A Coven in Essex County | Epilogue

Below is the final 18 of 18 monthly installments for Visitant.

◄◄  Read the first installment / prologue
◄ Read the previous installment, A November Wedding


EPILOGUE

Three bodies washed up from the Innsmouth bay on the evening of November first. One was a man with a badly damaged face and chunks missing out of him as if removed by the jaws of uncharacteristic sharks. The second was Mildred, found in perfect repose near the mouth of the Manuxet. The third was a well-scoured skeleton but for the ragged throat, legs, and feet.

Its face and midsection looked as if all the soft bits had been ripped out, and its bones dutifully nibbled by whatever creatures had found it in the sea. Its arms had been pulled from the sockets of its barely muscled shoulders.

◊◊◊

Gaslight flickered off the bubbled panes of the library’s windows like moonlight off water. Cora’s eyes were not on the light, however.

As she flipped through its pages, she thought about the pain and suffering Innsmouth had caused its people. She had grown to love and trust some of its women, but largely it was a festering wound, leaching its poison into the sea and beyond. Cora wished suddenly for it to be cut from the ground.

Her mind was brought rapidly back to the book she had been touching, thoughts of vanquishing nefarious Innsmouth melting through her fingers and seeming to spread onto the page. She could barely read American English, but this page’s foreign and dark sounding foreign words written in Roman letters opened up to her like a familiar face.

Cora’s brain was imprinted with the writing on that page. It had repeated in image and sound throughout a dark sea journey she had willed herself to forget. For months on end, the phrases whispered through her head, growing louder to shouting and emitting blinding migraine-inducing light when the shaking and jostling became too bad.

Barely believing in their return, she began to read the strange sentences aloud. She tripped over none of the words, despite being quite out of practice with books. The lamp was barely necessary, as Cora now believed she had the entire passage memorized. Beulah and Alda found her like this, halfway through a second reading.

“You know what it says?’ Beulah asked, taking a shaking seat in her large armchair. It had been a long few days for them all, but Cora could only imagine the trials Beulah’s aged mind and body had been through the last few weeks. She wished momentarily she could be at the ceremony the next day, to offer her arm to the woman if nothing else. Cora brushed away the thought, confused at her own sudden attachment.

She shook her head, putting the book down and looking at Alda. The girl’s eyes always seemed wide and inviting, but now they looked as if they would burst from her face.

“It is curious,” she began, stealing a glance at the book as if she expected it to move forth and bite one of them, “But when you were reading just now, something occurred to me. A name. I don’t think I have ever heard it before, but the things we hear in Innsmouth…” she trailed off.

Cora wanted to be gone, but she tried to smile. It was already past Midnight, and they had a long way ahead of them. If they were to be traveling all the way to New York together, she would have to learn to put up with the girl’s outbursts.

“What was the name, child?” Beulah touched her hand with something like affection.

“I am sure I have never heard it before. It is certainly not an Innsmouth name,” Alda took a last look at the bookcases around the room as if the answer would be somewhere in there. As if they held the secrets to Innsmouth’s tangled genealogy. Finally, she spoke, “The name was Robert. Robert Olmstead.”

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