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An Addams Family Contract (Written in Secret, Signed in Blood)

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five years ago

 

It’s easy, getting rid of the nannies. A few scientific facts about body decomposition and the futility of man, an ominous promise, a severed ear hidden inside a handkerchief, and they’re gone, running fast as their sensible pumps will carry them. Wednesday rarely even needs the ears. Nannies are spineless, predictable.

But Debbie isn’t like other nannies.

It’s not just that she secretly hates babies. Everyone secretly hates babies, especially people paid to take care of them. It’s not just that she’s a liar, a con artist working a grift. Thieves scare as easily as anyone. Wednesday should be capable of frightening Debbie away.

But Debbie doesn’t scare like most people. She does get scared, occasionally, but recovers too quickly; mostly, she’s just startled and annoyed and, now and then, disgusted. It’s not impossible for outsiders to acclimate—Margaret has, for the most part—but Debbie was wrong from the moment she walked in, morally and psychologically strange. That makes her interesting, the best of all possible nannies, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s getting in the way. She’s an intrusion, one who means to hurt Uncle Fester, and Uncle Fester cannot be trusted to take care of himself. Obviously.

There’s only one solution: Debbie has to go. Wednesday considers various possibilities: frightening her away with bloody warnings on the wall, chasing her out of the house with a crossbow, all the usual methods, but ultimately settles on the subtle threat, letting Debbie know that Wednesday is always watching. It’s a miscalculation, but before she can correct it, her parents are piling her and Pugsley into the car. Destination: Hell, AKA, Camp Chippewa.

She’s made a mistake, tipped her hand. She’d underestimated the influence Debbie already held. But eventually Wednesday will get out of this, and when she does?

She’ll never underestimate Debbie Jellinsky again.

#

now

Wednesday asks for three things on her 17th birthday: a new journal for scientific experiments and spell work, a sharpener for her guillotine, and the house all to herself. Her father is predictably reluctant about the latter. No celebration? No dancing? No Pin the Head on the Corpse?

“Wednesday isn’t a little girl anymore, Gomez,” her mother reminds him. “Privacy is very important to people her age. You remember how awkward it was, navigating the sinister forces of adolescence, exploring your bodies, experimenting with possession—”

“Summoning your first succubus—"

“Sacrificing your first boyfriend to the unspeakable things that live in the walls, and washing away the blood before the police can discover the evidence.” Mother blinks several times, pulling herself from fond memories. “It’s a lot to take in, especially with family always running underfoot.”

“We lost a cousin that way,” Father says cheerfully. “The stiletto was the last thing he ever saw.”

Wednesday interrupts because, left unattended, her parents will go on like this for hours. “Then you’ll let me have the house?”

Father raises an eyebrow. “You won’t murder the new neighbors?”

Wednesday promises nothing.

“They are very strange,” Mother admits. “They both have such strong opinions about proper tennis fashion. It can’t be healthy for them. Still, I’m sure they mean well.”

They don’t mean well. Wednesday has completed several midnight reconnaissance missions proving just that: like their predecessor, Judge Womack, the Harts seem determined to evict Wednesday’s family from their own home. They may even have the connections to do it. They need to be dealt with, and soon.

But Father considers the Harts harmless, an eccentric amusement. He’s far too easily charmed by outsiders—so long as those outsiders are merely visitors, who can easily be shown the door, or entombed in the walls, if necessary. Not that Father finds it necessary often: he’s hot-blooded but easily tempered, declaring eternal rivalries and forgiving them in an instant. Mother, at least, doesn’t believe in forgiveness. She’s built for vengeance, cool and eternally patient. Benefit of the doubt first, Wednesday, she’s often said. There’s always time for the belladonna later. Neither of her parents believes in preemptive attacks.

Wednesday prefers to bite first. Bite last. Bite once.

Father lights a cigar. “Wednesday?”

“I won’t touch them,” Wednesday finally says. There are many ways to kill someone without touching them.

Father and Mother look at each other. Their matching smiles are both indulgent and proud.

