The air in the room was uncomfortably warm. There were no windows, and the musty odour of damp was fighting with a pungent lilac incense over territory. Inky shadows spilled out of dark corners and advanced upon the small circle of candlelight around a table in the middle of the room. In the centre of the table sat a smooth ball of clear quartz. It glowed eerily under the flickering light.
“O, spirits of the nether realms; O, voiceless souls of the immortal void; O, forgotten ghosts and wandering wraiths,” I intoned. “We beg you hear our cries through the ether; harken to our plight: note ye our fervour, heed our misery and our desperation; grant us but one audience with the lost spirit of… of…”
“Barry,” supplied my visitor, sitting across the table from me. She took a drag on her e-cigarette and blew cherry smoke in my face. It didn’t mix well with the damp or the lilac.
I stifled the urge to cough and picked up my monologue with vigour. “Barry!” I cried. “If you can hear us through the darkness, if you can find your way to this circle of light, if you wish to make your presence known to us, then: knock th-”
Three knocks sounded against the wooden tabletop.
“-ree times,” I finished impassively.
Again, smoke billowed into my face.
“Anyone can do that,” she pronounced. “Tables are easy. You got a knocker and a pedal strapped to your foot under there?”
In response, three knocks sounded against the wall to the left. My guest, a thin, fifty-something woman with a face like an owl, nodded to herself. “That’s good. You got hidden speakers rigged up? I bet you can do all sorts with technology these days.”
At the back of the room, nestled in darkness, a set of miniature Chinese temple bells began to ring discordantly.
“The spirit announces its presence,” I said authoritatively, hoping to regain the flow.
“Ooh, coo-ee,” she said. “I was hoping you’d do poltergeist activity.”
One of the bells apparently unhooked itself from the stand and launched itself towards her head. It missed by a few inches. “Lever operated?” she said, unfazed.
“Ah, t’hell wi’ it, woman!” barked a voice from the shadows. “Din’t ye want t’speak with yer old man or no?”
“Barry?” she answered, eyes bulging. She leaned eagerly across the table and peered into the crystal ball. “Is that you, Barry?”
I raised my palms solemnly in the air. “We should not place too much stress on the spirit. We should expect it to communicate without words, lest we cause it to lose its conscious mind altogether–”
“What’s it like on the other side, Barry? Is there a light? Is Aunt Rosie there? Does she mind that we buried her without her teeth?”
“Please, Ms Reynolds,” I implored. I thought I could hear a faint muttering behind me. “The spirits are silent. We can ask them but one question at a time, and expect a simple answer–”
“What did ye do wi’ her teeth, you mad bat?” exclaimed the spirit.
“They were only false teeth. They cost a lot of money.” Her brow wrinkled. “You’re not Barry.”
“Aye. I pity the man as had t’kiss your ugly beak. Must’ve had an iron stomach, breathin’ in that filthy smoke all the time. I likes a pipe as much as anyone, but what kind of uncanny laggard wants t’smoke fruit?”
It was an abrupt end to the séance. Ms Reynolds left our basement room and alighted the stairs to the bar on the floor above, angrily huffing on her cherry e-cig. Ang hopped up onto her vacant chair.
“Good riddance,” she said. “Can we get a beer now?”
I rubbed my tired eyes. It was still early in the evening; I had a lot more phony séances to wade through yet. “For the last time, Ang, we can’t afford it. Mr Chambers was good enough to give us a room in his pub, but the deal was that we provide our specialist brand of entertainment. Work first, drink later. And if you stopped aggravating customers, we might reach the drinking part a whole lot sooner.”
She sniffed. “I dun’t call this work. Knockin’ on tables and making noises in the dark.”
I wondered if Ang understood the concept of irony. Coblynau are especially well known for the knocking noises they make in the deep, damp, dark of a mine – hell, why’d you think the Cornish ones are called knockers? I refrained from pointing it out.
“Just think of it as an easy meal,” I tried. “It’s easy for you to move in the dark and hide from sight. You’ve had lots of practice, after all. But let me do the talking, all right?”
“Right,” she grumbled.
“Let’s see who the next customer is.”
“Gullible moron, ye mean.”
