YET ANOTHER SNEAK PREVIEW FOR HALLOWEEN from Gilbertine & the Exchange (Volume Two)

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[The featured picture is of Ilynka, a friend of Gilbertine’s. I’ll leave it to you (for now) to decide whether she’s a talking, dancing doll; a delusional young woman who thinks she’s a talking, dancing doll; a not-so-young but young-appearing delusional woman who thinks she’s a talking, dancing doll; or someone/something else entirely.
Reggie “won” the glowing ring as second prize in a fancy dress (costume) contest.]

Ilynka was starting to make noises like a lap dog anxious to go for a walk. Jessamynne and I ignored her.

“We got through it,” I added.

“But you are adorable, diverting and engaging,” she said.

“Give ’em a free pass,” I pleaded. “They’ll do better next time – f’there is a next time. Please?”

Ilynka was becoming more insistent, and was starting to tug at my sleeve.

“Give it a rest, Ilynka,” I said. I turned back to Jessamynne. “Please?”

“Very well,” she relented; the mob behind calmed down.

There was starting to be an adamant kind of tremolo in Ilynka’s whining.

“Wot is it, Ilynka?”

She anxiously pointed behind us; our pursuers were scarcely a block away.

“Oh good Lord, they got out of the cemetery,” I said, now equally anxious.

Connie gasped. “Oh no, not another set of dead people.”

“Except they don’t notice they’re dead,” said Gilbertine.

“Wot?” I asked. “They don’t notice they’re dead?”

“Not unless they really concentrate, or somebody brings it to their attention – they often refuse to admit it even then. And that could work to our advantage.”

“Of course!” said Ilynka, brightening.

“How so?” I asked, now baffled as well as frightened.

Ilynka ignored me and turned towards the Victorians.

“I-I’m like you,” she chirped. “They’re my friends,” she added, pointing to us. “Your friends … too… I suppose …” she amended apologetically to Jessamynne. “In all events,” she went on fretfully, pointing toward our pursuers, “th-they want to get us. P-please help.”

“Adults to the front, adolescents behind, children to the rear,” Jessamynne called out to the others. “Get behind us,” she told us, “we’ll sort this.” The five of us rushed to the rear of the Minors’ Club as our pursuers drew closer.

“They’ll still be a short while,” Gilbertine whispered to me. “The dancers and musicians won’t move forward too far without the men from the audience, and the men won’t go without the women. And they’re going to be moving at a snail’s pace. I thought crinolines were ridiculous to move about in until I put on this hoop skirt. How they ever get anywhere is beyond me.”

“Wot did Ilynka mean she’s one of’em?” I whispered back.

“I will tell you presently,” she whispered back. “It’s rather complicated.”

By now, our Victorian friends had formed a barricade between the pursuing mob and us.

My little friend was right: The mob, having forgotten that they, too, were dead, became terrified by the Victorian dead coming toward them and beat a retreat, most likely bypassing the cemetery and going back to the theatre.

Glen and Connie didn’t stick around, but ran back toward Bidwell, and likely the long trek back to Hayes High. But the remaining three of us didn’t care what they did. We stood there, cheering on our protectors.

Our rescuers turned back at the far end of the bend in the road, seemingly unnerved at the sight of the cemetery gates beyond.

But, they’d accomplished what they’d needed to: Our nemeses were finally gone.

There were only the three of us to give them all a heroes’ welcome when they returned, but we did our best; although their expressions remained largely fixed, it was clear in their eyes that they were pleased by our effort. In the exuberance of the moment, I forgot myself and kissed Jessamynne on the mouth. She said nothing and her expression remained fixed, but her eyes glowed like lighthouse beams.

“It’s time to come home, Mother.”

He’d an elderly human head and hands, but the rest of him was indisputably automaton. He was addressing Ilynka in the way one might a senile old lady. “You have had a grand time tonight, dear, but now it is getting rather late – it’s time you were home.”

Ilynka looked petulant. “I’d rather not,” she said sullenly.

You do need your beauty sleep,” Gilbertine reminded her.

“Do I?” she whined.

Gilbertine nodded.

“Very well,” she sighed, walking off into the night with the elderly cyborg.

Jessamynne looked at my hand.

“Look at your ring – it’s glowing!”

I removed the ring. It did indeed glow for no perceptible reason.

Gilbertine grabbed my arm. “It is signaling you,” she said.

“About wot?” I asked.

She shrugged, shaking her head. “Danger maybe? Maybe something else you should know about. I couldn’t say – but you shouldn’t ignore it, Reggie darling.”

I examined it closely – still no clue. In the course of doing so, I rubbed it. In the next instant, the two of us were back by the house in the park.


© 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) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available late this year. Gilbertine & the Exhange (Volume Two) will be available in early 2020.