Wednesday isn’t actually looking to kill the Harts this weekend, with or without touching them. Reluctantly, they’ve been put on the backburner: Wednesday is good at prioritization, and there’s another threat much closer to home. If she had someone else to work with . . . but Pugsley’s been no help. He’s come to the age where all he cares about is pyromania and girls with pyromania. Thing is too flighty. Lurch, uncreative. Her grandmother, too distracted by her own mysterious experiments with necromancy. Joel still visits, when he can—although he refuses to enter the cemetery anymore—but he’s only weird. He’s not an Addams. And besides, that’s not what she’s looking for right now: she doesn’t need a best friend or a boyfriend. She wants a collaborator, somebody to bounce ideas off of. She wants someone creative, intelligent, vicious. She wants, more than anything, an accomplice.

Maybe she’ll find one, when she goes to college next year, but for now, she’s on her own. “The house?” Wednesday asks again, impatiently.

Father and Mother are still smiling at each other.

“If it’s what you want,” Father says, “how could we say no?”

They ultimately decide on a three-day pilgrimage to the Museum of Death. Pugsley can’t believe Wednesday doesn’t want to come, tries twice to trick her into going: once with emotional blackmail, once with chloroform. Wednesday, immune to both, resists.

Pugsley shrugs and gives up, tossing the chloroform into his suitcase. “I guess if you get lonely,” he says, “you can always talk to the ghost.”

Yes, Wednesday imagines she’ll spend quite a bit of time talking to the ghost.

 

#

All right, okay. Debbie can admit it. Mistakes were made.

Yes, trying to blow up Fester was wrong. Yes, maybe in her heart, she’d known better. And yes, all right, she should’ve handled the situation some other way, something direct, hands-on, impossible to dodge—like an axe, straight to the spinal cord. That was her mistake: Debbie should’ve cut off Fester’s weird, big, ugly head while he was sleeping. It wouldn’t have looked like an accident, but at least he’d be dead, instead of her.

Ugh, she’s dead. It’s disgusting. It’s not fair.

And fine, fine, she’d made other mistakes, too: the slideshow, while cathartic, was maybe, maybe a bit too long. Obviously, it was important Debbie explained the origin of her trauma, her callous, self-absorbed parents and the entire inciting incident that was Malibu Barbie—but she probably didn’t need to detail the deaths of every husband she’d ever had, including the ones the police didn’t know about. Not that Debbie could’ve reasonably expected for her carefully orchestrated mass murder to be foiled by a newborn baby. Why hadn’t she made him his own electric high chair? Had it been pity? Mercy? She’s always been a gentle soul, deep, deep, very deep down. Yes, maybe she didn’t kill the brat because she’d just temporarily forgotten that he existed, but also, who’s to say that she didn’t subconsciously choose to forget?

Well, that’s all over now. Debbie chooses to remember. Debbie chooses revenge.

Unfortunately, ghostly revenge is much harder than simply seducing and murdering rich, lonely men. Apparently, it takes time to coalesce into a vengeful spirit, and while time is on her side, Debbie isn’t really a patient person. She has plenty of other virtues: she’s resourceful, beautiful, fashionable, creative. But patient? Patience is for people who just sit around waiting for their husbands to die. Debbie is a doer. She doesn’t let things like “legalities” or “morality” come between her and what she wants.

Which is why this situation is so infuriating! For years, Debbie just exists as some sort of . . . floating, invisible blob. It’s revolting: she has no face, no body. She can’t speak, can’t kill anyone, can’t wear jewelry. She’s only recently gained vague, inconsistent form, more of an outline than an actual body—but at least she can finally, sometimes, interact with her miserable surroundings. Debbie tries to kill Fester first, for old time’s sake, but when dropping a chandelier on his head only results in a goofy smile, she gives up and moves on to the infant that murdered her.

But Pubert—now five and still sporting a tiny, ridiculous mustache—keeps evading her attacks. Sometimes, it’s just dumb luck: the brat moves fast, and summoning enough energy to move physical objects is unfairly hard. Mostly, though, it’s the girl, Wednesday, who’s grown up to be an even bigger pain in the ass than she was at twelve. And this time, Debbie can’t just banish her away to summer camp.

It’s ridiculous. The whole Addams family knows they’re being haunted. Three weeks ago, Debbie had tried to dump boiling hot water on Pubert’s head; she’d missed, and the water splashed harmlessly on the counter instead. Morticia had cooed over it. “Oh, Gomez,” she’d said. “Look! We have a ghost!”

