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Proserpina

“You’re a deus ex machina,” Miss Havisham whispers.

“We are not yet,” says Proserpina tightly, “out of the machine.”

They can’t get out the way they came in. Emily-Jane’s already had to break an orderly’s nose; more must be coming soon–

And then, suddenly, Elijah is standing in a delivery door. “Come on,” he says. The world outside is surprisingly sunlit.

“I’m taking her into town,” says Proserpina. “Elijah?”

He nods.

“I have to get back to school,” says Radiane. “Georgette, Euphrania, you can help me cover–”

“I’m going to tell my father,” says Iala, pale and sick and furious.

Proserpina

#9430, from the orderly’s sloppy logbook. Proserpina tiptoes to slide open the viewing slot, and inside, Madeleine Havisham twitches back in reflexive fear.

“Ma’am,” she whispers, “it’s us.”

Miss Havisham says nothing–this isn’t her first hallucination, in here–but leans closer.

From down the corridor, Emily-Jane gives a pigeon’s whistle: at school, it would mean a teacher approaching. Radiane’s throat is pounding. “Can we circle back?” she hisses.

The door is double-bolted and bound with steel. Proserpina looks at it, thinking of filmstrips, of her father, of six boards placed in a stack.

She draws back her fist.

Proserpina

Proserpina doesn’t have to make a rousing speech; she doesn’t have to draw a line in the sawdust. “Iala, you owe me,” she says. “Radiane. Ernestine. The rest of you can join us or not. I wouldn’t.”

And in fact, of the core group, four decline. But lumpy, awkward Euphrania Dowell volunteers, as does Emily-Jane Northup, their only third-year. So, to some surprise, does Georgette. Two glances between her and Radiane tell Proserpina everything.

“I don’t suppose we’re waiting for a moonless night to go skulking into the horrid place,” says Iala dryly.

“No,” says Proserpina, “for visiting hours.”

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