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  1. 1. Dear Mom, We made it to college just fine. I'm writing just like I promised. We found our living quarters-- it's tight, but hey, so's home, and it's not nearly as tight as home with just the four of us. We're all keeping an eye on Kathleen for you. Ginko decided to major in Art. Kathie's majoring in Literature, I'm in Biology, and Adrian's in Mathematics
  2. 2. Great-Uncle Cecil came by to check on us. He says he and Uncle Cedric are fine, and they'll be by now and again. So don't worry about us any.
  3. 3. Kathie met someone she likes, so that's all well and settled. He seems nice enough. Don't worry, we don't leave them alone together. Kathie's been running around in her nightgown all the time--says it's more comfortable. Adrian says he remembers you and the aunts doing that too when he was little, so we don't worry too much about it--like mother like daughter and all that.
  4. 4. Okay, I did accidentally set the kitchen on fire, but Adrian put it out right away and nothing was damaged. So all is well. Love to all, Ash
  5. 5. Dear Mom and Dad, Ash won't tell you this, but he met someone he's absolutely bonkers about. Her name is Virginia Sharpe, and she goes by Ginny. She's smart and funny and we all like her pretty well. We all know about the space problem and stuff, which is why he won't mention her to you, but I thought I'd better. Anyway, Ash has been nagging us all to write, so it's my turn.
  6. 6. I'm not having much luck on the girlfriend front myself. I miss Lilac so much it's absurd. She probably doesn't even remember me, we only saw each other the one time, but I find myself comparing all the girls here to Lile, and none of them come close.
  7. 7. We're all studying hard and getting good grades. We go jogging pretty much daily--there's not much else to do for fun around here.
  8. 8. College isn't supposed to be all fun and games anyway. But, like I said, we've all got 4.0s. So we feel like we're entitled to a little recreation.
  9. 9. Please tell Aunt Proserpine we're still eating lots of grilled cheese sandwiches, and we're very grateful to her and Aunt Isis for making it possible for us to go to college. Love, Adrian
  10. 10. Dear Mom, Dad, Aunt Isis, Aunt Proserpine, Aunt Tuonela, and Kai, College is awesome. There are so many neat people here. I'm having the time of my life and I really wish you all could've come.
  11. 11. We went out yesterday evening, there's only one place to go out to on campus, but that's okay because everybody goes there anyway. It's not all that great a hangout, but you know how it is.
  12. 12. Ginny was there and Ash asked her to marry him. Someday--if there's ever a place to rent in the paper. Ginny's so cool, you'd all love her. I'm not surprised Ash wants to get married, all he's ever wanted is family. Ginny's cool with that, too. I really, really hope it works out for them.
  13. 13. And that's something we need to talk about when I get back home, Mom. Ash said he thinks I'm supposed to get married and carry on the family in the family house. I really don't want to. Ash and Ginny would be awesome. You should let him carry on the family. I know Grandmother passed the family to you, and I guess I can see you wanting to pass it to me, but Mom, I don't want to get married and have kids. It's too much responsibility. Hugs and Kisses, Kathie
  14. 14. Dear All, I guess it's my turn to write. Ash set the stove on fire again, and we have now forbidden him to use it. Not to worry, Adrian is getting good at putting out fires.
  15. 15. We are all studying very hard, and there is really no news. Love, Ginko
  16. 16. Dear Mom, Dad, Aunt Isis, Aunt Proserpine, Aunt Tuonela, and Kai, I have been writing novels. It's fun, makes some money, and perhaps I will be famous soon. I'd like to be famous. Maybe I can become a famous musician, or a movie star, or something someday.
  17. 17. Adrian doesn't want the house. He's still in love with Lilac, and they will live in her family home. If they can, you know. Lilac's parents aren't sure they want her and her sister to go to college, but I guess if anyone can wear their folks down, Lilac and Lily will. Man, those two are persistent. I don't know how they do it, but Lile and Lil manage to call every day. Like Uncle Cecil and Uncle Cedric. Some people have no lives!
  18. 18. I am going to go work on my writing some more. Hugs and Kisses, Kathie P.S. Please give Kai a hug for me too. P.P.S. Please really, really think about letting Ash and Ginny have the house.
