Hogswatch passed. Susan didn't wait for normality to reassert itself—she grabbed it by the ear and dragged it back into place. She firmly ignored any and everything having to do with the events of that night, with one exception: Gawain's "marble" was duly confiscated (although Susan's skin crawled at actually having to touch the horrible thing) and put away where no small children could find it. Gawain, perhaps out of a greater sense of self-preservation than she would ordinarily have given him credit for, handed it over after only a token struggle.
"Sometimes it moves on its own when it thinks you aren't looking," he confided as he dropped it in her outstretched hand. It seemed to Susan that it rocked in her palm much longer than it should have. She tried to ignore the fact that she'd put three locks on the box after that, instead of the one that any sensible person would consider sufficient to contain any inanimate object. It wasn't as if three locks would do any more to stop it getting out than one. It wasn't as if it could get out at all. It was just a little glass orb, no bigger than… well, no bigger than a human eye. But Gawain was right; it did move on its own.
Often, late at night, she could hear it rolling around in the box. Usually it was quiet, a gentle tap tap against the sides, but there were some nights when it seemed determined to break free, hurtling around the box with such a loud clatter that she was afraid it would wake the house. On those nights she muffled it under her pillow, which helped with the noise but did nothing for her nerves.
That was what finally did it, she told herself—listening to that damn thing rolling about on its own in the dark. She had to get it out of her room, and she had to find out what on the Disc could possibly have driven anyone, even someone as mad as Teatime, to stick it in their head. After some consideration, she took it to Death's house, where it could sit on a shelf and rocket about in its triple-locked box as much as it wanted without giving anyone the screaming heebie-jeebies in the dark watches of the night. Not that it had frightened her. It was just hard to sleep with all the noise.
Then she went into the library and found Teatime's biography. It was a rather thicker volume than she had expected, and she paused before opening it. Where should she start? She had no idea when Teatime had acquired the eye; in fact, she knew hardly anything about him at all. He had been the mad kid that no one wanted to play with, the one who didn't know the line between right and wrong, and he'd never grown out of it. That was it.
Well, starting at the beginning was always best when you didn't know quite what you were looking for. She flipped through the early sections of the usual baby business quite quickly at first, just barely skimming the pages. The early parts of biographies were always boring, unless you were particularly interested in bowel movements and crying. Then a word caught her eye, and she stopped—read for a moment—flipped back a page or two—read a bit more. The colour drained from her face. Susan flipped forward again, with purpose now, occasionally stopping and reading, getting paler all the while. When her hands started to shake so much that she was in danger of dropping the book, she sat down and rested it in her lap.
After a while, she had to set it aside so that she could go and be quietly but thoroughly sick.
Well. That at least explained one thing. When you saw it like that, it was no wonder he'd ended up a scholarship boy at the Assassin's School. It was just amazing he'd lived long enough to get there. Replacing his eye with that thing (a scrying crystal! How could any parent, no matter how twisted, willfully pluck out their own child's eye and replace it with a scrying crystal?) just barely made the top ten of the horrible episodes she'd read in those early pages. She would be having nightmares about the thing with the stove and the needles for weeks, and that would be if she was lucky. And as for the thing with the poker a few pages later… that had not been good. Not good at all. She found herself feeling queasily sorry for her choice of weapon in those last desperate moments. But it wasn't as if she could have known….
She set the book on the lectern at the end of the row of shelves she'd taken it from, where it would be easy to find if she needed it again. She'd read enough, and more than enough, for one day. What she wanted now was a really good cup of hot tea and an afternoon with normal children, children who thought the worst thing that could happen to them was not getting dessert. On her way out, she stuck her head into Death's study.
"Do you remember Teatime?"
This question gave Death some pause. THE MEAL YOU HAVE AROUND FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON?, he ventured cautiously.
"No, the man. From Hogswatch."
Death considered this for a few moments. He met quite a lot of humans, although he generally only met them once. Few individuals made a lasting impression.
"The one I, er, killed. With the poker," Susan prompted, guilt prodding her sharply in the ribs again.
AH, YES. MR. TEH-AH-TIM-EH. THE YOUNG MAN WHO ALMOST KILLED THE HOGFATHER. Somehow, the perpetually grinning skull managed to project an impression of disapproval.
"Yes. Well, Gawain found his eye in the fireplace, and I've left it in a little box on the bookshelf in the front hall. Could you just sort of… keep an eye on it for me? It's not that I think it will do anything—well, anything but make a racket, it will do that—but I can't keep it in the house with the children, and it's not really the sort of thing one ought to chuck away."
"Thanks. I've got to run, but I'll be back soon." And with that, she was gone. Death sighed. Susan never stayed for a nice chat.
In the library, Teatime's biography lay forgotten on the lectern. After a moment, a new quiet scritching joined the susurrus of countless lives being recorded, and the book added a page.