different. Other children of the gods…’

‘Right…’ said Finn. ‘And how do we find them?’

‘The spirits will guide me,’ she said. ‘We must hurry, though. They tell of a shadow that will fall over London.’ Finn stood and dusted himself off. He offered his hand to Sarah with a smile.

‘Then we best not dilly dally,’ he said. ‘ We best be on our way.’ Sarah took his hand as he helped her up. She jumped on his back as he jumped down to the street below. She got off and looked around. Finn saw her, and something dawned on him.

‘We both are gonna need some new clothes,’ he said. ‘A half naked Irishman and a girl in bandages are gonna stick out like a sore thumb.’ He closed his eyes and inhaled the city of London. ‘There we are,’ he said, opening his eyes. He took Sarah’s hand and led her to a section of clothes drying on a line, and after a quick pilfering, provided them both with a decent covering.

They were soon on the move, with Sarah leading the way, making sure to avoid the more crowded parts of the city. Finn would occasionally disappear and reappear a moment later with sharing of bread or fruit. It was during one of these short breaks he looked up at his companion.

‘How come I can see Martha?’ He asked Sarah.

‘I’m not entirely sure,’ she replied. ‘Many things can affect the living’s perception of the dead. It could be that your condition allows someone to peer into that world, or even your patron…’ She trailed off, seemingly unsure if she should say more.

‘I wish it woulds stop,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘I wish I didn’t have to change like that.’

‘Do you really change every night?’ she asked.

‘As long as there’s a moon shining in the sky,’ he replied sadly. ‘Then the wolf comes out.’ She nodded at that, which made Finn a little nervous. He wished he knew what she was thinking, but she was so hard to read with her stone face.

He shrugged it off and they hopped down to the street below, Finn catching Sarah in his arms, and soon they were off, looking for ones like them. It would be a long time before they would meet them, however, as God works in mysterious ways, and their journey had just begun.

‘Where am I?’ she asked. ‘Where is Gregory?’

‘You remember him?’ asked Frederick. ‘Do you know your name?’

‘I am…’ She thought for a moment. ‘Lady Corrine De Marine.’ Frederick alighted as he began to take more notes.

‘Wonderful,’ he said. ‘This is absolutely amazing.’

‘Excuse me,’ said Lady Corrine. ‘But I do believe I asked you a question.’ Father Grigori scoffed.

‘We will ask the questions,’ he said. ‘You are our subject.’

‘I am no one’s subject,’ she said, offended. ‘Now I’m going to ask again, Where am I and where is Gregory?’ She locked eyes with Father Grigori, animosity flowing between them. Frederick noticed and stepped forth.

‘Gregory,’ he said. ‘He is your husband, correct?’ She nodded at him.

‘Yes, well, there has been an accident.’

‘What happened? Is he okay?’

‘He is fine,’ said Frederick nervously. ‘But I’m afraid you weren’t so lucky.’ He gestured toward the stitches all over her body. She looked down and screamed.

‘What have you done to me?’ she asked. ‘What has happened?’

‘I am afraid you died,’ he responded. ‘But everything is alright now.’

‘We brought you back,’ said Father Grigori. ‘You should be thanking us.’

‘Thanking you?’ she said apprehensively. ‘Thanking you? I’m a monster!’ She felt a rush of pain rush through her head and clutched it. Voices began to rise inside her mind. ‘Whose saying that? Where is it coming from?’

‘Where is what coming from?’ asked Frederick.

‘The voices,’ she replied. ‘So many voices. They’re so sad.’ She began to cry, when Duo hopped onto the table and looked at her. He took her hands in his. When she looked up, she was taken aback but was calmed when he smiled.

‘I-I-Its okay, Miss,’ she stuttered. ‘I c-c-can hear them t-t-too.’

‘Duo,’ said a surprised Frederick.’You can?’

‘I h-h-have always h-h-heared them,’ he replied before turning back to Lady corrine. ‘You-n-n-need to r-r-rest, Miss. This w-w-will help.’ He produced a syringe filled with a strange liquid. She looked at it, afraid.

‘Can I trust you?’ she asked.

‘I p-p-promise’ he said. ‘And w-w-we’ll get you to your h-h-husband too.’ He smiled at her, which calmed her. She nodded and exposed her neck. He reached over to her and injected the liquid into her exposed vein, and soon her eyes were closed. He gently set her down as her chest rose with a steady breath. He hopped down off the table and faced Frederick and Father Grigori.

‘Duo,’ said a bewildered Frederick. ‘That was remarkable.’

‘You shouldn’t have promised her that,’ said Father Grigori. ‘She is a test subject.’

’S-s-she is a person,’ said Duo. ’S-s-she is s-s-scared.’ He and father Grigori stared at one another with contempt.

‘Person?’ said Father Grigori. ‘No more a person than you are.’ He stomped off, leaving Frederick and Duo with Lady Corrine.

‘He didn’t mean that,’ assured Frederick. ‘He’s just a little shook’

‘I d-d-don’t care,’ replied Duo, and turned to Frederick. ‘We w-w-will help her, r-r-right m-m-master?’ Frederick smiled down at him, unsure.

‘We will do our best, Duo,’ He said. ‘But for now, we must study her.’ Duo nodded and turned back to Lady Corrine, still asleep on the table. He had never known his brothers and sisters, and when he looked at her he had felt a sense of family. Of responsibility. He remembered the fear he had felt when he first had woken up, and if had not been for his master, he would have gone mad. The creature in front of him needed him for now, and he would help her any way he could. He slowly grasped her hand in his, as Frederick took notes.

‘I p-p-promise,’ said Duo, and watched as she dreamed a hundred memories just as had.

Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company

Victorian Nightmares 2018

All Rights Reserved

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