Upstairs, a waiting line of chairs had been set out by Mr Chambers. Pinned to the stained walnut wood of the bar were posters proclaiming the mystic arrival of a psychic-medium-clairvoyant-soothsayer-fortune-teller for ONE NIGHT ONLY!!! I convinced myself to be thankful that it stopped at three exclamation marks, and that Mr Chambers hadn’t also tried to call me a wizard.
Only one chair in the line was occupied. There sat an elderly gent in a tweed jacket and tie, one hand resting on a walking stick at his side. He smelled faintly of mothballs. The air of loneliness that hung about him was almost tangible. This would be an easy one, I decided.
I strode forward with a warm smile and outstretched hand. “Good evening, sir. My name’s Jack Hansard, professional channeller of spirits.”
“Frederick Lawson,” he replied. His voice had a weary edge to it.
“Right this way, Frederick. Easy, old boy, mind the steps there.”
He was far from steady on his feet; he shuffled more than walked. It was a relief to get him seated again. I didn’t want to be faced with telling Mr Chambers one of his patrons had fallen and broken a hip.
“Now then, Fred – may I call you Fred?” I began. “What do you desire? To know the future? To witness the arcane arts? Or to make contact, perhaps, with a lost loved one?”
He nodded his head, and the candlelight threw weird shadows across his wrinkled features. “Maggie,” he said quietly.
He nodded again. Perfect. So long as Ang could keep her mouth shut, this should go off without a hitch. Appeasing lonely bereaved spouses is the mainstay of the séance racket.
“Will I see her?” Frederick asked, staring down at the table top. He hadn’t looked me in the eyes at all, really.
I hesitated. “No. The spirits cannot manifest themselves into any physical form. We will first try to summon the spirit of your wife, and then you will be able to ask her any questions you desire–”
“Will I hear her voice?”
I bit my lip, feeling a little wretched about the poor guy’s misplaced desperation. “The spirits cannot talk.”
“Then how will she answer?”
“We can use a number of communication methods. The simplest is asking the spirit to knock against a surface…”
The old man sighed, and it looked as though his last breath was escaping his body. His features seemed to sag; his shoulders slumped, and the shadows grew larger under his eyes.
“You’re a fake,” he said quietly. “I don’t want to hear some knocking. I want to see my Maggie.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
He raised his head and looked me in the eye for the first time. In a near lifeless voice he said, “I’d give you every penny I have, just to see my Maggie again.”
Wheels turned in my head. I wondered how many pennies he had to his name. There might be a way I could fulfil the old boy’s wish in a way that left us both happy. The hospitality of Mr Chambers was all very well, but I wasn’t making any money from this phony psychic gig. Now where had I put that thing…
“Mr Lawson. Fred. I can’t bring Maggie back to life for you. Nor can I conjure her spirit in the flesh. But what if I could reunite you with her, as she once was, as you remember her to be?”
His expression remained downcast. I was offering him the impossible, and he knew it. But impossibility, to my mind, is subjective.
“Listen, Fred, wait right here. I’ll be back in a jiffy, and I’ll have something that’ll blow your knowledge of the world to kingdom come. Just wait here.”
I took the stairs three at a time, racing outside to my car. Not that I was worried I’d lose the guy – if dear old Fred decided to leave, I’m quite certain I’d be back before his tottering knees could get him up the second step. I riffled through the goods in my boot, flinging aside out of date potions and cheap talismans. I emerged with my prize, held it joyously to my chest. Up until this moment I’d had no idea how I was going to sell the bloody thing. Potions and curses are easy. This required more finesse.
I was only slightly out of breath when I reclaimed my seat in the circle of candlelight. I set down a box, two bowls, and a bottle of water on the table. Frederick looked at me with interest.
“I’ve been speaking with your associate,” he said.
“The dwarf, you know.”
She emerged from the shadows, holding a bag of crisps. “Din’t know how long ye were gunna be gone, gwas. And the gent needed a glass o’ water.”
“I’ve been persuaded to hear you out,” said Frederick. He sounded drained, like he was running on empty. “I don’t know if I really believe in ghosts. I don’t even know if I believe that Maggie’s still here. But I know that I want to see her again, and I’ll do anything, believe anything, if you can make it so.”
“I think I can,” I said. With a ceremonious flourish, I removed the cap from the water bottle and poured its contents into the two bowls. Then I opened the box and lifted out two small teardrop vials, each only as big as my thumb. One shimmered like liquid mercury; the other like molten gold.
