Following at Willoughby’s heels, Amelia stepped into the daylit drawing room. She felt as though she had new eyes. All of the heavy window coverings had been heaved aside, and light suffused or danced upon every surface. Once it had been had been a hall of secrets, and then a gruesome crime scene, now…there was an emptiness devoid of both malice and hope.
Turning to her left, she could see into the dining room where she had eaten the evening meal with so many compatriots now lost, each seat now bearing some ghostly presence in her mind. A maddening echo of laughter snagged against her skin, her own voice boldly asking for another glass of wine. However, beyond the oilcloth-coated table and chairs, there was nothing else by way of decor. The paintings, the candlesticks, all of it gone.
They strode with urgency that had already driven Amelia’s legs to quaver, with no pause to linger in such fruitless reverie, into the laboratory itself. Amelia felt her stomach clench, but this room, too, was empty even of the supplies that had made had aided in the scientific research that the Professor and Willoughby had been working on the night that all of the horror began. The ivory oilcloth covered the table, the
Willoughby pulled out a drawer which left a single pocketwatch. For several moments Withdrawing it and flicking it open in a swift motion, for the first time, Amelia observed the man disturbed.
“He should be here…he should be…”
He turned to her, eyes wide as he sunk to the floor. “To have done all this and lost Ammon…”
Amelia had no idea what to say and did not mind if the silent reply felt cruel. The Professor was meant to be alive? As though Death were nothing more than yet another tactic for men of means to get at what they desired, nothing more than a short-term distraction.
“When did you arrive?” The assistant began to assist as though he were an automaton, pouring himself and Amelia a cup and filling his employer’s cup back up to the brim.
“Last night. It was meant to throw me and it did. The matter came to fisticuffs and you know how little I enjoy the sight of blood.” There was no ignoring the state of him, or how it wrenched her spirit to see the Professor so viscerally wounded, the map of his skin now home to islands of plum and crimson.
What madness to forgive in an instant the death of three men, her own near-drowning. She couldn’t do it, but she felt the impulse. She did not move to the table, to the tea, or towards the memory of an equally sunny morning spent in this kitchen. She stood in the threshold as dream that lingers too long into morning.
“I let the servants go. They will no longer be needed. The end has begun, but do understand that it was not my choice.”
Willoughby shook his head, relieved at the result, but disgusted at the chaos. She hadn’t realized it, but the Lamb was a servant to the pocketwatch first. The tower of Order he presided over in the Professor’s absences was toppling.
“I was not here to help you.” Willoughby’s voice was plaintive.
“It was a challenge.” He smiled weakly and only for a moment. “Still, as you see, I found my way to the teakettle.”
“Ammon…we are not ready.”
“No, we are not. But perhaps that was always true, we would never be ready for what was to follow. It still follows. It is still happening.”
“You could turn away. You could give it up and let the interference we have offered be enough.
A single look from the Professor’s
“There are wounds, Madame, that the lily cannot mend. Wounds in bodies
He struggled to his feet.
“Am I meant to believe this? Any of this?”
“You have your eyes. I am sorry. The journey has not been a simple one and there is little enough time
“I’m afraid I cannot be satisfied by a ‘suffice to say.’ If I have been duped
Willoughby laid down
“I am absolutely desperate for a cup. I imagine your morning would also be improved.
He offered the cup with two hands as a priest offers the blood of the Lord. The hands were flagrantly covered with the
“Tell me what I need to know…no, first, tell me these markings. The marks on your hands, what are they?”
“I am not whatsoever it is that you have molded Willoughby into. I am not capable, much less willing, to clean up this hell.
Somewhere in the far off distance, she could hear a voice, youthful, but anguished.
“It does not open but for a death in this other world. And the monsters that rule there have a vise-grip upon its control. At the appointed time, on the appointed day, we climb to the ritual font and
He looked down into his teacup, as if it held the only warmth in his body. When he looked up at her, she could see the birth of a tear in the corner of his eye. Amelia couldn’t help feeling unsettled at this.
“All the time we dined, and as we waited for the pudding, some poor soul was facing their end.”
“You may understand why it was impossible to be of good cheer. It has not been for a very long time. Even if I wished it, for your sake. I have never made for a good actor, myself.”
“For my sake? Why should this be your burden?”
“I owe your father my life and the lives of all those who are crushed under
“What should destroy mad magic if not mad science?
“My father was not a scientist.”
“No, he was a procurer of what was needed, be it souls or scientists
“I…this is not a conversation for this world, Amelia. There is a context I cannot give you, no matter how many cups are shared between us. You must come back with me and see for yourself.”
“You are what I am to gather, on this, my final trip through the looking glass.