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Category Archives: Cosette

Cosette has finally named herself. Hasn’t she?

The Girl in the House

The stone basin is inaudible outside this room, but inside it’s a perfect laughing gurgle: cool and sweet, endless, out the tap and down the drain forever. She blocked it up once to flood the room, but it just sank through the floorboards. Even in the room that should have been directly beneath it, there was no sign of a leak.

She chose it as the center of the map she’s drawing, quill ink onto sheets of soft vellum torn from the empty books. The basin wall is north. The room’s a square, labelled “Water Here.”

She never gets thirsty anymore.

The Girl in the House

She’s eight North one West six Down, as far as she can tell, prying at cracks with the old dead ballpoint. Most of the rooms here are empty, but the floorboards almost never are: stones, tokens, coins, once a glass eye. Jackdaw gems.

Today it’s a plastic pill, one half orange and the other one clear. She opens it and out tumbles a scrap, the first piece of paper she’s seen here that wasn’t from the library. Inside, in big, quick boy’s handwriting, is written “Cosette.”

She sits, stunned and slumping. Beautifully, impossibly, horribly, she wakes to the idea of names.

The Girl in the House

Rooms are each Tomas to her, now, and doors are Kylies. She calls her left hand Chen, her right one Brandon, and the texture of the floor is Suzette. Her collection of baubles is Beauregard.

She doesn’t know where the names come from, but ever since that first scrap of paper they’ve been pouring into her. She tries to pour them, to apply them, just as fast. She wants the words for everything, but names are the only words she has.

She doesn’t know the need for food, but the need to name is a hunger. She calls the hunger Cosette.

The Girl in the House

She’s writing every name she knows with her finger on the dirt floor of eight South twelve Down. She looks up to see a kitten.

It stumbles–adorably–and tests the floor with one paw. She laughs and waves at it; it doesn’t react.

She picks it up. Its heart pounds. Its nametag says “Millicent.”

The girl becomes aware that Cosette is her name, properly. That Millicent, the only other living thing she’s seen, is the first thing she hasn’t needed to name. That someone else exists: someone who would replace a kitten’s eyes with marbles, to keep it stumbling forever.


Cosette walks through the door of one hundred North one hundred Up and the walls are gone.

It’s flat, empty and cobbled, twenty feet wide, two yellow lights and some dead leaves. There’s a bench and a sign that says 12. The tracks below are exactly as long as the platform. Beyond the platform, it’s black.

Her footsteps sound different: this place is open, echoless. Cosette walks to the bench and tucks the last map page inside her jumper. She sits with Millicent on her lap. She watches a lonely moth whirl around one cast-iron lamp, brave against the dark.


She gets off the train at the forest. The forest is dead people, which is okay: they weren’t ever alive and they don’t really want her to join them.

Cosette walks through dry leaves. Some of the dead people stir to watch her. When the people condense enough so that she’s walking a path, she sets Millicent down. The kitten yawns, stretches and pads off confidently: she doesn’t seem to need her eyes.

Cosette stops when Millicent does, before a man in shredded sackcloth. The starlight turns his blood black.

“Have you seen stars before?” he rasps. Cosette understands about speech.


But she doesn’t understand it very well.

“Chime tine keen veal well rill dial chime,” she replies, and her words are a piping octave, her voice a hand on uneven floorboards: what might, elsewhere, be called a marimba.

The man has stopped bleeding. “You can count, then,” he says. “Good.”

Millicent traces a lemniscate around Cosette’s ankles. Cosette picks the kitten up and watches the man’s hand, which is holding a short and brutal tailed whip.

“Don’t ever forget how to count,” he grunts.

“Marrow callow hollow minnow?”

“Count the stars if you have to. Just make sure you don’t finish.”


Cosette counts stars until they go away. There’s a vastness opening somewhere behind her, throwing light in the sky and shadows on the ground. This is good, because the leaves are gone. When she looks up the trees are white and gold.

They’re not dead people anymore. They’re stands for cages, and in the cages are birds. The birds are screaming pretty screams. Cosette doesn’t like them (and suddenly, by contrast, likes other things instead: darkness, names, the tangy smell of the man bleeding).

She sets Millicent down. The screaming stops. They walk together, Cosette following her shadow, Millicent following her.


The birds are gone, and instead of screaming there’s a chuckle in the air.

There’s no more floor, no shadow. Cosette stops walking when Millicent begins to stumble and looks back into the gulf of dawn: it’s utter whiteness, but it’s a whiteness of void, not light. It doesn’t hurt her eyes.

This is what she sings to the sunless morning.

“Ambergris and berry dreams
India and rhyme
Carry claret honeybees
Paradromic sighs–

Close your eyes and swallow sleep
Night is on its way
Your ears are sharp, your tongue is keen;
Your dreams a bitter stain.”

The air keeps chuckling.


Cosette reaches down into the void. She feels a crack and, inside, two small objects; she hides them in her hand.

“Wealth death dearth hearth heat teeth,” she whispers.

She opens her hand. They’re pills with names on them. One is TRUTH, and translucent. The other, orange, says HEALTH.

Cosette watches Millicent blindly try to wash herself. She sits down and picks her up, opens the kitten’s mouth and drops in HEALTH, strokes her throat and believes, believes that it will heal her eyes. She swallows TRUTH to make it so.

Millicent lies down in Cosette’s lap and doesn’t move anymore.