The Goddish: All Good Authors Love Detectives

Author’s Note: This is not a regular Story Studio offering. It is a Shibboleth for those familiar with other Dangerous Woman stories, and if you don’t know anything, it will make no sense. This is literal alchemical Gibberish — the language of the birds. This is under the “Everything!” banner, and it is a meta-story with nudges, winks, nods, and in-house humour. You have been warned…

I

“…”

“Norton?”

“Verity? Verity! Is that really you?”

“Yes, darling. Are you all right?”

“We’re back on Viking Island, aren’t we, Sweetness?”

“It seems that way. Beloved Holly? Are you here?”

“Sure am, big sister. Eli?”

“He’s not here…”

“But I am…”

“Wait a minute, I know that voice…”

“It’s me, Vendel Langston…”

“Vendel?”

“Vendel?”

“Vendel? How did you end up on the edge of Viking Island?”

“I left the Otherworldly to help you all to inspire that soldier Holly’s great-granddaughter…”

“I thought that was you. You’ve really changed…”

“Well, I was stuck in Hell for several decades before winning my freedom on a game show.”

“You’re kidding. They have game shows in Hell?”

“Only one, but it is the one that counts. I left and joined the Women of Orchid who find those who were murdered to bring them together. We stumbled upon something important and I took it upon myself to find you all to warn you.”

“It was very good of you that you did.”

“Which reminds me…”

“What are you doing?”

“Pinning an orchid on your lapel as well as Verity.”

“That would suggest that were had been murdered.”

“The both of you were the first time.”

“What? Murder? I thought I died of a heart attack in my sleep.”

“It was murder. I have a sense for those things. Verity’s marking pens were poisoned. You both were going to Africa and that would have exposed the truth of who was behind all of your town’s problems. They thought if Verity was distracted by your death, she’d retreat. She was heart-broken, but then decided to find the missing Beverly Stoney, and she would have stumbled upon the truth. They couldn’t allow it.”

“My sister was murdered?”

“Yes.”

“But why did they kill us when we did nothing to them?”

“To keep secrets hidden. The same people who killed me killed the both of you.”

“I am absolutely devastated. Why didn’t I see it? That’s my sister!”

“No one could have seen it. That was the way they operated for centuries. Since I started pinning orchids on the Fallen, I had to pin many flowers on the victims of that wicked cabal. I am sorry to tell you something so distressing, Holly.”

“Where are they now so I can unleash my righteousness of them?”

Verity, it is thanks to your ideas that the Otherworldly and a Goddess are dealing with them all as we speak. Your job is done, and it is the reason you all were brought back here. And I am truly sorry.”

“For what, Vendel?”

“For not being friends with any of you when we were all still alive. I was in madly in love with Holly, and admired Verity and I never said a word. I owe you a world of apology, Norton, for standing by and allowing others to abuse you as I was very envious of you. Please forgive me.”

“Of course, Vendel. We were all different people back then.”

“I am relieved that you are out of Hell, but if you are here on Viking Island with us, it means your words are sincere and we happily accept you as one of our own.”

“…”

“Holly?”

“Beloved Holly, what is the matter?”

“Verity, someone killed you and I died of a stroke before I ever had the chance to…”

“You knew Holly. Deep down, the moment you sensed it, it killed you before you had a chance to act. It is not your fault your body was given a fatal blow.”

“Beloved Holly, do not be distressed. We are back home, and together. Time and space could not tear apart the Lake Sisters. Never forget it.”

“I have to go find Eli. I have a lot to think about right now.”

II

“Where’s Eli?” Holly asked her grandmother Alena Love who smiled.

“You still haven’t found him?”

“I second I was thrown back here, I find out Verity and Norton were murdered.”

“You do not know how outraged I am…”

“Well, so am I. How dare they? They are the two nicest, sweetest, kindest, gentlest people you could ever get to know and love, and to kill them? It’s disgusting. I want to unleash more than just my righteousness.” Holly folded her arms and looked agitated. “What am I going to do now?”

