So You're Descended From a Mass Murderer (Chapter 24)
Updated: 5 days ago
“Killing him won’t do anything,” I say, helping Alice to her feet. “This whole thing is his fault. She remembers now. Alice remembers.”
“Theseus wrote all the legends of Black Alice,” Gabe says, jumping in. “She wasn’t known as Black Alice before he wrote about her.”
“I . . . what?” Doug stands with Walter Theseus half-poised over the edge of the ship. “What the hell are you talking about? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Listen, just—take half a minute to listen,” I say. The wind blows in off the bay, carrying past Doug and Theseus, carrying a definite funk of old-guy-in-need-of-shower. I grin like a mad-person and Doug scowls at me.
“Listen, okay, so here’s how it is.” I grab Alice’s shoulders (we’re basically BFFs, now). “Alice didn’t curse the centaur—she preserved her soul inside it. There’s a… pretty big difference. And every seven years she’s just been trying to get someone to come and rescue her—to finally take down ghost-Theseus. But she didn’t know what was happening because she was just, like, a soul, you know? And when Theseus murdered her, he cursed her. Are you following?”
“Not even a little bit.” Doug shoots a look at Alice that says he remembers her flaming eyes and that time she tried to kill him with wet laundry. I mean—fair.
Ted steps in to help. “The curse was Theseus’s curse. We only ever thought it was Alice’s curse because Theseus wrote the legends of Black Alice. He wrote the accounts, and he died second and set up that museum and stored the centaur away, so who could ever contradict him?”
Doug adjusts his grip on Theseus. He looks at Alice. “You never cursed anyone?”
“Not even a little bit.”
“But . . . all that stuff you said on the island, and on the ship.”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t exactly been in my right mind for the last couple hundred years. Or in my body, for that matter.”
“And you are now?”
Alice cracks a wide grin. She goes to Doug and pinches his cheek. “Haven’t you noticed, boy? We’re all in our right bodies.”
Doug starts. He drops Theseus, who crumples to the deck, where he lies in a tragic, velveteen pile. “Ted? Oh my God, Sunny? Is this for real?”
“It’s real,” I say. And I grin again. “The curse is broken.”
“We’re not still in some freaky alternative reality? We’re not actually on the island still? What about the—the smell of sulfur and the burning and stuff?”
“Residuals,” Alice says. “Oh, and also because you were dying and then resurrecting.”
“We were going to work him up to that part, remember?” Jacinta says. She goes to Doug’s side and takes his hand. “It’s okay now. Everything is okay. We all technically died, but because the curse broke, we came back. See? Everything is okay. Está bien.”
Doug’s eyes are wide and rolling. I think he’s freaking out.
“The magic was just kind of working, resetting everything, putting us back to starting points. We think, for a while, we were kind of in-between. But we’re settled now.” I smile encouragingly.
Gabe coughs; a little smoke comes out.
“Mostly.” I shrug.
“I still don’t understand,” Doug says. “One minute we’re on the island about to jump into a volcano and Alice is a villain, and then we’re here and I’m waking up out of some bad dream, and then it’s like, it’s like my baby brother is just not dead anymore and the last month has disappeared, and—and—and I don’t know how to connect these dots!”
“Okay,” I say. “You’re right. I was freaking out, too. But then I remembered Ted. Right? We got here, you and me, and I remembered Ted. We passed Ted on the way in. How could I have forgotten Ted? And he was walking here. And you went inside, but I waited for him, and by the time he got here, I remembered everything. It was like I woke up. And when I woke up, I knew I was really alive.
“It took Ted longer—until right before we came down. But he remembers now, too, and we’ve worked everything out.”
“When you say everything, tell me what you mean.”
“Think about it, Doug. What did we all have in common—all of the ghosts? All the people who have died all these years?”
“I—” Doug sputters and shakes his head. “You were all. I don’t know. Young, dumb, and dead!”
I laugh. I can’t help it. “Exactly. I mean, in a way, at least. The program was supposed to be for affluenzed neophytes, but just look at the three of us.” I pull Ted and Manny to my side. “None of us are exactly affluenzed, and I’d bet the same applies to any of the other ghosts you can think of. But we are—what would you call it . . .”
“Idealistic,” says Ted.
“That’s right. We have hope. We’re young and hopeful with nothing to lose. We’re just the sort of people who might try and break a curse, and Alice called us to break her curse and set her free—”
“I didn’t know I was killing anyone,” Alice interjects, waving her arms. “I didn’t know what was going on at all until we went into that volcano. My bad.”
“Well, but, Theseus was the one killing people,” Gabe says. “It wasn’t you.”
Doug closes his eyes. “So you’re saying that every seven years, Alice’s soul tried to break free of the centaur and, basically, a teenager answered the call. But Theseus made sure the kid died instead. That’s the real curse?”
“Yes,” Ted and I say in unison.
“That’s right,” says Theseus in a cold voice. “You all figured it out. Oh bravo. Bully for you. Alice is innocent and such a victim. I’ll make sure to play a tiny violin for her.”
“Shut up,” says Ted. “You never knew how any of us kids could have saved her, and it never crossed your mind to figure it out. You were just happy to keep killing—until it struck you that there might be a way for you to come back to life, isn’t that right? You always wanted to keep that option open, didn’t you? It’s the real reason for the program, and the mansion, and why you’re stuck here with the ghosts and why none of you can leave.”
Theseus snarls and studies a spot on the deck.
“You thought destroying the centaur would destroy Alice’s soul and bring you back, didn’t you?” Gabe says.
“Yes,” Theseus says. “I will admit it. I thought destroying the centaur would condemn her to the eternity of Hell she deserves—along with all the saviors I’ve been cursed to put up with all these long years. You have no idea how tiring the company of ghosts is. It appears, however, that the centaur has released us all.” He eyes Alice warily.
“Theseus blood,” Gabe says. He looks at Doug and Ted. “That’s the other piece of the puzzle.”
Doug sighs and massages his temples. “You lost me again.”
“The curse lived in us, bro,” Ted says. “The Theseus line. As long as one of us walked the Earth, Alice would never have been free, but it’s not like her soul knew that. Fast forward to the island, I was already dead, but you didn’t die until you jumped into that volcano. The last of the Theseus line died with you, severing the curse and resurrecting Alice—and everyone Theseus ever killed over the centaur. Unfortunately also this asshat.” He aims a kick at Walter.
Doug looks around us all. Then he gathers Theseus up off the deck, wrapping his velvet jacket tight in his white fist. “So this is really Walter Theseus? The genuine article? And you’re telling me he’s been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of teenagers, and now he’s resurrected himself into a century where no one even knows he exists, and you don’t want me to kill him? Because it kind of feels like he deserves it.”
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