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Thin Places

The knock on the schoolhouse door came an hour after dismissal, and Miss Augusta hesitated for a moment before answering. She had never met the child who stood on the threshold, but she knew already that the girl’s name was Lilianne Eisner, that she had arrived in Branaugh only yesterday, and that she was not supposed to be attending school with the other children. This information had come to Miss Augusta courtesy of numerous letters, hand-delivered by children on behalf of their parents. We are concerned, they had begun. We trust that you will act accordingly. By trust, Miss Augusta suspected, they meant, will be watching to see that you do. The girl needed to be sent home at once, and yet Miss Augusta could not find words delicate and sharp enough for the purpose. Instead she found herself opening the door wider.

“You must be the new lighthouse-keeper’s daughter,” she said.

The girl did not reply. Her eyes were large and dark in her pale face, and she did not blink. Feeling that the child would have the upper hand as long as they remained on the threshold, Miss Augusta stepped aside. “Why don’t you come in?”

Lilianne obeyed, collapsing dreamily into a desk at the back of the room. Uncertain what to make of her, Miss Augusta hesitantly returned to the chalkboard she had been scrubbing and recommenced her work. “How far had you gone in school? Back—there?” she inquired after a moment, handling the final word as if it were something slippery and repellent.

Competing stories of the there had fascinated Branaugh for the past weeks, building to a fever of anticipation in the final days before the new lighthouse-keeper’s arrival. No one knew the truth of his origins, for only a name had emerged from the silvery viscera of the fish that the Widow Clary read, and, later, the position of the moon indicating the date on which the lighthouse-keeper would come. No one had foreseen a wife and daughter coming with him, nor the dark and decidedly foreign cast of his appearance.

The girl did not reply to the question, at first. Miss Augusta began to wonder if she could speak. Then, presently, came the words, “Third form, miss.”

The notion of forms being an unfamiliar one, Miss Augusta fetched a slate and a piece of chalk and asked the child to write her name, then dictated a series of exercises to her. “Seventh grade,” Miss Augusta pronounced when the girl finished, smiling to indicate that she should be pleased, and then she sent Lilianne Eisner into the lingering dusk, feeling that she had done as well as she possibly could in her handling of the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter.

Before the Eisners had arrived, Miss Augusta had prided herself on abstaining from gossip, feeling virtuous and superior as she hushed vicious half-formed rumors in the schoolhouse or politely changed the subject at the grocer’s counter. Now she went directly to the grocer with a shopping list she’d scrawled for the sake of appearances, feeling she must immediately make it known that the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter would be attending school alongside the children of Branaugh. Otherwise, she feared, the information would be somehow her secret, concealed deliberately and maliciously.

In the few minutes required to choose and purchase a filet of whitefish, Miss Augusta allowed Mr. Tillman the grocer to gather all the details of her encounter with the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter. As he poked and prodded at the few details she initially volunteered, Miss Augusta feigned reticence, glanced meaningfully over her shoulder at the women lingering within earshot, then let herself be persuaded to divulge everything.

Mr. Tillman gratefully expressed the appropriate amount of shock at the child’s ghostly twilight intrusion, at her strange quietness, at the negligence of any mother who let a young girl go wandering so close to dusk. Before Miss Augusta was out the door, the story had already reached Mrs. O’Neill, who was certain to tell Mr. O’Neill, who would be on the docks come morning with half the men in Branaugh. Miss Augusta had withheld nothing besides the child’s acuity in reading and arithmetic. She sensed this information would only provoke resentment, and found, somewhat unexpectedly, that she did not want Lilianne Eisner to be resented.

The other children were wary of the stranger among their ranks, as Lilianne was wary of them. She spoke only when directly addressed. She took no part in schoolyard games and would not perform the recitations of facts and numbers that consumed most of the school day. Only one subject commanded her full attention, and that was history. She listened to the lectures with her head tilted slightly to the side, her brow furrowed.

The history of Branaugh was but a well-worn catechism to Miss Augusta and to the other children, an almost ceremonial gesture beside the more urgent matters of multiplication and grammar. Yet the look of terrified wonder on the girl’s face as she listened made Miss Augusta hesitate sometimes, her tongue stumbling on words she’d spoken hundreds of times across her life. At the end of December, after the wild night when all Branaugh danced beneath the brightly-glowing eye of the lighthouse, the girl came to Miss Augusta’s desk with her eyes swimming, holding her slate in a white-knuckled grasp.

