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A Late Night at St. Adelaide's

A Late Night at St. Adelaide’s “What are we doing?” “Clearly we’re digging up a body.” “Well, duh. I know that. But what are we doing?” “I just tol—” “Shut up, Gil.” Doug leaned on his shovel and shook his head at the pathetically small hole he and Gil had managed to dig. It was only February; the ground was frozen. So why were they out here at 1 o’clock in the morning trying to dig through it? “I found another shovel!” Victor shouted triumphantly, panting as he jogged towards them. With his long, dark coat he looked even more like a bear than usual. A very nervous bear. “T-thank you both so much,” he managed to stutter. “I know it’s the middle of the night and everything, but it was really urgent, and I didn’t know who else to ask.” “What is the big rush?” Doug asked. “You haven’t told us yet.” “Well, uh... uh,” Victor ducked his head sheepishly. “You’re not gonna like it.” Gil frowned now too. “Come, artificer, spit it out.” Looking down, Victor started digging. “See, the thing is, um, Abby was really interested in seeing what I was working on, so I wanted to make a demonstration.” “And thus you needed new parts,” Gil nodded. “Exactly!” The two of them glanced over to Doug, who merely sighed. He had known all along that Abigail Hodge was no good, especially not for Victor, but it was far too late now. What’s done is done, and if Victor was willing to risk the fire, then so be it. Victor wrung his hands nervously as he waited for Doug’s response. After a disapproving glare, he shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was doing this. “Alright,” he said, “let’s dig up a body.” It was hard work, digging through the frozen ground. But with the three of them working together, they somehow managed to make headway. Doug could see his breath in the air, but he didn’t feel the cold. Only his nose was slightly frozen, no doubt as red as a certain reindeer. What really bugged him was the quiet. He couldn’t stand silence. And in the graveyard in the middle of the night, the Potter’s Field, no less? Oh yeah, it was pretty quiet. “Quick question,” he asked, turning to Gil. “What the hell is an artificer?” Gil opened his mouth, but it was Victor who answered. “Only the coolest class in Dungeons and Dragons! Basically, an artificer’s job in the party is—” “Okay, okay, give me the cliff notes, dorkasaurus.” “Oh, sorry,” Victor apologized. “Um, so they basically combine science and magic together.” “So is this where you get all of this wizard bullcrap?” Doug turned to Gil. “Dungeons and Dragons?” Pausing his shoveling, Gil’s mismatched eyes narrowed. “Nonsense,” he insisted. “I’d known those words for thousands of year before that admittedly amusing game was invented.” “Dude, you’re seventeen,” Doug grunted, his back beginning to ache from all the hard digging. Gil shrugged. “This form may be, perhaps.” Doug waited. But of course he didn’t elaborate. “What the hell’s that supposed to—?” He began, but broke off as Victor’s shovel hit something with a loud thump. The three boys paused, almost unsure of what to do, before Victor fumbled with gloved hands for his flashlight. As the light shone down into the hold, Doug pushed aside some of the remaining debris to reveal a plain, pine box. “There!” Victor exclaimed. “Here, help me move it.” “Don’t’cha need to look and see if it’s all, you know, intact?” Doug hesitated. Part of him still couldn’t’ believe he was doing this. “Oh no, it’s fine,” Victor shook his head. “I only need some of the parts anyway.” Together, the three of them lifted the pine box out of the ground, Doug cursing as he received a splinter for his troubles. “Good,” he grunted. “Then let’s get back. I don’t have much time.” “What could you possibly mean?” Gil asked. “Uh, nothing,” Doug recovered. “Just that in about five minutes I’m gonna freeze my ass off.” And as they began the journey back to St. Adelaide’s, the box hoisted on their shoulders like some lop-sided funeral procession, Doug tried to ignore the ominous vibrations that had begun to emanate from the band on his wrist. ~~ o ~~ Jilli didn’t know what she was doing. It was eleven o’clock at night and she was currently sitting in the library, nursing a cup of chamomile tea while Mike was doing “research”. Research on what, she didn’t know. “It’s for, uh, a project,” he’d said after he’d knocked on her door a half-an-hour ago. “And you have to go now?” She asked, robe slightly askew. “Well, I just finished my homework now,” he asserted, “and it’s kind of urgent.” “I thought you said this little trip was for homework.” “It is!” he gulped. “Uh, different homework.” He was a terrible liar. She sighed, shaking her head. “Why don’t you just ask Doug? He never sleeps anyway.” “He’s... playing Garfield Kart,” Mike admitted. “You don’t bug Doug when he’s playing Garfield Kart.” Jilli opened her mouth to ask him what he was really up to, but closed it again. She was curious, but there was something about the kid’s innocent, puppy dog eyes that made her stop. The moment of truth came when he implied that he was too scared of Abigail to go alone, so she finally agreed to go along with him. “You know she doesn’t sleep in there, right?” Of course, Jilli had to eat her words as she opened the doors to the Blackwood Library to find the dim lights still flickering and Abigail balancing a stack of books as tall as she was in her arms. “Oh hello Jilli, Mike,” she beamed, dropping the books with a dusty plop. “You’re here awfully late.” Jilli made a face. “I was just about to settle down for some Netflix and chill... by myself.” God, that was depressing. “But this one has to do some last minute research for—” “—A report,” Mike finished for her. Funny, five minutes ago it had been a project. “A report?” Abigail brightened immediately. “People mostly use the internet nowadays. Would you like some help?” “No! No, uh,” Mike said, a little hastily. “Could you just... point me to the history section?” As Abigail interrogated Mike further on exactly what kind of history he was looking for—“There’s an awful lot of it, you know!”