CJ Bernstein

CJ Bernstein

Wet Woolie

First, I barely got anything done this week, hoping every creak of the office was the ghost come back. Also, I feel bad calling him “the ghost.” I’ve taken to calling him Woolie (in my head) after The Path of Wool. Any objections?

By Friday I’d overnighted books on summoning spirits from Amazon. Then this afternoon happened. I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was Woolie. Sitting on the floor behind me. Still out of focus and only indirectly visible. Still mustachioed and… becoated? But now… He was soaking wet. He started talking and I missed the first part—

S: Do you mind if I type this? I don’t have the best memory and—

I put the keyboard in my lap and just started typing as he wrote.

W: …finally a parley had been agreed upon. It was decided that an assembly of house leaders would await them at the eastern shore at the dawn of Assembler’s Day. But they never meant to parley. They came as night fell on Assembler’s Eve. I stood at the watch. Was trusted as the first sight. I looked across the cold and silver swirling sea. I was the one who first saw them coming. I was the one who knew. And saw it all begin. I saw them, carried by wing, and wind, and blood-black sails. I was trusted as the first sight, but I stood, watching, unable to move, unable to speak. Unable to sound the cry. I failed. Frozen there as a great black wave of water rose up, obscuring their envoy, and laying waste to the house leaders who made camp on the shores. I watched them fall from sight beneath the mouth of the sea, the ice brine reaching up to the tower, and then the final silence fell up on me.

S: Is that the last thing you remember?
W: The black wave filled my chest. It drew me from the watch. There was no up or down. Only cold and dark and then… and then I cannot say. But then there was a light. And I followed it. Not swimming nor walking. I was willing myself after it. And then I was here.

He looked up at me and I realized it had become easier for me to see him. The spectral water that ran off him pooled around one of my shoes. I could see it wasn’t “real.” But I could see it.

W: The message you found was part of my memory. Part of what I lost. You made me remember that.
S: I’m so sorry.
W: No, you can help me. Help me to remember.
S: Is that what you want?
W: I am lost. And you found a part of me. Perhaps you could find more. To tell me who I am.
S: We’ll do whatever we can to help you.
W: There are… shards left in my new memory. Small pieces that don’t belong there. I think they might belong to you and your friends.

And then he started reciting a poem and I hope to God I got it right.

 

A clock
A courthouse
A memento mori
A tower
A market
A cemetery

The seal of a king
A carpenter’s cure
A union of time
A Romanesque lure
A brush with the law
And a sinister shear

A memory turning
From distant to near

 

He vanished before his voice did and by the end it was barely a whisper. I think that’s it, but I don’t know.

So, to recap… the Secret Society pin led me back to the warehouse. At the warehouse, the apparently enchanted app sent me a message. But it wasn’t just a message. It was apparently a trigger or an actual piece of Woolie’s memory. Was the app sending the memory, or what the memory lost there, in the warehouse, and the app just a conduit for us to read it? And what are we supposed to do with the poem?

The pin started this. It has to have some kind of connection. Maybe even to the poem. Does any of it sound familiar Mounties? Particularly the members of the Secret Society?