MASQUERADE III

The gardener is the one leaving food for me in the front room. I watched him through a crack in the door last night. That means he’s actively trying to keep me alive, or at least, he doesn’t want me to starve to death.

Why would he do that?

He’s still a gardener, after all. He doesn’t kill, he cultivates. And protects, where he has to. When I was Castile Madigan, he went to great pains to preserve my life. I thought it was because I was the one to raise him after Samuel’s death, but perhaps he had an ulterior motive. Especially as he seems invested in keeping you alive, as well.

So it’s a matter of guessing what it is he’s trying to cultivate.

So why does he scratch at my door? Why does he charge at me if I try to leave?

He wants you alive. But he wants you here.

That can’t be good.

And where the fuck is he getting the food? I can’t imagine that thing wandering into the Ingles off the highway and buying a case of protein bars.

Farrow. Where is your doppelganger at this moment?

Across the room, sitting on the floor and facing the wall. As usual. I’ve learned to tune him out.

I want to see him.

OK.

He looks across the dimly lit room at the figure slouched in the corner. A carbon copy of himself, but unmoving and ominously silent. Wearing the same sweater as his first day here. A little malnourished, but aside from that there is not a mark on him. He doesn’t respond when Farrow speaks to him, and Farrow has long since stopped trying to communicate.

How do you do that? You’re describing what’s going on in real time.

Echolocation. Seeing without eyes. Our correspondence is through letters, which is itself a kind of telepathy. The more we communicate, the stronger our connection becomes.

Like a dab of watercolor bleeding into a page and spreading out through the fibers, my awareness widens. Farrow, I have been in the dark so long, you have no idea … Are you real? Are you truly real?

I know you cannot trust me. I know that. But I want to be your friend.

I mean, you seem nice enough for a rich white dude from the 1910s, but … still. Also I don’t know if I can be friends with a dead guy.

Cas, if you really want to be my friend, you’ll help me get out of here. I have a family. Quinn’s like my sister, and I have to get back to her little boy, and my dad’s out there somewhere and if I disappear he won’t ever know what happened to me and … please. Help me.

I don’t know how. I want to help you, Farrow. I do. I swear it isn’t me, trapping you here. I swear it. I’m as stuck as you are.

Not quite. I’m alive. And you’re just the friendly neighborhood ghost, is that right?

I do not think I am a ghost.

Then what the hell are you?

I can’t … Farrow, I cannot … to ponder on my own existence scatters me. I do not wish to disappear again. Just know I am not against you. Only that the help I can give is limited. In truth, you have already helped me far more than I could help you. I was … not there before. Not aware, not present, not a being. I did not exist. You have woken me. Even as we speak, my cognizance returns. My memories, my sense of self … they trickle in.

Hm. I want to see you.

I don’t have any paintings or photographs to go off. You can see my face. It’s only fair. Best I’ve got is a couple vague descriptions written by people who didn’t even know you that well. What did you look like, really?

I’m given to understand people found my face untrustworthy. I had dark hair. I was never quite able to grow a beard. I appeared malnourished my entire life despite having plenty to eat.

But if you wish to see my face, Farrow, I’m afraid I cannot help you.

I no longer have one.