The lights came back on, after a few minutes. Mrs. Patavatsky appeared at the door of the dining room, slapping dust off her hands. “Fuse is replaced,” she announced. She shot Kate an accusatory look, apparently having guessed the cause of the electrical short, if not—one hopes—the method. “From now on, you takes meals at generator in garage.”
Kate blushed and looked away. Perhaps because she needed someone to take the official blame, Mrs. P turned to stare at Babs instead.
“I had no idea this was going to happen,” the flapper insisted.
“No idea. Yes.” Mrs. P said, and withdrew, having gotten what she’d come in for, one supposes. She was, after all, a human being, and human beings have evolved over millions of years incredible skills for dealing with problems. Not necessarily solving them, that is, but at least figuring out who to scowl at when they happen.
“I had no idea!” Babs said again, to the woman’s retreating back. Which really struck at the heart of the issue. She had no idea whatsoever how being struck by lightning could so electrify a young woman that she could subsist on household current, or make a car battery explode, or any of it.
An hour later in the library, after poring over every volume of lore and mythology she could find, the situation had not markedly changed. “There’s this,” she said, “about Danaë, the mother of Theseus. She was locked in a bronze room but Zeus came to her in the form of a, er, golden shower.”
“A golden shower?” Kate asked. “Like golden rain?”
Babs looked up at her over the top of the book. She had put on a pair of tortoise shell reading glasses which she did not technically need but which looked quite fetching.
“Yes,” Babs said. “That’s exactly right. Golden rain.”
Kate nodded and looked down at her gloved hands. “Well, at least she got some money out of it. But that’s rain, not lightning.”
“There are plenty of thunder gods and spirits, certainly. There’s one from Japan called Raijin. Parents tell their children to keep their navels covered so that Raijin doesn’t carry them away. I’ll admit the connection there is lost to me. Unless you were exposing your navel when—”
Kate gave her such a look of shock and horror that Babs couldn’t go on.
“No, of course not.” She cleared her throat and turned to another page in her book. “There’s Thor, of course, the Scandinavian god of thunder and storms. Have you heard of him?”
“My people are Scots-Irish, not Scandinavian.”
Babs nodded. “No, no, I don’t suppose you’d have any reason to know your Norse gods. Well, he was a rather big wheel in that pantheon, but there’s no story about him harassing young maidens.” Babs closed the book. “I suppose we’ve exhausted mythology. Perhaps we should start in on the demonology books.”
Kate sighed and leaned back in her chair, while being careful not to touch the leather with any exposed skin. “You’ve been so kind to me,” she said. “But I’m just not sure…” She stopped in mid-sentence and stared across the room. Her mouth pursed as if she wanted to ask a question but she wasn’t sure how to phrase it.
“Something eating you?” Babs asked.
“Alexander Hamilton is staring at me,” the young woman said, very quietly.
“Him? That’s Mr. Jones.”
“No, no, it’s Alexander Hamilton,” Kate insisted. “I recognize him from my history textbook at school. Though none of the engravings show him with such blue eyes.” She rose from her chair and took a step closer to the marble bust that stood by one of the library’s windows. A volume of Saki lay open at the base of the bust, and a slender green tentacle reached down from behind the serene face and carefully turned the page.
The bust did in fact have lovely blue eyes. Readers of these stories will remember why, so there is no need to reiterate here the story of how Mr. Jones came to inhabit the sculpture. We will simply remind you now that the eyes of the bust were self-motile, and extensible on muscular stalks. One of them emerged now to stare back at Kate, while the other remained fixed on the page before it.
Kate pressed the back of one hand against her mouth. “What is it?” she demanded.
“A friend,” Babs said. Then, because she’d always believed honesty was the best policy (despite voluminous evidence to the contrary), she added, “He’s from another planet.”
Kate shrieked and ran from the room.
“Oh, dearie me,” Mr. Jones said. “That was a bit of a bust-up, what?”
“She’s new to this,” Babs explained, then hurried out of the room to catch up with her young charge.
She found Kate by the front door. Hughes held it open for her, but Kate ignored the butler and stared out at the cloudy day, at the lawn and the road that ran away from Grimbly Hall and toward Pinemont, the nearest equivalent to a town.
“I’m so sorry,” the young woman said. “I thought… I thought I could do this.”
“Kate,” Babs said, “where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know! Maybe I’ll go back to the hill where this happened to me. Maybe the lightning will finish what it started.”
“Horsefeathers,” Babs said, grabbing the young woman’s gloved hand. “I know this seems impossible now. You just got here. Give it a chance, and before you know it, we’ll make a whole new woman out of you. You can have a full life, even with this curse. Come back inside. I’ll make you a champagne cocktail, and we’ll talk.”
Kate spun around and glared at her. “You think that’s what I want? A cocktail?” She shook her head. “Could I even drink it? And anyway, mama always said that drink is the river to Hell and only the worst kind of sinners drink. The kind of people who should be in jail. Mama said Prohibition was the best thing that ever happened to this country.” She sighed deeply. “No offense.”
Babs tapped her foot a few times and looked away. Rubbed the back of her neck for a moment. “None taken,” she said. “Though this mama of yours sounds like—”
“You think I want to be like you?” Kate interjected. “You think I want to hang about with, with—space monsters and ghosts and goblins and things?”
“Not goblins.” A cold shiver ran down Babs’s back. “Not goblins. Never again.”
Tears burst from Kate’s eyes. “I… can’t. I can’t be a monster. I won’t.”
Babs put her arm around the young woman’s shoulders. “Okay,” she said.
“What?” Kate asked, smearing tears around her face with her clumsy welding gloves.
“Okay. You come back inside, just for tonight. Sleep on it. If, in the morning, you want to go back to that hill, I’ll take you myself.”
The young woman just stared at her.
“If you’re going to commit suicide,” Babs pointed out, “you might as well get a good night’s sleep, first.”