“Your husband said it’s been dealt with…”

“Eli didn’t say anything. I still can’t find him…”

“He’s not your husband here, Holly.”

“What are you saying? Vendel can’t be my husband! Can he?”

“Something has changed between the time you left and the moment you came back.”

“But what made you call him my husband, Nana?”

“I just did.”

“And you’re always right. But how did that happen?”

“A glitch!” a young man’s voice chirped brightly as Holly and Alena turned around.

“Kirkland! You’re back!”

Kirkland Hughes hugged Holly and then Alena who both greeted him warmly.

“I am, and I just spoke to the Goddess’s Messenger, and he said when you all went back to the waking world to right wrongs so you could bring your friend Jane Carrington here, you fixed quite a few glitches, but not all of them.”

“So a switch in husbands was a glitch?”

“Reality is made up of many layers and sometimes they get tangled and snarled. So, for Jane to have been able to come without a glitch the first time, you and Vendel would have fallen in love, and he would have gotten divorced and left with you to go to Queen’s Heights, giving up being a professor and become a victims’ rights activist. Verity and Norton would have still gotten married, and with the four of you all going back, Jane would have gone back because her house would have accidentally exploded…”

“Exploded?” Holly and Alena gasped at the same time.

“Right. She was too attached her home in Ottawa and that’s why she didn’t come back, but Vendel and Norton would have been bickering all the time if they were related by marriage, with Vendel trying to prove he was better than Norton because he would have felt inferior because he was married before, and Norton would have come out of his shell for the first time to stand up to Vendel because he would be emboldened by Verity after they worked it out when he confessed he used to be a cat burglar, and when Jane would have thrown a farewell party in her house, Vendel and Norton would have accidentally caused it to explode, and Jane would have seen it as a divine sign and come to Queen’s Heights with you. Nifty, huh?”

“Shocking is what it is,” said Holly, “And how could Vendel just up and go when he had children…”

“Oh no, his wife was having an affair with some poor musician, and those were all his kids. She actually loved the musician, but her parents made her marry Vendel because his parents always thought he was gay because he was really sensitive, and her parents owed his parents a lot of money. Vendel doesn’t remember her at all, but someone in the Otherworldly keeps records. She was a nice young lady whose meddlesome parents really ruined her life by selling her to decrepit people, and made her really crazy and bitter, not that you can blame her. I hear she and her kids reunited with that musician in the Orchid’s garden, and are doing great now. Vendel was even the one who pinned an orchid on them a long time ago, and he never knew who it was, and neither did she or the kids.”

Alena raised an eyebrow. “You are certainly up to the Otherworldly gossip young man.”

“I come from a small town; what else was there to do back then? But isn’t that neat? They can take an alternative reality’s outcome and bring it over here as if that is what happened all along. That’s why it’s official that Norton is now my actual brother…”

Both women gasped anew.

“I know. Mom had to bring him into the family as Hammond Hughes, but there was another glitch and Norton was actually supposed to be the eldest Hughes Brother, but his essence got mixed up with some other one, and he ended up a Dunlop, which was flagged as being a place that was deemed unsafe for him, but there was a clerical mix up somewhere. He wasn’t supposed to be born so early, but all that red tape can cause a lot of screw ups. If he was the first born, he would have talked mom into moving to Queen’s Heights, and he would have married Verity much sooner and the two would have had a daughter, but still ended up as novelists.”

“Patrice must be thrilled,” said Alena.

“That’s why she told me to find everyone to throw a party. My other three brothers are moving here permanently, so it will be the first time where all five of the Hughes Brothers are together.”

“Do you know where Eli is?” asked Holly.

“He’s with my mom right now and she’s scolding him as usual.”

“Does he know what happened?”

“Sure, and he’s fine with it. Your daughter will still be your daughter and his; and that’s a glitch, but it’s like you both were never married and got divorced at the same time. That’s why the Otherworldly can be so confusing. Oh, and Jane’s here with her son Douglas. Verity and Norton are welcoming her right now. Are you two coming?”