“Is everything you say in the history lessons true, miss?” she said.

Miss Augusta had anticipated with dread the conversation she would have to have with Lilianne since the moment she saw the child’s spectral face staring down from the lighthouse tower. Seeing Lilianne and her father watch them, Miss Augusta had stepped for a moment outside herself and realized how they must all look to strangers. The savagery of their ritual joy.

The old lighthouse-keeper would have stayed indoors. Perhaps in midsummer Lilianne Eisner’s father would do the same, now that he knew. But that night, he had watched and so had the little girl. Stranger still, his wife had come outside and danced as if she belonged to Branaugh, although she so visibly did not, with her dark hair loose, her garments thin, her feet bare on the frost. Miss Augusta suspected that the girl was not nearly so troubled by the dance as she was by her own mother’s participation.

Miss Augusta could not comfort Lilianne, at least not truthfully, so instead she dabbed at the girl’s wet eyes with a handkerchief and asked what she meant, expecting an inquiry about the island’s winter death and summer life, the imperative for bi-yearly dancing, the wildness that consumed them all on those ritual nights.

“The thin places,” Lilianne said, instead. “I think I found one. I think I live inside one.”

Miss Augusta had ceased to be entirely a person when she became a schoolteacher. She had surrendered any hopes of marriage, even of close friendship. She was to walk the well-trodden road laid out by schoolteachers past, from bright young novice to weathered schoolmarm, and then fill a casket remarkably like her predecessor’s. To this fate she had already resigned herself. The sound of a knock on her door was only a shock, not a pleasure.

When Miss Augusta opened the door, Mrs. O’Neil was smiling apologetically from the threshold. She had a loaf of bread wrapped in cloth, a quiet and devastating gesture of her pessimism about Miss Augusta’s hostessly preparedness. She was not wrong; Miss Augusta had nothing fresh, certainly nothing suitable for the occasion. Still, the assumption stung.

“I assume you have preserves,” she said while Miss Augusta stared ponderously down at the lump of cloth.

“Of course,” Miss Augusta said. “Of course I do. Come inside. This is such a lovely surprise. Really, just lovely.” She led her visitor through the narrow foyer to the crowded little kitchen. Mrs. O’Neill seated herself while Miss Augusta filled the tea kettle and slathered a thick greyish paste across two slices of bread, scraping the sides of her last jar. Harvest would not come again for months, but she would not let Mrs. O’Neill think she needed to scrimp.

“It’s lovely to see you,” she said, her back still facing the woman. “You know, Evelyn is such a wonderful student.”

When Miss Augusta turned with the tea-tray in her hands, Mrs. O’Neill’s face was hard. “Evelyn tells me you haven’t been teaching Branaugh’s history for the past two weeks.”

Miss Augusta forced herself to set the teacups down without spilling. “That’s true,” she managed, adapting the same steadfast posture she took with the unruly older boys in the back of the classroom. “I’ve been paying attention to their reading. A few of them—Evelyn included, I’m sorry to say—have fallen behind.”

“The lighthouse-keeper’s girl is quite a strange little thing, I hear,” Mrs. O’Neill said in the decisive tone of one barreling past a small and insubstantial obstacle. “I knew as soon as I heard she was enrolling in school that she would be trouble, and I am only surprised it took so long for me to be proven right. Did her mother protest? Was that the trouble?”

“Not at all,” Miss Augusta said. “I’ve never met the woman.” She could not, in fact, even think of the lighthouse-keeper’s wife without seeing her wild dance, her bare feet, her disheveled hair. Whatever Mrs. Eisner had been before she had come to Branaugh, she was not quite that thing anymore. “I haven’t met the father, either,” she continued. “And Lilianne Eisner is perfectly well-behaved.”

Mrs. O’Neill seemed to take pity on her, then. “I know,” she said, “what a sense of duty you must feel to help that child. How, being childless yourself, you must develop some, well, attachment to a girl who is not being well-mothered. But you know as well as anyone that the children of Branaugh must be taught how to care for their island. Even if it frightens the Eisner girl. Even if it upsets her. She is not the subject of those lessons.” She leaned across the table and laid her hand on Miss Augusta’s. “Dismiss her from your classroom, Augusta. Don’t let this go further.”

