SECOND SNEAK PREVIEW! From Gilbertine & the Exchange

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[Picking up where the last post left off. The featured pictures are of other dead Victorian children pushing Reggie along. In addition to the featured picture and one of Robbin’s portraits of Gilbertine,  there’s a pic of the ABC Minors Club glow-in-the-dark badge each of the dead Victorian children received in an earlier portion of the story and are now wearing (no, I’m not telling you how, you’ll find out when you read the book). Yes, the clowns, though far more ambulatory, are also dead.]

“The clowns, by the way, are just thrilled,” Gilbertine added.

“Really?”

“Quite,” she answered. “They can’t tell you themselves, of course…”

“Of … course .…” I hesitantly responded.

“Well, between the effects of the explosions and their laughing so hard, they claim that they’re subatomic particles at the moment – whatever they are.”

Now it was my turn to smile. “I’ll explain next week.”

“In any event, they did love your practical joke,” she said, “though it does mean none of them shall be back together until well after Christmas.”

I felt bad, “I guess I ruined Halloween for everybody here, then.”

“Not a chance,” one of my standing “pushers” told me, grinning in a creepy, spine-chillingly sort of way, but quite sincerely.

“What with the sing-along, the cinema show, the crazy mineshaft ride and that hilarious explosion – you’ve made this the best Halloween in at least 50 or 60 years,” Jessamynne sighed. “We shan’t soon forget this one.”

She flashed her ABC Monitors Badge, glowing in the dark, at the edge of her shoulder. “Am I right?” she called out to the others.

I could see a line of Minors and Monitors Badges lighting up nearly all the way to the tunnel. I felt awkward, as if I didn’t entirely deserve this accolade – so many others had played a part in its fulfillment – but I was glad for them, and accepted the tribute humbly, in that spirit of gladness.

 

Just then, I felt a tingling in my feet, the kind you get when your leg has gone to sleep and the blood trickles into your foot and ankle again. Having momentarily forgotten about the existence of phantom feelings, it occurred to me that, if could feel a tingling in my feet, it had to follow I did, in fact, have feet once again. In this case, my deduction was right:  My boot-clad feet were very much a part of me again, as were the rest of my legs.

I could see  there were still some tiny bits of me, like tiny rainbow-colored gel bubbles, appending themselves, but at least 98 or 99 percent of me had come back together once more in the right place.

 

Gilbertine noticed it, too. At her insistence, the others wheeled me to the end of the bridge.

Get up, Reggie,” she said, “at this stage, you shall come together faster if you are standing, rather than sitting or lying down.” With both ladies’ assistance, I slowly, uncertainly, got to my feet. I could see the particles still to join me accelerate as they continued in my direction. I took my first hesitant steps, feeling my body tingling all over as remaining pieces came back to me at a rate that almost made me look as though I were sparkling from head to foot.

“Thank you all for being so helpful,” Gilbertine called out to the throng behind us. “You’ve been wonderful; we can take it from here.”

We received a chorus of gracious acknowledgment, as the “young” Victorian revelers made their way back to the tunnel.

Jessamynne was the last to go. She gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. She didn’t feel cold, but she didn’t feel particularly warm either.

Her limbs and mouth were both exceedingly stiff. It felt as though I’d been kissed by a manikin.

“If you ever … you know … really die, I do hope you’ll remember me,” she gushed, though her face still remained impassive. “We could have quite a Halloween together.”

I watched Jessamynne glide into the tunnel, waiting until she was well out of earshot. Why did she seem so familiar? Only when I was sure she was gone did I confide my observations about her goodnight kiss – and then only the goodnight kiss – to Gilbertine.

“It’s the arsenic,” she signed. “As with the rest of them, she’s preserved with it. She’ll still be well preserved long after your body’s no longer even recognizable, mind, but it does tend to make one hopelessly stiff.”

We walked away from the bridge, taking in the sights of this cathedral-like limestone cavern.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

My ebook on Victorian postmortem photography will be coming back soon, for a few weeks. Stay tuned.

The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) is now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) will be available later this year.