Holly nodded, but she never felt so lost or devastated before. The shock of her sister’s murder was a blow, but that a single turn in the Otherworldly altered her marital state was an equal blow. Somehow, she had to sort things out for herself.

III

When Holly was alive and she had problems to work though, she would sit under her grandmother Alena’s birch tree and doodle. The birch tree was still growing strong in the waking world, and though Viking Island was filled with beautiful trees, none of them were the tree.

She frowned as she looked at all of the beauty and remembered this was the same way Verity behaved when she first came to Viking Island. Trouble was outside of paradise and Verity knew it. Their dear friend Jane Carrington wanted to come, but the Otherworldly said it was impossible, and that unleashed Verity’s righteousness and she left to inspire people in the waking world to wake up.

It worked, and the Otherworldly relented, and Jane was now officially here along with her grown son Douglas.

Jane was even given the title of Matriarch, and that meant she was their advocate and guardian.

Everyone was overjoyed, and Holly was happy that was resolved.

But something was not sitting right with her.

And she was certain she could find it. Verity always had a knack for finding presents, and when she went back, she found the gift they all needed: truth.

But Holly had a knack for finding lost things, and she knew it wasn’t in Hell or below it, and it wasn’t on Earth or Heaven.

It wasn’t in Eden or else Holly would know where to look.

There was only one other place to look and she look up, raised her eyebrow, and snapped her fingers.

No one ever thought to look in Eden’s attic.

The sky could be the limit, and she wondered if there was something above the cloud up there that would hold some sort of answer.

The question was how to get up there, until she saw Florence Tenney who was co-owner of Queen’s Heights’ hardware emporium Weavers and Tenney.

She walked up to her old friend and told her what she needed.

Florence nodded. “You need a ladder.”

“Do they even have ladders on Viking Island?”

“Are you kidding? This is part of Eden now, and how could this place be paradise for me if there aren’t any ladders?”

“Good point.”

“Why do you need a ladder?”

“I want to examine that cloud. I think it is hiding something.”

“Trouble in paradise?”

“Or hanging over our heads.”

Florence went to get a ladder and she returned with an opulent one made of gold. Holly climbed up to reach the cloud, and gasped before coming quickly down.

“It is an attic! And there are two very shocking things.”

“Do not keep friends in suspense.”

“There is a Hell above us if you open the latch.”

“There’s a latch in a cloud?”

“Yes.”

“And there is a Hell?”

“They were all having some sort of cocktail party, and if you die in the Otherworldly, there is a level above.”

“And if you were bad in the afterlife…”

“You go to a different Hell. It’s still for the bad, but for the not-as-wicked. It is very strange. They thought I was some hayseed beneath them.”

“My word, Holly, you do find some strange things. But you said there are two things you found.”

“I found glitches.”

“Glitches?”

IV

When Holly told Verity of her findings, they immediately climbed up the ladder to examine the cloud that was an attic-warehouse filled with them.

Verity examined them with interested as Holly animatedly explained her findings.

“When Kirkland said there were glitches, I thought he meant in the hypothetical sense,” said Verity pensively, “But these little orbs are peculiar, and remind me of a snow globe.”

“Everyone in the Otherworldly talks about them, but they stick them all up in that cloud not to litter the place with them. It is bad enough that there are so many ducks in Heaven that poor people keep stepping on.” She picked one up. “I can feel its essence and it is familiar to me.”

“They are in different states of evolution. They all vibrate on different frequencies, and they have a soul, too, and they keep chattering about needing to be repaired. I don’t like them.”

“Why not?”

“It’s like everything is so tenuous, and less certain. Who’s to say someone else doesn’t fix a glitch and then you’re not my sister anymore.”

“I will always be your sister, Beloved Holly. These glitches to affect what transpired in the waking world. It merely removes the barriers of alternate outcomes and merges them together to get the best of all worlds.”

“But if Norton was born a Hughes, you never would have had your three boys.”

