Learn about Loss – Cassandra Clare, Kelly Link

On the morning of October 23, 1936, the inhabitants of Chattanooga, Tennessee, woke up to discover posters tacked up on the sides of buildings on every street. FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, the posters declared, MAGIC & MUSIC & MOST MYSTERIOUS MERCHANTS’ BAZAAR. PAY ONLY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD & ENTER FAIRYLAND. SEE WHAT YOU MOST DESIRE. ALL WELCOME. Some men and women passed these posters, shaking their heads. It was the height of the Great Depression, and even if the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was promising more work on projects like the tunnel and trails and campgrounds underway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, jobs were scarce and times were hard and most people didn’t have money to spare on fripperies or fun. And who wanted to travel all the way up Lookout Mountain only to be turned away because what you could afford was nothing? Besides, no one ever gave you something for nothing. But plenty of other Chattanoogans saw the posters and thought that maybe better times really were just around the corner. There was a New Deal, and maybe there would be new fun too. And there was not a single child who caught sight of the posters and didn’t yearn with their entire heart for what the posters promised. The sixth of October was a Friday. On Saturday, at least half the city of Chattanooga lit out for the carnival. Some of them packed bedrolls or tarps to sleep under. If there was music and festivity, maybe they would stay longer than a day.

The churches of Chattanooga were poorly attended on Sunday morning. But the carnival in the Fairyland neighborhood of Lookout Mountain was busier than a beehive. Up on top of Lookout Mountain, a local boy named Garnet Carter had quite recently established the community of Fairyland, which included Tom Thumb Golf, the first miniature golf course in the United States. There was the eerie natural landscape of Rock City, where his wife, Freida Carter, had laid out paths between towering, mossy rock formations, planting wildflowers and importing German statuary so that the trails were watched over by gnomes and characters from fairytale stories like Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. Rich people came on holidays and rode the funicular, which also happened to be the world’s steepest passenger railway, the mile up from Chattanooga to the Lookout Mountain Hotel. The hotel was also known as the Castle Above the Clouds, and if all the rooms were taken, well, there was also the Fairyland Inn. For the wealthy, there was golf and ballroom dancing and hunting. For the civic minded, there was the site of the Battle Among the Clouds, where the Union Army had, in living memory, driven off at great cost the Confederates. You could still find minié bullets and other traces of the dead all down the slopes of the mountain, along with flint arrowheads used by Cherokee. But the Cherokee had all been driven off, and the Civil War was over too.

There had been a greater war in recent memory, and many a family in Chattanooga had lost sons or fathers to it. Human beings did terrible things to each other, and the traces of those terrible things were everywhere if you looked. If your taste ran more to corn whiskey than history, well, there were plenty of moonshine stills up on Lookout Mountain too. And who knew what other illegal or immoral delights might be found at a Mysterious Merchants’ Bazaar? There were men and women of money and taste at the carnival on that first Saturday, rubbing alongside the thin-faced children and wives of farmers. The rides were free to all. There were games with prizes, and a petting zoo with a three-headed dog and a winged snake so large that it was able to swallow a full-grown steer each day at noon. There were strolling fiddle players who drew such melancholy and lovely songs out on their instruments that tears came to the eyes of all who heard them. There was a woman who said that she could speak with the dead, and asked no coin. There was a magician, too, Roland the Astonishing, who grew a dogwood tree from a seed on his stage and then caused it to flower, drop its leaves, and grow bare again as if all the seasons were passing in the blink of an eye. He was a handsome man in his sixties, with bright blue eyes, a luxuriant white moustache, and snowy white hair with a black streak running through it as if some devil had touched it with a sooty hand.

There were delicious things to eat at such a negligible cost, or freely given as samples, that every child ate himself or herself sick. As promised, the Bazaar was full of remarkable objects on display, tended by even more remarkable people. Some of the customers, too, drew curious glances. Were there people in faraway lands who had curly tails or flames in their pupils? One of the most popular stalls had on offer a local product: a clear, potent liquor rumored to give dreams of a moonlit forest full of running wolves to those who drank it. The men at that booth were taciturn and did not smile often. But when they did, their teeth were unsettlingly white. They lived up in the mountains and mostly kept to themselves, but here at the Bazaar they seemed quite at home. One tent was staffed by nurses so very lovely it wasn’t a chore at all to let them draw your blood. They took a cup or two, “for research purposes,” they said. And to those who donated, they gave away tokens that could be used elsewhere in the bazaar, just like money.

