- continued -
Finally, there was another door. She opened it, thinking with relief she’d found a way out. At first she didn’t understand what she was looking
at. Cribs, children’s toys, old and crumbling, the heads of dolls staring broken and lifeless from a shelf, piled together like some macabre
remnant of Herod’s rage, when he rounded up all children to murder. She stared, tears running down her face. There were portraits lined up against
the walls. Family portraits. They went back deep into history. Luce stared out of all of them, a proud father, a beautiful wife, and a single
child. All of them were girls. A book, more like a scroll, thick leather burnt with writing in a language she did not understand seemed to mark
dates back before the birth of Christ, back to the very dawn of ages. And there were more scrolls just like it, crumbling, stiff, piled around the
room. How many families? How many children were his? She, with disbelieving eyes, found only females, name after name, and soon after their birth,
was a date of death. And their mother’s date of death. She felt a chill then, that penetrated to the center of her bones. The heads of dolls,
smashed by little girls of four and six. Evil little girls.
The angel in the statute at the bottom of the stairs really was her husband. A fallen angel. The fallen angel. Her child was a boy. She knew it.
Inside her womb, another kick. She gasped. It hurt! And another. She staggered, knowing it was too early for a child to be so strong. She grabbed
at the crucifix that hung around her neck and prayed. The child settled. The devil’s child. Suddenly, she knew what the mirror meant.
She clambered out of the horrible little room and threaded her way back to the door she had come in. She would find a way through the clock, and then
she would leave this place forever. Her belly was stretching. She could feel her womb expanding, growing rapidly. She knew the child was somehow
growing fast, or maybe the attic was stretching time, she did not know how, only that it was happening. She half ran, half fell down the long stairs,
down and down, descending to her husbands smoking room. She went fast, fear giving her wings.
Finally, at the bottom, she used the lamp to see if she had missed a latch or button earlier. She pulled and pushed everything she could see. The
knob of the stair railing twisted in her hand and the clock door opened.
She was just in time to see her husband step through the massive fireplace, his angel’s face drawn in sorrow, his wings the shape of dragons.
“You were in the attic!” he thundered, his face enraged.
“No- no…I was caught behind the door! That’s all!” she lied, desperately.
“I am the Father of Lies,” he said, closing the gap between them, drawing her to him, his fingers lifting her chin as she trembled. “I always
know when my weapons are being used…”
Tears dropped down her cheeks and he blurred in her vision. Not unkindly he said…”My son, my General in the coming war, wants out now…”
She closed her eyes in pain, and against the memory of the thing in her womb, its sharp claws opening her from the inside as it birthed itself into
the world. She had screamed and fallen, her gown erupting with red, and the mess of its exit. She had kept her eyes on the terrible visage that
loomed above her.
Luce Angelus, Lucifer, her husband, picked up the bloody squirming thing from underneath her gown. It had wings like a bat. He held it in the curl
of his arm, gently, wiping her blood from its glowing eyes. “Do not fear,” he had said to her, a smirk on his beautiful features, “we still
need you for a while…”
He reached under and pressed his hand against her belly, running his finger across the jagged line of his son’s exit. She screamed as he cauterized
the wound, sealing and mending it.
Her hand found a poker, heavy and made of iron. With a rage that came like a beast from her breast she screamed again and struck the iron against her
husband’s temple with a force born of betrayal and pain. He blinked, then staggered, off balance, rocking back to sit awkwardly on the floor,
trying to hold the demon child in his arms where it squirmed, crying weakly.
Fueled by unworldly, insane fear, and perhaps something the baby demon had shared in her blood, she rose up and hit him again, seeing the look of
shock on his face, his eyes fluttering, a line of blood opening at his temple. She took the moment, while he was stunned, to run.
The tree branches clicked and snow began to fall, the wind whipping across her mercilessly. She felt more than heard the rage that tore the massive
mansion apart sending chunks of stone and mortar flying. He would be here soon. She hoped she would be dead already.
Her vision hazed and she heard a sound, sorrowful and beautiful, a wreckage of music played on a lyre. A song filled with such loss and grief that
she could not bear it, tears streaming down her face, sobs wracking her wounded frame. A light broke open above her, and she felt feathers and
smelled something like myrrh and warmth filled her body. She smelled him, her husband, and saw golden hair, and felt strong arms envelop her.
She awoke in her room at her father’s house. Sally, her maid, was shaking her to get up, or she wouldn’t have time to dress for the party. She
awoke, confused, and whole. She got up claiming she felt very unwell, which was only the truth.
Sally shook her head and cajoled her to get into her gown. “There’s a nobleman coming tonight, Miss Anne! He’s from Italy, I think. He’s a
Lord something-or-other. Handsome, is what I hear. Wake up! You are the prettiest thing in the city and I’m sure he’ll dance with you. Your
father — I overheard him talking to Mr. Vanderstern — your father said this Lord’s looking for a wife!”
In a daze she prepared for the party, a sense of dread in her belly. Her dream had been mostly forgotten, or nightmare, rather, though it had seemed
so real to her at the time. Wasn’t it real? She did not notice as she quickly dressed with Sally’s frantic help, that a thin jagged scar, nearly
invisible, traced along her stomach.
As she went down the steps she saw a tall, elegantly dressed man, who turned and looked up at her. Their eyes locked for a moment. Then to her
shock, she realized his face was a match for the man in her dream! He looked at her with longing, with passion for a moment. Her heart jumped
in…fear? That was a curious reaction, she thought. Why should she fear him? Then his expression grew cold, and he looked away. A waltz began.
She watched as he took the hand of the giggling Mary Ellsworth. Anne’s cheeks burned with embarrassment that she had been so obviously slighted by
him. What had she done wrong?
After the waltz, she tried to find him again, curiosity winning out against caution, but he had disappeared. Her father looked at her strangely when
she asked after him.
“Who? Never heard of him,” he said. She never saw the man with the angel’s face again, but there were times at night that she dreamed of wings
and music, waking to find herself in tears.