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“Twas the Night Before


.                                                    ‘Twas the Night Before

Thomas Chandler sat at the table in his small cell. The basement laboratory in which he and the others were being held was dark but for the dancing light from a half dozen candles; his own not much more than a flickering  island nub in a puddle of melted wax. The sounds of sleep from the cells beside his suggested he was the only one awake. Mrs. Foehammer and Brother Kadmus occupied the far cell, Nelly Faulkner in the cell next to theirs, and the young militiaman Donovan Shaw in the cell closest to his.

 Thomas fanned the page upon which he had just written, waving it back and forth to dry the ink before reading it over:

,                                                                      ****

Monday October 13, 4:30 am; three days after the fire

 My mother is dead, and yet I no longer grieve. Last evening, I felt the unimaginable pain of loss, but now the grief has been suppressed. It is for the better. Father says a grievous mind is a weak mind and he is right. He tells me I will be okay and I believe him. The medicine he gives me has finally worked, my body has healed though my face remains disfigured with deep, reddish-purple scars. I may look like a monster but I feel divine; l am stronger than before—more alert. It is as though a fog has lifted and the world in which we live suddenly makes more sense.

 My prior life is over. I died in the fire and have been reborn into this moment. Father is all I have. He is the ever-present now. He says I will become a prince among his children, and I believe him.

 This new clarity of vision comes on the eve of what may be a very dark day. Captain Digby will come for me so that I can be charged and sentenced to hang for the sinking of the merchant vessel the Mont Blanc. It matters not that I killed no people; in the myopic eyes of the law my fate remains the same. Safe trade is essential to the economy. I messed with the system and now I must serve as an example.

The chess-playing automaton went down with the Mont Blanc. That mindless machine was an instrument of our demise. Father said so. I spoke with him often about such matters. How many midnights I walked my mother to work; sleeping in the empty rooms upstairs rather than making the return trek alone across the Rutherford Common.

In the mornings, Father would talk to me. He made sure I had a warm breakfast and a piece of fruit for school. He was kind and lent me books. He helped me with my studies; encouraged me to learn. He talked with intelligence, never speaking down to me the way I hear him speak to others. I respected that.

.                                                                     ****

 A sudden crash from the neighbouring cell  interrupted Thomas’s review.  Nelly Faulkner had stood up from her cot so suddenly she knocked the chamber pot to the floor with a clatter. The girl swayed unsteadily on her feet. In the flickering din of the cellar she looked positively ghastly.

“Miss Faulkner,” called out Martha Foehammer, a note of genuine concern carried in her voice. She pressed herself against the bars separating the cells “Are you alright, child?”

Nelly bent double and vomited on the floor, then staggered against the bars next to where Mrs. Foehammer leaned. The teen-ager fell to her hands and knees, her head bent low while she attempted to regain a measure of composure. She looked up at Mrs. Foehammer; sweat beaded upon her brow. Her hair matted against her face which had paled to an unnatural tone. Her cheeks appeared sunken; dark circles covered her eyes like patches. The girl retched again before falling unconsciously to her side, her body wracked with violent spasms.

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One Comment

  1. Mr Tenk Mr Tenk April 27, 2014

    could i get a scaffold crew out to the fonzerelli docks before mrs. thistle sends her righteous delegation over?


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