Just beyond the tents of the Bazaar was a sign that led to the Maze of Mirrors. It said SEE FOR YOURSELF. THE TRUE WORLD AND THE FALSE LIE NEXT DOOR TO ONE ANOTHER. Those who went through the Maze of Mirrors came out looking a little dazed. Some of them had found their way to the very center, in which they had been made an offer by an entity that each described differently. To some, the person in the room had appeared as a small child, or an old woman in an elegant gown, or even in the shape of a loved one long dead. The person in the room had a mask, and if you confessed a thing that you desired, the mask was put upon you and, well, you should really go and see for yourself. If, that is, you could find your way through the maze and to the place where that person and the mask were waiting. By the end of the first weekend, most of Chattanooga had come up to see for themselves the strange charms of the carnival. And many came back to the carnival on the second weekend, although by then rumors were beginning to spread of troubling behavior exhibited by some who had returned.

A woman claimed that the man she was married to was an impostor who had killed her real husband: this claim would have been easier to dismiss if a body had not been discovered in the river, in all ways a double of the man she was married to. A young man stood up in church and said that he saw and knew the secrets of all the congregation by looking at them. When he began to say these secrets out loud, the pastor tried to shout him down until the man began to declaim the things he knew about the pastor. At this, the pastor fell silent, then left his church and went home and slit his throat. Another man won again and again at a weekly game of poker, until, drunk, he confessed, sounding astonished, that he could see the cards every man there held as if they were his very own hand. He proved this by calling out each card in order, and after that was beaten soundly and left unconscious and bloody in the street by men who had been his friends since childhood. A boy of seventeen, newly engaged to be married, came home from the carnival and that night woke up everyone in his household screaming. He had put out his own eyes with two hot coals, but refused to say why. In fact, he never spoke again, and his poor fiancée at last broke off the engagement and went to live with an aunt in Baltimore. A beautiful girl turned up at the Fairyland Inn at dusk one evening, claiming that she was Mrs.

Dalgrey, when the staff of the inn knew very well Mrs. Dalgrey was a bucketfaced dowager in her late seventies. She stayed at the Inn every fall, and never tipped anyone no matter how good the service. Other terrible incidents were reported in the neighborhoods of Chattanooga, and by the middle of the week after the carnival had put up its signs, word of these happenings had made its way to those whose business it was to prevent the human world from being troubled and tormented by the malicious whims of Downworlders and demons. It is only to be expected that some amount of trouble will arrive with a carnival. Pleasure and trouble are brother and sister to each other. But there were indications that this particular carnival was more than it seemed. For one thing, the Bazaar of the Bizarre was not just trinkets and gaudy junk. The Bazaar was a full-on Shadow Market where there had never been one before, and humans were strolling its aisles and freely handling its wares. And there were indications, too, that there was an artifact made out of adamas in the hands of one who should not have had it.

For this reason, on Thursday the twentyninth of October, a portal opened at Lookout Point, and two individuals who had only just met stepped through it unnoticed by any of the human sightseers gathered there. One was a young woman not yet fully invested as an Iron Sister, although already her hands showed the scars and calluses of one who worked adamas. Her name was Emilia, and this was the last task her Sisters had set her before she joined their company: to recover the adamas and bring it back to the Adamant Citadel. She had a smiling, watchful face, as if she liked the world but did not quite trust that it would be on its best behavior. Her companion was a Silent Brother who bore the runic marks on his face, although neither his eyes nor his mouth had been sewn shut. Instead, they were merely closed, as if he had voluntarily chosen to withdraw inside the citadel of his own self. He was handsome enough that if any of the women at Lookout Point had seen his face, one or two might have thought of fairytales where a kiss is sufficient to wake one who is under an enchantment. Sister Emilia, who could see Brother Zachariah quite plainly, thought he was one of the handsomest men she had ever seen. Certainly he was one of the first men she had seen in quite some time. And if their errands were successful and she returned to the Iron Citadel with the adamas in her possession, well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if handsome Brother Zachariah was the last man she ever laid eyes on.

There was no harm in appreciating beauty when you chanced upon it. She said, “Nice view, isn’t it?” Because from the place they stood you could see Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, both North and South Carolina, and, on the horizon, Virginia and Kentucky too, all spread out rumpled like a tapestry quilt haphazardly embroidered in green and blue, little pricks of red and gold and orange where, in places, the trees were already beginning to turn. Inside her head, Brother Zachariah said, It’s extraordinary. Though, I confess, I had imagined America to look somewhat different. Someone I . knew . told me about New York City. That was where she grew up. We talked one day of going together to see the things and places that she loved. But we talked of many things that I knew, even then, would likely never happen.