“Perhaps, but I do have them no matter how many glitches a corrected. Norton and I would have been together no matter what. We were together based on impossible odds in the waking world. There are two other possibilities and we managed to be together for both. When we went back to the waking world to inspire others, we reunited and found one another.”

“But I didn’t stay married to Eli. We were very happily married.”

“But you would have been happy with Vendel.”

“But you and Norton are soul mates.”

“As you were with Eli. The only difference is you would have been with another had circumstances been different. You have always been grounded, and you followed your dreams wherever they took you. You should be grateful that your life is one with many happy outcomes.”

“Except not finding Beverly Stoney…”

“We inspired two others to find her. We did find her in a different way…”

“But the matter of your murder…”

“Again, we went back to inspire those same two women, and we prevailed. One does not need to be confined by a few decades of a lifetime when there is eternity. Your fateful painting turned our town’s fortunes around. There is much to celebrate.”

“Except that orchid on your blouse. You have one, and I don’t. It’s like a huge dividing line.”

“How so? This flower represents how you were wronged as much as I was. Your death was triggered by mine, and you were no less a casualty.”

“It’s just not what I expected when we came back. I am just shaken, Verity.”

“As you were when Norton came to Queen’s Heights to propose to me, and then you embraced his survival and his inclusion in our lives and it was many years of joy that blessed us. Jane is here with us as is Douglas. The entire Hughes clan is here, and Norton is formally recognized as being part of the family he cherished and loved with reverence and gratitude. Eli is safe and happy, and no worse for it. He will find love again as he deserves it. Vendel is out of Hell, and here where he always longed to be as he has triumphed over every one of his demons and your essence inspired him to do it. Besides, everyone who left Viking Island is back, and we even have a Goddess as our guardian as Her parcel of Eden has merged with our own.”

“I didn’t hear about it.”

“She came to congratulate us along with Her companion and Messenger. Thomasina is a lovely woman who is as kind as She is brave. Her companion is quite an endearing sentimental oddball, and he adores Her. We should go back and inform the others of these glitches. Perhaps if we sort through them, listen to them, and repair them, there will be less trouble in the universe, and it can finally begin to heal. You did well, Beloved Holly. You effortlessly found the source of many vexing troubles, and we may soon be on the way infinite solutions.”

Verity gave her sister a reassuring hug as Holly closed her eyes and was grateful that she always had her big sister to guide her and calm her, but now she had someone else she had to speak to before she could begin to feel at ease.

V

Vendel held Holly tightly as he swayed with her the moment she came to speak with him. He longed to hold her ever since he first met her, and now she no longer seemed upset by the fantastical turn of events.

When she explained why they were never together in the waking world, he was shocked.

“So these glitches are real entities?”

“Very much so.”

He sighed. “They may be a buffer between Eden and the upper level Hell you saw.”

“They are not the most pleasant neighbors around.”

“The Hell below it was even worse, though I suppose Eden is their Place Below Hell.” He chuckled in amusement. “What is up is down and what is down is up. It is a spiral staircase where you encounter all of the same problems as before, but only a story higher.”

“You think it can help your friends find their loved ones?”

“If some of these glitches are responsible, then it is a matter of finding them. Belinda and Sharon was be thrilled if that happens to be the case, but to think one of these glitches kept us apart is heart-wrenching. I always thought there was no way you could love, or would have considered a divorced man with children. It pains me to think how shallow I was, but that I no longer remember them is no less painful.”

“No memory at all?”

“I could not tell you how many, their names or genders, and not even how old they were and what they looked like. I know I was married with children because when I was sent to Hell, the reason was how I treated my family.”

“What about your parents?”

“I used to remember them at first, but when I left Hell, they began to fade from memory. They brought me nothing but sorrow, but when I forgave them and let go of the pain they brought me and the consequences that plagued my tortured life, they no longer were in my memories, but that is far less unsettling than forgetting about your offspring, even if they turned out not to be mine.”

“It would have to be. You did raise them. There are attachments and bonds, and I never would have stood in the way of your relationship with your children, Vendel, even if they weren’t your flesh and blood. There is nothing wrong with being attached to children you raised and nothing wrong with being a stepmother.”