Infuriated, Debbie had thrown a kitchen knife at Morticia’s head, but it went wide by six inches. Gomez, playing cards with Thing nearby, positively beamed. “It’s adorable. Look how hard it’s trying.” Then, raising his voice, “Good show, old man! Keep it up!”

Debbie had vowed, then and there, that she would burn this house to the ground.

Only that’s a bad idea, no matter how satisfying it sounds: Debbie can venture outside, but not too far and never for long: something in the Addams house always drags her right back. The farthest she’s managed is the Harts’ home, just long enough to sob at the tragedy of their clashing designer outfits. “You don’t deserve that Gucci!” she’d screamed at them, before being tugged all the way back to the basement.

It is possible that burning down the house will set her free, but Debbie doubts it; she’s so unlucky. Even her afterlife is a tragedy. More likely than not, she’d destroy herself along with the house. Instead, she’ll have to settle for killing (or at least driving out) every single Addams, starting with Pubert; then, she can turn this gloomy, ugly mansion into her own beautiful home: something absolutely flooded with pastels, a palace fit for a ballerina queen.

Only for some reason, Wednesday keeps getting in the way. Wednesday, who still wears her hair in pigtails and dresses like some undead 17th century pilgrim, is apparently the only sensible person in this godforsaken place. She doesn’t try to strike up conversation with the homicidal ghost (Pugsley) or endlessly giggle (Pubert) or stare in Debbie’s general direction, confused, before shrugging and walking straight through her (Lurch). Wednesday doesn’t address Debbie at all, actually, just saves her youngest brother from falling bookshelves and exploding lightbulbs, all the while scowling with obvious resentment. It’s Wednesday who refuses to play along as her family lays bets on the ghost’s identity. It’s Wednesday who too purposefully avoids Debbie’s grave, and clearly is up to something.

Debbie doesn’t know why Wednesday hasn’t spilled the beans. They wouldn’t dare treat Debbie this way, if they knew who was really haunting them. They’d be angry, horrified. They wouldn’t act like she was some . . . some . . . child in need of encouragement. After all, none of them had loved Debbie when she was alive, not really. They’d welcomed her, fine, but love? No, not that; they certainly wouldn’t love her now.

But what if they did, some tiny, wistful part of her wonders.

Debbie easily ignores this voice; she’s had years of practicing at doing so. Besides, she doesn’t want these freaks to love her. She wants revenge, and she wants diamonds, not necessarily in that order. And if Wednesday keeps getting in the way of that, then she’ll need to go first, after all.

And so, Debbie hunts her, day after day. She tries to suffocate the girl with a tapestry. She tries to throw her in the fireplace. She even tries possessing the suit of armor and attacking her with the sword. This particular attempt goes so badly that Wednesday actually stops in the middle of the hallway and, acknowledging Debbie for the first time, says, “That was sloppy, even for you.”

Debbie refuses to let that stand. She practices, concentrates on conserving her strength, and, though she absolutely refuses to admit it, the tiny voice agrees: she had been sloppy. Her parents, her husbands—most of them, anyway—had never put up a fight. Killing them was easy, child’s play. But Wednesday, she’s an actual challenge, and while Debbie hates that at first—it’s so exhausting, it’s unfair, why doesn’t anyone appreciate how much work she’s doing—she quickly starts having fun. Not because she enjoys this. She’s never enjoyed hunting or killing anything. This is simply . . . well-earned satisfaction because her end goal is in sight. Once Debbie’s revenge has been achieved, once she’s killed everyone and is finally, finally all alone, that’s when she’ll really be happy. It’s the peace she wants, not the bloodshed to get there.

She’s a ballerina at heart, after all.

Which is why Debbie doesn’t understand the sudden, overwhelming sense of dread when she nearly succeeds in taking Wednesday’s head off, so close that the girl actually loses one of her trademark braids. The fear is replaced quickly by sharp relief when Wednesday, slightly wide-eyed, picks up her fallen braid and escapes down to the basement. What would I have done, Debbie thinks to herself, before finally coming to her senses.