And this is a very large country. Sister Emilia was not at all sure that she liked having someone else talking inside her head. She had encountered Silent Brothers before, but this was the first time one had spoken directly into her mind. It was like having company show up when you hadn’t had the inclination to do the dishes or straighten up your living quarters in a while. What if they could see all the untidy thoughts you sometimes just shoved under the carpet? Her mentor, Sister Lora, had assured Emilia that although Silent Brothers could ordinarily read the minds of those around them, their sisterhood was exempt. But on the other hand, what if this was part of the test she had been set? What if Brother Zachariah’s task was also to look inside her brain, to be sure that she was a deserving candidate? She thought, as loudly as she could, Excuse me! Can you hear me thinking? When Brother Zachariah didn’t respond, she said, relieved, “Your first time in the States, then?” Yes, Brother Zachariah said. Then, as if to be polite, he said, And you? “Born and bred in California,” Sister Emilia said. “I grew up in the San Francisco Conclave.” Is San Francisco very like this? Brother Zachariah said. She almost choked.

“Indeed,” she said, “it is not. Not even the trees are the same. And the ground there is like as not to give you a little shake now and then. Sometimes just enough to move your bed a few inches while you’re trying to sleep. Other times, it knocks buildings down without so much as a warning. Oh, but the fruits on the trees are the best thing you’ve ever tasted. And the sun shines every single day.” Her oldest brother had been an infant in their mother’s arms during the earthquake of 1906. Half the city had burned, and Emilia’s father said that even demons had stayed away during the destruction. Their mother, who had been pregnant, had had a miscarriage.

If that baby had lived, Emilia would have had seven siblings, all brothers. Her first night in the Iron Citadel, she had woken up every hour because it was all so quiet and peaceful. You sound as if you miss it, Brother Zachariah said. Sister Emilia said, “I do miss it. But it was never home. Now. I believe the carnival is thataways, and here we stand here jawing when we have work to do.” Although his eyes and ears and mouth had all been closed by the magic of the Silent City, Jem could still smell and hear the carnival much better than any mortal–here was the scent of sugar and hot metal and, yes, blood as well, and the sounds of barkers and calliope music and excited shrieks. Soon enough he could see it too. The carnival stood on mostly level ground where once there must have been quite a battle.

Jem could feel the presence of the human dead. Now their forgotten remains lay buried under a grassy field where a kind of stockade fence had been erected around all manner of brightly colored tents and fanciful structures. A Ferris wheel stood above these, carriages dangling from the central wheel, full of laughing people. Two great gates stood flung wide open, with a broad avenue between them welcoming all who approached. Sweethearts in their Sunday clothes strolled through the gates, arms around each other’s waists. Two boys pelted past, one with tousled black hair. They looked about the age that Will and Jem had been, a very long time ago, when they’d first met. But Will’s hair was white now, and Jem was no longer Jem. He was Brother Zachariah. A few nights ago, he had sat at Will Herondale’s bedside and watched his old friend struggle to draw a breath.

Jem’s hand on the coverlet was the hand of a young man still, and Tessa, of course, would never grow old. How must it seem to Will, who loved them both, that he must go on so far ahead of them? But then, Jem had left Will first, and Will had had to let him go. It would only be fair when, soon, Jem would be the one left behind. Inside his head, Brother Enoch said, It will be hard. But you will be able to bear it. We will help you bear it. I will endure it because I must, Jem said. Sister Emilia had stopped, and he caught up with her. She was taking in the carnival, her hands on her hips. “What a thing!” she said.

“Did you ever read Pinocchio?” “I don’t believe so,” Jem told her. Though he thought that once, when he’d been in the London Institute, he might have heard Tessa reading it to a young James. “A wooden puppet yearns to be a real boy,” Sister Emilia said. “And so a fairy gives him his wish, more or less, and he gets into all sorts of trouble at a place that I always thought would look rather like this.” Jem said, almost against his will, And does he? “Does he what?” Sister Emilia said. Does he become real? “Well, of course,” Sister Emilia said. Then, saucily, “What kind of story would it be if he only ever got to be a puppet? His father loves him, and that’s how he starts to become real, I guess. I always liked those stories the best, the ones where people could make things or carve things and make them come to life. Like Pygmalion.” In his head, Brother Enoch said, She’s quite lively, for an Iron Sister.

He didn’t sound exactly disapproving, but neither was it a compliment. “Of course,” Sister Emilia said, “you’re something of a story yourself, Brother Zachariah.”

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