“I’m afraid I have an errand to run,” Miss Augusta said, standing abruptly and wrenching her hand out from under Mrs. O’Neill’s. “I’m so sorry to run out on you like this. It really isn’t like me. So few visitors. I’m very grateful. I suppose I’ll see you around the grocer’s very soon.”

Mrs. O’Neill remained seated. Miss Augusta was clearing the threshold of her own front door when she heard the woman say, “Branaugh will come back to life soon. And what will you say to the Eisner girl then?”

All the children of Branaugh knew that the island changed sometime between February and May. If they were too small to remember the preceding year’s changes, they at least remembered the bright insipid little rhyme whose words they intoned sometimes with ritual solemnity, other times in a succession of joyful screams:

Thickening, thickening, filling the crack,

The sun comes out, the water goes back.

White stars in the night, red rain in the day

There’s grass on the shore, there’s fish in the bay.

The children reincarnated the song each year before the end of January, and never let it rest until each line had come to fruition. Miss Augusta had sung the song in her own schooldays, clasping hands with the other girls in the schoolyard; she could not do anything besides bear it patiently now. Yet she was sorry to see how Lilianne Eisner absorbed the words with terror and bewilderment, making the same face that she made during history lessons. By mid-February, she had begun avoiding the schoolyard in order to avoid hearing the song. At midday recess, she sat prodding at her food until Miss Augusta called the class back to order. At the end of the day, she hung back to help clean the chalkboard or the slates, whatever she was permitted to do, as long as she could stay until all the other children had gone.

Miss Augusta dispensed these unnecessary after-school chores to Lilianne in a show of sympathy, because she had no power to do anything more, because she thought Lilianne was getting pale and sickly-looking, her glossy dark abundance of hair thinning. Lurid theories about the lighthouse-keeper’s domestic life circulated Branaugh, staples at the grocer as reliably as salt or flour. Some believed the wife was a violent hysteric, and her misbehavior had forced the family into exile from wherever they’d originally come. Others blamed the father, with his dark-lensed little spectacles and over-fine clothes, certain that he must harbor pretensions beyond lighthouse-keeping, that he must be continually shoving his work off onto the poor frail-nerved wife and daughter.

Miss Augusta had not wanted to credit any of those stories before. Now Lilianne’s eyelids sagged wearily, and she wore her hair in disheveled plaits that unsuccessfully covered a coin-sized bald spot on the crown of her head. When Miss Augusta dismissed the girl each night, she always felt morbidly certain that she had seen the last of Lilianne: that somewhere between the schoolyard and the lighthouse, the girl would simply crumple into the earth like a wilting flower.

Miss Augusta did not want to see Lilianne wilt. At the very least, she did not want to feel responsible for the wilting. If she could interfere in some way, she would feel that she was guiltless in the matter, whatever happened. But she did not want to be dragged in too deeply. She waited to make her overtures of concern until an afternoon when Lilianne scrubbed the chalkboard with unusual strength and quickness, appearing at least a little revived. “Lilianne,” Miss Augusta said, coaxingly, “would you tell me, if you had trouble at home?”

The question had been framed carefully, to avoid receiving any answer besides yes, miss or there’s no trouble, miss, or another suitably benign substitute. But still Miss Augusta stood in a fugue of terror while she waited for the girl’s answer, knowing she had opened herself to the possibility of hearing a real plea for help that would have to be answered.

Lilianne’s face showed that she understood perfectly the nature of the question, and the answer it was intended to produce. “My father and mother are very well,” she said. Then, with an almost malicious stab of courage, “Have you seen how the grass is coming up on the dunes, Miss Augusta? It is so thick and black this year. It is long as my shoulders.”

“You shouldn’t go to the shore alone, Lilianne,” said Miss Augusta, too stricken to manage any other answer. “The waves come high, this time of year.”

“I don’t go at all,” said Lilianne. “My mother goes for rambles. At night, early in the morning. She comes home with heaps of that grass in a paper bag. She says she can put it back, if I let her, but I won’t. I think it will hurt too much.”

“Your father? What does he say?”

“He doesn’t know.”

Miss Augusta could think of no reply for a long and burdensome moment. At last, she succumbed to the horrifying inadequacy of politeness, and said, “That chalkboard looks very clean, Lilianne. You may go. Thank you.”

