Welcome to October
A Road Rough
Instantly, the world blurred as his vision faded. A warbled sound filled his ears, so he’d closed his eyes to allow sound to flood in.
“I’m sorry,” Wei managed, but deep down, he was nothing at all. “What did you say?”
Ichabod’s words made it through this time.
“Nyx is gone, Sir. She’s... left.”
“She’s...” Wei repeated. His glazed eyes found Constance, catatonic and staring at the door. She was still keeping her eyes on the spot where Evie’d disappeared. She was still even looking for Clara.
And now their Nyx was gone.
“What should we do, Sir?” Ichabod was asking. Wei Down was wondering the very thing. He kept blinking. Lip kept quivering.
“I-I don’t know.”
“I don’t know!” he shouted shakily.
The Fountain turned terrified toward an angry Dr. Down. But deep down Wei wasn’t angry. He was just lost and just nothing. He just didn’t know.
Constance blinked and Evie had left her. She blinked again and Wei was screaming at the phone. Again and he had pulled her out of the Fountain. Again and they were on the road Home.
Constance had always known that Death happened in a moment. But no one explained that Life happened that way, too. She blinked and the world blurred as it sped past her. She had only blinked.
But Nyx had gone.
Leila crawled out of the Downstairs. She didn’t like to be alone. But the Home had been so empty. She waited for Evie with the bodies to keep her blood from going cold.
And when a chime in the Tunnels announced that someone had returned, she gathered her courage. She gathered her words. She gathered her skirts in her hands and after a while, she’d finally pulled herself together and got herself to the Downstairs’ door.
However, a voice on the phone had stopped her cold. It wasn’t Evie. It was a boy unbearably so. Leila’s face grew hot as her heart boiled with feelings undecided. Anger and shame; regret and blame— all the sadness. All the pain.— fused as she heard him say his name.
“It’s Ichabod, Sir,” he repeated, “and I’m afraid I have terrible news. Nyx is... well, she’s gone.”
Suddenly, Leila’s heart froze. The rest of her followed suit.
“She’s... left.”
Gone where? Left when? Missing how? Leila wondered. She burst through the door of the Downstairs, eyes wild and face fierce.
Ichabod spun around, startled and something sadly else. He was just a scared, little child holding a note. He looked to Leila, frightened.
“Sir—“ he was saying, but after he roared the Dr. went quiet. Ichabod’s brow pinched and mouth twitched as the phone hit the hardwood.
“What do we do?”
When Wei and Constance came up to the Home, the sound of a car cooing welcomed them to the top of the hill. Leila and Ichabod were sitting in the back already. Lei popped her head out of one of the open windows. She ordered the Downs to “Get in.”
So they did and Wei had to help Constance buckle her seatbelt. Her hands were shaking and her eyes were swollen the size of soccer balls.
“Where do we go, where would she go?” Ichabod was asking.
“Where would you go?” Leila countered.
Ichabod paled. “Somewhere I knew I could be alone.”
Wei tore down the road and onto the High Street with it’s many lies and lows. Leila said, “We’re gonna need Evie.”
But Wei decided, “We’ll need everyone.”
So he pulled in front of City Hall which was still fully lit though the sun had nearly gone. He went in to the Mayor’s Office. And the threesome waited in silence for his return.
As they waited, a car and then two parked behind them. A crowd started to form in the park across the street. And when Wei Down came out with Mayor Fairchild and Vincent Vale, even Evie and Vienna had emerged from their talk truthful.
Wei started toward his little girl, but the way she looked at him stopped him like a heart attack. It was if she couldn’t believe he was her guardian. Like he wasn’t her father. Like he’d let her down in more ways than just the one.
And Wei Down... well, he felt somehow responsible. Somehow he’d missed how Nyx was feeling. Somewhere, everything had gone wrong. And for some reason, it wasn’t enough to just call what had happened an accident.
Something told him that there had to be some point or person at fault.
Vienna’s hand fell off of Evie’s shoulder and Wei Down’s hand fell down to his side.
“Don’t worry,” the Mayor said from just one step behind him. “We’ll find your daughter, Doctor. We’ll search to the ends of the earth. And beyond.”
A lump formed in Wei’s throat as Evie ducked into the car, saying nothing.
