“Look at my Village, a beautiful sight, hundreds of globes all shinin’ at night. A snow globe with bakery, one with a tree, a train, a library, a house by the sea. And in every one there lives a small child, I keeps them all safe to wait out and while the time away ‘til I call them on out, to play with Ol’ Henry or feed him or now when I’m right nice and tired, to crawl in his bed, keep Ol’ Henry warm or else wind up dead. And then in the morning, we’ll have tea and scones, tell stories, share secrets, then it’s back to your globe.”
Old Henry nodded happily, humming to himself as he sat in his obsidian display room. The room, bathed in candlelight, contained hundreds of thin pedestals, and atop each one was a snow globe containing a different scene he had concocted and built himself. He would wander the room for hours, peering into each one, and agonizing over their placements.
His house had several rooms. The Village display room, the workshop, the playroom, the dining room, kitchen, and his bedroom. He never left except when called.
Five days on the water, and Deacon’s nausea had subsided somewhat. The air had developed a consistent chill that would only grow colder the further northeast we went.
The ship we were on was a medium sized schooner made of treated white oak, with seven cotton canvas sails, and though it had been around awhile, it was sturdy and specially modified for voyaging into the Icy Lands. Despite its primary role as trade and freight ship, it had a few guest quarters which were modestly equipped with a double bed, dresser, sitting table, chairs, and one of the ugliest rugs I’d ever seen. Deacon and I shared a room.
There were only two other passengers besides ourselves, a large, burly fur trader, who it seemed had some bear blood in him, and a thin, Pixish woman who was headed to some land she believed to be deep below the center point of absolute north. After the third day out, the captain, a rather striking man, with lively eyes and a constant stubble that complimented him well, routinely invited us all to dine with him and his officers at his quarters.
The first two dinners with them had been spent drinking copious amounts of thick, pungent wine, and listening to the other guests’ stories and backgrounds. In the spirit of comradery, I knew that it was my turn to share, and I drank a bit more than usual at the beginning of the meal in order to loosen myself up.
As the table took their last bites of the fish steaks, the captain turned to me and flashed those eyes of his. “So, Miss Amber. There’s rumors about your presence and enterprise here. Perhaps you can be kind enough to dispel or verify them for us.”
Here it came. I smiled. “And what rumors would those be?”
“Well for one thing, there’s talk that you and your friend are seeking the fabled Old Henry himself, apparently with some kind of score to settle. To be frank, I’ve been hearing legends about a young girl and a Djingo headed towards the Icy Lands for years now. The legends have been around awhile.”
I guess they had. At a rather bruised and weathered, but still healthy and hearty 34, I was hardly a young girl anymore.
I nodded. “That’s right. It’s taken a long time to get this far, and I won’t stop until me and Old Henry have a little talk.”
“You know, most would argue Old Henry’s just a legend. Although personally, I know better, and obviously so do you. How long is a long time?”
The table grunted and whistled.
“And where did you start from?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this question. “A place so far away, I don’t think it’s on any of your maps.”
I told them.
Most of the table shrugged, but the captain wore a sly smile. “Mm,” he said. “You know,” his voice got quiet,” you’re not the first I’ve met who have come through doors between worlds.”
He picked up the carafe of wine and filled everyone’s glass. “I’m not so impolite as to keep prying into one’s business, but I have to say, Old Henry, that’s quite a task to have chosen.”
“He has something of mine.”
No one dared ask it, but everyone leaned towards me attentively. I let the pause linger for dramatic effect.
I told them the story.
Twenty years ago, in another world so far from this one that by now my memories of it are rather dim and filled with cobwebs and myths, I lived in a place my people called Portland, Oregon. I was fourteen and my little brother was eleven. The day was what I remember as Saturday, and my parents were out for the night, leaving me to look over my brother. I had a friend over. Her name I remember well, Heather, and as the hour got late we took delight in trying to spook ourselves and my younger brother.
There were little superstitious games children told each other, passed down through years and generations. One of these was called Old Henry.
The way we had heard it, at midnight on a full moon, you take a big bowl, fill it with water, and add three drops of blood from each person in the room. You all say “Old Henry, Old Henry, come through the cracks, there’s children a’ playing and parents not back” three times each, look into the bowl at the full moon, and you’ll hear a knock at the door. This will be Old Henry, and he’ll come and take whichever one of you is his favorite.
Bored and looking to give ourselves a thrill, we turned out the lights and lit some candles. We couldn’t decide on a bowl, so we used my mother’s pressure cooker. We filled it with water, giggling with goose bumps, and set it beneath the window so that we could see the moon in the water.
My brother didn’t want to do it, and he especially didn’t want us to prick his finger, but Heather and I wouldn’t leave him alone, so we all ended up with three drops of blood in the water, which we stirred up.
One by one we looked into the bowl and three times said “Old Henry, Old Henry, come through the cracks, there’s children a’ playing and parents not back”. My brother went last. Then we all leaned over and peered into the moon reflected on the water.
There was a knock at the door and we all screamed. However, none of us went to open it. He simply walked in. He was hideously tall and had to hunch in order to walk into the room. He was old and had ugly leathery skin, with rotting, missing teeth that glowed in the moonlight. He walked right into the living room and smiled at us.
“Two giggling girls and one little boy, such a delight, fills Ol’ Henry with joy. The boy then will come and he’ll live with me, away in my Village, across the great sea, far from this place of rust and of rot, away with Ol’ Henry and never grow up.”
And then he simply walked over to my brother, picked him up, and trod out the front door.
You can imagine the uproar and commotion that occurred afterwards. My parents were devastated and they and the police set about on a massive manhunt for a man who only Heather and I knew lived further away then they could conceive or believe.
I only saw Heather twice after that. She eventually avoided me at all costs, and pretty much fell apart. Her family soon moved away.
After very nearly falling apart myself, I did the only thing I could do. I resolved to track Old Henry down and get my brother back no matter what the cost or effort. No matter how many times I repeated the ritual, I was unable to get him to come back for me. It took me five years to discover and verify the existence of this world of yours, and then find a doorway into it. Eventually I tracked down a group of monks who could open this doorway on the contingency that I procure them any of Henry’s glass globes where he keeps his stolen children. They also gave me the weapons I carry on my arms. I made the cross fifteen years ago. I met Deacon ten years ago, back in the Soulstice Lands, and without him I would have long since died, or lost hope and killed myself.
I have the map of the Icy Lands, without which one would perish attempting to search the Arctic. I’ve learned how to fight, how to be crafty, and how to suffer and endure. I have the most difficult item of all, a moment of Old Henry’s lost youth, bound in a crystal egg, and before I leave this life I will see my brother again, release him, and beg for his forgiveness.