Welcome to October
CHAPTER
22
A Visit Vile
Visitors had always made Constance nervous, but Mr. Thorne was an unexpected guest. Unexpected guests made Constance anxious. They were unpredictable, incomprehensible.
And they always showed up when you just weren’t ready for them, or when you just needed normalcy— for once.
Vienna and Victor hung around until it was quite late and Constance had to shoo them off with the help of Mr. Gunn. But it was mostly because Vienna was curious about that Thorne man. The one who talked tonelessly and tastelessly about any and everything that sprang to the tip of his tongue. Constance didn’t like that he spoke with such speed, that he talked without thinking. That he voiced vicious things.
Some things, Constance thought, should be whispered. Could wait.
But the Thorne man didn’t know that. And Constance watched oh so anxiously as Ichabod slipped into the Attic room.
Bod’s uncle wasn’t a bad man. He was just big and brash. And loud.
He couldn’t help that. Just like Bod couldn’t help that he was small and slow. And silent. But he would not be silent for much longer. He had too many thoughts and unanswered questions to simply stand back and stay still.
There was something in the air most arrogant that was trying to suffocate him. That was eating him alive. It was tense and terrifying like rain in a hot, humid place, and he couldn’t breathe with its presence threatening to drown and strangle and fry...
He just needed to know.
“Is something wrong?” No. “What’s wrong.”
At first his uncle didn’t say anything. Then as was usual with the Thornes, he said everything tautly and all at once.
“It’s your mother. She’s gone.”
“Gone,” repeated Bod.
“The dead kind, as such,” confirmed Uncle Thorne with a nod.
“Gone,” stated Bod in a cracked kind of hush.
His uncle stared at him. “You’re taking this rather well, I have to say.”
Ichabod had been staring at the ground where the moonlight spilled over the bed like an overzealous pool. But slowly his eyes found those of his uncle again. And he decided not to lie and say he could handle it. And he decided not to be polite and stay mute.
Ichabod frowned at his uncle and he told him, “I don’t think I’m taking it well. In fact... No, I’m not. In the most heartless tone, you’ve given me the most heartbreaking news.” His uncle started to speak, but Ichabod spoke louder, insisting, “I’m just taking it! Like one does when something terrible takes a whack at you, and you’ve got no one to take the hit with you.”
Uncle Thorne clasped his hands behind his back. “I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“No, you’re not.” Ichabod took a big step toward his uncle and the man actually flinched as if he were going to take a step back. Ichabod laughed at him. “Look at you,” he scoffed. “You were her brother. Did you even cry for her? Do you really feel nothing?”
The sound of the Attic door opening did not stop Uncle Thorne from explaining that “We all knew this was coming for some time. Of course, we prepared for as much, so—“
“So what?” Ichabod spat even though Mrs. Down was staring at him with a face frightened. “She’s dead now, forever. How could I, how could you— how could any of us, really, TAKE THAT WELL?”
Mrs. Down sniffed and the two boys— one small and full of fire; one large and full of smoke— turned to finally acknowledge their audience.
Uncle Thorne exhaled deeply as if he had held his breath all the while Bod had been talking.
“You can’t,” Mrs. Down answered knowing the smallest needed an answer.
“But you should try,” Uncle Thorne protested. “For the sake of your sanity, and for the sake of the living.”
Mrs. Down smiled weakly as she nodded. “Yes, Icky,” she agreed. “But.”
The morgue someplace Elsewhere was not like that of October. It was bleak and gray. And vile.
But Ichabod stood in front of the Mortimers, in front of his uncle, and in front of the corpse that was his mother now.
Wei had tried to convince the boy he didn’t have to come and do this. For the fourth time, Constance watched her husband ask him, “Are you sure?”
And again, with pursed lips, a look resolved, and a nod, Ichabod assented. So the mortician from Elsewhere opened a drawer, revealing the kid’s mom.
Constance hated the Downstairs of her own Home not because it was a morgue, but because it was the body room. She was always good at working Upstairs selling good memories, closed caskets, and happy thoughts. That didn’t mean she particularly liked who the family business catered to.
They were in league with Death and he was not a particularly friendly fool. Whenever he came, he took something away. He left behind a mixture of emotions. And even when he didn’t put a hole in your heart, you still felt the residue reckless from the hole he drilled in another’s.
They serviced the dead, ones who couldn’t speak or console them. Ones who could never know the pain they caused by passing prematurely. Or even as promised. For it was no easier to lose someone whose time it was than to lose someone whose time it wasn’t.
Constance watched her girls cry quietly for a woman they never knew. She observed her husband’s hand rest on a boy’s shoulder trying to comfort him despite the fact that Wei couldn’t and probably didn’t know how. She ignored the Thorne hovering in the background checking his watch for the time as if closure could come on the hour. She realized, gazing at Ichabod, that it was hard to lose anyone. Death was painful.
But Life was hard.
Create an account

Use this art for a:

Longform Book (multi-chapter)

Picture Book (multi-page)

Poem (single image)

Create an account to get started. It’s free!

Sign up

or sign in with email below