I held forth the silver vial. “This is Mnemosyne. Pure, liquid memory.” Then I held aloft the gold vial. “This is Lethe. Blissful ignorance, bottled.”
Frederick seemed to chortle. “I expect you got them out of Hades yourself, eh?”
“I can’t say I’ve travelled there myself,” I replied, masking my confusion. “Why do you ask?”
“I’ve studied Greek mythology, lad.” He closed his eyes, and spoke as if reading an old memory on the back of his eyelids. “Departed souls may drink from one of two rivers in the afterlife. Drink from Lethe, lose all recollection so you may be reborn anew. Drink from Mnemosyne and remember everything that ever was and will be. The rivers are also twinned with the goddesses of oblivion and memory, if you care to know.” He gave me pointed look. “Perhaps you had an audience with a deity instead?”
“He got ’em off a man in a pub,” supplied Ang.
Frederick cracked a smile.
“Rest assured, someone embarked on a perilous journey to obtain these precious liquids,” I interjected. “And they do exactly what it says on the tin. With Mnemosyne, you will walk clear-eyed in your memories once more. You’ll remember things in such detail it will feel like you’re really there, all over again. Like I said before, I can’t bring Maggie back to life – but I can bring you to your memory of her. You can relive your time together, and it will feel as real as it did the first time round.”
His hands began to tremble where they rested on the table. There was a tightness in his jaw and pained uncertainty in his eyes. “How?” he said, hoarsely.
I tipped first the silver vial into one bowl of water, and then the gold into the second. The fluids seemed to break apart, diffusing across the surface until a sheet of rippling silver and a pane of placid gold shone upwards. Frederick stared at them hungrily. Whatever doubts he had were quickly being pushed out by hope.
“Before we continue,” I said, tactfully, “I must broach the subject of financial reparations. I am of course willing to let you try before you buy, as it were, but I need some token of commitment from you first…”
With a shaky hand, Frederick pulled out his wallet and pushed it across the table. “I have more,” he insisted. “If that’s not enough.”
A sly peek told me roughly two hundred pounds in notes were stuffed into the neat leather holder. I love old people. They always carry cash, and so much of it!
I cleared my throat delicately. “That will certainly do for a deposit. Now, here’s how it works. You will place your right hand in the silver bowl. Think of Maggie as you do so. Think of the best time you ever had together. You will enjoy, let’s say ten minutes, in her company. I’ll give you a tap, and then you’ll place your left hand in the golden bowl. It will bring you out of it, back to the present. Is that clear?”
I pushed the bowls forward, had him rest his hands next to each one. “When you’re ready,” I said.
After a moment’s hesitation, he lifted his right hand and dipped it into the silvery liquid. His eyes drifted closed and his breathing slowed.
“He sleepin’?” asked Ang.
“In a sense.”
His eyelids flickered rapidly, as though he was dreaming. I pulled a watch out of my trench coat and made a note of the time. Ten minutes. Seemed fair for two hundred pounds. And if he really was willing to part with a lot more, well, he could enjoy Mnemosyne and Lethe for the rest of his life.
“He really relivin’ his memories, gwas?”
“As if it were happening for real,” I affirmed.
“That’s a first, gwas.”
The minutes ticked by, until they were up. I nodded to myself and tapped Frederick firmly on the shoulder.
“Time’s up, old boy. Put your left hand in the bowl now.”
We waited, and he didn’t moved.
“Don’t think he heard you, gwas.”
“No matter,” I said, and lifted Fred’s hand into the golden bowl myself. The surface shimmered and sparkled, but Frederick remained still.
I snapped by fingers by his ear, pinched the thin skin of his wrists.
“He’s not wakin’ up,” panicked Ang. “Why’s he not wakin’ up?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered. I grabbed his right hand and lifted it out of the silver Mnemosyne. “Hand me some tissue, Ang. I’m going to try cleaning it off.”
“Will this do?”
Someone handed me a wire brush. I blinked the light out of my eyes and stared at the brush in my hands. “That’ll do fine,” I heard myself say.
I turned back to the old iron fence and continued to scrub away the rust and flaking paint. I’d have it good as new by the end of the week, and then I’d see to Mrs Palmer’s chipped window frames. Some sandpaper would see to that nicely.
“Mother says you’re to come in for dinner in an hour,” said the same voice who had handed me the brush. I looked up into the slightly pudgy face of a twelve year old girl.
