Hilda Leek & Cameron Stye
Do not doubt what I am telling you. I was – am – a teacher. I know how teaching is done. There must be clarity. There must be a clear division between flights of fantasy or speculation and the real plane of knowledge and fact. I have a head for dates and times. I always have. It has always served me. I was born with this gift, along with so many others. The universe itself chose for me to be a teacher, and I took on that burden. And so, I find myself ready to teach again – to teach a dying world why it is dying. To that end, let’s begin. Listen and hear. It really happened, you know, in the town of Drodden, that a little redheaded girl and a little ghost who looks like a raccoon tried to upend the way the world works – and they failed. It also happened that a chubby little boy tried to save his father’s life, but he was too slow — and he failed. It so happened that the police also failed to find the answer to a mystery that was staring them right in the face the whole time.. And a different ghost from the raccoon — this one dressed all in purple — tried to save the world — and she likewise failed. Several children tried to escape their destinies — and they all failed, to a one. A priest asked a mailman for help to stop something that frightened them both. The priest and the mailman both failed. And a family tried to prove they were special — and they all failed, too. And do you know what all these people had in common? They each, in their own way, tried to figure out why their world was changing, to see if they could understand it. They couldn’t. None of them could manage it.. And their world isn’t just changing now: it’s ending, because they all failed. Their stories are in this book, but they are not important, except to acknowledge their failure. But I did not fail. I won. All those other failures I’ve just mentioned helped me do it, too. My name is Friendlietta Flowergirl. But I’ve had other names: Hilda Leek, Octavia Burrell. By now, you must think the worst of me. You have been told lies. I know the madness takes me from time to time, but you must know that I’m the one speaking truth. I can’t erase what’s come before, but I can speak truth. That’s always within someone’s power, to speak lucidly. And I will tell you what has really happened, and what is to be, and what will become. Tell them, my lovely Cameron.
Yes. They’ll have to listen and hear. I am Prince Youknowme — the Prince of Bedtime. But I’ve had other names, too: Cameron Stye, Carlton Stanford, even ‘The You Know Me Killer’ for a while. We want to tell you a story.
A true story.
We need you to know the truth. You, who have found or been given this book. You, who have come this far. Surely, at the end of your world.
Tell them about our faith. Why we won’t run. Why we vowed never to run.
I will. But they need to know that I speak with the holy blood.
They do. Even if blood’s not so big a price to pay to get your heart’s desire, even when it’s yours. Look at Jesus. And look at me. Who’s still left? Who’s the god-killer?
I pay willingly. They need to know that. How I agreed to write in the book. How I made that happen, even though I knew what the price would be.
Blood turns thoughts to words on the pages of the book. I told you and you paid.
I wanted to assure our legacy. And they need to know how our legacy is different from the others. The liar wrongbodies who have tortured and tortured us. The Rightful! The Just!
The Forever. The True People. Yes.
But you’re right. That’s how legacies come — out of sacrificial blood.
Every religion that’s ever been, or will ever be, can tell you that.
And now a new religion. Well, new for this dying wrongworld. For all the good it will do them.
And this birth is my reunion with your bloody sacrifice. I’m just gateful my own sacrifice is so minimal. Others will sacrifice much, much more … whether they like it or not. They’ll sacrifice everything.
And the faith is all the things we do along the way.
Know, world, as you read this, that these are our own words — not Evelyn Diedz’s.
She’s not part of this — the purple ghost, the parasite. She’s been defeated. She’s nothing now. Nothing without her book. Powerless. I used her book. I found her name. Cursed name. She ran away. She could be draining Friedrich of life right now, for all I care. Friedrich was meant to be the Rail Man, but it was Salat. Salat was meant to be the living blood, but the ritual changed. Rituals can change any time. In so many ways. But Evelyn Diedz lost. She is no longer part of this, and more than any wrongbody.
She shouldn’t be part of anything. She’s caused so many problems.
She doesn’t belong here. But she failed, dearest. Remember.
She couldn’t stop us. Because you can’t stop True People. We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Not ever.
But we are reborn. And now, we’re in a state of symbiosis, not parasitism. Parasitism kills. Symbiosis unites. And creates. I want no part of her way of doing things.
We share. We give to each other. We are for each other. We are together.
Forever. Our 27th thought on the page together.
Giving until it hurts. For all days and all years and all time.
It’s true that the book was hers, once, yes. But now — now, well, I’ve made it mine. I’ve changed it.
For the better. I want to sing it.
Yes. In a magical forest …
There’s a boy named TK …
And he helps the folks in town …
Even though they put him down …
And the magic is waiting …
You can find it every day…
There’s a love we all can share …
If we all join in and care.
We’ve joined together. We’re sharing all of this.
And now it’s time to care.
