April Carter (the would-be-poet) was, at twenty-seven (and without so much as a single well-received collection to her name), ecstatic to discover that an old lover had been run over by a car. She had scorned his love and was pleased to learn that he’d never gotten over her, and had (in a post-mortem effort to generate sympathetic feelings) left her enough money to go out and buy anything she could have wanted. April had never found much fiscal success in poetry, and the money lightened her worries
She was not a particularly loving person and, being this way, her poems were most often dreadfully bleak things which discussed the inevitability of death, the inefficacy of love, the crushing despair of loneliness, and other such pleasant topics.
Among the most expensive, and certainly the largest, of her purchases was the perpetually-vacant Hollow Manor, which was in Pikesville, and very far from anywhere she had ever been.
Pikesville was very far from where most people had ever been, actually, and had not many things to recommend it. It had only one lonely stretch of dirt for its road, and it had no rail lines in order to provide it with industry. It was so isolated in fact, that even in those days of rapid progress, no electric lines had been run out to it, nor had telephone poles been erected to connect it to the world.
But, sudden fortunes can make adventurers of the least of us, and April was as prey to this as anyone else. So, she plucked up her courage, packed her few possessions into her car, and left for her new home. (April, being one of those people who wear dour expressions and dark clothes and only so much jewelry as can make themselves seem like the very personification of bad weather, had few friends to part from. This made the going easier than it otherwise might have been.)
On her way to Pikesville, she passed through bright skies filled with high loping clouds, lush meadows packed with wildflowers, sunlit forests with leaves that sparkled like jade, and little turrets of water which danced down rock slides. She did not smile at any of it.
April naturally sought the type of weather that was like herself: dark, gloomy, and (preferably) raining heavily. She was often at her work, despairing for a little of this inspiration to show itself to her, as it must have to her contemporaries, but rain had only ever come after she had put aside her pen for the day.
To her credit, she chose to buy Hollow Manor because it had been raining there without cease for the past fifty or so years. She reasoned that, if there was a place best suited to provide her with inspiration, it was Hollow Manor.
The Manor’s groundskeeper, a man also surnamed Carter, was at the front entrance to receive April when she arrived. Carter was a large man, having kept the grounds at Hollow Manor for all the long years of its vacancy (at the pay of the farmers below), with a great barrel-chest and wide arms despite his advanced years.
As April drove up the dirt path to the house, Carter raised one massive arm to doff his hat at her. This did not set her at ease, because she was unused to both men of Carter’s size, and (being a bitter, unloving person) having open displays of kindness directed towards her.
She pulled her car aside of him, and opened the door slowly and not without some serious hesitation.
Carter smiled broadly at her and said, “Can I help with your bags, ma’am?”
April, who was as taken aback by this question as if he’d snarled at her, managed a smile of her own (which in practice looked like a grimace). “I’m fine. Managed this far on my own.” She didn’t bother with a ‘thank you’,’ as she’d not had cause to thank many people before.
“An umbrella then?” Carter bobbed his own umbrella up and down. He smiled at her as if to say, “With weather like this, what can you do?”
She looked up at Carter and said, in a bitter tone, “I don’t think I know your name?”
Carter nodded. “My name is Carter, ma’am, like yours. Beg your pardon about that, but there isn’t much news out here, so we all just tend to know anything worth knowing.” He shunted the umbrella up a little higher, and surveyed the surrounding countryside pensively (because he was a kind man who’d sensed that he’d somehow done her a disservice, and wished not to do so again), before continuing, “Just Carter. But you can call me what you like.”
April nodded, once, as though appraising him. “Carter sounds fine, then.”
Carter smiled, thinking he’d made her happy. “Well, Miss April, if you don’t want any help moving your things in, I wondered if we could discuss my employment here?”
April gave him a confused look.
“I work for the farmers down the hill,” Carter explained, gesturing down the long slope of April’s new property at a cluster of small farmsteads seated in between rows of verdant crops. “They had struck some variety of bargain to keep me up here, tending to the house and working the grounds. Now that you’ve bought the old place, I imagine whatever bargain they’d struck has now been unstruck. But I like working this property, Miss Carter. I’ve done it so long that the grounds feel like home to me.” He shifted again, and touched his hat. “I was thinking, hoping really, that you might want a groundskeeper, still.”