“I must have made them all profoundly unhappy in the waking world, and when they found the man my wife truly loved, they bonded with him. It’s as if everything that I had done wrong in the waking world corrected itself here. There are no more bad memories of me to plague them, and it is just as well.”

“What about your friends the Orchids? Do they have memory gaps?”

“Sharon still recalls her husband, but only because he murdered her. Belinda recalls her father abusing her. It was the traumas they brought that keep those memories alive, but neither has seen either tormentor. I think they keep those memories alive to fuel their drive in bringing attention to the Fallen. Jenna has no one in her life that brought her misery, and she remembers her family vividly, but she is no less passionate an advocate.”

“They sound like fighters with grit.”

“They are three wonderful women and you will like them very much when you meet them. I still need to help them, and I will always be an Orchid myself, but now that Viking Island is my home, it will be a place where I spend much of my time.” Vendel looked at the orchid on his lapel and sighed.

“It’s hard to see that flower now. I see it on Verity and it shakes me to the core.”

“It is a symbol. We are those who are the Fallen, Holly. We were ordinary, extraordinary, and yet have that one thing in common. We serve as a reminder of how cruel we are to one another. They hide it in the waking world, but not here. Once the Orchids began to draw attention to it, things here began to change, and glitches were exposed because life would have taken very different turns had we lived. Your sister did the right thing in going back to inspire. She retained all of her memories and she could guide those in the waking world. Belinda does it with her detective friend through dreams, and when she was in a coma, met her here, but even then, she had forgotten everything she wanted to warn her about because the chords of time work differently here.”

“Maybe the glitches hold a key.”

“They must. When my friends come her for a visit, I will have to show them that cloud.”

“We can invite over for dinner.”

Vendel looked surprised at Holly, and suddenly felt his soul expand with joy as he pulled her in for a long and loving kiss. Glitches may have kept them apart, but they were now doing their penance and seemed to be working overtime to bring them together the way it was always intended.

VI

Verity was busy talking with Jane when she saw Holly running toward her just as Thomasina’s messenger summoned her to come over and the women went their separate ways, but not before promising to have a feast of manna later on.

“What is it, Beloved Holly?”

“Verity, have you had any revelations in the Otherworldly?”

“None at all.”

Holly looked at her and smiled. “I think it’s the glitches that gave them to you.”

“How so?”

“Because these cosmic mistakes that get all thrown into the same pile, and then it all is supposed to work themselves out.”

“The is the very definition of chaos.”

“This is the reason you had revelations, Verity. You kept stumbling on these glitches. I just don’t know if they were meant to distract you or warn you.”

“I saw them, and I worked them out, improving on things already in existence. Perhaps some of us are given a few of them in order to work out their equations. They are a very peculiar notion, and difficult to see.”

“But I can see them, big sister. Vendel was never supposed to be born outside of Queen’s Heights. He’s one of us. Norton was supposed to move here as a teenager from Somerset along with Patrice and her four sons. There are so many things that should have been, but weren’t. Kirkland wasn’t supposed to die young, and you, Norton, and Vendel weren’t supposed to be murdered. It’s as if the glitches are some sort of interference. It’s not as if we never have problems, but these are major shifts and upheavals. Vendel and I have been examining those glitches, and that’s how we know.”

“It is utterly fascinating, but have you had any revelations about their essence?”

“Yes. Glitches do get corrected, that’s why people who were obscure in the past become icons a century after they die. The glitch in the Otherworldly gets flagged and corrected, and eventually, the waking world gets wind of it. Norton was never supposed to become a cat burglar, let alone get arrested and held a hostage where he got abused. You found him in the nick of time because that glitch got discovered because your watch broke open and you saw his message. The glitch would have killed him, but it got straightened out.”

“You always had the gift of finding lost things, Beloved Holly.”

Holly smiled. “And you always had the gift of finding presents before you were supposed to get them.”

