Clean and shiny and bare to the bone. A treasure. An idol. A friend to the end.

Where did I get it? Along my way. After the transformation which never happened. Down, down, down. Down into the ground. Down into the ground of Blackspire. Through the earth and past the worms. Beyond the wood. Beyond the shell of her eternal cage.

But a body is far too heavy to transport.

The human head weighs, on average, between ten and eleven pounds. Fully-intact. Three of that is the brain alone. What remained of Marcy’s brain, I have no idea. It could have been in there, rattling around. Or it could have poured out as she lay silent in the ground, like melted candle wax in a jack-o-lantern.

In ancient times, they used to pull it out completely. No use for the brain in the Egyptian afterlife. But here, in our modern and enlightened time when we throw what’s left of our brothers and sisters into holes six feet in the ground and pray to the version of god we were told to believe in … here we leave the brain inside.

Or at least, I think we do.

Does this then mean that when we die, our selves remain trapped inside the fleshy cage of our bodies? A biological amalgamation of 1s and 0s in the neurocomputer which gives rise to what we call consciousness?

When I brought the head of Marcy Van Neal home with me, did I bring Marcy Van Neal? All that she ever was became frozen in time at the moment of her death, slowly decaying, in dire need of reverse-engineering and a good old hard-drive restoration.

What I have, what I hold … it has left all that was Marcy Van Neal behind. But at one time it had been the cradle which held her being.

It is mine, and it is magic. Simply because I believe it to be.

Continue to Chapter Thirty-Six.