What would she’d have done? She’d have moved on to the next Addams, then the next. What is this place doing to her that she keeps forgetting what she’s always wanted?

Debbie gives herself a minute to regroup, then follows Wednesday down to the basement. Everyone else is gone, left yesterday to go on some terrible vacation. Debbie misses vacation. She misses beaches and sunlight and designer swimsuits.

Debbie is so busy mourning mojitos that she doesn’t recognize the trap until she’s already caught in it, a large circle of candles that she’d passed through unthinkingly and now can’t leave. Wednesday’s standing just outside the circle, behind a large black altar. There is a ceremonial knife, a small jug of kerosene, a lighter, and a large box by her feet. MATTEL is written on its side.

Wednesday is looking right at her. Somehow, in this circle, Debbie is fully visible, even corporeal.

“Hello, Debbie,” Wednesday says. “Welcome to your exorcism.”

#

Debbie, trapped, lets loose a string of banal profanities. Wednesday ignores her, focusing on keeping her expression even, breathing steady. As a rule, she doesn’t feel emotions quite like other people: distrust and irritation instead of fury, cold, implacable resolution instead of passion. Fear, she seldom feels at all, unless she’s outnumbered by a horde of cheerful blonde teenagers singing biblical folk songs while an aggravating little man plays acoustic guitar. Anyone would be afraid of that. Otherwise, Wednesday doesn’t allow emotions to get the better of her, ever.

Right now, though, Wednesday doesn’t feel particularly calm or resolute. Debbie’s latest attempt to kill her was surprisingly clever: well planned, well executed. It’s true that Wednesday intentionally placed herself in harm’s way, forced to both spring the trap and play bait, but she hadn’t anticipated any serious trouble escaping. Wednesday had been wrong.

Wednesday doesn’t like being wrong.

She feels too much right now, and it’s confusing, unpleasant. Adrenaline is understandable, biological, but anger gets in the way of clear judgement, and that small sliver of pride . . . that’s both unexpected and disturbing. It indicates a level of investment that Wednesday should not, does not, refuses to feel in the well-being of her homicidal ex-nanny.

Wednesday squares her shoulders, steeling herself, and begins reading the incantations she’s copied from her grandmother’s spell books. They’re not written in Latin, exactly, more Latin-adjacent; traditional exorcisms don’t work well in the Addams house. Wednesday explains to Debbie that the ritual she’s performing involves a series of symbolic objects; once those objects are destroyed, the wicked soul they represent will be destroyed along with them. Wednesday then pulls the first item from the box.

Debbie gasps. “How DARE YOU?”

“What’s wrong?” Wednesday asks, satisfied. “I thought you weren’t Malibu Barbie.”

“I’m not! I’M NOT!”

“I guess we’ll find out,” Wednesday says, before stabbing Malibu Barbie in the heart—where the heart should be, at least—and then setting her on fire.

Debbie cringes, pulling back in the circle. Then, when she doesn’t immediately burst into flame, Debbie laughs triumphantly, pretending she was never concerned. Her performance is predictably overexaggerated: she’s never been that good of an actress. Wednesday suspects it’s due to how much time Debbie wastes lying to herself.

“Ha!” Debbie says now. “Looks like you got the wrong doll!”

“Did I?” Wednesday asks, and pulls Ballerina Barbie out of the box.

Debbie screams. Wednesday smiles.

#

Okay, Debbie. Think..

She’d felt a twinge of . . . something . . . when Wednesday stabbed Malibu Barbie in the chest. Not pain, exactly, more like a quick flutter in her lungs, there and gone again. She doesn’t know what the hell it was, but staring at Ballerina Barbie, Debbie is sure this time will be much worse.

Think. THINK.

Debbie smiles so hard it hurts. “Wednesday,” she says, voice sweet and understanding. “You and me, I think we got off on the wrong foot, and I feel just awful about that. It was wrong, very wrong, of me to try to kill you and everyone in your entire family, repeatedly. But if you give me a chance, I’m sure I can change—"

Wednesday picks up the knife.

“Sure,” Debbie says quickly. “I got caught up in that whole vengeful ghost routine, but you know how it is, right? You’re in the prime of your life, you’re killed by a baby, you wake up trapped in the house where you died, no cash, no body, no one to talk to . . . really, I think I was just lonely. But now, you and me, we can be friends—"

Wednesday repositions Ballerina Barbie on the altar.