“Perhaps finding revelations was a form of me finding presents.” Verity paused. “You seem deep in thought.”

“There is a mystery here, but I was thinking about something you said to me when I was down thinking about everything I found out since we got back to Viking Island.”

“Yes?”

“I was shaken that Eli and I weren’t considered married anymore.”

“He is still with us, and neither of you forgot one another.”

“I thought about that, and it’s just strange seeing Vendel like that.”

“Happy? Easy-going? Modest?”

“Gentle and strong at the same time. If he had been like that from the beginning…”

“He would have never wished to be a professor and you two would have most likely met each other at some protest or another as you became in love while you were both unleashing your righteousness.”

Holly chuckled. “That’s why he doesn’t remember big chunks of his life.”

“They weren’t supposed to be there, and the Otherworldly corrected it.”

“It just got me thinking about free will and fate.”

“There is plenty of free will, even if there were no glitches. There are infinite possibilities. The glitches occur when we just think we our intellect and forget to think with our hearts with equal measure.”

“It explains a lot, and of course you would know so much about them. You kept stumbling on them in the waking world and they gave you revelations.”

“That I no longer have, Beloved Holly.”

“Because here they are right in front of us in that cloud.”

“They are peculiar.”

“If you touch one, you can feel the possibilities that glitch stymied. It is like a story with many threads, but one big knot tangled it and prevented it from weaving.”

“They are inspiring little mysteries and they have inspired me to become a detective here.”

Holly looked at Verity. “A detective?”

She smiled. “Why not? You were one when we were in the waking world, and you a brilliant one.”

“I never thought you’d want to do it.”

“I had many responsibilities back then. First my career, and then when I married Norton, he had been physically weakened by the horrid abuse his captors had done to his body. He had been traumatized, but determined never to hold me back, and then we had our boys and our novels. We joined you on your little mysteries frequently, and we enjoyed them, but we also had to guard our own from predators, and we had to guide the Heights to make it strong and prepared. Now that we are free from those responsibilities, we can indulge any way we wish. Jane has her Matriarchal duties. Nana has returned to look after Viking Island. Vendel is still chronicling the Fallen. You have glitches to explore. I need my own purpose, Beloved Holly, and it is to be a detective of the Otherworldly.”

Just then, Norton came over, placed his arm around his wife’s waist and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “What’s going on?”

“I have decided to become a detective in this realm.”

“Whatever for?”

“To amuse myself.”

“Mind if I join you?”

“I’d love nothing more.”

“I think I may have a mystery for you to solve already.”

“Yes, darling?”

“My chest feels funny.”

“Funny?”

“It hasn’t stopped tickling me since we came back.”

“Have you been thinking of something humorous?”

“The idea of Vendel and I being related by marriage is quite strange…”

Verity watched as Norton suddenly made a comical face of surprised and looked around.

“Is there a problem?”

“No, but I’ll be back, Verity.”

“What is it, darling?”

“I have to jump over this roman numeral because I think I have stumbled on to something important.”

VII

“Excuse me? You, the one typing.”

“What is it, Norton?”

“You’re the Author of this story, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

“Can you hear me?”

“I can read your words as I type them.”

“What was the meaning of having me lose my left leg? That wasn’t very nice.”

“I hadn’t thought of going to that extreme, but when I was writing Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations, my own grandmother had her own leg amputated, and then I dealt with her loss that way, and the story made more sense.”

“That’s still a rotten thing to do.”

“Listen, I gave your leg back to you; besides, it was a rotten thing to have happened to a nice lady like her.”

“So, what now?”

“What do you mean what now?”

“What bad thing is going to happen to me now? I became a cat burglar, got arrested, tortured, nearly killed, went through a war zone, was murdered…”

“And you’re still a living figment whom I adore. What happens to you in paradise is going to be surreal and fun. Besides, you have the love of your life by your side, and Verity loves you. What more do you want?”

“I wish I could meet you to see what you’re like. Are you more like Verity or Holly?”

“Everyone says I am just like Holly.”

