Fiddleford never could have predicted that the girl who once lived in his house would come to him for help.
Before last summer, Pacifica Northwest never had much use for the likes of him, even though she showed up with a perfectly edible cake when he moved in. And while she never seemed to have much use for the likes of Candy and Grenda, either, ever since Weirdmageddon, the three girls have formed a sort of friendship.
That’s how they came to be sharing a library table when Pacifica absently doodled the symbol of the Blind Eye in her notebook, and when she stifled a scream as soon as she saw what she’d drawn.
That’s how she ended up joining her two classmates when they visited Fiddleford after school. Instead of talking with them about rocket boots or Plaidypus sightings, he told them everything that he knew about the Society of the Blind Eye, and how they’d come apart last year. It was Pacifica who asked if the memory canisters were still stored in their old headquarters.
That’s how they found themselves slipping into the history museum just before closing time, pressing the stone that opened the secret passageway, and descending the staircase.
“You can still turn around and go back,” Candy whispers. “I have my phone with me, and the enhanced signal will work underground. Mabel and I tested it.”
Fiddleford thinks that she can hear his heart thudding. Every time they turn another corner, he almost expects to see robed figures emerging from the shadows. He tries to control his breathing, the way he’s learned to do when his mind turns on him. “That’s sure thoughtful of you,” he tells her. “But whatever’s got loose in your friend’s mind, it’s my fault, ain’t it? If there’s consequences, it’s best to see them through.”
As soon as she steps into the Hall of the Forgotten, Pacifica wrinkles her nose at the careless stacks of memory canisters. “Are those even organized? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much clutter in my life.”
“Well, you know what they say: eight hands are better than two!” Fiddleford lifts the brim of his hat and looks Pacifica up and down. “You do got just two hands, right? I don’t wanna assume.”
Pacifica draws back. “Um, yeah. Last time I checked.”
“If you’ve changed your mind…” Candy says hesitantly.
“I haven’t,” Pacifica snaps, and for a moment, she sounds every inch the polished princess. She rolls up her sleeves. “Good thing this outfit is machine washable.”
When Grenda holds up the canister with Pacifica’s name on it, Fiddleford realizes that he hasn’t stopped looking over his shoulder every couple of minutes, just in case they’re ambushed. As he sets up the viewing screen (his hands still remember every knob and circuit), Candy says, “You know, this might turn out to be nothing.”
“Yeah, maybe you just saw a bunch of Manotaurs on parade,” Grenda agrees.
“If that’s what ‘nothing’ means,” Pacifica says, “then what does ‘something’ mean?”
As soon as the first images appear on the screen, they find out the answer to that question.
Fiddleford twitches when he hears Ivan’s voice: “Pacifica, what is it that you wish to unsee?”
“I wishto be let go!”
“We will release you soon, child. You will return to your blissful and carefree life, and the things that you have witnessed will trouble you no longer.”
“Pacifica, darling, we’re not going to hurt you.”
“Yes, I’m here. Just listen to him like a good girl, won’t you?”
Here and now, in the underground chamber, Pacifica has arranged her face into an expressionless mask, but one of her hands is clenched. She steps away when Candy tries to put an arm around her.
“…that you wouldn’t understand our family’s business dealings.” Preston Northwest continues speaking from two years in the past. “You were so upset when you found out, weren’t you, sweetheart? We couldn’t calm you down, like we usually do. That’s why I brought you here.”
“‘Business dealings’? Is that what you call them? Do your friends here worship demons, too?”
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate question. I’m doing everything I can to make sure you're happy and untroubled, and all I ask for in return is your cooperation. The sooner you give us that, the sooner this will all be over.”
Fiddleford knows what’s coming next. He told himself that he wouldn’t look away, but even though the recording can’t really do anything to him, he squeezes his eyes shut against the flash of blue light from the memory gun.
Make sure you're happy and untroubled. Didn’t he once want the same thing, for himself and the entire town? Wasn’t that why he founded the Society in the first place?
He feels a small hand touch his, and opens his eyes. Tears are sliding down Pacifica's face.
“Are you two all right?” Candy asks softly.
“I don’t rightly know yet.” Fiddleford takes Pacifica’s hand, and she doesn’t pull away. “I’m so sorry, girl,” he tells her.
“Your dad’s an even bigger tool than we thought,” Grenda declares. “Want me to punch him?”
“Yes. Maybe.” Pacifica shakes her head. “Does he even know what he did?”
“Not likely,” Fiddleford says. His own memory isn’t the most reliable, but he doesn’t recall seeing Preston at that final secret meeting. “If I were gonna theorize, I’d say that, at some point, they done kicked him out and erasified his memories, too.”
“I thought he couldn’t surprise me anymore.”
“And I thought I knew what kind of monster I created with…” With his free hand, Fiddleford gestures at their surroundings. “…All of this. Some things never stop coming back up to bite us where it hurts the most.” Was he the only one who heard the word “demons,” or wondered which demon she meant? He fears that if he thinks too hard about what that means, his mind will crack again.
Pacifica wipes her eyes on the end of her sleeve, then stares at it like she’s never seen it before. “Are the rest of my memories going to come back, too?” she asks.
“Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. You got to be ready, either way.”
She raises her chin. “It’s best to see it through, right?” Her voice has hardened again, and Fiddleford feels a little bit sorry for her parents when she finally does confront them.
He won’t say he feels very sorry, though.
“Right as rhubarb, darlin',” he agrees. “Come back to the house with us, all right? When you’re ready, we’ll all have us a chat about what you want to do next.”
Pacifica nods, and when the four of them finally make their way back up the stairs and into the night, she doesn’t let go of his hand.