For a long while after the girl surrendered her rag and left the schoolhouse, Miss Augusta sat at her desk, her hands shaking. The fire had burnt down to cinders and the room was dark when she stood and gathered her belongings, then made her way to the sagging grey cottage on the cliffs above the sea. The moon alone accompanied her. The Widow Clary was the only person in Branaugh who received fewer visitors than the schoolteacher.

“You are going to want to save her life,” said the Widow Clary, when she opened the door. “And you can’t.”

At this flat-voiced affront, Miss Augusta’s cheeks reddened with something between anger and humiliation. She had not spoken a word and yet the old woman already knew. She must be the laughingstock of Branaugh. “Please,” she said. “I need to speak with you.”

The Widow opened the door a little wider, squinting unpleasantly at her. “Come in, then,” she said. “Hurry, now.”

The inside of the cottage had a deep, briny scent, like the ocean preserved too long and gone sour. Miss Augusta exhaled in a huff to rid her lungs of the wet thick feeling that came when she breathed. The widow, unaffected, struck a match and lit a series of long, wax-mottled tapers, then retreated to the stove to heat the kettle. Miss Augusta sank onto an under-stuffed ottoman, preferring this minor disgrace to the more inconceivable theft of the widow’s only armchair. The Widow Clary, as anticipated, claimed the seat without a moment of polite hesitation, only looking awkwardly for a surface to set the tea tray before Miss Augusta volunteered her own lap.

With the tea steaming before them, Miss Augusta lost and regained her courage ten times in a moment. She wavered, her hands trembled. She was remembering her own furious shame, not long ago, at being accosted in the delicate shell of her own lonely home. She was trying to remember that Branaugh was many years older than the Widow Clary, that the old woman sitting across from her could not really be at fault. The Widow Clary had read the lighthouse-keeper’s name from the innards of a fish, but she had not summoned him, or his daughter.

“What is happening,” she said, finally, “to Lilianne Eisner?”

“What will you do if I tell you?” said the Widow Clary, sipping languidly from her teacup. “I suppose you’ll want to be her mother. I suppose you’ll think you must take full responsibility. You are a sad, squirming thing.”

Miss Augusta did not let herself flinch; if she flinched now, she could never go on. “She says she lives inside a thin place.”

“Well, she doesn’t. What does she know? Only what you say in the schoolhouse. What did you tell her a thin place was? Repeat it to me now.”

Miss Augusta obeyed. “Thin places are parts of the world where the barrier between the clay and the mist is more fragile, where it can be broken.” She stopped, then, because she’d forgotten the old words as soon as she began truly listening to them.

But the Widow Clary had been a Branaugh schoolchild once too, and her memory did not fail: “Things happen in thin places that can’t happen anywhere else, but they are never safe from getting lost between clay and mist. They are always in-between.”

“But,” Miss Augusta said desperately, “what does it mean?”

“Listen,” said the Widow Clary with infinite patience, settling back in her armchair, “you cannot understand. I doubt that any of your schoolchildren can. Perhaps the lighthouse-keeper’s girl is the only one among you with half a chance of ever understanding at all. But she’s wrong. She doesn’t live inside a thin place, any more than the rest of us. We are always in a thin place. We have always lived in-between.”

The red rain came to Branaugh in mid-April. The children trudged to school in rubber boots and rainslickers. Inside the schoolhouse, they shook the moisture from their coats into shimmering crimson puddles on the floor, murmuring excitedly that harvest was soon to come, that Branaugh again lived. Miss Augusta struggled to quiet them. When at last they were all seated, she saw that Lilianne Eisner’s desk was empty. Miss Augusta’s throat swelled, she thought, they are never safe from getting lost, and the words formed a different shape now that they had been uttered by an old woman in a dark hovel: now they had the sheen of truth on them, of magic.

“Has anyone seen Lilianne?” she inquired of the class, her eyes drifting across the rows of faces. No, they all chorused, rote as if they were saying multiplication tables.

