EPILOGUE: ACCOUNTING FOR THE UNKNOWN

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"Are you okay, little mistress?" Gam asked from the other side of the table.

I wasn't. That was the truth, but at the moment, I felt that I had enough 'truth' for a while.

"I am," I lied, looking down on my plate and cutting the meat into smaller and smaller pieces. As I played with the knife, I felt the ghost of a memory press against me, almost like a physical body— but I didn't push it away. I found comfort in thinking about him. The good times and the weird times.

The funny thing was that the weird times had only begun.

"You certainly do not look okay," Gam said; its voice didn't appear to have changed since what had happened hours prior, but there was something to its tone. Gam spoke with a sense of rushed curiosity, as though it was looking for something, crawling in the darkness searching for a lost match.

I think... I think both of us were looking for that little flame of hope inside of us. It was strange. We'd found hope... it just hadn't been the sort we had been looking for.

I'd wanted, with the mind of a child, to find my uncle alive. I'd wanted to find everything to have been a mean trick to get me to leave the farm— but I didn't find him.

I was certain that Gam had wanted to find its friends, like a lost dog longing for its owner. I didn't yet understand the gravity of the situation, but I knew that Gam faced a similar struggle. We were both hoping to find those who meant the world to us, alive and safe.

In ways, I'd been luckier than Gam. I knew — I finally knew with cold certainty —  that my dearest uncle Phillip was no more.

He was dead, and he had indeed left me his mansion.

I felt a bitter sense of closure. I got an answer to my question; I knew the truth— even if it hadn't been what I'd wanted.

Gam didn't have that. Gam had yet to find its friends. The letter said that everyone was fine, but Gam didn't show any signs of relief when I relayed what I'd read. Only for an instant did Gam show a different voice.

"I hope Phillip is right. I hope they're all okay," Gam had said then, even if there'd been no joy or peace in those words.

The worst part was that I couldn't do anything for Gam. The hours passed; I took a few supplies from that hidden room, and after a moment's rest, we decided to have breakfast in the kitchen, even if it probably wasn't the hour for such things.

"I know I don't look very happy at the moment," I said, several minutes after Gam had last spoken. I looked into the eye of the metal-man and spoke with a voice too somber for someone my age. "I know I don't look okay, but neither do you. I don't think anyone would look 'okay' after what happened. I think this isn't the time for looking 'okay.' Not at all."

"Then..." Gam began, looked down at its cup of green-colored tea, and continued, "Then what time is it for? Chaos? Madness? I prefer reason. I believe I know what you're talking about, little mistress, and I know I'm also victim to that strangling... that strangling void inside of me. I feel pain— but I keep running scans, and I can't find damage. I hurt, but I have suffered no wounds. I'm confused, and I fear that I may not be able to find an answer to this pain. So instead, I've chosen to focus on what I can do. If the words of your people's poets are any indication of what we are feeling, then I know it will not go away for a while."

"It may never go away for me," I said. I reached across the table and put my hand over Gam's. "But yours might. You read the letter, right? My uncle said that everyone was fine and that you would all be reunited. There's hope for you."

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