Authors: Nichole Van
In memory of the original Clare,
for late-night fingernail painting and cans of Dr. Pepper.
I was so blessed to have a
And to Dave,
for carrying my fear on your
and holding my hand through the dark.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
How like a winter hath my absence been from thee . . .
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen . . .
When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.
istory would call him
il Conte del Maldetto
—the Damned Earl.
His descendants would call him ‘that damned idiot.’
For his part, Giovanni D’Angelo simply called himself desperate:
Desperate to preserve his family.
Desperate to win at any cost.
Desperate enough to seek a forbidden solution.
On a dark moonless night in 1294 A.D., Giovanni slipped through the eastern gate of San Gimignano, past the gurgling
and into the woods beyond. Silently making his way to the camp of the
Giovanni begged the old gypsy woman—
—to grant his request: the gift of Sight. To see, hear, feel what had been . . . what would come. An unholy boon from her pagan gods.
“Knowledge. It is double-edged.” The
tried to explain in her broken Italian, firelight skimming her face. “You are sure?”
” He nodded, eager and bright-eyed.
Giovanni did not understand her words. Not then.
took her payment and performed the required ritual. Made the necessary sacrifice. Bestowed her gift on Giovanni and his heirs . . . forever.
Giovanni was reborn. Like birds on the wind, whisperings reached his ears. Tales of what his enemies had done, fleeting glimpses of the future.
With his newfound talents, Giovanni saved his family, outmaneuvered his opponents, crushed his rivals.
But all too soon, whispering evolved into vivid immersion. Giovanni constantly pivoted round, tracking invisible things—the past and future swirling about him.
The voices destroyed him in the end.
Not the sights nor the feelings.
It was the never-ending noise.
Giovanni threw himself off the church bell tower at the age of forty-one. Raving mad.
Twenty-five years later, his son was found swinging from the southern city gate, foam and blood dripping from his mouth.
A generation after that, his grandson strapped himself to the front of a newly-invented cannon and lit the fuse.
And so it went. Relentless.
The gift passed from first-born son to first-born son. Each D’Angelo heir dying, usually by his own hand, before his thirty-fifth year. The gypsy’s gift splintering the mind.
The family tried to remove the gift from their bloodline, but later
knew nothing of the original power used—the secret lost to history.
It continued for seven hundred years. Until a more modern age arrived.
Another first-born D’Angelo sired a child.
But in the very instant of conception—that breathless moment when life combines and sparks anew—the unforeseen happened.
Life infused . . . not once.
And then . . . split in half again.
Forever altering what had been.