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Thing: A History

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If you were to ask me of my history before I found shelter in the Addams mansion, the only story I could give you would be hazy at best. My earliest memory is of seeking out that haven amid the dreadful wind and rain; the Addams family has never been the best about securing their fortress walls. From a twisted tree I climbed into an open window and huddled in an attic where, as I recall, there was naught but a mirror to keep me company. I must have known what a mirror was, for when I looked upon it I expected to see a hideous monster gazing back at me.

Instead, I saw merely a frightened, dirty creature, probably but not definitely masculine, doing nothing of interest to any watcher. Disappointed, I spent the rest of the night listening to the creaks and moans of the old house, as well as the distant voices from below. If I peeked through the cracks of the floorboards, I could see light and distant silhouettes of moving figures.

Within time, those figures would become my friends. I thought of them as such long before they were aware of my presence. Born (if indeed I was born, rather than hatched or constructed) with no family, the sight of them was all the companionship I had.

The ones I most enjoyed watching were the heir to the house and his lady love.

Before I knew their familiar names, I thought of them by many designations- the dancer and the fencer, the loud one and the quiet one, death and the maiden. Or should that have been death and the gentleman? She looked far nearer to the grave than he did, not that there was any real way of telling.

I learned their names at last when he proposed. Morticia, he called her. Darling Morticia, beautiful Morticia, the shadow of his life amid the glaring sun of loneliness. (He also called her Cara Mia, which confused me for a moment.) He swore of a thousand deeds he was prepared to do- of towns he would sack and pillage for her dowry, of cults he would convert to if she shared their precepts, of suitors he would duel to the death if she desired that he prove his strength- if only she would marry him. To this day, I have no doubt he would have done any of those things if she requested it. She did not.

“Oh, Gomez!” she cried (thus teaching me his name.) “You have ruined my complexion! Twenty years without a smile, and now look- all that work in vain!”

Radiant was not the word to describe her, but luminescent may be close to the truth. She was and is a pallid and withering beauty, deathly and deadly as a dying lamia. He was more robust and lively, with the coiled energy of the Erlkonig on the Wild Hunt. But neither one would have entranced me on their own; it was how they looked at and held each other, the tenderness and passion intermingled which made me long, for once in my brief remembered life, to be a part of the world.

It was that night, as well, that they first addressed me. I had thought myself unobserved as I crouched in the shadows and clutched at the bars of the stairway, but suddenly Gomez turned in my direction.

“You there! Thing on the stairway! Could I trouble you to fetch us a bottle of wine from the cellar? Pour yourself a glass as well.”

From that evening on, we entered into an unofficial arrangement. I stayed in the house, free of rent, and could partake in any of the amenities therein. In exchange, I offered my humble services here and there, though there was little enough I could do which the butler could not.

Thus I remained through the years. I saw Gomez carry his bride over the threshold in a manner worthy of a conqueror. I saw her mother move in, accompanied by the strange aromas of her herbs and charms. I saw the boy Pugsley and the girl Wednesday as they were born and grew, though still I was too shy to initiate conversation. The children worried me the most of anyone, for they were often at each others’ throats with knives. Once, I remember, I endeavored to exhume Wednesday after she had been walled up alive by her brother in a dark corner of the house.

My worries about them were addressed, albeit indirectly, one day when I observed their mother educating them.

“As you know,” said Morticia, “there are those who cannot be killed.”

“Like the Dark Gods of yore, whom grandmama says lie sleeping and will someday awaken?” asked Wednesday.

“Indeed. And then there are those, like yourselves, who are very hard to kill.”

“Like when I poisoned Wednesday and you told her to poison me back and we both lay in our beds insensible for days?” asked Pugsley.

“Precisely. And there are those who may die from as small a matter as a plague or decapitation, but who rise again as vampires or zombies or wraiths.”

Neither child needed to mention an example, as they both knew of too many to list.

“But,” their mother continued sadly, “there are those unfortunates for whom death is a permanent end. It is unfair, and can only be blamed upon the cruel whims of fate, but it is so. And you cannot always tell by appearances which ones those may be- your Aunt Ophelia once fancied a charming gentleman who looked as fit and healthy as fashion might allow, but who could not withstand a single one of her throwing knives. I do not wish for you to make the same mistake and find your hearts irreparably broken.”