“We’re not so different,” Debbie tries desperately—

Wednesday stabs Ballerina Barbie through the chest.

This time, the flutter in her chest doesn’t disappear; instead, it spreads throughout her whole body, vibrating like moths just underneath her skin. “Fine!” Debbie snaps, as the strange sensation flutters through her. “We’re different! I’m nothing like you or your weird little family! I had the good grace to die!”

“You weren’t gracious very long,” Wednesday points out.

“I had unfinished business!”

“Everyone does,” Wednesday says, and sets Ballerina Barbie on fire.

Debbie braces herself, as if you can prepare yourself for spontaneous combustion—but instead, the fluttering only grows more violent, insistent, like it’s straining against her skin, like something is yanking the moths straight through her flesh. Then, suddenly, it’s gone, and Debbie feels . . . looser, somehow, lighter than she’s felt in years.

“What is this?” she demands. “What are you taking from me?”

Wednesday watches the plastic melt, expressionless.

“The first doll,” she says finally, “represents how others saw you. The second doll represents how you see yourself. These layers have to be stripped away before the third and final doll.”

And,” Debbie says impatiently, when Wednesday doesn’t continue. “The third doll represents . . . ?”

Wednesday pulls the last Barbie out of the box.

This Barbie’s hair is blonde, cut into a bob. She’s wearing white pumps and a white short-sleeved dress with a deep plunge. She’s grinning wildly. Her hands are covered in blood. She comes with accessories: a diamond ring, an axe, several tiny wigs.

“Who you really are,” Wednesday says. “Serial Killer Barbie.”

What?” Debbie asks, outraged. “No! That’s not . . . that doesn’t even look like me!”

It looks exactly like her. Wednesday doesn’t even bother to raise an eyebrow, much less argue.

“Okay,” Debbie admits, throwing up her hands. “Yes, I’ve killed people, several people—and each and every one of them deserved it! But that’s—those are just things I’ve done. They aren’t who I am!”

Wednesday silently begins cleaning ash off the altar.

“It’s not!” Debbie insists, although the more she does, the less certain she is. That tiny voice inside her, the one that she usually brushes aside so easily, seems so much louder now. Whatever Wednesday’s done to her, Debbie can’t ignore it anymore.

You are a killer. That’s okay! Just admit it.

She won’t. “Real killers, they murder because they enjoy it. They do it for fun. I’m not like them; I kill for money! I kill to survive.”

Oh, come on. Did you really need that Mercedes to survive?

YES. Out loud, Debbie says, “I did it for justice. I know who I am.”

Wednesday remains silent.

“I like jewelry,” Debbie says, which is true. The voice can’t argue with that. “I like pretty things, champagne, first class, pastels. I’m graceful. I’m delicate!”

No, you’re not, the voice says.

It’s right.

Debbie isn’t delicate. She’s impatient, bold, resourceful, creative. She gets what she wants, when she wants it, and will do anything and everything to make that happen. Debbie isn’t fragile. She’s a doer, and what she does is murder.

She’s a doer, and she likes what she does.

It feels like a failure, admitting it, but somehow . . . it’s also a relief? It feels like another weight off her shoulders. Debbie had no idea she was carrying this much.

Unfortunately, her relief is short-lived, as Wednesday puts Serial Killer Barbie on the altar.

“Wait!” Debbie yells. “Wait! There has to be something you want!”

Wednesday stares at her pointedly.

“Something other than me dead,” Debbie clarifies, exasperated. She’s never had to win anybody over without using flattery or seduction before; it’s really getting on her nerves. Can’t Wednesday just forgive her already? She’s had revelations here! “There has to be something I can do for you. Let’s negotiate.”

“You have nothing to bargain with,” Wednesday says.

“But I do,” Debbie says, as she desperately tries to think of something. What does she have that Wednesday would actually want? Makeup tips? Honeymoon locations? Oh— “I can tell you about all the best places to lie low after killing your husband! Have you ever been to Maui? Because I really think you’d—”

Wednesday picks up the knife.