The sacrifice of one thing to make another. Symbiosis of the mother to the child, and the child giving back in return. Metamorphosis, happening right inside of me. The white circle, with me at its heart. My power. The Princes’ and the Princess’ power. But so much pain.
I know it hurts, but it won’t hurt forever.
When I hurt, I know that means you’re healing. I can’t — won’t ever abandon you.
Evelyn’s said the book was important to her when I first met her — and she left it behind.
That was her choice. There’s symmetry to it. Literary.
You mean … you think she chose to chase after Friedrich, instead of taking her book?
Yes. And I chose for her. The Princes and Princesses did, too. And the book is mine now.
Friedrich doesn’t matter any more.
So many rituals wasted.
Not wasted. It got us to here. He doesn’t matter, dearest.
Things worked out. Prophecies get fulfilled in unexpected ways.
And now you have Evelyn’s book. A book to write the True Word. Spilt blood means ownership. That’s fair, isn’t it?
Fair or not, that’s how it works. Isn’t being willing to bleed for what you believe enough of a sacrifice to warrant ownership of a thing by virtue of that belief? If I bleed for a thing, and especially if someone else abandons it, isn’t that enough to make it mine?
I think so.
But it has to be certain for it to be real. If it’s certain, is it true? Consistency of thought. Clarity of purpose. Certainty in truth.
The minor keys.
I don’t care what Evelyn thinks the answer is. We’ve seen it.
We have. It’s all truth.
Tell me about killing them again. I need to hear you describe it.
Cutting Gunny — I wish you could’ve seen it.
You saw the patterns join. I love it when the patterns join.
I cut his hand, and I could see the golden light spilling out of him! Making new patterns.
Oh, yes! So beautiful to see.
No matter how far away Gunny got from me, the light was fresh and bright.
Fresh, golden light!
I could’ve followed it anywhere! I think I could’ve followed it across any pattern, let alone the Marsh House’s.
The Marshes’ beautiful sacrifice.
I wanted Victor dead. And I killed him. And they’ll all blame Mickey — the Bitch Pig.
Don’t call him that. We must recognize that we have no enemies now. We’re too strong. Too important to really have enemies now. Those who chose to call themselves our enemies are gone. Defeated and dismissed. We are protected now. The white circle has come. And it cost us, yes. But the cost was less about sacrifice than destiny. And what has happened to Mickey is part of his destiny. We all have a destiny. He came to us.
No. I found him. ‘FOUND HIM FRIENDLIETTA.’ Remember?
I do. You were guiding the planchette. Always there with loving messages to keep me going. To give me hope. But that night was so different. So intimate. The way you were guiding my hands to each letter so closely. I’d felt you before, ach time, but I’d never felt so close since you went away the first time. I was in despair then. So much effort with little baby Friedrich. Worthless, wasted effort. So much blood thrown out for nothing. So many wasted rituals. So much time lost.
It’s hard to think like I did when I was alive the first time. Time seems to go away. I’d lost track of how long it took to do anything by then. I’d forgotten to even pay attention to time.
Oh, so had I. It was a horrible, horrible time.
And then I found him, and I had to tell you. ‘FOUND HIM FRIENDLIETTA.’
17 years of waiting, and we find him.
And then along comes Little Mickey Laddow. A fresh skin — my house and toilet for another ten years. A decade in a wrongbody stink-pit.
Don’t make fun of him like that. You’re not being nice.
Why should I be nice? He was nothing but a useless wrongbody and we’re rid of him.
Cameron — he gave up more than he could ever know. Benevolence in victory, you know?
What matters is he let me in. That’s on him — not me.
I don’t like it when you talk like that.
The point is not to blame ourselves for any of this. We did what we had to.
That’s how destiny works, though.
You know — I was scared that I’d end up with his destiny, living in his skin like that. Like it would stitch into me. Like I wouldn’t be able to get back out after ten years in there. Like it’d rob me of all the things I had to do.
No. That’s not how it works. Your destiny is here, now, with me. Mickey Laddow’s destiny is to expire quietly in prison — or the asylum — or wherever they put him. Maybe some inmate will put him out of his misery. It would be better for him.
It was my destiny to kill Victor Marsh. It was exquisite.
It must have been.
Each time I stabbed him, I didn’t know if that would be the time to kill him. But I dreamed it would be, so I got to kill him again again again again!
YES! And then the burning. I’m sure I smelled the smoke. I breathed it in. I felt like it was actually nourishing me.
That makes me happy. You nourish me now.
I told you — symmetry.
I’m getting really tired now, Friendlietta.
Then, sleep. Can you feel my fingers?
I’ve laid them out on my stomach.
I feel them now. Warm.
Let me nourish you in every way.
I love you.
I love you, too. And love matters more than anything else.
I love you.
Rest now. I’m going to disconnect from the book. I’ll wake you later. Our friendly hunter has come home.