  19. 19. Dear Mom, This woman showed up at our house last night and hauled Adrian away. I don't know--she had keys and just came right in--don't worry, it's all okay now. We were pretty concerned, though.
  20. 20. Did Grandmother or Grandfather ever happen to say anything about a secret society to you? Folks with some influence, I guess--Adrian says they said they got us our house. Ring a bell? Sure didn't to me. Guess I need to read Grandmother's diaries again, I was awfully little when I read them last.
  21. 21. Anyway, they abducted me to join as well. So that's good, I suppose. They said they'll help with whatever we need help with, just let them know. Not sure how we're supposed to do that, what with the downed phones and all, but they mean well.
  22. 22. Uncle Cedric said there was never a question of whether or not we'd be initiated, just a matter of timing. He was surprised we hadn't expected it.
  23. 23. My friend Ginny is a member as well. I suppose Kathie or Adrian told you about Ginny, didn't they? Brats. Anyway, we know we probably won't be able to get married or anything, but that doesn't mean we don't want to--and if we ever can, we will. If not, well, we'll just have to manage, right? Like everyone else.
  24. 24. Anyway, Adrian and I are both members now, so that's good. Cedric says the members have been keeping an eye on us, and will continue to do so, and warned us not to let anyone we don't know inside. We already know that.
  25. 25. We see them a lot, now. Cedric says the society will be initiating Kathie and Ginko, too, before long. That'll be great. I mean, we've always seen the society members a lot, we just didn't know it was them before. Oh, and Cedric and Cecil don't want to be called Great-Uncle--they say it makes them feel old. Love, Ash
  26. 26. Dear Mom, Dad, Aunt Isis, Aunt Proserpine, Aunt Tuonela, and Kai, So Cedric is cute, did you know that? Yeah, no family, got it. Still, cute Cedric. Also, his family home is totally haunted, too. Ghosts and stuff. I guess he's like half-ghost or whatever. Like Grandfather. Yes, I know, no getting romantically involved with Grandfather's twin. Brothers beat that into my head already, geez.
  27. 27. So I wasn't surprised or anything when the society came to induct me. Cool, new friends with connections. I can get on board with that.
  28. 28. Ginko, on the other hand. Look, he's such a geek he actually hadn't paid any attention! No idea what was going on. Gotta love my bro.
  29. 29. I've gotten very persuasive here at college, and I'm getting really good at making friends.
  30. 30. Sorry, Mom, but I thought I'd better settle things with the boys now, rather than wait until later. I don't want to inherit the house. I know you want lots of grandbabies, and you'd love to raise them. I don't want to have them. So we sat down over a meal of grilled cheese to talk it over.
  31. 31. Ginko doesn't want the house. While he's sort of got a girlfriend, he doesn't think he feels for her what he ought to feel for someone he marries. He's not sure he wants kids, either. He was actually shocked that I didn't want it. I love him dearly, but he isn't very good at paying attention to other people.
  32. 32. Adrian has his plans involving Lilac, and Ash really would like to get married and have kids. He and Ginny want six! So Mom, please let Ash have the house and Ginny. Because I'm not getting married, not for a long time if ever. I'll be the cool aunt, like Aunt Tuonela, and it'll be great. Hugs and Kisses, Kathie
  33. 33. Dear Mom, I suppose you've been told that I'm not allowed to cook anymore. Well, I'm still allowed to make cold cereal and stuff. I suppose Kathie has told you everything about Ginny and I, and our plans. Kathie never does stop talking. Ginny is everything I ever dreamed of.
  34. 34. I hope you'll consider letting me inherit the house, but I'll understand if you want it to go to Kathie, of course. She's your only daughter.
  35. 35. We all studied a lot: we know how hard it is to find work and we want to be prepared for whatever jobs we get. We know what we want to do, but we also know it's very likely that we'll end up doing something else: we can't all be as lucky as Aunt Isis. Some of us are going to be like Aunt Tuonela, after all.
  36. 36. Lile and Lil finally talked their folks around on college, and Lile came over just before finals. Adrian and she got officially engaged.
  37. 37. I think you'll like her. I hope you'll like Ginny. We all sat around with sandwiches and got to know each other.