April smiled to herself and said, “Carter. I can’t say I need one, but for the time being, at least, I think you can stay on. I’ll want to make the place my own, after all. And I don’t know the first place to start.”
The farmers who lived below April (and by whom Carter had been employed) were very rich people because they were the only ones for hundreds of miles who could grow common sense in their fields.
It is a very tricky thing to grow, common sense is, which requires a large amount of sunlight, a climate which is cool (without being too cold), and such great quantities of water that no river’s irrigation could hope to supply them.
While both the sunlight and the climate were readily supplied by Mother Nature, the water was not. The land around Hollow Manor was very dry and arid, and until the rain came to the house, no one could do much farming on it at all. But, ever since Carl Roark (who lived in the Manor at the time) murdered his daughter in cold blood, it’s been rain, rain, rain without cease.
The murder’s betrayal of order had been so monstrous that the whole Earth shook when she died. The act was so terrible, in fact, that Mother Nature fractured and fled into the dark spaces of the house, the better to hide from a world which she could no longer understand.
Mother Nature’s sunlight fled to the cellar, where it hid in-between old crates. Her wind sucked up into the attic, where they blew about in an old armoire, and could suck the warmth from no one. Her warm and her cold air got into a little chink in the wall, and there they sat, regarding one another.
Her death grew very angry, lifted Carl Roark by his suspenders, and hauled him up, up and away. But her life grew confused at all of this, and held fast to the daughter’s spritely soul so that she could not move on.
No one really knew this, of course. Because, as everyone and their grandmothers are aware, living around so much common sense blunts you to the delicacies of life.
After April had gotten her necessities moved (a small box of food and clothing) from the car and placed in the foyer, she set about looking for the perfect place to write her melancholic poetry. She imagined that very soon she would write something which would bring her great renown.
There were, as far as she could tell, three places most likely to provide her with the inspiration she desired. A small desk in the attic made her think of ghosts, should she ever wish to write something terrifying. The cellar came pre-equipped with a small table, furnace, and long, shallow shelves of moldering boxes which made her think of death and decay, should she wish to write an elegy. But, by far the best to her mind was the window which let out from the first floor onto the hillside. It gave a good view of the surrounding land, its rain, and its desolation, so that she could see the inspiration when it arrived.
She decided that this last spot, looking out on the grounds from the first floor, would be the best place for her to start writing. So, she hauled the little table up from the cellar and set it in front of the window. She stared out at the rain and waited for the inspiration to fall upon her.
As has been mentioned, April had never found much success in her poetry. This was, in very large part, because she was forever waiting for inspiration to show her the way, and neglected the doldrums of actually writing.
April was, for all her faults, a very patient woman. But patience alone would not make inspiration fall among the raindrops.
So, she sat at the window for a very long time. The sunlight dimmed from behind the soggy clouds, the day’s small warmth faded, and a chill that was not quite cold (but which got into her bones regardless) settled over the house.
There are some curiosities particular to common sense: that the fumes travel by air, that they take a long time to settle into a person’s head, and (most importantly) that it can be temporarily negated by a few things. Among these items is the sudden influx of vast fortunes. April had never been a sensible person, but now she was as far from sensibility as you could imagine. And, being far from sensible meant her mind was open to see some of the Manor’s smaller wonders.
There was a fireplace in the room which was stacked high with logs. Carter had left a good stack of tinder as well as a large pack of matches beside it, and April got it into her head that if she had some more light, she’d more easily see the inspiration when it presented itself.
When April got the fire going, the flames fought off the cold, but they could little fight off the extreme self-importance which money imparts. Nor did the light serve to remind April of that most important tenet by which success is achieved. Namely that, while a few fortunate have success laid before them by fate, it is everyone else’s lot to find renown through hard work and perseverance.
So, with the fire crackling and spitting behind her, throwing dancing light around the room, April returned to her chair by the window. The world’s own light was long gone by then (even what little of it could pierce the heavy clouds) and the firelight danced in the window pane, showing a shadowy, jumping imprint of her own face. All she could see was her face in the window, and all she could hear was the slap and scatter of rain on the roof. These things made her grow tired, and soon she fell asleep.
