I know. I KNOW, ALL RIGHT? I said I wouldn’t be so long and looky here, it’s almost a month later with no word from me. Maybe you started to think I’d gone nuts? Got taken by the witch from Gramps’ stories?
No such luck. Just the holidays, I’m sorry to say. Bet you wished I had something better to tell you but that’s all it was, visiting with some friends and the ex and her brother, who I actually get along with all right. Truth be told me and the ex get along okay too, though we probably wouldn’t if she saw the piece of ass I was seeing on the side these days. Sexy little number I met on Tinder — who says old guys like me can’t pick up a hottie from time to time?
Anyway. When I got together with the ex, Julie, you know… my mind started to wander. I thought less about Gramps’ logs and Clara and the long-gone asylum where he used to work, thought more about the old days. How it might’ve worked out between us if we’d been able to have kids. But back then it was all finger-pointing and drunken arguments and… well, you know. Things fall apart.
I could tell she wanted to ask me, you know. If I thought we might’ve stuck together if not for… that. If we hadn’t both blamed the other and been too proud to actually work on things. Been with someone long enough you can see the unasked questions in their eyes after a few Christmas cocktails.
But that’s that. She went back to her place, I went back to mine. And there they were, waiting for me after all those nights without the tapping on my window. Pages and pages of Gramps’ confessions. ‘Cause you know that’s what they are, right? Yellowing, ancient confessions, stacked like corpses in that old moldy trunk.
So you got what you wanted. Here we are. No sense in holding back now.
December 26, 1906
It has been a fortnight since I last spied the witch at my window. I have tried to keep close attention on the children in the new wing of the hospital but it is no use. They clamber over each other like a fresh litter of puppies in a kennel, I do not know if the nurses even bother to count their number each night as they go to sleep. Unwanted children are a surplus in this town.
There is simply no way to tell if she has been taking them but if she has it has kept her away and God help me, I thank them for it.
January 3, 1907
The birth of another new year. My home is empty, my wife and children are dust in the ground. My family tree has become a boneyard.
The girl, though. In the market. I see her from time to time and each instance my heart stops in my throat.
She smiles at me.
I suppose it is time to admit that her smile alone was enough to make me stay.
January 11, 1907
Lucy, Lucy, Lucy.
I have heard her name, the girl with the red wine hair, and it is Lucy and it is as beautiful as she. The very thought of her pale skin and gentle smile can get me through the strict nightmare my shifts at the asylum have become. Every trip to the market I grow closer to her, inch nearer, think of what I could say to make her mine.
She is surely betrothed to another but I cannot rest until I take this chance.
April 14, 1907
I have had no time, no time at all to update these logs properly because a miracle has happened. When once I thought I would know nothing but darkness, a beacon of light shone through the shadows. Lucy has banished the darkness and cleared the sad thoughts from my head.
She has reminded me that one cannot dwell in a boneyard forever. The dead are the dead and the living are the living and to curl up with a rotting corpse is to doom oneself to a life without love.
We are to be married on the morrow.
April 15, 1907
I have never been as happy as I am on this day.
May 5, 1907
Work progresses. Lucy is my wife.
All is well. There is not much else to say.
June 18, 1907
I am a bit concerned. It has been months since we are wed but Lucy remains without child.
She strokes my hair, tells me all will out as it should. She smiles. Her smile could soothe even the most savage patient in Highville far better than any electroshock therapy.
I think, for a time, I will step away from these logs. Lucy tells me I spend far too much time documenting the past than appreciating the present. She may have a point. To look back on older entries only makes me sad.
I shall store them away for future reading. Perhaps our children will enjoy them. When they are old enough, of course.
Here, there’s a break. Not a weird, scattered one like between 1904 and 1906. A very solid break, even between types of paper and ink used for the logs. Seems Gramps took that time away like he said he would. And these dates, well — these dates, I recognize a little more.
March 13, 1918
I had feared I would never have a reason to return to my written logs. Yes, I have been happy, I have been well, but I have remained happy and well without an heir. It seemed my name was doomed to die with myself and Lucy; no matter how strong our love, her womb remained an empty room.
My wife, my lovely Lucy with the long red hair, never gave up hope. She smiled her beautiful smile and told me all will out as it should. Unlike other women in the village who fell grim and silent upon realizing they might never birth a child, she continued on as carefree and innocent as the day I first saw her in the market. As the day I decided to stay at Highville.
And though I could first start to see the lines on her face, though she approached the age where a child seemed like a wild hope never to be realized, though I had begun to suspect the only children I would ever be allowed had been taken by the witch…
Today, Lucy seized my hand and placed it on her stomach.
She told me we would have a son.
