Isobel caught the name GRAMPUS across the ship’s stern during one long barrage of lightning strikes.

Then the humming from within the parlor changed to singing, and her attention returned once more to the pair of sliding pocket doors.

Quickly she slipped to stand just in front of the drawn panels, peeking through the slim space in between.

She saw a pair of elegant hands wandering over the white keys as the music rose and fell, every note melding with the woman’s wispy voice to create a liquid sound.

“Sleep now a little while

Till within our dreams we wake

Unfolding our Forever

If only for Never’s sake.”

Inside the ornate and orderly room, an eerily familiar scene unfolded before her. The old-fashioned decorations and the stately piano, the woman’s elegant violet evening gown, the glittering comb in her hair—it all matched what had played on the TV that night she’d found Pinfeathers in her living room. And the comb. It was identical to the one she’d found in the box beneath the stairs at Nobit’s Nook.

“And take me to your ever after

Let’s hide behind our eyes


Together pour through that door

Where autumn never dies.”

Isobel pressed her palms to the wooden doors. She leaned in, bringing her eye even closer to the slit.

“And I’ll sift my sands to your side

Before we slip away

Before we’re little more than silt

Beneath the rocking waves—”

All at once, the music stopped. The woman at the piano snapped her head toward Isobel, her emerald eyes lit from within by fear and surprise.

Isobel’s breath caught in her throat.

The woman scooted to the edge of the piano seat. She placed a hand on the keyboard cover and tensed, as though preparing to throw it down.

When their eyes met through the crack, however, the woman’s trepidation fell away in an instant, replaced with a soft smile of relief and even gladness. Her face was one Isobel had seen before in a faded and bent photograph.

“Hello there,” Varen’s mother said, speaking to Isobel through the gap. “It’s okay. You can come in. I shouldn’t play so late. Did I wake you? Do you want to hear the rest of our song? It’s almost finished. Here. Let me sing you the last verse.”

Isobel frowned, realizing she’d heard this voice speak these same words once before. Along with the song, they’d played in this exact order over the gramophone in the dreamworld version of the bookshop.

When the woman swiveled toward the piano again, Isobel began to understand that whatever she was witnessing, it wasn’t happening in real time. Like the vision of Poe in the hospital, she was seeing a moment from the past being replayed.

Just like . . . just like a memory.

Madeline’s lips parted as she lifted her hands to the keys. Once more, music swelled, filling the room.

“And side by side we’ll fight the tide

That sweeps in to take us down,

And hand in hand we’ll both withstand

Even as we drown.”

The final notes, deep and resonant, reverberated through the door, sending a barely perceptible vibration through Isobel’s hands. For several long seconds, Madeline remained still, staring at the keys as though they had done something she hadn’t expected them to.

“I don’t know,” she said, half mumbling to herself. “Do you think that last part’s too sad? Here, let me play you the whole thing, and you tell me what you think.”

The song began again.

Hooking her fingers in the brass grooves set into the doors, Isobel tried to pull them apart. They refused to budge, however, so she spread her feet, angling for a better grip, and then tugged again.

All at once, the wooden panels flew open with a bang. The piano music halted.

Madeline was gone.

The room now stood empty and wrecked, the furniture toppled and strewn about. The tattered curtains, pulled free from their decorative tassel ropes, hung limp over the tall black-paned windows. The overturned piano bench lay on its side, reams of loose sheet music spilling from under its hinged lid.

Black notes, all hand drawn, dotted the thin lines of musical staves, their corresponding lyrics written beneath in a looping and elegant hand.

Behind the piano, scattered and broken picture frames lined the built-in shelves, though none of the frames, save for one, actually held any images or photos. Like the windows, the frames had all been blacked out, except for the picture that sat in the very middle of the center shelf in an oval frame. It was a portrait of Madeline, a larger copy of the photo Isobel had found at Nobit’s Nook.

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