While she slept, the hot and cold air which lived in the walls bickered to one another.
“Hot!” the cold air exclaimed. “Stop moving around so much! You’re brushing up against me!”
The hot air made a face at the cold (which is really quite a thing to see pure temperature make). “Oh, fine Cold! As if I wanted anything less than just that! You’re making me shiver!”
But the cold air, who had a good vantage at the little chink in the wall, made hushing sounds. “Shush, Hot!” it whispered. “Look! Look! Someone new’s here!” It gestured through the little chink to April, who lay slumped over her little table, snoring contentedly.
“Oh!” The hot air exclaimed. “She’s very pretty, isn’t she?”
“Like you’d know about it,” The cold air said, “The only woman you’ve seen in I-don’t-even-know-how-long is that Roark girl. All mangled and beaten.” It shivered. “And be quiet, won’t you? We don’t want to wake her.”
April stirred, shifted, and raised her head briefly, saying, “Hello?” before letting it plunk back down onto the table.
The cold air made shushing noises at the hot air, and the pair quieted.
April woke at her desk the next morning, a little disappointed at the blank page which lay (still) before her. Like many would-be poets, she cast about in her mind for any source of her failure, and settled (almost without considering her thoughts) on what appeared to be a series of trenches or gullies leading down the hill, to the fields below. April thought it odd she’d not noticed them the prior day, but assumed it must have been due to the stress of her arrival.
When Carter arrived that morning, April gestured down the hill to the dikes.
“Carter,” she said. “I wonder what that all is? I didn’t notice it last night, but in the day day it does look very weird, doesn’t it?”
The channels looked like little hummocks or small trenches leading down the hill. They sloughed the great quantities of water down from Hollow Manor to the farms below.
Below the dikes, the common sense grew tall and heavy in the farms. Its stalks were thick and very green and its leaves were wide and stretched like a forest’s canopy to catch up as much of the sobering sunshine as it could.
Carter, who wore a pair of thick and sturdy galoshes, splashed some water around with his feet as he turned to look at the dikes.
Now, it should be said that, while April (being both a poet, and also blinded by sudden fortune) was a creature guided more by emotion than reason, Carter had lived near the common sense for so long that he was thoroughly reasonable. Questions of aesthetics never entered his mind, while questions of efficiency strode around it constantly, puffing out their chests and looking important.
This being so, Carter did not see an eyesore, but instead saw a well-designed and well-implemented solution to the difficulties of living with scant few resources, saving the rainwater and sunshine. He knew the dikes were well-designed, because he was the individual who had built them. He knew they were well-built for the same reason.
And yet, he was a practical man under a new employer, which naturally made him quick to validate April’s beliefs. He, therefore, took a measured approach.
“I suppose it does look a little odd, Miss Carter. But, if you look farther down, you’ll see that it helps the farmers grow their common sense.” He straightened his shoulders and raised his back in obvious pride. “It’s a very difficult crop to grow, and we’re the only people for miles and miles that can.”
He looked to April, in order to see if she was moved by his entreaty. But April was new to money, and under the impression that someone with money would always be listened to attentively, and that no one would ever try to persuade them to different opinions. She had the faintest trace of a scowl on her face.
“I’m sure,” Carter continued, hurriedly, “That they’d happily part with some of their crop, or some of their money, in exchange for the water.”
April laughed. “I don’t need their money, Carter. And, as for their crop, I’m a poet. What on Earth would I do with common sense?”
Carter looked crestfallen. He simply said, “Oh.”
“Don’t worry, Carter. I won’t prevent them from using the water. I just don’t want to look out of my windows and see anything out of place. No. I want the trenches gone. And, besides, it’s wrong to let only some farmers use it at the expense of everyone else. This hill leads down on all sides; I’m sure the other farmers would like to have the water, too.”
Carter shook his head. “But, Miss April, only that side has soil. The others have only rocks.”
April shrugged. “Well, then. It doesn’t really matter to me. But, I’m sure that, if they are clever enough to grow common sense, they’ll be clever enough to find something else that’s equally suited.”
