Sentences enclosed by %different nightmare scenes.% Someone tosses in a stream
Sometimes Jerusha Abbott dreamt, mostly she had nightmares. Nightmares were of what had been. Dreams were of what might have been. The nightmares all started the same.
%New YorkState, 1906, John Grier Home.
Mrs. Lippett sat in her cold, north facing office in the John Grier Home. The sealed up fireplace provided no warmth, and the radiators were not up to the task of driving off the chill of the January afternoon. The electric blue chintz that covered the chairs and the dark burgundy curtains did not make the room lighter or more pleasant, let alone warmer. Her heavy black dress rustled as she read the letter again, her pince-nez perched at the very tip of her long, bony nose.
“I fell I cannot condone this, yet this letter clearly states I must.” She said as she looked with disdain at the two men seated opposite her, both in tweed suits, their hats and gloves on the table by the door.
“We assure you young Miss Abbott will be well taken care of and trained to fulfil her womanly duties.”
“I see. And this…” Mrs Lippett consulted the letter again. “This Council for the Education of young Orphans will see that she does not lose her moral compass?”
“We assure you that young Miss Abbott will be raised according to the highest standards of morality.” One of the men intoned pontifically.
“Very well.” Mrs Lippett took off her glasses and rang a heavy bronze handbell on her desk. Within half a minute a young boy clad in blue checked gingham, came in breathlessly.
“You rang, Mrs. Lippett?”
“Ah, yes Charles. Please go get Jerusha Abbott for me.” The boy nodded and ran off again, returning five minutes later with a girl of about twelve, her shoulder length brown hair in two pigtails and her face scrubbed clean. She too wore blue checked gingham and her dark brown eyes mustered the two strange men with interest and intelligence.
“Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, Mr. Giles, this is Jerusha.” Mrs. Lippett said. “Jerusha, these are Mr. Wyndham-Pryce and Mr. Giles from the Council for the Education of Young Orphans. They will take you from here and see to your further education. I trust you will obey them, and live by their rules, as faithfully as you have here.”
The Superintentdant of the John Grier Home looked at the girl closely. “Do you understand that Jerusha?”
“Yes Mrs. Lippett” The girl said, now eying the two men with even more interest.
“Very good. Well then gentlemen, unless you wish to purchase Jerusha part of her wardrobe? No I thought not. Then all that remains is that you sign these papers.”
The men signed. Jerusha looked on wide eyed. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce extended a hand to her. “Come, girl. We shall go.”
Jerusha took the hand and went.%
Yet not all the nightmares ended the same.
%”You have to train! Training is key, Miss Abbott! You must train if you wish to become the best possible Slayer, to save the greatest possible number of lives.” Mr. Giles intoned in his deep baritone voice, looking at her through his wire rimmed glasses. If you will not train, you will be punished. The world can not afford a Slayer who is not the best possible. Do you understand?”
Jerusha, bent over the desk as he prepared to cane her, nodded fearfully. “Yes. Mr Giles. I’ll be more attentive, Mr. Giles.”
“See that you are.” Giles said as the first of the twelve strokes landed and Jerusha let out a yelp of pain.%
%”You must be able to read these languages with ease and fluency, Miss Abbott, that may one day save your life. That means that when I set you to learn fifty irregular verbs, I expect you to know them the next day, not for you to go wandering off into the countryside and pick flowers! Do you understand, Miss Abbott?” Mr. Giles’ voice was hard and angry and Jerusha stood in front of him, quavering in fear as his large hands ran up and down the rattan cane. “You will learn to obey me, girl, and I will make you the best Slayer ever seen!”
“Yes, Mr. Giles.”
“Now bend over the desk.”%
%”Your Greek is barely passable and your Latin only slightly better. You should have improved much more in the time since your last test. As a penalty you will scrub the floors of the entire house.”
“Yes, Mr. Giles.”%
%“What are these, girl?”
“Stories? How do stories help us win the war against the Darkness?” The Watcher threw the carefully scrounged notebooks into the fire and grabbed his cane from the mantel.
“You can watch them burn as I punish you, Miss Abbott. Maybe that will finally make you realize you have only one purpose, one duty and one reason for existence.”%
%Jerusha felt the claws of the beast rake through her stomach and her throat, felt the warm blood flowing and woke up screaming, knowing yet another Slayer had died and she had not been called.%
%The vampire lowered its teeth to her neck and drank, deeply, her broken back and crushed pelvis preventing her from fighting back.%
%New York, New York, 1913 ”
It comes as no surprise to me you weren’t Called, Miss Abbott. You are without a doubt the most shiftless and useless chit of a girl it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter. I suggest you do not pollute the human race by breeding, though I doubt that any man will have you, except when drunk. I regret to have wasted the last seven years of my life trying to train you to acceptable standards, as you never achieved any. It would have been much easier on all involved if you had died before you were identified as a potential. Here are five dollars. You may take one dress and one set of underclothes and footwear as well as your coat and hat. Do not darken my doorstep again.”%
In her dreams, she got to kill him. End note: Jerusha Abbott (Judy) is the letter writing protagonist if Jean Webster’s 1912 novel Daddy Longlegs. Here she wasn’t so lucky. The Giles depicted her is not Rupert Edmund, but one of his ancestors. I own neither Daddy Longlegs (which is no longer copyrighted, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.