“Thanks Maggie,” I said.
* * *
Life in the country wasn’t so bad. I’d seen other kids crying on the train over here, missing their parents already. Not me. I was ready for an adventure, and if I was too young to go off and be a fighter pilot like my pa, then I’d guard bonny England from a farm in Norfolk, instead. Let’s see Fritz try and take our shores while I’m on duty.
“What are you doing, Fred?”
I whirled round, a sharpened stick aimed level with the face of the intruder. Maggie regarded it sceptically. “Hunting for Nazis again?” she inquired.
“Hush! You’ll give away our position.”
“There aren’t any Nazis in the woods, Fred.”
I crossed my arms and sat grumpily on a tree stump. “How d’you know? They could’ve snuck in under cover of darkness. Travelled down the river, maybe.”
“They wouldn’t invade here though, would they.”
“Could be.” I nodded wisely. “Could be they know we wouldn’t expect them to attack here. Could be that’s precisely why they would.”
She sniffed haughtily. As if knowing how to milk a cow gave her more authority than me. “Stop being silly, Fred.”
“S’not silly. It’s prepared.”
She sighed and flicked her rose blond hair. “Father needs help bringing in the hay bales. Come and be useful, will you?”
I grumbled but rose to my feet anyway. I’d already learned that uselessness was a quick road to meeting the back of Mr Palmer’s hand. And the front of it, if he’d had a drink.
* * *
The fields were a rolling, rippling sheet of gold under the setting sun. It made me think of a river, for some reason. A river of golden waves, and for a moment I wanted to dive into it, into a golden oblivion.
Maggie rested her head on my shoulder.
“Thanks for what you did,” she said.
“’Tweren’t nothing,” I replied. “That slob should’ve known better than to foul mouth a lady.”
“I did call him a pig’s arse first, though.”
“S’not a crime to tell the truth.”
She giggled softly and leant into my side. Shyly, she slipped her hand in mine. Her skin was rough and weather-worn, but still felt like fragile silk to me. I felt the heat rising in my cheeks. And other places.
“Maggie,” I began, but felt the words stifled in my throat.
“What is it?” She squeezed my hand and gazed up at me. Her eyes were a dull hazel colour, but they seemed to shine in the light of the golden fields. I mustered my courage to speak.
“There’s talk of my going home, back to my ma in Manchester. Now the war’s over, you know…”
“Stay,” she said simply. “There’s a job for you here. Father needs you on the farm. You’ll always have a place at our table.”
I avoided her golden gaze. “My ma needs me. Six years on her own self. This past year her letters have been… Well, with pa gone, she needs a man in the house. She needs me home, Maggie.”
She pulled away and stared off into the distance. “Will you come back?” she asked quietly.
“If you’ll let me.”
She drifted in her own thoughts awhile, then suddenly threw her arms around me. “You better swear it, Fred,” she whispered in my ear.
“I swear it,” I murmured. I kissed her, for the first time, and it seemed the very fields stood still to watch. In the background, I thought I heard someone shouting.
* * *
The train juddered to a halt at the platform. My palms were sweating with anticipation. This was the moment. How would it go? Would she run down the platform and fold me into a loving embrace? Would I pick her off the floor and swing her round like in the flicks? Would she kiss me first? Should I kiss her first? What if none of those things happened, and there was only silence between us?
I gripped the tin of Farrah’s Harrogate toffees more tightly. They were her favourite. Would she like them as much at twenty-four as she did at sixteen?
I squared my shoulders and stepped proudly onto the platform. My heart burbled in my chest. Where would she be? Surely she was waiting somewhere nearby.
I started forward, but was stopped by a strange man in a trench coat. He placed a hand on my shoulder and tried to say something. His voice sounded as though it was underwater. Something about his intense expression scared me, the way his eyes flared and his mouth strained.
And then Maggie appeared. The man was brushed to the side, and, with tears running down her cheeks, she hugged me tight. I kissed her hair and savoured her smell. I was home.
Together we forged through the crowd of alighted passengers, smiling the dopey smiles of reunited lovers.
Behind us, the man continued to shout on the platform.
* * *
The wedding was a grand affair. Everyone in the village was in attendance in some unofficial capacity: children had already scaled the walls of the church yard for a peek of our party. I’d saved pennies we would throw to them later.