“Yes, Miss April.”
All that day Carter labored to remove the dikes. The going was slow for him, not only because the soil was sodden and dense, but more-so because he felt the labors of his many years being undone, and by his own hands no less.
By that evening, the dikes were much reduced. April stood on her porch to admire the view, and found her mind assured that it had been their presence which prevented her from accomplishing anything great the prior night. The coming night, she was sure, would bring her great success.
As she looked down on the farm below, she felt no great pain at the common sense’s leaves turning brown, nor at the way they clung loosely to their stalks.
The light leached out of the sky and the black night settled onto her property. April considered, for a little, using the same spot as the night prior to write. But, in the end, she decided that she didn’t entirely trust her feeling of security regarding the dikes. Surely, it would be better to not take the chance of the smallest eyesore ruining a productive night’s work.
So, she lifted the small table and went instead to the cellar.
There was a small, wood-burning stove down there with another neatly-shaped stack of logs, which Carter had no doubt left for her.
The cellar was gloomy and particularly cold, and so April brought down some candles to see by and lit the stove to help drive off the considerable chill that only a cellar surrounded by water-logged soil can call its own.
She laid her pen on top of her paper and placed her hands aside of it, expectantly. She stared in front of herself at the shelf of boxes and at the cobwebs and she did, in fact, feel as though she was entombed by some greater power. This feeling, where it might have given a sense of unease to a normal person, made April hopeful. Such a feeling, she was sure, would lead her to inspiration, once she knew where to look. Although, just as on the prior evening, she neglected to actually start writing until the inspiration showed itself.
The fire from the stove put out a good heat that grew and grew in the small space until April was deluded by it. Sleep settled on her like a fog.
While she slept, the sun (which was hiding in a small box upon the shelf) poked its head over the container’s rim and exclaimed, “Well! If it isn’t as hot as a furnace down here!”
The sun looked around the room and spotted the fire burning in the stove.
Taking the fire for a star or some other aspect of Mother Nature’s, the sun said, “Oh! Hello! I didn’t see you there. Is that your heat I feel?”
The sun had hidden in that box for a very long time, and was somewhat deluded by its exile. Nevertheless, it smiled broadly at the fire, because the sun was a very gregarious sort of thing who (like Carter) wanted most people to be happy, or at least feel at ease in their own skin.
The fire, though (which was a creation of April’s and not Mother Nature’s) was simply a fire like any other, and could not respond. The sun took this silence for shyness, a characteristic which it felt well-equipped to handle (because of its gregariousness), and plowed ahead.
“Well, anyway. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I hope you’re liking this cellar, for the time being at least.” Here, the sun paused and said in a thoughtful manner, “I hope you like it down here for much longer than the time being, actually. Because there’s a horror out there, roaming the yard. I can’t even bear to look at it. Never could, honestly. I do hope someone takes care of her. I couldn’t stand to illuminate something so grotesque, and frighten people by doing so.”
The fire burned in the stove a long while before it began to die, and the sun stared at it longingly the whole time. When it went out, the sun’s light illuminated the cellar well, but the heat drew out of the air, through the walls, and away.
The cold woke April, and when she opened her eyes the cellar was practically as bright as day.
She looked around herself, marveling at the impossibility, but she reminded the sun too much of the half-dead woman, and it slipped back into the box, dousing the cellar in cold dark once more. The only small light came from the few smoldering embers in the stove.
April blinked, confused at the sudden darkness. She went to the stove to build the fire back, and attributed the light to no more than a dream. Although she did harbor aspirations that the sight had been the first tendrils of an inspiration which would come to show her the way to greatness.
In the morning, Carter returned. His broad shoulders sagged heavily from his large frame, and he held his umbrella much closer to his head than the day before. His face was long, and his bearing spoke of an existential dreariness to match that of the weather.
The common sense had withered dramatically, even from the previous night. Its leaves wilted fiercely in the sunshine and were turned brown for want of water.
Carter knocked on April’s door and, when she opened it, said, “Good morning, Miss April,” in tones matching his demeanor.
Now, while Carter was feeling poorly that morning, April felt excellent. Her experience the night prior had imbued her with the sort of optimism that only very strange events can lend to equally strange people (that is, to would-be poets).
