GERMINATION VIII

3 January 1918.

Being a record detailing the failed resurrection of Hazel Elizabeth Lawley.

An admittance. A confession. A re-evaluation.

The woods creaked and groaned around our quiet manor-house as Alethe and Samuel and I set to work. I sent Samuel to watch the perimeter, to patrol the gardens and make certain the gate at the back of the mill pond was well-fastened.

Nothing could bother us that night.

I could not think how to respond when Alethe asked me where the others of the house were. She would not believe it if I said they were all here, all alive. I am enough of a madman in her eyes already, and I need her help.

And she asked me about Samuel. She calls him the Gardener, which is fitting in a way as he certainly does not remember his own name. I told her only that he would keep the woods at bay. That he would keep us safe as long as I was in command of him.

I did not tell her that Samuel was an example of the sort of thing I meant to do to Hazel. Playing with the forces of life and death most often results disappointment, and nothing comes of it.

But there is a power in the woods.

It was curiosity as much as love that drove me to exhume my dear friend Hazel. I wanted to know whether she had managed to escape as my sister had, whether she was able to purge the woods from her spirit and divorce herself from their allure.

January 3rd. That’s three days before the estate shut down.

I don’t like being interrupted. I told Alethe as much when she protested to what I was doing with Hazel’s remains. I’m sure you will be just as disgusted, so I will get straight to the point.

I treated her as if I were a mortician doing an autopsy, with a standard Y-incision along her torso, but I also opened her forearms and calves to expose the bones beneath, for it was the bones, and little else, that I had interest in.

Now Alethe was growing suspicious, her protests louder. What had this to do with burying her properly? she wanted to know. What was I doing to her sister? What gave me the right?

I laughed in her face and returned to work. Didn’t she understand, I asked her, that she and I were one and the same? That there is as much difference between us as between the forest and the ocean - which is to say, none at all? That the both of us were caught halfway between drowning and becoming fish?

I peeled back her skin. Her bones were bones, her flesh was flesh. And in a rush of envy and pride I realized Hazel had succeeded where I had only ever failed: she had escaped, even in death, the fate I had been bound to since my birth.

Alethe threatened to stop me. I told her to try. I have made enough empty threats to know one when I hear it, though I never thought she would make one. And as I prepared for the next part of the project, I told Alethe there was, for everyone, a phrase or a word you could say to unhinge them, something to break and defeat them without the slightest bit of violence.

She asked me what I was talking about.

And to her, I said, “In the end, we all go quietly.”

She stood by silently after that, trembling.

Neither of us spoke again until I split open Hazel’s breastbone with the bone cutters, and her head jerked back, and though she was dead, we both heard her scream.

Sometimes a scream has words. Hers were as follows:

'Let me go.

Let me go.

Don’t put me in the ground again.'

Everything thereafter was only disappointment.

Where was this? The basement? I think Alethe mentioned a basement. Investigators would have mentioned if they found … this. So either Castile and Alethe cleaned up very well after themselves or …

Or Hazel is still there.