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Alethe's Account


Here is an account. I was going to kill Crowley Madigan after my sister’s funeral. I had in my possession cyanide and strychnine, poisons not difficult for a woman of my wealth and standing to obtain in secret.

I had turned over and over in my head the best way to kill him. He had poisoned my sister after all. I was certain of it. Would it be better if he suffered the same way, slowly and softly? Or quick and full of bewildered agony? Or should it be bloody? All I knew was I would kill him - and after him, Castile. I cared for nothing anymore. My sister was dead.

It is their fault I will never know another thing about her. When your last words to a loved one are spoken in anger, the grief at their death is tenfold. I am haunted by her and everything she was, as well as everything she was not. I am haunted by words she did not say.

I did not recognize the person lying in her coffin. I could kill the whole world for that.

And then as I was plotting this I realized I wanted to kill my father, too. Not because he has been neglectful or unloving, but simply because he does not know me or my sister and never could. If I killed him, perhaps that would make him see me as I truly was. I have been unseen and unheard and unspoken for too long. And now I will never know her and she will never know me and I wanted to kill them for it. I wanted to kill them all.

And so in the end, I decided it was to be rat poison in the coffee, in the tea, in the silly little cakes they were to serve after my sister was faceless in the ground. I would poison everything I thought we might drink, the people who pretended to know my sister. I would drink too and laugh about it. It was not that I did not want to live anymore. Only that I was too angry to grace this world with my presence any longer.

I know that I am cruel. I do not even take pride in it. Simply, it is something that I am. That is why I pluck the legs off spiders and the wings off flies, because cruelty is a natural consequence of curiosity. And I have always been curious. Oh, curious Alethe. I was so sure that there is a point of diminishment for all living things. If you push something past that point, it will cease to struggle, it will surrender and accept its fate. A fly with no wings will still try to fly away. A spider with no legs will still struggle. But the more intelligent creatures - cats, small mammals, humans - we are prone to despair, and for us there is a point of no return, a line we can be pushed across.

I thought Hazel’s death was mine. I was wrong.

On my way to the kitchen I saw Castile cross the corridor, an axe hanging from his hand. He was muttering to himself as he lurched up the stairs, his thin shoulders hunched and guilty. He reminded me of a starving cat, trying to pull away, sneak away from me in the hopes that I would either not notice or not care enough to stop him.

Nothing and no-one gets away from me.

It was as I turned to follow him that I saw the ghost.

It was not the ghost of my sister that I had been half-hoping to encounter since her death. And it was no pale white specter drifting serenely up the hall, like the novels would have you think. First I heard the footsteps dragging over the floorboards, and the ragged, rattling gasps. Then it came around the corner toward me.

At first it staggered on mutilated legs, notched deeply by axe wounds visible beneath a thin linen shift stained red and brown. Each step left fresh streaks upon the floor. Its - her - long brown hair was matted and stiff with blood. Then as I watched she fell to one side as a fresh wound appeared in her side, blood welling beneath the breast, the blow itself invisible.

Another notch striped her calf. She fell to the ground, and she continued by crawling, making nothing but that same wheezing gasp even as her unseen assailant severed her feet, chopped off her legs at the knee, laid open her spine. Her raw-knuckled hands clutched at the floorboards, leaving parts of herself behind as she crawled toward me.

When she was nearly at my feet, she peered up at me through her hair, and tore off the blindfold over her eyes, and I recognized her ruined face as mine.

Flies without wings. Spiders without legs.

This ghost of myself spoke three words to me and never spoke again. Her voice was throaty and wet and full of blood. She bit off each word like a finger.

“Don’t - let - go.”

I ran past her and climbed the stairs to catch Castile Madigan.

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