The first time I remember seeing, truly Seeing, with the capital letter and the pain and the ecstasy, I was in church.
Quiet Miss Edith, and attend, because it is very important that I was in church. It was not Sunday, not the day of rest and the day of the lord, but only Tuesday or Wednesday, but I had gone. I was ten years old, a little thing, with large eyes, and I was not supposed to have walked all the way to the church on my own. But no one could keep me away, in those days, from the savior. They would not notice I was missing, anyway.
I was making a novena, you see. Do you know what that is? It is when you say prayers for nine days in a row, and Jesus listens to you. And I was kneeling there, in front of the statue of Saint Anne, and praying. I was so happy when I was praying, then. It was the greatest pleasure in my life, you know. Greater than sweets or games, or sweet dreams. Of course, now I know what real pleasure is, and it isn't pretty prayers, it's pretty blood.
I knelt there, praying and chanting and feeling my soul—oh, were you surprised I had one? I did, then, Miss Edith—detach from my body and fly around in the clouds with the Angels—
Angel. Are there angels coming again?
And I was flying and praying, and crying because I could feel it, Miss Edith, feel the love of the Savior, and the Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary overcoming me. It was ecstasy, Miss Edith, pure and good and strong and, oh, how I loved it, I did love it!
That is why, Miss Edith, I did not recognize the beginning of the vision.
It started with a pain in my head.
Not searing, blinding, like the big ones are now, just a dull ache, nothing, nothing at all. A pressure on the front of my head. Then the little biting started, on the inside of my eyes. I felt lightheaded, like all the air was being eaten, or someone had put their hand over my mouth. Then the sights of the church began to disappear, al fading to white. I thought I was dying. But that isn't dying, Miss Edith, not at all. Dying came later.
I must have cried out, because the other parishioners came to find me, and the last thing ire member is my knees collapsing and my skirt riding up my legs and thinking to myself my stockings were showing. Funny what think about when we're in pain and fear.
Then the lights went out, and I was all alone in the dark.
The pictures began. I saw pictures, clear as day, clear as I can see you right now, Miss Edith, pictures of Aurelia's birthday party that was to be next week. And like a movie the scene played out—although I didn't know about movies yet, then. They came later. I like movies. I especially like the silent ones where no one else seems to hear the words but me.
The scene played out, Aurelia cutting her cake, all the children playing blind-man's bluff, Mother playing the piano, and then—Aurelia falling, walking into a wall, and tumbling tumbling tumbling down the stairs, the sideboard collapsing and the vase collapsing on her and glass and blood and screams and—
Oh, blood and screams. When will Spike return with my dinner? I do hope he brings this one alive. I haven't had a present in ages.
Blood and screams and Aurelia being helped to her feet and—her eyes!
I woke up then, the parishioners around me, an old woman had put smelling salts under my nose, another woman slapping my hand, the old priest asking if anyone knew who I was.
I sat straight up.
"Are you all right, girl? Did you faint?"
I felt fine, you see. Like I always do after the visions. They hurt only until they're over. Though sometimes they worry me. The first one didn't, as I didn't know what it was, just a nightmare, I thought.
"I'm quite well, ma'am." I said. "I must have fainted. Mother must have laced my corset too tight this morning." I didn't believe it, really, but I didn't not believe it. I didn't know why I fainted. Girls swooned, then. Have you ever fainted, Miss Edith? I don't believe you've ever worn a corset, either. Could I take your waist in, do you think? You are only stuffing and glass.
What….well….Sometime I think I'm only stuffing and glass as well, and if I fall over I might break.
I got up, all on my own, and one of the old women walked me home. They were kind to me, even though I was a Keeble girl, and they weren't Quality. Still, mercy was a virtue.
They took me home and mummy put me to bed, wrapped up tight, with blankets and tea. I thought nothing of the little nightmare I had had. In fact, I didn't remember it.
Until the day of Aurelia's birthday.
I don't have to tell you the rest, that everything happened just as in my dream. Aurelia was blinded in one eye, not both, and that was the last mercy the Lord showed me. Because when I saw her approach the staircase I started to scream, tried to warn her, but it was too late. Down Aurelia fell. And in the depths of my white, pure soul I felt I was to blame. I had known about the fall and done nothing.
For days after Aurelia's accident I did nothing but pray to god, asking him to heal her, restore her eyes, take mine instead, but the Lord showed no mercy. He doesn't, you know. My mummy must have noticed the change in me, how I hid, how I always looked like a scared, guilty little lamb, but she didn't know—how could she know—what had happened? She didn't have visions, I did.
When the doctors said Aurelia would live and would regain the sight in one eye, my soul stopped hurting me. Nasty, wicked soul, it was a bother even then, Miss Edith. It is much better to be without one. Why can't I convince Daddy of that? But the visions did not stop. They came, now and then, then and now, to warn me of future horrors, and as my soul hurt me, drove little knives into my chest every time I saw another, I resolved that I was going to do something to stop them. You see, I thought the Lord had given me a gift, perhaps. That if he told me about a bad thing I could stop it. So I tried, creeping around like a mouse, every time I saw a carriage accident, or a little chimney sweep die, to warn someone, to stop it. But it was never any use. It only made it worse, as that was how my mummy found out about the visions. And strangely enough, Miss Edith, that's how it all began. That's how I met Daddy.