I am over the moon. I believe her, I can tell from the way her eyes shine that what she says is true. We will have a son and our family will be complete and I never have to return to the boneyard of my mind again.
Taken by the witch. To read these words gives me some pause. Some ten years have passed without the tapping at the window, without the fingers dragging through dark hair, without hearing her song on the wind.
Perhaps it was all in my mind.
May 23, 1918
Dr. Wickers has noticed a drop in numbers in the children’s wing. He suspects they are being sold off in secret to the factories. His chief concern seems to be that he is not taking part in the profit.
He has ordered attendance be strictly monitored.
I feel that electricity in the air again but I will keep my head down and do my work and eagerly await the arrival of my son.
September 11, 1918
I have a son!
He came into the world early this morning, the very picture of health and innocence. I was a bit disappointed to see he has my dishwater-dark hair, rather than Lucy’s beautiful auburn color, but perhaps he will grow into it.
We have named him Charles and this time, this time I will protect him. Whether the witch was a product of my mind or not, I will protect him fiercely and love him the best way I know how.
Lucy is well. She has already begun to sing to him.
September 19, 1918
Dr. Wickers is behaving strangely. The air at the asylum is so electric I can almost feel the hairs on my arms stand at attention.
He was moving slowly this morning — though he has aged in the past ten years of running the asylum, he is and always has been spry — and seemed as though his clothes pained him. Each small movement caused the doctor to wince in pain.
I hope he is not ill.
September 22, 1918
Today, when he did not know I was looking, I saw Dr. Wickers enter his office. The back of his white pressed shirt is dotted with blood. It appeared to be in a pattern.
He closed the door behind him so quickly I could not see what the pattern was.
The children’s wing is on lockdown — no one allowed in or out, outside of hospital staff. I do not think they are being sold off.
I think the doctor knows where they are.
November 3, 1918
My hands shake as I write this but I must write it now before I forget.
I woke early this morning, so early the moon and stars have yet to give way to sun, to the sound of glass shattering. Lucy was in the corner of the bedroom, cowering, shielding something in her arms. She was weeping. The bedroom window was utterly destroyed, glass glinting in the moonlight. The curtain wafted on a cold breeze.
I asked her what had happened, what had broken the window, if she was all right. Her head was lowered and whatever she was protecting was hidden behind the veil of her red hair.
She begged me not to hurt him. Not to hurt her.
I asked again, what had happened, was it the witch? Had she seen the witch? It was all I could think in my moment of panic.
Lucy looked up at me, wide-eyed, and pulled the bundle closer to her chest. From her arms, Charles let out a pained cry.
She asked me why I had broken the window. Why was I trying to let something inside?
She begged me again not to hurt them.
It took me a moment to realize what she meant. I raised my hands to inspect them and found the right one covered in razor-thin cuts, weeping small tears of blood.
I had to remove the small bits of glass before I wrote this and yet still my hands shake. I was able to calm Lucy down, ensure her it was merely a nightmare, that I had no idea what I had done and that I would never hurt them.
Part of that is true. But not all of it.
Lucy is back in bed with Charles. I have told them I will be there soon and that they shouldn’t worry, all is well. It took some doing but I was able to calm them for the time being. Before they fell asleep, I took care to board up the broken window.
The flow of children from the hospital has stopped. That must be it. Even under her attack Dr. Wickers has stayed strong and no children have flown from their rooms in the night to keep her satisfied. And now, as her luck would have it, I have produced an easy catch for her. Just in time.
I do not believe I will be going to sleep before morning. I am too afraid I will try to let her in again.
I had to step away from these for a while, just like Gramps did. There was a week-long gap where I couldn’t bear to even look at the logs again, let alone transcribe them for you. I’m sorry it took so long but that’s the truth.
See, I’d been sort of ghosting that hot piece I have on the side. The one I told you about, Ashleigh? From Tinder? Yeah, it wasn’t nice but after seeing Julie over the holidays I just didn’t feel like talking or texting or whatever with this perfectly pleasant little 25-year-old because I remembered what Julie and I had and it just made me sad.
She got a hold of me, though. Just after New Year’s. That’s why these took so long. I’ve been trying to get a handle on all this. Wrap my head around it. I wasn’t even going to share it with you because I didn’t think it mattered but after reading about the birth of the old man in 1918, well, I think it does. I think it kind of matters a lot.
Ashleigh, you see, is pregnant.
She thinks it’s a boy.
And ever since she told me, well. I’ve been waking up a lot. Waking up around 2, maybe 3 in the morning. Because of course, when you open your windows in January, it gets pretty cold in your room. That’s enough to wake somebody out of a sound sleep.
I just can’t remember opening the windows.
I think Clara is preparing for something.