In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This August Twenty Fourth
231 C Rue Claire
Much later on after this incident, when I was ten, some of the consequences of our meddling became apparent. Yes, we're leaving behind my carefree years and edging towards maturity. And such maturity as most kids should never have to deal with. But such is life that we must deal with the cards dealt to us.
I was with my best friend and sister in heart, Valentine. Or Val as I liked to call her, so I shall from now on do so, unless I need to indicate a more formal situation. For even my Papas called her Val.
Our Papas must have known what we had done, because once we returned home and slipped back into bed, they had come inside and stood just inside the doorway, watching us silently, as if weighing what to do or not to do. I heard Mama calling to Papa, and then both of them left, gently shutting the door after them. That was the last we heard of it until this new time period of which I shall speak.
I was celebrating my tenth birthday. I was a grown woman. In my eyes. But in my parent's eyes I was always their child. Even to this day it is so. Such is the nature of we humans that those who are younger than ourselves seem like children.
"Happy Birthday to you!" Papa was singing in that beautiful tenor voice he had. A voice of the angels Amy claimed. Mama knew better. She slept with him. She knew he also snored like a lion, and that was nothing heaven sent, especially when you must get some sleep for the next day's work.
"Happy Birthday, dear Julyanna. Happy Birthday to you!" Papa Wells finished, then the Mama came from the kitchen into our parlor, where the table was spread with a beautiful pink linen cloth, set upon which were tiny blue napkins and sparkling silver spoons and forks. Between those were tiny plates of the finest China, imported from the Chinese Islands. They each had a different Chinese Zodiac sign embossed in delicate gold filigree: A monkey, a rat, a rooster, a snake, a dragon, an ox, a tiger, a rabbit, a horse, a sheep, a dog and a pig.
"I get the piggie!" I exclaimed as I reached over and grabbed that plate to set before me. I had taken it from where Papa sat. He gave me a scowl. "I happen to favor piggies." He licked his lips twice. "Especially when they are rolled up into nice, neat little sausages."
I made a face. "Oh Papa! That's horrible!"
"True." He agreed. "But tasty, nonetheless."
And so it began. I cut our cake. It was a white cake strewn with pieces of chocolate and sweet licorice. The birthday guy or girl always cut the cake and served. Mama said it was a sign of humility and respect for the friendship others gave us to do so. I never argued with it, and I do it to this day with my little ones. Well, actually not so much, as they are as big as I or bigger now. But I did when it was my turn at the parental wheel of life.
I cut Valentine's cake a bit larger, because I wasn't feeling quite well that day. Mama had said I was running a light fever, but it felt a bit hot to me. I insisted on not canceling the party, I didnt' want to disappoint Papa Wells or Verne, as I knew both had spent an immense amount of time in their warehouse working on a surprise for me.
Had they known I knew they were doing so, they might have been disappointed, but Valentine and I had gotten quite good at hiding our midnight sojourns to the warehouse.
"For you, Val." I told her, setting her cake before her.
I next served both Mamas, and then Papa Verne and last my father. He insisted I do it that way to honor his friend. My father and Papa Verne were almost like a married couple the way they fussed over each other, but it was not sexual as many of the more modern couples indulge in, but a playfulness and a lovingness that made them so. Had they had just one mother and not two, no one would have been so surprised at their brotherliness.
Papa lit into his cake like he had never eaten before, or perhaps in days. His eyes rolled with pleasure. "Mon Petit!" He told Mama, "You have overdone yourself this time."
She smiled. "Actually, Julyanna and Valentine made the cake."
Everyone turned their eyes on us, and we hid our eyes with our hands, causing our forks to spray crumbs across the table. We both giggled, then got up to clean up the mess.
No was mad. They were laughing.
Dad had caught a few crumbs on his jacket sleeve and licked them off, making sounds like a dog savaging a bone. I laughed.
Mama elbowed him lightly, but she was amused too. I knew Papa was in a great mood and Mama, because of the way they sat so close together. Sometimes they didn't do that.
And it was in the midst of all that gaiety that the first sour note of our mischief almost six years ago struck. It started with a rumbling sound.
Papa's ears perked up. "Storms? But the sky was crystal clear when I got up this morning."
Papa Verne shrugged. "Mother Nature is a whimsical spirit. Whom knows what she might play, yes?"
Then the rumbling grew louder and louder.
Our Mamas got nervous and frightened then.
"Maybe we should go to the basement." Mama Wells said.
Then the rumbling became a smashing sound that shattered our windows, spraying all of us with broken glass, and causing us to dive beneath the table as pieces of the window frames shook loose and flew into the room as well.
Valentine and I had been the quickest, but Mama Verne had been the slowest. When she reached the floor her right temple had a shard of wood embedded in it and blood was pouring out. Papa Verne looked at it in horror. "Mon Cherie. You are wounded!"
"I am?" She asked in surprise, then she felt the wood and fainted dead away.
From that moment everything became chaos.
For the next sound we heard besides the smashing sound, was an explosion and then the very walls and floors of our flat shook as if a giant had grabbed our building and was crushing it with all his might.
I heard the sound of screams outside, horses crying out in terror, dogs barking, the sound of buildings collapsing.
"Earthquake!" Papa cried out. "Everyone out. Everyone out!" He hollered.
He and Papa Verne lifted Mama Verne between them and rushed for the door, which Mama Wells opened and we all flew down the trembling staircase to reach the street, which was chaos as horses and buggies crashed into buildings, people were flung from their feet and a torrent of water began to surge down the street flooding it.
"It's the end of the world!" Mama Wells cried out in alarm.
Then the trembling and shaking stopped.
We all stood there on the street, looking at each other, and the dozens of other citizens who were either laying in the street, sitting up from the sidewalk or holding onto lamposts or doors for security. It was over. It had stopped.
Then we looked upwards at the sky.
It had turned bloody red. And like the finger of God had cut with its nails across the red was a swelling, boiling substance that crawled in the atmosphere, leaking of evil and darkness.
"This can not be good." Papa Wells said to Papa Verne, who was not listening. He had his wife in his arms and was cradling her close. Mama Wells went to them and gently pried the wood from Mama Verne's temple, then pressed a hanky to the wound to staunch the blood flow.
Then the next part of our horror began.