“So what exactly has been happening here Grandmother?” I asked. Her beautiful house had been mauled as if by an army of vandals. Mirrors were broken. Vases were smashed. Painting had been vandalized with devil horns and beards on most respectable bastions of authority. Walls had been written on with obscenities.
Grandmother shrugged. “We will talk about it in the morning John. I know you have had a long train trip. I unpacked my suitcase in my bedroom which had been an especially targeted. Obscenities covered the walls. And all of my clothes in the armoire had been slashed to ribbons. Every book I had been studying from with Ranjit Sahib had been torn to pieces. Then I went down to dinner which was novel because the dinning room was now upside down. The floor was now the ceiling and the ceiling was now the floor. The table being on the ceiling we ate around the chandelier which however still provided beautiful illumination, the crystal tinkling gently as the massive chandelier hung upside — up.
“Think of it as a picnic” Grandmother replied gayly. “I decided to keep Alex and Willie at their new schools for a month during summer school catch up” Grandmother explained. Charlie, who thankfully had not lapsed back into sucking his thumb, was amazingly blase.
“If Grandmother is not scared then I am not scared!” he announced. He had grown amazingly and was no longer the pudgy little boy. Like all Hoggs he was suddenly growing and Hogg tended to grow straight up like black haired beanstalks. Mother said mute. I realized that the move back to her own mother’s home as the charity case had defanged her and declawed her. She no longer had any power to reward or punish, much less to give orders or command or threaten. In Hogg Heaven Grandmother Hogg was the figure of commanding authority now. Mother was just her unpaid and frankly unwanted but tolerated ‘companion’. So now Mother said wilted and mute in her grim widow’s black weeds.
Mary was now thirteen and she looked the teenager, growing long limbed, her face maturing, wearing an adult woman’s dress rather than the short frock and pinafore of before, her new corset accenting her waist and reminding everyone she was growing breasts. Mary was now maturing into a young woman – and she clearly did not like it. She was openly conflicted, sullen, resentful, and terribly unhappy. The lemony girl was becoming a bitter young woman.
That night I enjoyed what the rest of the house was enduring. Something tucked my blankets off my bed time and again. Then my bed was dragged around the room. The gaslight turned on and off. Doors opened and slammed. The windows opened and slammed. Then I heard something scampering around my bed. Then I saw a vague shape of a thing peering at me from the footboard of my bed. Then the thing reached over and bite my foot through the covers so violently I yelped. I sat up on bed grabbing my foot under the covers, actually feeling blood, as the thing jeered at me in the darkness. Then it scampered away to torment other inhabitants. I could tell the order. Charlie shouted much vexed. “Oh halibut! Not again! Go away!” Then Charlie appeared at my door and then he jumped into my bed. We snuggled like before. Then we listened as the thing then tortured Mary. Mary screamed and wept for over half a hour as the thing tormented her especially terribly. Then it moved on to Mother who howled out quotes from the bible until the thing moved on to Grandmother who blandly murmured something. Then silence descended on the home at last.
The next day I got up and admired my mirror on which was scribbled with the charming message of ‘I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!’ I washed up on the new bathroom and dressed in the only suit not shredded to tatters during the night. Then I checked on Charlie who was still asleep. “Wake up little monkey.” Charlie groaned lazily and rolled over and went back to sleep.
I rapped on the bedroom door of Mary. “Mary” I whispered. “Can we talk.” I checked and the door was not locked. I slowly opened the door, prepared for a pillow, but only found Mary in a corner just waking up. Her bed had been turned upside down. Her whole room was trashed. Obscenities were smeared all over the walls. She was huddled cold in the corner. I sat down before her. She saw me and whimpered exhausted.
“It always attacks me! It is so mean! It is not like Weasel! It is mean! Mean! Mean! I can’t take it anymore John! It is the house! The house is evil! Like the last house! Can’t you see it? The house is evil. You have to do what you did before. You have to find the evil!” Mary turned her face to the wall and wept. But she would not let me touch her. “Go away! We never liked each other! You were always Father’s pet! His Son! I was never good enough! I was just tolerated! Mary! Mary! Sour bitchy Mary! Little Miss Lemony! Who no boy will ever want to marry!” Mary kicked me with one foot and then she wept with her face pressed against the wall.
Then I and went downstairs for breakfast. Grandmother was blase. So was Charlie who trotted downstairs still in his nightshirt. “Cricket? I am learning the game and I need someone to pitch to me!” Mother stayed in her room I gathered that was her solution to life in Hogg Heaven. Mary finally appeared sullen and sour.
Mary suddenly burst into tears. “I can’t take this torment any more!” and she ran out of the room. Charlie finished up and galloped out to practice hitting the ball as the lower footman tossed it to him in the private park. That left only Grandmother and myself.
“Don’t blame me!” I started .
“Why should I dearest? It started when you were away at school.”
“Everyone always blames me” I explained. “I seem to see things first and so everyone says I start things. I cause things to happen. But it was not me!”
“Of course not dearest child” Grandmother said gayly as she blandly ate her breakfast in the upside down dining room.
“You don’t believe me do you! This is not like Weasel. Weasel was totally different. Weasel loved us and he only tormented Mother because she was tormenting us.”
“Yes. Of course. But John. I want you to practice your second sight by solving this. You solved the other mysteries didn’t you?”
“Well. Yes” I replied warily. “We would have died otherwise.”
“So I am assigning you the job of solving this.” Grandmother stood up on the ceiling and smiling benevolently, before exiting the upside down dinning room leaving me to finish breakfast alone.