I beamed at Maggie in her mother’s high-collared wedding dress. She was speaking with my mother, currently the proudest woman in all of England.
Mr Palmer – Nathan – came up to shake me firmly by the hand. His expression, as always, was stern, but this time I thought I saw a hint of pride. He gave a gruff, “Congratulations, son,” and marched off to speak with the vicar.
Another well-wisher grabbed me roughly by the elbow.
“Steady there!” I said, jovially. “Had too much to drink already, eh?”
I peered closely at the newcomer, trying to place his face. I know I knew it, but I couldn’t figure out from where. It was quite an unassuming face, dark dishevelled hair, light stubble, and grey rings under the eyes which I felt made him look older than he should. It was the long coat which jogged my memory.
“Hey now!” I cried. “You’re that fellow from the platform!” I knew it was a ludicrous thing to say, but I couldn’t help it. The stranger planted his hands on both m shoulders, brought his face level to mine, and in a firm, controlled voice he said:
* * *
It felt like something snapped at the back of my head. Like an elastic band pinged at me from afar. I rubbed the spot distractedly. Cora was still laughing at me.
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” I said, peevishly.
“It’s the face you make,” she snickered. “You look constipated. You’re meant to be fading away, not taking a shit.”
“I’m concentrating,” I huffed.
“Then you’re trying too hard. Come on, Jack. Follow me.”
She stepped back into the shadow of the alley and faded from sight. It was like the alley had swallowed her.
“I know you’re there,” I said, uncertainly.
“Follow me, then,” demanded a disembodied voice.
I closed my eyes and exhaled. Just let go. Imagine you’re looking at yourself through a camera lens, and change the focus. Blur the image so that the background is sharper and the foreground is all fuzz. Or is it the other way round? I screwed my eyes tighter – I could hear her giggling – and imagined myself melting into the brickwork, into the air, spreading my molecules thin and wide and stepping out of the picture…
I opened my eyes, slowly. The world had turned to a fuzzy grey, with strange shadows shifting in and out of view at the very edges of my vision. But there was Cora, sharp as a knife in the middle of it all.
“Looks like you did it, shithead. Well done. This way.”
She turned and ran down the length of the alley, disappearing round the corner.
“Wait!” I struggled to keep up. But I was elated. Look at me, slipping in and out of reality as I pleased. Look at me, following this crazy girl into some upside down version of the world. She was like a colossal icebreaker slowly demolishing every idea of normal and facet of common sense I had taken for granted, and I couldn’t break out of her wake even if I wanted to.
I caught up with her, where the darkness gathered into a pit at our feet.
She grinned at me, and it was that beautiful, evil grin.
“Do you want to see some monsters?” she said.
* * *
There were monsters gathered about her in the ward. They were always there, just on the edges of vision, whenever I visited. I got the distinct impression they were there for her; feeding, maybe.
I fished a pendant out of my trench coat. The same coat she’d stolen off Greenwich market, to show me how easy it was if you knew how to fade away. I placed the talisman round her neck: the latest in a series of protective ornaments I’d dredged up. I hoped it was doing some good.
“Another trinket for you,” I murmured. “I know how much you like shiny things.” I glared at the shadows shrinking against the ceiling. “Shoo,” I said, viciously.
I sat next to her in silence. I thought about telling her of my latest adventures, about how I’d met this witch up north and managed to barter for spells, and about my narrow escape when he discovered I’d purloined a few extras as well. I could tell her about my new car, and what it was like living on the road. I could tell her how much I missed her, and I wished she’d laugh at me again.
Instead, I just brushed her hair back from her golden skin and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
“I’ll be back soon, Maggie,” I said, then furrowed my brows and shook my head. “Maggie,” I repeated, tasting the name. It wasn’t right. This was Cora, in front of me. Cora, here, but not really. Stuck somewhere inside her own head, where only monsters and shadows can see.
I caught sight of my reflection in the window. I was shouting at myself.
To a normal person, this would be brushed off as the workings of a tired mind. Not to me. In my world, if your reflection tries to talk to you, you damn well listen.
I turned to face myself, but I couldn’t hear what the words were. I decided to unfocus, letting myself drift into the space between spaces. My reflection sharpened, became more solid in the glass. And then it changed shape, became an unfamiliar face. A young, handsome man with cropped blonde hair and full whiskers. He looked confused.
