In the ink-spilled heavens, the navy blue sky was so dark, it appeared black. A hybrid creature of both angel and demon flew. In the sky far above the glittering stars, the creature soared. Its eyes were a pair of discs colored red-gold like the sun, and its feathers shimmered black against the night sky. It swooped down near the widow’s walk of Charlotte Benson’s home, and then flapping its wings, it flew higher than it had before.
Instead of her eyes being riveted to the night sky, Charlotte’s eyes were downcast, focused on a hand-cut thick sheet of paper in front of her. It was a Thursday night in November when the air was chill, and it was the nineteenth night of Charlotte’s father’s disappearance. At just after midnight, she had lit a candle on her desk and skulked around behind her stepmother’s back. Lillian was a firm believer in rules, and staying up after midnight was most decidedly a breaking of rules. In Charlotte’s hand was a fountain pen, and its nib was just beginning to swim in broad strokes across the page when the lights outside aroused her curiosity.
The mansion, once blanketed in shadows, was now dappled in white lights. Charlotte rose from her chair, cautious not to creak it against the aging floorboards, and crossed over to the other side of the room to peer out her window. Orbs of white light freckled the stone walls of her house, and a quarter of the lights illuminated the people below in the side garden. As a child unaccustomed to social gatherings of any kind, Charlotte drew in a breath upon seeing the crowd milling about underneath her window.
Their outfits were dark and their expressions somber. They looked like the shadow people her father had told her about in fairy tales. At ten-years-old, Charlotte was much too wise to believe in fairy tales, though truth be told, the thought crossed her mind. She swiftly blew out the candle and followed the path of lights.
She rushed down the dilapidated stairs and squinted up toward the suite where her stepmother stayed. Her stepmother didn’t squawk out a scolding as per usual, and Charlotte took this lack of reprimand as encouragement. Silence awaited her as she gazed around the great room. The chandelier trembled, its teardrop crystals shuddering. Still, a heavy silence flooded the downstairs, and out the main window, she could see the trail of lights falter briefly, then glow brightly once more. Charlotte pressed her face to the window, her nose against the cold glass. She watched the grown-ups march somberly through the rain and sludge in galoshes, and none of them appeared to speak to one another. If it were a party, Charlotte reasoned, it seemed to be a very gloomy party indeed.