Miss Augusta waited for school to end, then slipped on her own rubber boots, her own raincoat. She had never shown up unannounced at anyone’s house before. The lighthouse was not quite a house, the lighthouse-keeper not quite anyone, and in some sense that was worse: she might find anything on the other side of that weathered old door. Miss Augusta’s knocking went unanswered, and she had almost resolved to leave when a fork of lightning split the mist behind her, followed closely by thunder. She would not be able to go home until the storm passed; she had no choice but to enter. Miss Augusta held her breath and counted to three, then opened the door to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse-keeper’s quarters were white-walled and austere, almost handsome in their simplicity except that no one had washed the dishes or cleaned the countertops or swept the floor in days, possibly weeks. An oriental rug unfurled massively across the floorboards in the center of the room, the ends vanishing beneath the footboard of the four-poster bed where the lighthouse-keeper slept, curled fetally beneath thick layers of flannel. He had not stirred when Miss Augusta first came inside, and he did not stir now that she approached the bed. For a moment, she thought he must be dead, but then she heard his breathing come steadily, a soft intermittent wisp of sound between gusts of wind. She lifted her eyes to the room’s sole window, bare and obtrusively large. Outside the cliffs protruded blackly into the mist, as if there were no sea, as if Branaugh were melting into the horizon. When Miss Augusta saw the lighthouse-keeper’s wife and daughter, at first she thought they were walking on air.

Mrs. Eisner’s hair was as dark as Lilianne’s, though much thicker than Lilianne’s hair was now. She was pale in her nightgown, but her mouth was insatiable-red, and her eyes blazed when she whirled to face Miss Augusta.  Yet she was distant, as if in a trance, and her feet crept unceasingly forward, steps now from the precipice, moments from the sea.

Lilianne, weak and loose-limbed beside her, was still awake; with great struggle, Lilianne reeled her mother back. “Miss,” she cried through the flume of waves and wind, her voice muffled and obscure. “Miss, my mother wants to leave.”

There was no possibility of the lighthouse-keeper’s wife, or any of them, leaving Branaugh. “Lilianne, walk her back to me,” said Miss Augusta, and the girl obeyed. Halfway back to the lighthouse, Mrs. Eisner began to weep with the loose unrestrained sobs of a child, her eyes red-rimmed and her mouth opened in a choral O.

“I want to go home,” she said to her daughter.

“We’re almost there,” said Miss Augusta.

“She doesn’t mean the lighthouse,” Lilianne said. “She doesn’t even go inside anymore, hardly. She’s been sleeping on the beach.”

“Why not?” The lighthouse-keeper’s quarters assumed, abruptly, a sinister quality for Miss Augusta. She hesitated before the door.

“She saw something one day, she said.”

Lilianne’s mother collapsed on the threshold, curling her knees to her chest. “Look under the rug,” she urged Miss Augusta. “Don’t make me go in, but look under the rug.”

Miss Augusta knew that if she returned home now, despite the lightning, despite the wind, she would be safe: she would remain where she had always stood, and tomorrow when she opened the schoolhouse doors, Lilianne Eisner would not be there, and for a few days she would feel the girl’s absence, but soon she would not notice anymore.

“Please,” said Lilianne. “None of us are ever quite awake anymore.”

Miss Augusta opened the door to the lighthouse, stepped inside, and rolled back the oriental rug. The floorboards beneath were pale and rounded, a divot cut into the center which Miss Augusta could grip like a handle. The hatch in the floor opened with a soft compliant whine, and inside, Miss Augusta found the old lighthouse-keeper, and his predecessor, and that man’s predecessor too. But they weren’t skeletons, they weren’t corpses, they were still living. They were stranger than they had been before, hairless and wax-colored and limp as if boneless, but they were still alive. In fact, they looked not unlike Lilianne Eisner.

Miss Augusta closed her curtains and hid the lighthouse-keeper’s work boots beneath her front porch, but someone still found out that she had the Eisners in her house, the daughter on the sofa and the parents on a makeshift mattress of folded blankets. When Miss Augusta went to the schoolhouse in the morning, a padlock she’d never seen before had been thrown across the doors and a paper notice had been posted, its message now rain-blurred almost to incoherence: she caught the word closed and the word breach, and the word safe, but she could not decipher the meaning as a whole, and she was afraid to linger long.

The first knock on her door came in the afternoon, when enough hours had elapsed that she should have come to her senses and sent the Eisners home. So said Mrs. O’Neill, and then Mrs. Bryant, and then Mr. Tillman the grocer, who promised he had a basket of fresh bread and salted cod for their supper, then lingered carnivorously on the doorstep for several minutes before he retreated. Miss Augusta knew the food, if he truly had any, was only a means of getting the door open. No one in Branaugh would dream of forcing open the schoolteacher’s front door, but once the door had been open, the barrier broken, they might never be persuaded to go until she had done as they wanted.