As far as I could see from my vantage point, the children looked saddened and not a little horrified at this revelation.

“Does that mean,” asked Wednesday plaintively, “that we may never kill anyone?”

“Silly child, of course you may! But I am simply telling you to be very sure when you do so that it is a person you want dead. If you are not sure- for reasons of affection or potentially damaging lawsuits- I would encourage you to simply give them a good fright and let them think you mean to kill them. Done properly, it can be just as much fun!”

The children considered that as they went off to bring out their toys and play. I continued to watch the living room as they set up a guillotine, but once again I was not as stealthy as I thought. They had not been playing for long when Wednesday looked up at me and waved.

“Hello there!” she said. “Would you like to come play with us?”

I looked about to see if there was someone else to whom the girl might be referring, but there was not.

“We’re playing French Revolution,” the child went on. “We need someone to be Louis and get his head chopped off. Then Marie will get her head chopped off, and then she’ll come back wielding her head as a throwing weapon to wreak vengeance upon Marat.”

“Wednesday!” complained her brother. “What’s the point of playing at all if you’re going to spoil the whole plot?”

“It’s a timeless story, silly. It still engages across multiple retellings.” She looked back at me. “Well? Would you like to play as king and lose your head?”

I didn’t see why not, so I nodded and crawled down the stairs. Pugsley, however, was considerably less happy about the proposed game than his sister.

“Wednesday! What if he’s one of those weirdos mother warned us about, the ones who stay dead after getting their heads chopped off?”

She frowned.

“Well then, thing from the stairs? Are you?”

“I honestly don’t know,” I told her. “I have never had my head chopped off before.”

“I could try and bring him back if we kill him,” Pugsley said thoughtfully. “I’d use that laboratory father let me have. But I’ve never managed anything bigger than a frog before, and that one came back angry for some reason.”

Wednesday sighed.

“I guess we’d better not risk it. How about just your hand, Thing? You could live without your hand if we can’t reattach it!”

Although playtime was starting to take on a rather unpleasant tone, I heard the excitement in her voice and saw the spirit of fun in her eyes, and I could not bear to disappoint the child.

“You can give it a try!” I said- and though I did not know it, those would be the last words I ever spoke. I gamely placed my hand within Wednesday’s guillotine, and listened to her declaim my crimes as a servant of the old regime. The blade came down with a slice, I felt a sensation that was neither pleasant nor painful- and then I was lying upon the floor.

The children came over, confused, and poked my prone form. I could not respond.

“Is he dead? For real? He can’t have lost that much blood!”

“Did he lose any blood at all? I don’t see any!”

Wednesday leaned down to see if my chest rose or fell. Though she always cultivated a bit of a mournful air, her keen examination of my wounds seemed genuine enough. I longed to reassure her that I was alright, that I merely needed to collect my lost ectoplasm and I would be right as rain, but it would have been untrue. For one thing, I could not move, which I knew was an ill omen; for another, not being able to move meant that I could not move my lips to tell the children anything at all. Perhaps it was time to allow myself to fade away at last- there was nowhere which I could call home, no one to whom I owed my loyalty.

The children, though. They wanted me to tell them that I was alright. And so, though my movement had to be a slow and deliberate process, I did what I could- I raised my severed hand to display a thumbs-up gesture of reassurance.

As soon as I had done it, I realized that I had inadvertently chosen that hand- and only that hand- as my vessel. Any worry I had over what this meant was overruled by the smiles of relief on Wednesday and Pugsley’s faces.

“He’s alive!”

“But shouldn’t all of him be moving except the hand, instead of the other way around?”

“Who cares?”

The girl had the right of it, I decided then. Who cared? That I had never truly used my body was becoming readily apparent based on the fact that I could still see and hear them. All it did was serve as a vessel, and a hand would do just as well in that regard. Better, even- I was smaller and more maneuverable now, as I discovered with some experimental climbing and scuttling. My movement became a source of delight to the children, and their game of French Revolution was abandoned in favor of building obstacle courses for me to run.

I was never truly human, and now I need not pretend. I am of use, I am appreciated, I am even loved. And while I have no mouth to tell of my history, there remains a hand with which to record it.