  38. 38. Then the phone line came up and we could reach the cab company. Adrian left first, as befitting the eldest.
  39. 39. Ginko went next, of course, you know all this already.
  40. 40. Kathie went third, and when I tried to get a line out to the cab, the phones were down again. Drat it. I'm okay, really, don't worry about me. So you know all this, and you've talked to them, and I'll see you when I can get a line out again. Promise. I bet you I will never want to eat another bowl of cereal or cold sandwich in my life by the time I get out of here. Love you, Ash
  41. 41. Dear Diary: Adrian, Ginko, and Kathie made it safely back from college. It's hard knowing that Ash is still stuck there, and that Kathie doesn't value the family. She says she doesn't mean that, but what else can she mean by not wanting to continue the family line?
  42. 42. The kids got settled in quickly, and back into the household routine. I am really feeling my age, and this endless cold has been hard on my joints the last few years. Father once talked about summer, but I'm beginning to think that he only dreamed it. Or maybe it's something that happens when you're dead. I'm not too clear on what was his boyhood home, what was his father's home, and what was here before anymore.
  43. 43. Nellie gave the bookstore to Adrian, said he was the one who would most appreciate it, and they went over and opened it for a day. I suppose they did okay. He hadn't found a job yet then.
  44. 44. I am still head over heels in love with my Timothy. I remember Mother was always like this with Father even though she didn't know who she was or who he was, or who we were most of the time. I am so glad that none of us lost it like she did.
  45. 45. Father appeared to Isis last night. She says he demanded to know where his heir and great- grandbabies were, and why weren't they here?
  46. 46. Kathie got a job as a comedian. She loves it and they love her. She gets promotion . . .
  47. 47. After promotion . . .
  48. 48. After promotion.
  49. 49. Timothy has been studying hard, learning everything he possibly can. He's becoming an autodidact, and I've been having to study the dictionary just to keep up with him!
  50. 50. He had a chat with Ginko--they're really a lot alike, and Ginko needed some support after getting fired from the newspaper job he'd dreamed of for years. "Dad, have you been happy in life?" "I've had everything I ever wanted here with your mom." "Do you think I could be as happy?" "I don't see why not. All the knowledge of the world is contained in books, and we have an excellent collection." Ginko seemed to feel a little better after that.
  51. 51. I got into an argument about our safety with Proserpine. Seems so stupid now: chalk it up to me being worried about Ash being stuck on campus all alone.
  52. 52. I've always felt because of our alien blood that we've been discriminated against--that's really why Isis was demoted that time, and I'm sure it's why Ginko was fired. I am so glad none of the children inherited those genes. Maybe my grandkids will face a fairer world. Maybe people will forget that we're part alien. I hope the kids are keeping quiet about our grandfather being Death on the other side. That, at least, doesn't show.
  53. 53. We really don't need any more hassles in life, and a little secret like that won't hurt anyone, and I'm afraid if people know they might come after us, blame us for what a mess the world is. We're trying to fix things, but Father thought the mess was somehow Mother's fault. I don't understand why exactly.
  54. 54. Timothy says he has now mastered every subject we have on our shelves, and feels completely fulfilled in life.
  55. 55. Kathie had several days off in a row and made it her mission to introduce the entire family to pillow fighting.
  56. 56. I finally cornered her about continuing the family. "Kathie, it's not hard. You've been raised to do it. You've got all the family memoirs here if you run into any trouble." "Mom, you don't understand. I know I could do it, but I don't want to get married. Ash really, really does. I don't even know who I would marry if I wanted to! Maybe Cedric . . . I still think he's cute." "Kathie!" "Mom, I don't want to. I want to have lots of friends and great parties and just generally enjoy life. I love the attention, being in the limelight. I don't want to settle down and have babies."
  57. 57. "It's not you, not Dad, not the bros or the aunts. It's me. It's what I want out of life." "The house belongs to you, Kathie, not the boys."
  58. 58. "Ash and Ginny will be great. I promise. Better than I would ever be. I could have one baby for you, but I'm not getting married any time soon, and is that really what you want me to do? Knowing that I'll be working every night and sleeping every day, because that's what I do, and I won't ever see the kid after it starts school? Would that be best? I don't think that's the right thing to do to a kid. Let Ash and Ginny get married, have the babies. They'll have time to spend with them, they'll make the time, make the kids the priority. I can't do that, and that's not fair to a kid."