“Okay, not Maui! I—I can give you advice about boys! I can help you kill them! I can help you kill anyone!”

Wednesday crosses her arms. “I don’t need help with that.”

Debbie rolls her eyes. “Oh, you know every method of murder? Every way to decapitate someone? Every single poison?”

“Yes,” Wednesday says.

“All right. Name your favorite poison, then.”

“Arsenic.”

Debbie laughs. Her full laugh, even: loud and uncontrolled, body bending with the force of it. “Arsenic? I thought you were supposed to be good at this.”

Wednesday crosses her arms tighter. “It’s a classic poison, dissolves easily, tasteless, odorless—”

“Leaves a telltale garlic smell on the victim’s breath. What else you got?”

“Thallium—”

“Sure,” Debbie says, laughing even louder. “If you want to explain away the hair loss.”

Wednesday narrows her eyes. “I suppose you prefer something uselessly flashy and dramatic, like strychnine.”

“Taxine,” Debbie counters smugly.

Wednesday raises an eyebrow. “Any child can recognize taxine.”

“I think you and I have met very different children,” Debbie says.

“It’s noticeably bitter.”

“So don’t put it in hot chocolate,” Debbie snaps. “It’s fast-acting. Death happens so quickly that most people miss the warning signs entirely.”

Wednesday is silent. “Your points are adequate,” she acknowledges eventually. Debbie’s allowed no time to enjoy her victory, though, because she continues, “I still don’t need your help.”

Debbie groans. “As I just discovered in my post-death existential crisis, life isn’t always about what you need. Did I need that Mercedes my husband promised me? No, but I wanted it. The question is, what do you want?”

Wednesday seems to actually consider it.

“I want the neighbors dead,” she says finally. “I want someone to seek vengeance with. I want an accomplice.”

“You’re lonely. No one else is on your level.” Debbie pushes as much false sympathy into her voice as she can, purely out of habit—although, maybe her sympathy isn’t entirely feigned. No one’s ever been on Debbie’s level, either. No one’s ever truly understood her before. This is something they share.

“You’re not on my level, either,” Wednesday says, unmoved.

Debbie’s smile tightens. “You’re not an easy person to bond with, are you?”

“No,” Wednesday says, completely unapologetic . “But it’s possible we could work well together anyway.“

“Yes! That’s just what I was—”

“Except I can’t trust you.”

Debbie blinks innocently. “Of course you can trust me!”

Wednesday wordlessly tugs on the stump of her braid.

“Well,” Debbie says, “obviously that’s all in the past.”

“It was fifteen minutes ago.”

“Like I said,” Debbie says, exasperated all over again. “The past. From here on, I swear, I’ll never try to kill you again.”

“And my family?”

Debbie balks. Just . . . give up her whole revenge? She’s earned that revenge! She deserves it.

But she’s also in a tight spot here, and Debbie has always been a survivor. Well. Until she wasn’t, but that’s not the point. “How about half your family?” she tries.

“No.”

“Just let me have Fester and Pubert, then. You don’t even like Pubert! I stopped you from killing him five years ago!”

“He’s grown on me.”

“Has he?”

“No,” Wednesday says. “But he’s an Addams. He’s not yours to kill.”

“I’m an Addams,” Debbie protests indignantly. Immediately after making this statement, Debbie realized that it was true.

“I’m an Addams,” she says again, more softly.

It doesn’t fill her with pride, exactly, but it doesn’t disgust her, either, the way it might have done only just yesterday. It feels true, correct. She really isn’t Ballerina Barbie. She’s Serial Killer Barbie. She’s Homicidal Ghost Barbie.

She’s an Addams, and she belongs here.

“You’re a Jellinsky-Addams,” Wednesday says, unrelenting.

Debbie puts a hand on her hips. “Still counts.”

Wednesday thinks about it.

Wednesday sets down the knife.

Wednesday says, “All right. But there would have to be rules.”

“I can do rules,” Debbie lies enthusiastically.

“There would be a binding contract to ensure you obeyed the rules or were violently torn apart by hellhounds,” Wednesday says.

“Oh, fine,” Debbie agrees, less enthusiastically.