“Interesting. How did you come up with her?”

“Holly?”

“Yes.”

“She came to me in a dream, and so did Verity in another dream, but they weren’t presented to me as sisters. When I started writing, Verity was never supposed to be present in my stories, but then I changed my mind. Holly and Eli would talk about her, but she would not be a character.”

“I suppose it’s a good thing because then I wouldn’t be mentioned in those stories.”

“You would have as Hammond Hughes.”

“What about Norton Dunlop?”

“That was another character separate from the Hammond Hughes stories. Norton was supposed to go to jail and die. The end.”

What?

“I took two different characters and then merged them: villain and a hero. That’s how you got a second reprieve.”

“What do you mean second?”

“After I wrote the Turning Leaves, I thought you had another story in you; so I wrote one more where you didn’t die after all, but would have after a botched assignment, and then realized I was too hard on you, and then saw what you had in common with Hammond Hughes and inspiration struck.”

“The man divided?”

“Yes.”

“So the Turning Leaves is the story where I began?”

“Yes, and then the Man with the Broken Stick, but then I was inspired to write a novel called Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations where your heart and soul spoke to me, and I learned to appreciate you. Then came the novella The Future According to Hammond Hughes, and all those stories based on your three sons.”

“I am in shock.”

“It was your sweet disposition from both your halves that told me there was more to you than being a mere thief.”

“So, you write the way I wrote. My characters did the same thing with me.”

“We have that in common, and from that, a bond.”

“I understand it completely. It’s the same way I feel about Pillar Rivers. So, if I have a need to talk to you, will you be there for me?”

“Of course, Norton. As long as I am alive.”

“Please be kind to my boys and my wife.”

“Of course.”

“And don’t do something to tear us apart.”

“Your marriage is safe, Norton. I know it means the world to you and Verity.”

“I didn’t like that whole part where I was coming on to Holly in that story where I stole a book, the Turning Leaves. That was so shameful.”

“All right, Norton.”

“That was also very cruel and disrespectful, and I wasn’t even in love with her. I knew it was just not like me in the slightest.”

“I got the memo.”

“And marrying me to some very mean woman was just horrible.”

“Do you even remember her?”

“No, but I know it happened, and that was just not the kind of dramatic plot twist I would have ever signed up for. I am a very romantic fellow, you know, and a bad marriage is just not in the cards for a passionate man like me.”

“Point taken.”

“I mean, I love Verity with all my heart.”

“I was there when you proposed to her, Norton.”

“Were you there on our wedding night?”

“I wrote about it…”

“Oh, why?”

“Because it was part of the story.”

“Look, just because you’re the author, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need ground rules: no writing about our love lives. It’s too…too…”

“Sexy?”

“Don’t say it!”

“For a figment, you are very bossy. I have cats for that.”

“I am lobbying for our rights, you know.”

“You ought to go over to the stories of the Dream Detective. Her friend Atticus the Soulfinder is an advocate for figments. I am going to bed, Norton. It is past two o’clock in the morning, and besides house hunting, I have homework to finish from Harvard University. I will write the last scene of you and Verity dancing together in paradise. All right?”

“Then, I’m off to the last segment of this story.”

“See you on the other side of the roman numeral, my friend.”

“Wait!”

“Yes?”

“I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Alexandra Kitty.”

“That is a very nice sounding name, Alexandra.”

“Thank you.”

“So why did you give me a name like Norton Dunlop?”

“It was symbolic. Norton means a farm to the north. Dunlop means a muddy hill.”

“Oh.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I want to dance with my wife in paradise as we bask in our love and good fortune. It’s what every good-hearted man could ever ask for, and you gave to me. Thank you, and good night and pleasant dreams!”

“Is that supposed to be a sly reference to one of my other stories?”

“What other story? The one about the dream detective?”

“We’ll talk about that some other time. Your sweetness awaits you!”

VIII

Verity chuckled as Norton told her of his exchange with their Creator as they danced in the home on Viking Island.

“It is a she?” Verity asked they waltzed effortlessly across the floor.