She said, “Good morning, Carter. Lovely day, isn’t it?”
The rain splattered everywhere, on everything.
April gestured downhill to the half-dismantled dikes. “I think we’ll be finished soon. Don’t you, Carter?”
Carter looked a little ill. He said, “I spoke to the farmers yesterday, Miss April. They said they respect your agency, being the new landowner, but they wonder if some agreement can be reached. We didn’t have anything to grow before the rain. They’re worried that their crops will whither, and they’ll have to leave.”
April shrugged. “Do you remember what I said about creativity, Carter? If they could figure out how to grow such a difficult plant, surely they can discover how to grow something simpler. Cabbage, for instance. I have always heard of farmers growing cabbage. All the world over, they grow cabbage. Certainly they can manage as much here in Pikesville. ”
By that evening, the common sense was practically dead. Most of the leaves had fallen from the stalks. The dikes which once fed them were covered over again with soil, and stood grassless on the lawn, as though they were scar tissue.
Though she lacked much in the way of common sense, April was still consistent. On the first night, she’d tried the first of her preferred writing locations. On the second, she’d tried the next. Now that it was the third, she decided to try the last.
As the light seeped out from behind the clouds, April lit a candle, climbed the many stairs up to the attic, and went to sit at the desk.
There was neither stove nor fireplace in the attic and, although April had lit a fire downstairs (the chimney ran along the desk’s wall and radiated a little heat), the attic was very cold. April brought a blanket to cover herself and, adorned so, sat before the desk as usual, waiting for inspiration to show her the way to fame.
Like the other nights, she refused to embark upon her art without this ineffable, divine guidance. Unlike the other nights, she felt the apprehension that something mysterious would be revealed to her, then, and had the evidence of the bright cellar to rest her faith upon.
The rain tapped on the roof and the cold was like an angry dog that the chimney’s small heat was strong enough to antagonize, but which it could not subdue. Before long, and despite her blanket, April began to shiver.
In her shivering, she recognized that an armoire, which stood amongst heaps of detritus in a corner (and which held the wind safe from the horrid sights) was also shivering. It rocked hurriedly on its wooden feet and its brass drawer-pulls rattled softly, like chimes. Thinking there must be a mouse or some such trapped within, April went over to investigate.
When she opened the door and held the candle in full view of the interior, she could not see anything out of place. The rattling continued.
April was very excited by this, because she thought that (of all the ways for inspiration to come) this must be very unusual and perhaps a sign of its superior importance.
“Hello?” she said into the armoire, not knowing what else to say to inspiration, and (it should be remembered) truly lacking any experience with such things.
“Please,” a small voice said from one of the drawers, “Please don’t hurt me.”
This is not what April had expected inspiration to say. She placed her candle on the shelf and opened the drawers to find it. The wind was curled up and trembling in one of the small drawers.
It looked like what a crumpled linen tablecloth would look like, if the tablecloth were a ferret instead of a tablecloth. It squawked horribly in fright when she opened the drawer, but calmed when it saw her face.
“Oh!” the wind said, straightening itself (so that it looked more like a tablecloth and less like a ferret), “I thought you must have been someone else.” It peeked its head around so that it could see behind her. “She’s not up here with you, is she?”
April looked around herself. The attic was filled with assorted detritus that was amorphous in the candlelight. But, as for a person, she was fairly certain there was no one.
“I don’t think so,” April said. “At least, I haven’t seen anyone. Whom do you mean?”
The wind sighed, yet still retained that strained posture which the fearful wear. “She’s terrifying. I’ve been hiding from her for a long time. I peek out every now and again, just to see if she’s gone yet, but she never is.” The wind resumed trembling in the drawer, and said no more.
“I’m sorry,” April said (feeling confused, and yet giddy, at the entrance of what she assumed must surely be the finally-revealed inspiration into her life), “But you didn’t say who it was.”
The wind curled around itself, as though cautious. “I Don’t know her name. I poke my head out of the walls every now and again, just to see if she’s gone. She never is.”
“Oh!” April said. “I’m sorry to say that I’ve not yet seen anyone else.”
