The villagers didn’t look at the crumbling house too often; they had done their job. Attwell Wayworde was dead. Mortas Wayworde had been in America for too long now, never to return. Certainly in prison; why wouldn’t he be? He was a criminal like all the rest. And Solomon—likely dead. Dead by the authorities’ hand. As he should be.
So when the shiny red car drove into town, people paid barely any attention to it. They figured that the couple inside was either foreign or from the city.
But then the car drove to the Wayworde house, the crumbling estate of darkness and pain. A demon’s lair, and this red car simply drove right up to it!
The couple exited the car and took out multiple suitcases. How strange! Were they ghost hunters, perhaps, or explorers.
So the villagers sent Henry Heydon to the house to warn the couple.
“This is a house of evil,” he advised, “It is a place of death and the devil.”
He expected them to say, “We accept your warning.” The appearance of the house—didn’t that tell the whole story? It was a dark, monstrous thing, once home to monsters, now home to spirits, and certainly Lucifer himself.
But then the woman—a woman with skin the color of the aging books in the school and long, straight black hair—this foreign woman—challenged him.
“Sir, we have come to live here.”
“Live here! It is a place of monsters! You surely know that this is the home of the Wayworde. The home of monsters! We have only recently freed the town from the last one! They are murderers! Killers! Channels of pure evil!”
The woman stared at Heydon.
“Sir, Mr. Attwell Wayworde was certainly not the last one.”
“He was indeed! The others are in America, certainly dead, perhaps filling a prison cell with their stench of death!”
She blinked once.
“Sir, you are wrong.”
“Sir, if you speak of Solomon Wayworde, he is alive. He is near his death, ancient, but alive. And Mortas Wayworde—he’s very much alive. He’s a businessman, founder of a thriving company, and a billionaire. He was married, sir, but his wife is dead. They have a child.”
“Wife! Well, I suspect he only married her to prey on her, and then kill her! And a billionaire!—that cannot be. You tell lies!”
“Sir.” The man stepped in. “Sir, you don’t know. Sir, he’s a pioneer of technology, and a living legend. He’s a bit of a recluse, but he’s a pioneer nonetheless.”
“You lie, sir! You lie, woman!”
“How do you explain this, then?”
The woman whipped out a piece of paper from her pocket. She knew this would come. Her father had warned her.
The paper was printed from the New York Times scapespace. The article was old, but it was a lengthy article about Mr. Mortas Wayworde’s company, the revolutionary Cosmoscape. It went into detail, delving into things that couldn’t have been faked.
Heydon took the paper. He read it again and again.
“He’s certainly corrupt, if this is his company.”
“He donates, sir. He donates to as many charities as you can imagine.”
And then Heydon begged to know.
“Who are you, woman? And you, sir!—you must be insane asylum escapees!”
The man spoke softly. “I am Devajee Wayworde. I’m not related to the Wayworde family, other by marriage, but I took the name because I admired Mr. Mortas Wayworde.”
The woman looked straight into Heydon’s eyes with her father’s startling omniscience. “And I am Cecilia Wayworde. Daughter of Mortas Wayworde.”
Heydon was awestruck.
“Sir, I will not tolerate you disrespecting my father. Nor will I tolerate disrespect of my mother, who died in a car crash with a drunk driver. My father didn’t want to come back here. He wanted to stay in America to feel more connected with my late mother. He would not come back here if you offered him trillions of dollars.”
The Wayworde daughter was so startlingly civil that Heydon barely believed her. But he could see it. She had some of her father’s features. Her hair looked like his. The shape of her face looked astonishingly like his. Her eyelashes looked like his. Even her legs looked almost exactly like her father’s. But she was different. She was beautiful. Her mother must’ve been gorgeous for her features to cover up the disgustingness of any Wayworde features.
Ms. Cecilia Wayworde soon introduced herself to the rest of the village. She was not well-received, but people soon began to realize her benign nature the further she stayed. She and Devajee began to renovate the house. It soon sparkled. They had a son, Jalen, who became rather well-liked at school. It was the reversal that Mortas Wayworde would be proud of. He was a revolutionary, a pioneer, and an agent of change. His daughter was the same.
But he continued to run Cosmoscape, across an ocean and a continent. His hair was graying, and his longing for his love was stronger than ever. He eventually turned the company over to some employees, declaring that the money he had was far more than enough. He sent much of it to Cecilia. His retirement was lavish, but lonely. His daughter grew mature, older, and Jalen grew up. Everything was different now, different as it was, the same. The monster still roamed his home, claws swinging wildly, howling for the return of his angel. The girl still continued her rebellion, rebelling against family legacy for the rest of her life. And the ancient father was still the criminal, still shoplifting once in a while, until his death.
But Mortas Wayworde was still the same, forever the same, forever the monster trapped in love and hate. He was always alone, always sitting there with no one to talk to. Nobody quite knew what to think of him. He just seemed so odd.
But he was always there.
▒ ▒ ▒
His death came swiftly, unexpectedly, impossibly quickly. It was 2103, his one hundredth birthday. He was a celebrated pioneer, still a father of more than a daughter who had seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. He was the father of the modern world, the modern system, the modern life. He was a self-made, modern man who hadn’t forgotten his roots. Founder of Cosmoscape, revolution starter, recluse. So many things.
So when Mortas Wayworde passed, nobody quite knew what to think. People mourned. People stood, confused. People wondered. People thought: was he really a hero? As they do with them all.
But there was one thing certain: the Kleinmans and the Hsiehs held up their promise. As they’d promised him, he was placed in a simple wooden coffin with a simple carving of a wolf on the side. Then he was shipped to Taiwan and placed in the great Hsieh pagoda under the watchful eye of the Hsieh family. They left him offerings, as they did with all their ancestors. They wished for peace, prosperity, good fortune for themselves. But all the while, they kept this promise secret. Only Cecilia Wayworde, Jalen Wayworde, and Jalen’s young children knew the secret, outside of the immediate Hsieh family.
And then they left. They knew to leave this site alone. Leave it to the young lovers, the hopes and dreams, the perseverance of those going against every current known to man. They were people of the past, hopes for the future, but ultimately it was best to leave them alone. Let them thrust themselves back into the past, a past of love and hope, a past of a blinking green light on the mountainous horizon, a past where they could run free like gods and let everything unfold itself just for them.
So they left, leaving to respect the man who had made their world—and the woman who had made him.