46: The Reclusive Writer
Dante looked away. He had a sad look on his face. “I guess so,” he said, and put his pencil down. Shelley knew she’d done wrong.
“Say, are ye gonna show me what yer drawing yet?” she asked. Maybe she could take his mind off things.
“C’mon, already! Yer well good! Yer gonna be, like, a proper real artist who gets paid and stuff when you grow up!”
It wasn’t working. “I can’t,” he said. “I have to join Seelie. I have to look after my mother.”
Shelley looked down at her scrawling of a story and twiddled her thumbs. “H—have you ever wondered she mightnae need looking after?” she asked. “I mean, I know the Erebus is supposed tae be bad and all, but that’s what people say about me, and I’m not bad, am I?”
“Nah, you’re just weird.”
“I—I’m not weird!” Shelley cried, startling Joshua the cat from his early evening nap. “I’m just different is all. And you shouldnae hate people just ‘cause they’re different!”
Dante plucked another pencil from behind his ear and started scratching on the paper again. “I never said I hated you, I just said you were weird.” A few marks later, he turned the drawing board around and said, “Is this good enough? Joshua wasn’t a very good reference model.”
Shelley gasped with surprise. It was the most perfect picture of Black Shuck she had ever seen.
Shuck sauntered into the abandoned studio, twin tails trailing behind him like ribbons caught in an autumn breeze. When he realised Shelley was still lingering at the door, he looked back and rolled his eyes.
“How many times have I got tae tell ye tae treat this place as if it were your own home?” he said. “C’mon in, already, ye’ve got tae see this with ye own two eyes.”
Shelley grimaced; she hated invading other people’s private lives as much as she hated them invading hers. Watching Shuck weave his way around discarded instruments and past piles of old canvas paintings, their aethereal souls dim from neglect, she whispered an apology to the studio’s previous owners. Then, closing her eyes, she took a step forward.
“Over here,” said Shuck. He was pawing open a door in the far corner of the room. Doing her best not to disturb anything along the way, Shelley hurried over to join him. “Take a look inside,” he said as the door swung open.
Like much of the house, the studio appeared brighter in the aether than it did the physical world, but its broad strokes of colour lacked any real detail—the aether was weird like that. The same could not be said, however, for the tiny room secreted in its corner. The moment Shelley stepped inside, a plethora of names and faces reached out from the walls to smother her in noise. Startled, she staggered back out into the studio, where Shuck watched her reaction with a curious eye, his black fur catching the purple light radiating from the memorial outside.
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