“Rule No. 1: No physically attacking, maiming, or otherwise trying to kill me. Rule No. 2: No physically attacking, maiming, or otherwise trying to kill anyone in my family—"

“No deal,” Debbie says immediately. “I’m not only going to murder the people you want dead.”

“There could be a ritual,” Wednesday allows. “Offerings made to appease the murderous soul.”

Debbie’s eyes light up. “What kind of offerings?”

 

#

Wednesday’s family returns from their Californian vacation carrying a hacksaw, a pair of bloodstained Mickey Mouse ears, and a mysterious red cooler they definitely hadn’t left the house with. Wednesday has several questions; unfortunately, they have questions of their own, mostly about her new haircut (a bob was the only way to salvage the situation), and what really happened to the neighbors, who died at home from mysterious double heart attacks.

“Wednesday,” Mother chides, unable to control the subtle upturn of her lips.

“They had to go,” Wednesday says, unrepentant. When her parents begin to predictably protest, she adds, “I’ve made a sacred compact with the homicidal ghost.”

Immediately, the neighbors are forgotten.

“How wonderful!” Mother says.

“We should celebrate!” Father says.

“Who’s the ghost?” Pugsley asks. “An axe-murderer?”

“A witch burned at the stake?”

“A demented barber?”

“A cannibal?” Uncle Fester asks hopefully.

Wednesday doesn’t respond, just leads everyone down to the basement, where they each happily take a seat in front of the slide projector. Wednesday is less happy about this part, but Debbie had insisted.

She starts the presentation. It begins with a picture of the Harts, shortly before Wednesday and Debbie terrified them to death, then a picture of their corpses, and then a picture of Wednesday standing next to a shimmering specter of death. Finally, they reach the actual relevant material.

RULES AND STIPULATIONS FOR THE ADDAMS FAMILY CONTRACT

1.Debbie Jellinsky-Addams, henceforth known as The Ghost, will not directly or indirectly attempt to physically harm, maim, or kill any of the current living residents of the Addams household, henceforth known as The Family, unless one of the following conditions are met:

1A. The Family fails to make their monthly offering to appease The Ghost’s wrath. Acceptable offerings include cash, designer hats, designer shoes, and jewelry. Counterfeit money, apparel, and gemstones will immediately render this contract null and void.

1B. It is the yearly anniversary of The Ghost’s untimely demise, in which case The Ghost is free to try and kill anyone in The Family. This period will last no longer than 24 hours, beginning and ending at midnight. The Family has every right to vacate the premises during this time, but it would not be considered very sporting of them.

1C. The Family deliberately waives the right to personal safety and verbally agrees to let The Ghost hunt them for entertainment or cardio purposes.

1D. Any living human, resident or not, willingly summons the Ghost and makes their own blood compact with her on the night of the full moon, in which case the stipulations of the new contract will supersede the previous contract if they are in conflict.

1E. The Family is the first to break the conditions agreed to in this contract.

2. If the Ghost were to attack the Family under the conditions of 1D, the Family may attempt to defend themselves by means of renegotiation, dark magic, or ritual exorcism.

3. The Family agrees not to attempt any banishment or exorcism rituals unless the conditions of rule 2 apply.

4. If the Ghost is the first to break the conditions agreed to in this contract, hellhounds will violently tear the Ghost apart and drag what’s left of her soul to Hell.

Signed in blood,

DEBBIE JELLINSKY-ADDAMS
WEDNESDAY ADDAMS

“You’ll all have to sign,” Wednesday tells her family after turning off the projector. Debbie hasn’t materialized yet, but Wednesday can feel her nervous energy hovering nearby. What if they don’t go for it? she’d asked this morning, when what she’d obviously meant was Do you think they’ll welcome me again? Do you think they like me at all? Debbie’s insecurity is a tedious stumbling block, but it’s all right. They’ll work on it.

Uncle Fester staggers to his feet. “Oh, Debbie,” he says, openly sobbing. “Is it really you?”

A shimmer of pastels appears in the air, and, for just a moment, Debbie appears.

Everyone bursts into applause.

“Bravo!” Father yells, as Lurch makes a vaguely approving noise, and Thing claps his hand against the wall. “Bravo!”

For a moment, just a moment, Debbie and Wednesday glance at each other and smile.