“Thank you,” he managed. Then he shook the mayor’s hand. “And Vincent—“ he started, but the man raised only a hand to silence him. It said, Don’t ask. I’ll talk to her. Carry on.
Wei nodded, then looked at the crowd congregated around his coasting car. The Lambs and Finns and Wutsitz and Brynn and more than one hundred others didn’t fidget or grumble. They waited together. Standing united, standing all night if they had to ‘cause that’s what their neighbor would do.
Wei felt his eyes burning and his heart thump as he moved. He tried to smile but it wobbled so he stopped that. Instead he said, “Thank you,” to all of the people. Then he went to his car and as October nodded, he let Captain Greer organize the army amiable.
With the tip from Miss Griselda that someone left October only this afternoon, Dr. D led a troupe of cars past the city limits ‘til their Home and the hills were completely out of view. A team stayed behind to search the city, but Leila knew they wouldn’t find her. As soon as Ichabod had answered her question, she had a hunch where Nyx would go.
No matter how often Leila’d felt like it lately, there was nowhere in October one could truly be alone.
So she knew Nyx would have to have gone Elsewhere. But she’d need something familiar to hold onto so the plan, as it stood, was to visit the places Mom and Dad once had gone. Two by two, cars from the search party pulled off. Two to the Lowena Library where Mom’s mom used to work. Two to the bakery where Mom’s had started out and met Grandma. Two to the ice-cream parlor that Mom took Dad to on their first date. Two to the house Mom grew up in, in case Nyx remembered the address to the place.
“And there’s also the movie theater, remember?” Leila piped.
Dr. D almost smiled. “That’s right,” he said, remembering. “The one that only plays black and whites.” Dr. D sounded the horn using Morse Code to the car behind him. After confirming the location, the Gunns made a U-Turn and disappeared down the road.
“Oh!” Leila exclaimed. “And I just thought of the stationery store!”
But Evie scoffed.
Leila felt her mouth pull at the corners. “Did you think of it, too?”
“No,” Evie said shortly. “And that’s the problem. We’re wasting time like this.”
“Do I mean?” Evie finished. “I mean not everyone remembers them like you do, Lei. I mean, who’s going to run away to a stationery store?”
Leila grew quiet ‘cause Evie was right, but how she’d been right seemed somehow wrong. Leila’d never considered that. That Nyxie wouldn’t have remembered. And if she didn’t remember she could’ve gone anywhere. They might never find her if she really had just run.
“She... she remembers,” Leila decided. ‘Cause it was easier.
Because she needed it to be true.
‘Cause she had to find her strange, baby sister. ‘Cause if she couldn’t, she didn’t know what she would do.
Evie frowned. “What if she doesn’t? I don’t.”
That shocked Lei just enough to force out nervous laughter. But Evie’s frown deepened and she seemed to mean it when she repeated the words, “I don’t.”
What was this feeling Evie’d just introduced her to? It wasn’t disappointment, sadness, or shame. It was worse than that. It was deeper.
Lei felt sorry for her in a new, less comprehensible way.
“You never said.”
Evie shrugged, unwilling to say more. It was quiet for a while until Ichabod interrupted. Leila wanted to say she was sorry. But Icky was asking, “What do you remember? Did anything stay? Anything at all?”
Evie seemed to be sinking into her seat, avoiding their eyes, not responding to their words. Then suddenly a voice called out “Evie,” and Leila turned to Mrs. D who’d reached out to her sister. Mrs. D squeezed Evie’s hand almost desperately. “Please. There has to be something. Nyx is so like you. If it’s not any of the usual places, perhaps it’d be somewhere only the two of you would know.”
“But I don’t...” Evie was saying growing sadder and smaller and starting to shake. “I don’t think like Nyxie.”
“When you think about your parents, what’s the first image or smell that comes to mind,” Ichabod tried. “Is there a taste? Feeling, sound?”
Evie took a deep breath and Leila wondered. Could there really be nothing of them in her at all? How could she breathe without knowing a thing about their mother? How hard it must have been to not remember the smell of their father at all.
A million years must have passed before Evie opened her mouth and said, “Music. I hear singing and laughing. Stories that aren’t just words, but are sung.”
Suddenly a light went off in Leila’s brain. Mrs. D’s eyes lit up, too, as if she came to the same answer.
“I know where to go,” they said at the same time.
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