4.15 Little Homunculi (Reprise)


Aunt Vega told me everything.

The fire had started on the second floor or the west wing, where Mother’s room was. It had burnt through the house quickly; summer-dried wood was a delicacy to flames, as were the two people that had never left the building: Mother, and the lawyer named Mr Melvin. Gem had made it out of the house only to run back in for them. They hadn’t been able to stop him. He never emerged. Typical Gem, always doing the right thing, even until his very end.

All the survivors were scarred in one way or another. Alistair had large burns on his torso and hands. Others had scarring that weren’t visible on the outside- scarring in the lungs caused by the fumes.

My scars were the most obvious of all. I suffered burns on most of my right side, including my face. It still hurt. The marks will probably never disappear, the doctor said. My skin was disfigured in a way that made it hard for people to recognise me as the girl I had once been, and that, ironically, may be a good thing.

For a while they thought they would lose me to the burns. It was Uncle Altair who suggested the basement. A good portion of the records were lost in the rubble, but most of the room itself was remarkably intact. From there they pulled the vines of the plant, the one that had been fed the Potion of Youth and allowed to grow for half a century. Little by little, they fed me its leaves. I took a turn for the better.

It fell to Aunt Vega to take care of all legal matters. With Mr Melvin gone, she turned to the previous lawyer for the estate and her old time friend, Edwin Tiverton. The problem was obvious: the heir to the estate was deceased. 

“If Gem were not able to…” Aunt Vega swallowed. “If he were not able to inherit the estate, and had no heirs of his own, it would go to Iris’ brother. You’ve never met him. He has been in an institution of the… unsavoury sort since before you were born. And I could not let that happen.”

So she declared me dead and made me Gem instead. As far as the world knew it was Gem that had survived, fighting the burns that will scar him for the rest of his life. Grieving for his sister. Living a secluded life in Winterstead.

I was the one that had died, a week after the fire. Never to live life the way she wanted, never to marry Alistair, never to settle in another town away from all crushing obligations. 

I had not only lost my brother, but also myself- it was one thing to understand, but yet another to accept. 

“I thought this was the best way… the only way.” Aunt Vega’s hands trembled as she spoke.
“Please forgive me,” she said, but I wasn’t sure I could.

My days went by meaninglessly. Externally, I was recovering. Internally, I suppose I should have been grieving, but I didn’t feel much of anything. Perhaps when Gem went he took my ability to feel with him. We had truly become little homunculi, both of us a grotesque amalgamation that was half him, half me.

I wasn’t sure if anything could make me move again, not even Alistair. “I’m still here,” he kept telling me. “I’ll always be here.”

How unfair for him.

Then one night I opened my eyes and he was there again: Crowman, unchanged from our abrupt farewell over a decade ago. “Well, little lady, we meet again,” he said.

<Previous 4.14 || Next 4.16>

2 thoughts on “4.15 Little Homunculi (Reprise)

    1. Yes, there’s a little irony there… Another layer to the tragedy. She was figuring out who she was and who she wanted to be, but the opportunity was taken away from her quite unceremoniously.
      We’re racing towards the end now. Thank you so much for reading!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s