Paternoster Tales: Chapter 34

An icy touch

Being Disappeared is not forever.

Silas is back.

He’s not the same but he’s back. Several waifs from the tunnels have whispered, behind cupped hands and after a hollow-eyed glance over their shoulders, that he’s down there. Filling the place with his own special, signature brew of love and laughter and brightness, no doubt. So far, no-one has been allowed to see him. All they’ve heard is his voice, which is rasping and gravelly and full of phlegm, like he’s been hung upside down above a bonfire. Which can’t be that different to how he sounded before.

Could it just be echoes of the old Silas? Could it be that he isn’t really back, that the tunnels are so long that echoes reverberate for weeks and return to haunt the place where they began?

I don’t want him to be back but my soul bleeds for Molly.

If Silas really is back, why isn’t she.

Or is she? All morning, I have had the uncomfortable sensation of being watched. When I turn, wherever I look, there’s nothing there. No body, no dog, no cat, no wary pigeon, no waif. Just shadows and a cold feeling at the back of my neck. Which – now that I think about it – convinces me that she is back. The touch of a waif is like frost on the tender petals of apple blossom. It is icy cold – the sort of cold that hurts. And, like frost that turns blossom brown, it sucks a little bit of the spirit of life out of you. Even to a waif, it feels cold. It unsettles. It means you can’t rest. You can’t get comfortable. You can’t concentrate on anything. I need to find her. My eyes bleed. They … I … need to see her.

Paternoster can feel her too. I’m sure of it. He’s said nothing to me. But I can tell. Paternoster doesn’t do restless … normally. But he is more fidgety and irritable than I have ever seen him before. Yes, it could, partly, be the result of the conversation he just had with Lucretia – or grim stone-walling session on his part, hysterical tears and angry shouting on hers. It could also be that he knows they are back – Silas and Molly. I suspect he knew they would be – there’s something about the resolute expression on his face, as though he’s trying hard to pretend he isn’t sucking a sour sweet. If he did know, I wonder why he didn’t say. He’s usually a bit too up front with his ‘secrets-that-aren’t-secrets-but-that-he-wants-you-to-think-were-secrets-before-he-generously-chose-you-to-share-them-with.’ Is it such a bad secret? Are the tunnel waifs right that Silas is back but not back? Is that what Paternoster knows? That being Disappeared changed them? How dreadful can that be?

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