  59. 59. Well, that hurt, for sure. I didn't think I'd screwed up that badly with the kids. I'd been home every evening and put them to bed, at least. So why didn't Kathie want to do the same thing? "She's not you, Catie. She's more like Nellie. Let it go. Let Kathie have the life she wants, and let Ash have the life he wants. Everyone will be happier." Timothy said. He was right. He usually is.
  60. 60. So I told Kathie that Ash could inherit the house, and she headed off to work with a smile on her face. I guess she really did want that.
  61. 61. I didn't tell her that we were getting too old, her Aunts and I. And that day turned out to be Nellie's last.
  62. 62. "But Great-Uncle, I never got anything I wanted!" "You had many things, child. You were never content with what you had. Come, now, and see if you can't find something to better content you in my realm."
  63. 63. Proserpine and Isis comforted each other, and Timothy comforted me. Nellie hadn't gotten what she wanted out of life, in spite of getting everything Proserpine and Isis had gotten, it hadn't suited her. So maybe she would be happier in Death's realm.
  64. 64. It was hard to break the news to Kathie when she got home from work after performing to a sell-out audience. She was the most popular stand-up around, as famous as she'd always wanted to be.
  65. 65. To make it worse, that was the day Ash finally managed to get a cab out of college. He didn't even get to say goodbye.
  66. 66. He laughed at me for worrying about him: apparently Lilac, Adrian's fiance, had hung around and kept him company a good deal of the time while he waited to get the phones out.
  67. 67. I started worrying about Proserpine and Adrian's mental health: I get that they really, really like grilled cheese--we certainly eat enough of it around here--I make pork chops or chili every chance I get just for a change, but now they don't talk about anything else, ever! Is it better on wheat or white or rye, or is cheddar or Swiss or Gouda best? Why should they obsess about it so much?
  68. 68. "You know, Kathie, there will be summer again someday.
  69. 69. "Are you sure, Dad? It's always been winter."
  70. 70. "I'm sure, honey. You and your brothers and mother have been the sunshine in my life, but the real summer sun will be back again someday."
  71. 71. Isis went out to rage at Father's tombstone, demand why he'd ever had children under these conditions. Proserpine got quite angry with her. Father was content in life. I wonder if he ever got what he really, really, wanted, or even what that was? He never said anything about it to us.
  72. 72. Isis said Nellie appeared to her that night, and told her she was having the time of her life--or death, as it may be. She--Isis--seems more content now.
  73. 73. "So you'll inherit the house, son. Are you ready for that responsibility?" Timothy asked over the chess table. "Well, it's a big responsibility, and all. I've seen how Mom keeps everybody getting along. But I don't have to do it alone. I've got my sibs here, and I'll have Ginny, and we'll be great together. I don't think Mom could do it without you, and I don't think I could do it without Ginny, but with Ginny, I can do anything." Ash said. I thought that was a pretty good answer, myself. Not like Kathie's rant about not wanting kids. Maybe it's okay that my son will take over and not my daughter.
  74. 74. Timothy wasn't the only one to interrogate Ash: Father showed up as well. "Where are my great-grandchildren?" he demanded. "There's no phone service! I can't reach Ginny to get her to come move in!" Ash protested. "Hurry it up, boy." Father said.
  75. 75. "I'll tell you the secret to keeping everyone getting along is to make sure everyone has a job or something else to keep them occupied. That's why I told Isis and Proserpine they needed to keep working, and Nellie to get the business. Your dad of course stays busy with his studies. Make sure everyone has useful work to do and they'll be happy. We've got over $1,000,000 in the bank, supposedly, though there's no decent banking services, but keep them working anyway: it's the key to peace." I told Ash. I hope he listened.
  76. 76. Of course, with Nellie gone, we knew it would be time for Proserpine and Isis to go soon, too. Proserpine went first. "How does a beach vacation sound, child?" Death asked her.
  77. 77. "Like heaven. Is Father there?" she said. "Yes. Take my hand, then, and we'll be going before my assistants get chilled." Death said. And she did, and they were gone.
