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Once upon a time there were three children who meant to save the world.
The first, and the oldest of the three—and whose name was Flannery—knew this on arrival: the world was in terrible trouble, and she knew it. The Great War, still less than seven years past, had left the world in a darkness that for all the optimistic political rhetoric—and the noble aims of the League of Nations—never quite lifted and which was soon to return fully fledged with a small mustache and renewed violence.

The second child—whose name was Heather, and who was the youngest of the three—arrived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in December of 1950, just a little over five years after the Second World War finally ended, and on the very day that her sister Flannery left Ridgefield for her painful and prolonged audience with death. When in her seventh year Heather’s Irish Catholic father beat her younger brother senseless with his fists, and then killed him by tossing the lifeless five-year-old boy down a set of stairs—deemed an accident by the local Irish Catholic investigator, and grandly forgiven by the local Irish Catholic priest—Heather knew that evil roamed freely in this world and that God seemed to turn a blind eye. She did, however, not remember that she was meant to give God a hand.

The third child, Gabriel, was born on the 9th of August, 1945. He took his first breath the very instant that the atom bomb over Nagasaki, Japan, detonated. He was later to muse that his first lungful of air contained the souls of 40,000 Japanese children. He (like Heather) had no notion about his purpose on this Earth until one summer morning when 40,000 dust motes, shimmering in the slotted sunshine of an abandoned attic (where a man recently had hanged himself), suddenly began to sing.

Then there was the fourth child: Netoniel.

Siblings all.


Gabriel was half-way up the dilapidated ladder. The day was Saturday and the date was the 23rd of July, 1960. The time was a little after 10 in the morning. The rungs showed evidence of age or rot or both so he proceeded up them slowly, taking care to place his feet close to the sides where they would be the strongest. The ladder groaned softly under his weight, but didn’t seem to mind him.

A perverse curiosity had brought him here. A few years ago—no one had been very specific about when—a man had hanged himself in this very attic. If the truth be told, Gabriel didn’t know that for a fact, he hadn’t even asked anyone to confirm it, but it was rumored, quite widely—common knowledge, as it were—especially amongst the kids (and as yet he was not much more than one himself).

From which beam? he wondered as his head cleared the opening in the attic floor and his eyes slowly (while dilating) took in the windowless and darker space above him—which beam had the man hanged himself from?

There were several to choose from. There was the long, foot-thick and roughly hewn one that ran the length of the open ceiling, and which spawned evenly spaced vertical risers supporting the rafters, and there were also, he counted one, two, three, four, narrower and smoother beams running perpendicularly, and neatly joined to the main beam, kind of keeping the walls apart, he thought, although that was not the case, of course. Interesting design.

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