Gigi slept fitfully through the rest of the night, catching bursts of slumber from sheer exhaustion, then waking suddenly hoping for news of her father. When she woke, she dragged her weary body to the window between her isolation room and her brother’s, so she could see how he was doing. Glad to see neither of us has grown a second head, she thought, scornfully dismissing the need for 48 hours in a glass box.
A rapping on the glass near her door made Gigi jump. She turned to find Marcus waiting outside. He held a note to the glass.
“Mr. Valentine has been found; crossed at 6:18am. Recovering in isolation, tended by Hardale, resting.”
Gigi held up her index finger to indicate that he should wait, while she found some paper in a desk drawer and scribbled:
“Has the bleeding stopped? Does Hardale say he will recover fully?”
Marcus fetched a stub of pencil from his pocket and wrote leaning his paper on the window before turning the note around to Gigi.
“Bleeding is stopped, wounds bandaged. Hardale says we must let him rest.”
At Gigi’s crestfallen face he turned and wrote again.
“He’ll make it. Worry won’t help him. Rest is best for you as well. Is your brother awake?”
“He has been asleep through the night as far as I can tell.”
Marcus wrote again:
“Have already told your mother. Pass on the news when he wakes?”
Gigi nodded in agreement. He gave a brief bow and took his leave down the hall. Gigi sighed a combination of weariness and relief as she climbed back into bed. Before she could give any real thought to her father’s condition, she had lapsed once again into a fitful sleep.
* * *
June 6, 1883
Isolation Room 4, Thousand Candles
Albert waited for Doctor Hardale to emerge from his examination of Charles Valentine before quietly entering. Although the 48 hour deadline had passed, Doctor Hardale felt Charles was too weak to be moved.
The Doctor emerged, and Albert asked quietly “How is he faring?”
“I won’t lie to you, Albert, he’s lost a lot of blood. But he’s got fight in him, and a lovely family. Gives him something to push for. I’ve noticed a bit of improvement since he’s been able to see the wife and kids.”
Albert nodded, then started to enter the room.
“Don’t be keeping him awake too long,” Doctor Hardale warned him.
“Of course not.” But I need some answers, Albert thought.
Charles was propped up on some pillows so as to sit comfortably in the bed, a pitcher and glass of water close by. Albert noticed his pale complexion and his hair hanging limply across his brow. “How are you feeling?”
“As well as might be expected,” Charles said softly. “But I know you, Albert. This is no social call.”
“I’m afraid not. I need to know what happened out there. From all of you.”
“I don’t remember much of the attack. I was hit before we knew we had been discovered. After that, well, I was unconscious.”
“Do you remember anything of the beasts that attacked you?”
“I did not see them…but I…felt them.”
“What did you feel?”
“I felt their understanding of their own world, as if it had been funneled into my mind. It was most extraordinary. I finally understood what we’ve been doing wrong. It’s all about the buildings, Albert.”
“The buildings? The tentaclebeasts have no buildings.”
“That is precisely the crux of the matter.” Charles was becoming rather animated as he continued, gesturing broadly with his hands. “We have buildings here, but they have no buildings there. But were we to create them, it’s like…like…tacking down a woman’s skirt to the dance floor.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”
“Right now, she dances on and on, spinning madly, everywhere she damned well pleases. But buildings! Buildings would make her hold still for just long enough…” He trailed off has he became slightly out of breath.
“Pray don’t over-exert yourself.”
“I…right. What had you asked me again?”
“I think it’s better if you rest. I can ask you more of your recollections at another time.”
“But the buildings, Albert. It’s really important.”
“How are they important?”
“If we were to go to the tentaclebeast world and build a great many buildings, in the same places they are here, that is the key.”
“How are we to accomplish such a feat? Look what happened when you tried to stray just a bit from known territory over there. Why, we can’t even transfer enough materials across to create buildings. It was difficult enough to create a simple platform.”
“Yes, yes, but the spinning, Albert, and the movement is the entire difficulty of the matter. My maps are worthless. How can we win a war we can’t see?”
“We’ll work it out. But we can’t do it without you. We need your skills. Rest. Get well. We’ll talk more later.” Albert said this last quite firmly, hoping to stop Charles’ ramblings.
“I…well, I do suppose I am tired,” Charles said weakly.
“Right then. I’ll be on my way, so you can sleep.”
“But the movements, I felt them…”
“I know. Just sleep. You can tell me all about it later.” He closed the door quietly behind him.