“The nights are the safest,” the wind sobbed. “In the day, there’s nothing to hide her.”
April thought about this, and decided that the wind probably wasn’t her inspiration. After all, wouldn’t her inspiration know who it was?
But she reasoned that she was close to discovering it, and had high hopes for the woman the wind spoke of. Surely, inspiration would come in such an unusual form.
The mornings in Hollow Manor were all largely the same. They were gray, dismal things which fit April’s mood like a glove. The light filtered from the east in a gradient of malaise, slowly filling her property with damp clarity and giving form to the constant hiss of rain.
April had not, as yet, been awake to see it. She liked sleeping for long stretches of time, as it allowed her to not think about how poorly her poetry progressed, and how much she wished that inspiration would simply show itself to her at last.
Now that the house had alluded to the inspiration, she could not help but try chasing it down. She watched the light sail in, looking for the girl the wind had spoken of.
Perhaps it was that April knew to look for her, or perhaps the common sense had been affecting her (after all) and she had entered withdrawal now that it was so withered. Either way, at six thirty, April spotted the woman.
She was wandering the yard, pursued doggedly by an old man wearing long, white robes who leaned heavily on a cane. The cane sunk into the water-logged earth with every step, and he labored at each motion to remove it. The going, for him, seemed difficult.
The woman was shrouded in a thick fog which made it difficult for April to discover her features. The way she moved (shrouded though it was by the fog) made April feel uneasy. It occurred in fits and lurches and if the old man’s motion could be described as difficult, hers must have been agony.
Over time (as the light filtered away the fog which surrounded the woman), April could see her features more plainly. The woman looked to be in the prime of health, which made April curious as to why the wind had called her a horror. She was tall, but not overly so. She had long hair which caught the breeze.
The man who followed the woman was tall, or at least taller than she was, and the white of his robes made him seem like a blank sheet of paper upon which any number of tales could be written.
While the woman kept her face turned away from the house, the man looked continually up at it with a certain pleading in his face that made April feel sorry for him. His eyes had the look of someone torn between two desires.
As the morning rose fully upon them, April screwed up her courage and went down to speak with the girl.
“Hello,” April said, unsure how to speak to a woman like this (and suddenly unsure whether or not the woman or the man was the inspiration she most desired). “My name is April Carter.”
The woman looked at April. Her eyes were a deep brown, and April noticed that while the rain fell on everything else and made it all very wet, her hair was perfectly dry.
April extended a hand to her, saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The woman looked at April’s hand quizzically, as though she’d forgotten what a hand was (or else what it was used for), before extending her own. They shook, and the robed man raised his cane from the earth in preparation. He went to April and extended his hand as well. His face looked both pleading and nervous at the same time, as though he were a child seeking approval for a new action.
April shook his hand.
The woman lay a hand on her chest and said, “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Carter. My name is Emily Rourke.”
“A pleasure,” April said, smiling. She thought that this must surely be the inspiration she desired, and was pleased by its grandeur.
The man opened his mouth in confusion. He squirreled up his eyes and lay a hand on his chest, but did not say anything. After some moments, he closed his mouth, and a satisfied expression settled onto his face.
Emily laughed a twinkling sort of laugh and laid a hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right,” she said. “You tried.”
The man smiled the smile of a dog who knows it has done a good job.
“I don’t know if this is allowed, given what little I know of my… housemate,” April paused, “and this property in general, I suppose. But, would you like to come inside? I can make you some breakfast, and at least it will be warmer.”
Emily looked up at the house for the first time that April had seen. Her face showed a good portion of both doubt and secret pain, and when she spoke, it was haltingly.
“I suppose it has been a long time,” she said.
The old man raised his cane energetically, took Emily’s hand, and began tugging her up the hill.
“Well,” Emily said. “All right. All right. I’m coming.”
With regard to common sense and, particularly, the effect which it has on people, this last point should be known. Someone under its influence will find themselves logical to a fault. However, this logic will be a flighty thing, and must be fed with common sense constantly, if it’s to remain stocked. Withdrawal from the fumes sets in quickly, and someone in withdrawal will find themselves just as illogical as any first-rate poet. Or, any not-so-decent poet who’d just landed a fortune out of thin air.