—Jilli settled down at a mahogany table with the tea she’d brought from her room. Technically food and drinks weren’t allowed in the library, but Abigail usually let the rule slide if it could get people to go to the library at all. Eventually, after Mike insisted several times that he had found what he was looking for, the student librarian joined Jilli. “So, what have you been reading lately?” Jilli asked. “I’ve been reading a lot about alternate biology.” Abigail replied, as if this would mean anything to Jilli at all. “Alternate biology?” she asked finally, once she realized no illumination would be provided. “Oh yes,” Abigail’s head nodded like a bobblehead. “Biology in a more... mystical, or maybe occult sense of the word. Eastern alchemy, occultism, things like that. Victor’s been having some trouble with his experiments, so I’m trying to help if I can.” Jilli had to admit that she was impressed. Maybe even a little jealous. Not of Victor, or course, he wasn’t even remotely her type, but more so of the idea that Abigail of all people could find someone, and Jilli was still alone. Don’t get her wrong, she was definitely happy for Abby, but still... Yet, she supposed that’s just how life worked out sometimes. “So you two are really serious, huh?” “We’re... getting there,” Abigail blushed. Of course, Jilli knew immediately what she meant. Abby and Victor were both incredibly awkward people. The fact that they’d gotten this far at all was shocking in itself. “Well, good for you.” Jilli nodded. “Oh, but his project is fascinating,” Abigail’s eyes grew owl-like behind her glasses. “It’s very difficult to explain, but the way he’s combining mechanical parts and organic matter is incredible. The construction is perfect. The only problem is he isn’t sure how to get it to actually function.” “What do you mean?” This was all starting to sound a little like science fiction to Jilli. Abigail opened her mouth, shut it, then opened it again. “That essential human... something. I don’t want to call it a soul, because no one’s really sure what actually makes us function. Does that make any sense at all?” “Sure,” Jilli said. She had learned that this was the best thing to do with Abigail sometimes. “Oh, sometimes I wish that there weren’t any adults here,” Abigail sighed. “That would make everything easier. Then Victor wouldn’t have to work in secret. They don’t understand, of course. I wonder to myself occasionally what would happen if someone just... kicked them out, you know?” Jilli would admit that yes, she had humored the thought, though she didn’t see how much good it would do her. She’d still be stuck here regardless. It wasn’t as if just getting rid of all the adults could net her a ticket back to Japan. Unless she could gain access to her bank account again. This was assuming, of course, that her mother hadn’t spent it all. But before that train of thought got any farther, Mike sheepishly approached the table with a few heavy books clutched in his scrawny arms. Jilli thought she could make out the title: “The History of St. Adelaide’s” on one of the spines. That was weird, what would Mike want with that book? “Uh, I’ve got what I need,” Mike mumbled, “Do I need to check these out?” Nodding, Abigail led him over to her desk, while Jilli made ready to leave. Taking over the school, what a silly thought. She’d have to put it in the back of her mind for a daydream sometime. ~~ o ~~ Sonia dreamt of strange seas. The sky was pitch black around her, and there was not a star to be seen. Even the water below her was dark and cold, the waves silently journeying to distant shores. She floated above it all, not herself, or material in any way, merely an observer, as is often the case in dreams. Below her, the water began to glow with a strange, white light. It wasn’t a reflection, as there was nothing but darkness above the waves. No, it came from deep within the depths. Dim, and distant they were at first, before growing and becoming more numerous. Whole towers of light, their very tops glowing blue and purple, came into view. It seemed as if there was a while city beneath the waves. Sonia, who now found herself in possession of a hand, reached down towards the water. The lights beckoned and as she drew closer, a chorus of whispers joined it. It was calling to her, pulling her. Where had she seen it before? The name was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t remember. Her mind was missing. Below, the voices had begun to organize themselves into a melody, a tune that seemed to fill her whole being. She was so close, her hand a few inches from touching the black abyss below. If she could reach the lights, she would remember, she was sure of it. She woke with her hand stretching towards the sky and tears running down her face. They ran down her cheekbones as she blinked and remembered where she was: her room, St. Adelaide’s, so far away from her home in Russia. “Get a good education,” her mother had instructed. “Find honest work, not like your uncles.” She didn’t know about the dreams, and how they had only gotten worse after coming here. It was always the same: the pitch dark water, the lights, the singing. And it always ended just before she touched the water. Sitting up, Sonia glanced over to her alarm clock: 1AM. Nowhere near morning. She’s have to try and fall asleep again. But before she flopped back down again, something made her pause: singing. The same singing from her dream. She glanced to and fro, trying to find the source of the noise. And then her eyes came to rest on the window. That glow, that eerie, pale light wasn’t from the courtyard outside, but form inside the room. It seemed to follow her everywhere, always in the corner of her eye. And there was something in it, some kind of thing, or person, but as much as she squinted and strained, Sonia could never make it out. And now it was humming that strange, sad song. Or, at least it had been, before it seemed to notice her staring at it and cut off. The two stared each other down, goosebumps all up Sonia’s arms. Then her heart stopped as the glow did something it had never done before: it spoke. “Uyo aws latnasit.” It was pure gibberish, and Sonia shook her head in confusion. “Uoy od mrebmeer?” “What are you?” Sonia asked, clutching her comforter to her chest as if it could protect her. The glow almost seemed to sigh as it dimmed and faded away. “si iemt het onso.” “Wait!” Sonia made to stand, but the glow was gone, and she deflated back onto the bed. Was she crazy? She must be, it must be a hallucination of some sort. But no one wants to think they’re crazy. Maybe Gil was right, maybe she was being contacted by spirits. But right now, that didn’t matter. One thing was clear: Sonia wasn’t getting back to sleep anytime soon. It was going to be one late night.

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