“And her name is Alexandra.”

“It is a lovely name.”

“I thought so.”

“It must have been quite the exchange.”

“I didn’t know someone could just go and do that – talk to the one who created you, and then they talked right back, and had nice things to say about you. I am starting to enjoy our second spell in the Otherworldly.”

“As am I, darling.”

“We all seem to have new things to occupy our time. Holly has her glitches, Vendel is back chronicling the Fallen, Jane is our Matriarch, I have made a major discovery in how we came to be, and you have a new job as a detective.”

Verity kissed Norton on the lips. “As thrilling as our new escapades shall be, I would rather be dancing with you here. I always knew you were a strong and capable dancer.”

“I used to enjoy it as I wasted it on those I never loved, and when we finally got together, my cane got in the way. Now, where were, Sweetness?”

“In paradise, my darling. In paradise.”

And the two danced as they laughed and swayed to the rhythm of their hearts and souls as the Author smiled as she felt those figments’ kindness and love.

But just as Verity touched Norton’s chest, she jolted her head back.

“Norton, I do believe I have solved the mystery of why your chest feels funny.”

Norton stopped dancing. “Don’t keep loving and devoted husbands in suspense.”

“I do believe there is a small child in there.”

“A small child?” Norton gasped with a comical expression of shock on his face, “Now how could there be a…”

Just then, a beam of light flew out of Norton’s chest and when the light vanished, a small boy appeared before them. Verity looked surprised, but Norton gasped and began to weep as he crouched down and held the boy tightly.

“Billy!” he shouted as the boy cried, “How did you get in there?”

“When I hung myself, I saw myself there, and when I was floating to go away forever, you came into my room and tried to save me, and I jumped in your heart and stayed there.”

Verity crouched down and caressed the boy’s head as she looked at her husband. “This is the young orphan you were asked to study, but could not find an adoptive home after his parents were murdered.”

Norton nodded he kissed the boy and continued to hold him. “You’ve no idea how happy you have made me just now, Billy. I never forgot you. I always mourned you, and my last novel when I was alive, I wrote about a little boy named Billy because it was the light I could light to keep you alive in the world.”

“You did that?” asked Billy who nuzzled in.

“I wish I was a braver man back then. I was just a psychology student who stole from people, and if I had the courage back then I would have fought to adopt you.”

“You can adopt me now, can’t you?”

“What about your parents?” asked Verity, “We would love nothing more, but your parents would long to see you again.”

“I don’t remember who they are anymore. It’s been too long.”

Verity and Norton looked at each other and smiled as they nodded in unison.

“Well then, Billy,” Norton said brightly as he lifted the boy up as he sprang to his feet, “You’re our son now.”

Billy looked at Verity. “Is she your wife?”

“My wife, my best friend, my hero, my partner in mischief, my everything.”

“Do you have any kids.”

“Three grown boys still in the waking world,” said Verity, “Winslow, Malcolm, and Rufus.”

“Can I call you daddy and mommy?”

“That’s what sons do best,” said Norton.

“You used to tell me the best stories in the world,” said Billy.

“We both can tell you all the stories you like, but we can also be in stories together, Billy.

“What kind of stories?”

“Well, Verity has decided to become a detective.”

Billy’s face lit up. “Wow, that’s exciting.”

“It is quite thrilling, but perhaps the mystery we should solve is finding out who you are and what you wish to be now that you are here with us. There is always an escapade on Viking Island, and many people who would love to get to know you.”

“Viking Island? Is it dangerous here?”

“It may be the strangest place of them all,” said Norton as he looked up and winked as he smirked, “But I have an in with the Author, and She promises never to make our adventures here dreadful ones.”

Billy sighed in relief as he held Norton tighter, relieved that his biggest wish had come true as Norton sighed dreamily as he looked lovingly at his wife. Their lives were always eccentric in the waking world, and yet it would be their afterlife that took all of those eccentricities to a whole new level – and Norton could hardly wait…

 

=3The Beginning0=