So it was with Carter, who was much deeper in common sense’s debt than April, and whose change therefore presented a much clearer contrast.
When Carter arrived, later that morning, he looked down at the covered dikes with a mix of forlorn longing, and (a new experience for him after so long living by the common sense) burning creativity. The forlorn longing made him feel hurt that such a large effort in his life should be destroyed so carelessly, but the burning creativity made him see how easily the work could be improved.
His methods had been adequate, at the time, but how simple they were! There, by that withered and leafless tree, he could have used the roots to affect an easier flow! Down past the small hummock, he could have fortified the dikes, while at the same time keeping them out of sight.
Ten or so such ideas floated around in his mind, and he was ready to relate all of them to April. But, as soon as he opened the front door to tell her, all of them fled straight out of his head.
Emily Rourke stood, smiling and speaking with April, just inside the foyer.
April eyed him and said, “Good morning, Carter.” Her eyes twinkled like a schoolchild playing tricks, though Carter barely noticed it.
“This is Emily Rourke, Carter,” April said. “You know her?”
Carter looked very abashed. He took his hat off and held it tight in his hands.
“No, Miss Carter. I did not know her. Or – I did not know you,” he said, addressing Emily. “I was hired by your family’s estate, ma’am, after it happened. I have heard stories, but…”
One of the peculiarities of common sense is that someone in withdrawal from its fumes won’t consider that anything is different about themselves. Had Carter been under their influence that morning, he’d likely consider himself a lunatic. But, he was not. And so, he did not. On that morning, it seemed to him among the most reasonable things in the world that the dead woman should be there, in the room with him.
Emily nodded to him, as if to say, “It’s all right. I understand.” After she finished nodding, she said exactly those words.
The white-robed man, who’d been poking around up in the attic, came down the stairs with the wind curled up and trembling in his hands. He approached Emily and opened his palms so that the wind could see her.
The wind squawked in fright and attempted to fly out of the old man’s hands, but the old man was (for all his advanced age made him seem otherwise) very deft and agile, and his fingers gripped the wind tight. It trembled terribly, and made such sounds as an infant makes when separated from its mother.
April approached the old man and whispered to the wind, “Come out of there, now. She’s very nice. She just wants to say hello.”
The wind shook its head violently. “No!” it said. “You can’t make me!”
The wind sounded very resolute about it, and seemed as though nothing could change its mind.
When Emily said, in as sweet a voice as you can imagine, “Please,” though, something inside of it must have given way.
It stopped shivering and slowly opened an eye.
“Hello, there,” Emily said.
April stood, thinking herself very well off indeed for inspiration.
By the end of the day, the small troupe had convinced the hot and cold air to come out and meet Emily. Although, not even with all their combined efforts could they get the sun to come out. The sun, as it happened, had become so enamored by the wood stove’s light that never wanted to leave the cellar.
So, the old man went down and built a small fire inside of the stove. Because the old man was a facet of Mother Earth’s, the fire was as well. The fire could think and could talk, and the sun was made very happy by this. April’s cellar became the brightest place for miles around.
This pleased April because, now that the wind, the hot air, and the cold air were no longer afraid of Emily, they could roam about her property again and give it a properly melancholy feel. The wind tore at the trees’ leafless branches, and made their trunks creak dolefully. The cold air could freeze April in the winter months, and the hot air could remind her of the absent cold.
By the time her old houseguests were released onto the property, Carter had recalled his ideas regarding the dikes. He asked April about it, and she said, “As long as I can’t see them, I suppose it’s fine.”
And so, Carter set about implementing them. He used the tree-roots for support and he dug the trenches to follow rock-placements, so that April could barely discern that they were there at all.
With the water returned, the common sense flourished again and the farmers made their good money and no one for miles around had much of a creative thought for many years.
As for April, she insisted that Emily stay with her in the manor. April assumed that, with inspiration itself living under her roof, she could go on to accomplish great things.
That first night after she found Emily, April sat in front of the first floor window again, looking out at the cold, windy, rainy night, while Emily sat in the room with her, by the fireplace.
April raised her pen and put it to the paper. But, as usual, the prospect seemed too daunting and she neglected to actually write anything.