A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters 1 | Page 8

growing colder still , until each one of his fingers seemed a sculpt of ice .
I turned my head to look into his face , and just as I did , he opened his eyes and stared into the empty darkness above the table . " Do not release your hands !"
He had not raised his voice , and yet it suddenly seemed very loud . " Whoever comes , whatever is seen or heard , the circle must remain unbroken ."
Everyone drew in their breath and the temperature in the parlor dropped so severely that , as their breath was released , it rose into the air a visible vapor . The air itself had gone cold .
I am not sure if the apparition that followed formed itself of our cast-off breaths , or if it came afterward of its own making , but suddenly , it was there .
A woman , floating above the dark shine of the table , whose flesh and garment was of the most ethereal grey . Her eyes were dark , and she appeared tormented ; there was nothing about her that was pretty .
She turned , slowly in the air above us , meeting each of our gazes in turn . When she came to me , I was glad she seemed unable to speak , for I felt her gaze judged me most harshly . I did notice , now that I had an undistorted look at her , that the entire side of her gown was stained in dried blood . It had a very violent appearance , quite at odds with Lord Gorey ' s account of her passing . It must have been an incredibly fitful sleep ! It was a profound relief when her eyes released me , and moved on to the lady beside me . None of us seemed able to move , we only clutched the hands we held .
I could not see her face when she at last found the eyes of her husband , but I saw his . He stared at her , almost in horror , I thought , but then his face crumbled into grief , and something like ... guilt ?
" Esme ," he said , his voice a hoarse whisper . He
fumbled open the iron-bound case on his lap , and it was only then that I realized that he had broken the circle . We were no longer holding hands ; the spirit of Lady Gorey was no longer confined by our living humanity . Lord Gorey pulled a strange device from his case , and , rising from his chair , he climbed upon the table and ran to meet the specter of his late wife . I thought at first he meant to embrace her — a foolish desire , as a ghost is nothing more than slightly congealed air — but instead he slammed the device into her chest .
Corporeal mechanics met incorporeal form and joined in an ominous crackling of red light , and then ... and then , Lord Gorey was holding his wife in his arms . No longer ethereal , but still grey as death , she lifted her hand and touched his face .
Touched him , as any living woman might touch her husband . " Esme ," he sighed , " Esme , I never meant …" He buried his face on her bloody shoulder , and slowly — so slowly — she raised her hand off his face . I thought she meant to stroke his hair , but then her eyes looked down the table over his shoulder , and instead of coming down to comfort , her hand stiffened into a point ... directly at Miss Benedicta Basilio . Miss Basilio ' s face whitened until she resembled a specter herself . Benedicta stood and cried , " What have you done ? What evil invention is this ?" Lord Gorey lifted his head , his face contorting at the sound of her voice .
And that was the moment it happened : calmly , quietly , the late Lady Gorey snapped her husband ' s neck . I heard the crack most distinctly .
The ladies around the table rose up like a flock of screaming crows , each over-turning her chair in an attempt to flee . I , myself , could not rise ; my hand was still most solidly caught in J . W . Wells ' ice-cold grip . He seemed completely entranced — a