“Hello,” I said, amiably. “What are you doing in my reflection?”
“Where’s Maggie?” he said. Then he leaned forward, squinting at me. “I know you.” He said at last. “That Hansard fellow. The mystic.”
“Yes. I’m afraid I can’t introduce you in the same way.”
“Fred Lawson. We met in The Clam and Cockle. I was with Maggie until you… you took her away from me! Let me go back to her, please!”
The world tried to rush back and envelop me, but I resisted. I planted my feet and firmly faded. As the world melted away, memories began to drop back into my head, in the correct order.
“Mnemosyne,” I said, grimly. I remembered grabbing the old man’s hand. Had I touched some of the silver gunk? From the patchwork of jumbled memories I could recall, it seemed like I’d been drawn into Fred’s own memories. I experienced them first hand. For a time, I was him.
I took a deep breath. “It’s time to go back, Fred. We can’t stay here.”
Like a petulant teenager, he stamped his foot. Suddenly we were under blue sky and church bells were ringing. Fred wore his wedding suit.
“You will not take me away from this,” he snarled. He looked over at his wife, still chatting pleasantly with the other Mrs Lawson. His eyes misted over. “My Maggie.”
“Frederick. Fred. I know this is hard. But she’s gone. It’s not really her.”
He glared at me. “Wouldn’t you do anything to have your Cora back?” he said, harshly.
I let it slide over me, like a breeze. “She was never mine to keep.” I spread my hands imploringly. “In any case, I wouldn’t want this, to be kept in some loop with her til the end of time. Reliving the same adventures over and over again. She wouldn’t want that.” She’d call me a shithead, and mean it. “Don’t you think Maggie would want you to go on with your life?”
“What life? What’s left for me to live?”
Here the recollected Maggie, in her white wedding dress, wandered over.
“Who’s your friend, Fred?” she chimed, with a bright smile.
He beseeched me with his sad eyes. “Let me stay,” he said, simply. “Let me have my oblivion.”
Christ, I’m a soft touch. There was nothing more I could say. He’d made his choice. How do you pull someone out of their own mind? I tried for years with Cora and never found a way.
I regarded the happy couple, how Maggie’s face shone and she hung on Fred’s arm like an anchor to its ship. How Fred looked like a drowned man who had finally found port in his storm.
“Congratulations,” I said.
* * *
I awoke to Ang fanning my face with an empty crisp packet. Cheese and onion wafted up my nostrils.
“Ye awake, gwas?”
I nodded, groggily. “Where’s Fred?”
She pointed to him, slumped over the table, one hand still in each bowl.
“Why’s it not working for him?” quaked Ang. “When ye went out cold I put yer other hand in the gold bowl, like ye said. And here y’are, awake as day. Why’s he still sleepin’, gwas?”
“He decided to stay.” I looked down at my hands and saw the remnants of gold and silver. It slithered across my skin, into the air, and into nothing. Then Ang shrieked.
Where Frederick’s hand draped over the silver Mnemosyne, the mercury-like liquid slithered up his wrist and his arm.
“Don’t touch it!” I shouted.
In seconds it enveloped him like a silver statue. Then it melted, shrank, and disappeared into nothing excepted a silver pool in the bowl.
After a few moments Ang remembered to close her gaping mouth. “What was that?”
“I suppose old Fred faded into his memories for good,” I pondered. “Faded all the way.”
“We should get rid of it,” said Ang, glaring suspiciously at the bowls.
“Not necessarily. Could still turn a tidy profit in the future.”
“Put it away.”
“All right, keep your cap on.”
I fished out the vials and held them over the bowls. Mnemosyne and Lethe flowed back into them, sucked in like a vacuum. Ang eyed the bottles warily.
“Is the ol’ man in there now?”
“He’s in his memories. Different time, different place.”
“So long as it’s far away from here.”
I placed them back into the box, and produced a key for the lock. I’d never actually felt a need to lock it, until now. I’d throw the key in the river in the morning.
Or maybe I’d throw it away tonight, just to be safe.
Maybe I should throw the whole box away, like Ang said. Remove the temptation entirely. I can’t deny it was there, gnawing on a dark place in my head. I should put the box in a sack with stones and let it sink to the bottom of the riverbed.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it, knowing that somewhere, inside that box, was Cora.