Welcome to October
A Moment Monstrous
Dr. Down had never minded, but Mrs. Down had always said that watching others from dark door frames was a manner most mischievous.
Mrs. Down had called it “spying” which sounded dirty, mean, and wrong. Nyx hadn’t meant to spy on Bod. But she’d followed him through the tunnels, and her actions afterward seemed suspicious. Sort of wrong.
She saw Bod hold Mrs. Wutsitz’s hand. She watched as he swiped at his eyes with his shirt. She listened to him pray for Mrs. Wutsitz and fix her sheet. She lingered until he tucked her back into the wall.
Nyx hadn’t thought she’d been spying until the door to Dr. Down’s office flew open. Ichabod had jumped.
Nyx decided to run.
She flew through the tunnels and back to the safety of the Down Funeral Home. But even there her heart raced raucously. She felt like she’d learned too much.
The sound of her name sent Nyx spinning around with a start. There were moments most menacing that did that. Turned one around. Forced one to start.
It was only Leila coming down the staircase. She was putting on her coat. She was also giving Nyx a frown most fussy.
“Alright?” the eldest added.
Nyx just wasn’t sure. She felt like she’d been caught. And she’d always thought a criminal should confess their crimes for redemption. But staring at the staircase steep, she saw pictures in flashes of things for which forgiveness may never matter. There were moments that did that.
Reminded you of everything.
“What’re you doing there?” Leila asked.
A terrible knot tangled up in Nyx’s stomach.
“I...” she stammered. I’ve done nothing wrong, she thought. And Bod’s done nothing wrong, she wanted to add. But at this moment malicious, Nyx just wasn’t sure.
Suddenly, Evie came gliding into the foyer from the kitchen. She didn’t seem to see Leila, but immediately noticed Nyx slinking suspiciously away from the wall.
“What are you doing there?” Evie asked, and Nyx started to stammer. But Evie was very impatient. “Aren’t you joining the rest of us?”
The door to the Downstairs burst open. As Nyx’s heart hammered and raged, Bod looked at her. And he smiled.
But Dr. Down patted Bod’s bony shoulder with a face hard and grim.
“There’s been an accident awful,” he reported.
Those particular words sent Nyx spinning. Stopped her heart.
In silence, Evie did up all the buttons on her jacket, dark black. In silence, the Mortimers followed the doctor out of the Home. In silence, they walked down the High Street, crowded and long.
Nyx felt the eyes of all of their friends and neighbors spying on them as they passed. October had heard there’d been an accident awful.
As if the first accident wasn’t quite awful enough.
When they reached the scene at Beetle’s Books, Leila looked up at the perfectly peaceful sky. The sun smiled and wind winked and trees trilled and everything seemed absolutely normal.
Despite the crowd of people pressed around the entrance newly decorated with police.
Leila reached for her sisters’ hands. “Ready?” she asked giving Nyx and Evie a squeeze.
Nyx perhaps hadn’t heard her. She was staring through the doorway at a someone, but not.
Evie, however, slipped her hand out of Leila’s.
“Let’s go,” she said to her now youngest sister. Then she grabbed Nyx’s hand out of Leila’s and led her into the shop.
Leila took a deep breath. She knew Evie’s moods. Though she’d hoped she’d get a pardon. Especially here. Just for today.
But Leila should have known better. No one was easily pardoned by the Mortimer most moody. Not before so not now. Probably not ever. Not even when there was the body of a loved one waiting for Leila by a ladder, on the floor.
So Leila entered the shop with a heart heavy and without a hand to hold. She didn’t say anything but a prayer. Not a word. But as soon as Dr. D was done, she held on to the body. She needed something to hold onto.
So she took poor Richard Home.
Evie’d always liked Richard Beetle. There wasn’t a moment she’d known him to be without a smile. But today she couldn’t exactly return the gesture. Nice people like Richard clearly did not deserve to die.
To see him lying on a slab, in a suit cerulean and clean sent Evie spinning toward a dark hole. There was a voice in her ear, in her head taunting and teasing her. Pulling her closer toward the abyss.
“Evie?” it started. It tried to be sweet. It was soft, but it was controlling.
It was Leila.
“Evie, listen to me.”
But Evie didn’t want to listen. She didn’t want to hear another peep, sound, or word. She just wanted the world to be quiet. To stay still. To stop grabbing onto people peaceful. To give the morgue a moment of silence, and this Mortimer a moment without a wound to adorn.
“I didn’t mean to say those things,” the voice was saying. “I didn’t want to yell or to do that. I swear.”
“But you did.” Evie tried to fight back. Her throat felt thick, though, and her voice was raspy and cracked. “You did and you left it and you weren’t even sorry. You just did what you wanted. Without thinking of the rest of us.”
Leila tried to apologize. “I am sorry,” she said.
Evie scoffed, so Leila repeated. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to let it go so long.”
Evie played with the hair piece they’d bought from Mrs. Wiggs. The crack clean in the back of Richard’s head didn’t need to be covered, but the world was more muted when she focused on something creative. Like matching hair colors or sewing weaves.
Leila sighed. “We left dinner. On the stove. You should eat something. Please.
But Evie was a black hole. She sucked up everyone’s smiles and painted over them. She wanted to be at peace with this. She wanted silence.
“No thank you,” she said and Leila started to argue. But she left it and Evie alone.
That was the only thing Evie knew that she wanted. To be a lone, black hole. To be at peace and to be in silence.
The last thing she wanted at the moment was to feed.
The Mortimer Sisters were tired and three, but Nyx Mortimer couldn’t sleep. Evie’s night terrors had returned. Dr. Down was in the Downstairs despite the hour. Leila decided to keep her room locked.
Mrs. Down seemed to be holding up, and Ichabod was in the attic, fast asleep. Mr. Mind was still out and Jinx and Stein were still up. And Nyx knew all of this, because she was at the top of the staircase, looking down.
There were moments most monstrous that haunted. Replayed. Faded and came back again. There were moments that did that.
Nyx stared down the staircase too solid. Too steep. Too slippery and slanted. Much too terrible now.
She saw a ghost at the bottom lying twisted, wearing a smile. But she didn’t see herself moving. Only watching from a dark corner, standing still. She’d simply been spying. Was simply useless.
Was simply nothing else.
Nyx suddenly felt dizzy. Like the memories were trying to lift her away. She felt nauseous and sorry.
‘Cause Bod had said, I’m sorry for maybe taking you from your son.
But he hadn’t done anything. It was an accident. It was. Nyx had always believed that accidents happened. She always believed that they were no one’s fault, but now she couldn’t stop thinking “But...”
As she walked down the staircase as if dreaming— taking each step one by one— she saw flashes of Clara. She could have— should have— definitely should have run. She could have called out for help. Should have come downstairs sooner. Could have done something differently.
Should have known that everything must be some body’s fault.
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