It was close to dusk when the Widow Clary came. Miss Augusta recognized the sound of her plodding step, the small seismic creaks of her frame in motion.

“You might as well come outside,” the widow said, after waiting on the doorstep for a moment. “If you pull aside that curtain, you’ll see that I’m alone now, but if I have to come back, I’ll bring all the men in Branaugh to tear down your front door.”

She spoke so lightly, so gently, that the prospect of the broken-down door sounded like a bothersome eventuality instead of a threat. Miss Augusta peered through a crack in the curtains and saw that she was telling the truth about being alone.

“It’ll just be a moment,” she said to Lilianne, who sat with her legs drawn to her chest in one of Miss Augusta’s threadbare secondhand armchairs, a novel open across her knees.

Miss Augusta stepped onto the porch and locked the front door, gripping her housekey in a closed fist. “Do you know what’s happening in that lighthouse?” she demanded of the Widow Clary. “Does everyone know?”

“You are a stupid girl,” said the widow, “but that doesn’t matter anymore. Someone should have interfered much sooner, I suppose. How old are you? Twenty? Twenty-one?”

“Twenty-four,” said Miss Augusta primly.

“Well, at any rate, you were too young then,” she said. “Not so many years ago, we had a lighthouse-keeper who said he wanted to build a house instead of living in the lighthouse-keeper’s quarters. I told him that he couldn’t be allowed to leave the lighthouse, but I was the only one who remembered why it mattered. Branaugh isn’t so ancient that our traditions don’t still mean something, and when we walk away from them, we put ourselves at risk. But they wouldn’t listen to me. And the next spring, Branaugh started to get lost instead of starting to live. No rain, no plants, no fish. The mist was so thick you couldn’t see through it. The waves were coming up to the grocer’s door. I swept water out of my house like I was chasing down vermin. We were thin and getting thinner. Starving to death. I will not see it happen again.”

“What happened to that man?” said Miss Augusta, thinking of the plaintive waxy faces that had stared up from underneath the lighthouse floorboards. “What happens to any of them?”

“Quiet now, the child will hear you,” said the widow, and Miss Augusta turned and saw that Lilianne Eisner had parted the curtains just enough to peek out at them. “It isn’t our question to ask. The island settles all that. It brings them here and does with them what it will.”

“Can’t we bring someone else?” Miss Augusta said helplessly.

The Widow Clary looked very stern then, her lips pursed, her eyes narrowed. “We’ve never had a family before,” she said. “But I knew as soon as they came that Branaugh would take the little girl before her mother or father. It’s very sad. I’m sure you’ll say it’s unfair. Still—would you rather it have been the father? Would that make you feel better?”

For a long time, Miss Augusta was silent. Lilianne Eisner was still at the window. If only she would close the curtain and retreat. It was too much, her dark eyes like stones in her pale malnourished face, her scalp white and pristine beneath her thinning thatch of black hair. She had the look of a shell nearly emptied.

“What am I to do with them?” Miss Augusta whispered, at last.

“You must send them back to the lighthouse,” said the Widow Clary. “And then we all must ask Branaugh for forgiveness.”

All Branaugh danced again at midsummer, the fishermen trampling the black dune grass with their work boots and the children at last screaming some new song besides the tiresome February ditty. This time they had no barefooted stranger among their number.

Miss Augusta did not look to the lighthouse tower at first, afraid that she would see someone there, more afraid she would not. When at last the urge became irresistible and she lifted her eyes, the beatific glow of the lighthouse-eye nearly blinded her, and it was through a field of spots that she glimpsed two figures standing on the balcony. For a moment she thought she was seeing Lilianne, but it was only Mr. and Mrs. Eisner, looking pale and slack, hanging limply on the railing like they would crumple if they let go.

Seized with the desire to speak, Miss Augusta paused, her lips parted, summoning words of apology. But before she could say anything, Mrs. O’Neill grasped her by the arm and flung her back into the fevered motions of the dance, and Miss Augusta wanted to stop, but she was afraid that if she did, she would be trampled.

About the Author

Kay Chronister is the author of the collection Thin Places (2020) and the forthcoming novel Desert Creatures (2022). Her stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, The Dark, and elsewhere, and her work has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson and World Fantasy Awards. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.