There must be cause. There must be reason. There must be duty.
When I received word that Mortimer Goth’s wife had died, I knew that he would be lost to the worlds beyond number.
I, in my haste, in my arrogance, in my duty, tried to bring him back.
On a rainy day, he called me.
The rain was heavy in the background; he must have been standing outside, ambient noises loud, threatening to drown out his speech.
STRAUD. IT’S BELLA.
His wife had been suffering illness for some time. Mysterious, of an unknown origin.
According to Mortimer, she’d simply started complaining about fatigue and weakness. It took her longer to wake up, longer to get to sleep, and what sleep she did have was fitful. She was tired all day, barely able to get up to meander around the house, let alone keep up with her previous levels of frenetic activity.
He asked me whether I thought there was anything I could do for her.
YOU DON’T WANT MY HOMEOPATHY.
YOU NEED A DOCTOR.
And so he’d taken her to every specialist he could find. But she refused most of the treatments, stating that she’d always wanted to go out on her own terms.
And she had.
Mortimer Goth had an alarming need for freedom. I told him he was free to refer to his new existence as either a Curse or a Gift. My associates and friends had chosen both. Whichever seemed more fitting for the time and place in which he found himself.
He seemed more concerned with trivialities and continuing with his day-to-day life.
I prayed that he would devote himself to his children.
FINALLY I’LL HAVE THE TIME TO WRITE THAT BOOK I’VE BEEN WANTING TO WRITE.
MOST OF THE GREATS TOOK FIVE OR TEN YEARS TO WRITE A BOOK. GIVE OR TAKE.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EAT? EVERY DAY? EVERY OTHER DAY?
EVERYONE IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT, MY DEAR FRIEND.
I SUGGEST…THIS IS SOMETHING YOU’LL HAVE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF.
WHAT IF I MISS THE ARTERY?
YOU WON’T MISS THE ARTERY.
DO I NEED TO RUN OUT AND PURCHASE…
Mortimer had, on my advice, had his wife cremated. I did not take her as the type to want to burden her children with yet another rose bush.
DEAR ME, NO.
YOU MAY SLEEP WHEREVER AND WHENEVER YOU FEEL THE INCLINATION.
IT IS ONLY WITH TIME YOU MAY SEE DIFFICULTIES ASSOCIATING WITH THAT WHICH WAS ONCE OF COMFORT.
AT THAT POINT, YOU NEED ONLY ASK.
Mortimer’s transformation highlighted his craven, paranoid nature.
Haunted by the words spoken in his dreams, he’d refused most any progress into the twenty-first century. Cellphones, big-screen televisions, robotic vacuum cleaners…These things remained estranged from Mortimer, who wanted nothing more than to remain free from the voices.
I suspected the Dream had hold on him.
But I had no such easy answer to my inquiry. He behaved in a way as others I’ve suspected of being Dream-touched, said strange things in strange ways about strange topics. He had clearly not conquered his fears; his erratic visions spoke of that. But I hoped that in time he would learn not to fear the lank tendrils of Elysion’s vines, for they do not speak to us all.
Today, I had no such certainty.
Today I had no choice but to dance in the dark.