  78. 78. Under the theory that everything happens at once, the phone line had come open finally and Ash had called Ginny. She was happy to come over and delighted to move in.
  79. 79. And at the same time, Adrian got the main phone switching station repaired. There's always a dial tone now! It's amazing, it really is. It's hard to believe that we can just call anyone whenever. I can hardly wait to talk to my uncles.
  80. 80. Dear Diary. That's how they all begin, right? Mom never missed an important event in all her years of writing stuff down, except for me and Ginny's wedding. I'm sure she would've written it the next evening, except that was the last evening for her.
  81. 81. No one expected her to die before Aunt Isis, except I guess Uncle Death. Or Grandfather Death. I am seriously confused as to who is who in that part of our family, if it's even real. Anyway, we were devastated.
  82. 82. I thought for a while we'd never stop crying. But we did. Life does go on, somehow.
  83. 83. "Your mother, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I don't want you ever to forget that. I know she didn't think much of her looks, but she really was." Dad told us that evening.
  84. 84. Grandfather showed up that night. His cheering was very inappropriate, but he didn't hang around to chat, unfortunately, or I would've given him a piece of my mind. I know he wants great- grandchildren, but he really has to stop being so disruptive.
  85. 85. Ginny thinks I'm very good looking, and tells me so all the time. It's kind of embarrassing, when Adrian can't move out and get married and all.
  86. 86. Aunt Isis teases me about my wife, and when is she going to be a great-aunt? We haven't even been married that long yet.
  87. 87. Ginny is great with the family, she's looking forward to us having a baby and she really takes the constant talk about it well.
  88. 88. She'll even listen to Adrian's nonsense about grilled cheese sandwiches, though she doesn't care for them that much herself.
  89. 89. She likes my soup much better. I'm allowed to cook again now: I haven't started a fire since college. I really think that stove was cursed or something--except I don't really believe in curses. It's just a saying, right?
  90. 90. It wasn't long before it was obvious to everyone that a new baby was on the way. Ginny hates this picture because her hair has gone all frizzy--Aunt Isis says it's probably just the pregnancy. Dad is thrilled. Mom would've been so happy. I'm happy and I'm also sad, and I'm really nervous. Ginny's mad about her hair and unhappy about the fact that we can't get any decent stuff because the mob is taking everything decent off any ship that comes in.
  91. 91. But Dad didn't live long enough to see the baby born. Aunt Isis said that Death said he'd be back for her the next day. I really have a lot of trouble believing that Death talks to people. It's just a little too strange. Mother and the Aunts say so, and Grandfather's dairy, but . . . well, I haven't actually ever been at a death, I guess.
  92. 92. I've got a job as a technician at a local lab, and it's not bad. They really like my work there, and my biology degree is coming in handy.
  93. 93. Ginny really doesn't like being pregnant, between her hair going nuts and her cravings for things we just can't get, but she's so excited about the baby. She says she loves kids.
  94. 94. I am just as excited about the baby as she is, maybe even more. I want a big family, six kids, if we can. I really do hope we can. The house seems empty, lonely, with so many deaths lately. I'd like it to be full again.
  95. 95. Adrian was the only one home with Aunt Isis when she passed. He swears he talked to Death and so did she, and that Death told him we have special protectors. Whatever that's supposed to mean. I've never seen anything like special protectors in my life.
  96. 96. Aunt Isis is supposed to be meeting her sisters on a beach somewhere, Adrian says. I wonder if he might be getting delusional.
  97. 97. The baby is due any day now. We can hardly wait to be parents.
  98. 98. End of Chapter. Doesn't this just sum up apocalypse university life? Stats: Virginia: 5/3/7/3/7, knowledge, LTW max journalism. Lifts this chapter: Kathleen: Entertainment Adrian: Gamer
  99. 99. Sneak peek: nooboo Issac! All lifts so far: Hebrides: Culinary; Colin: Athletic; Isis: Education; Proserpine: Military; Tuonela: Medical; Hecate: Business; Timothy: Law; Kim: Service Pet; Kai: Pet ShowBiz; Adrian: Gamer; Kathleen: Entertainment.