Persephone Greaves stood in the dimly lit hallway and watched as the slaves lumbered by. Even in the mindless state in which the Undead allowed them to exist, Persephone didn’t trust humans. Everything about them from the way their grey skin hung loosely from their bones and gaping mouths to the milky unseeing eyes that always seem to be watching, waiting for something made her uneasy. Persephone wished her father would finish his examination of the Newmonts’ kitchen slave who had suddenly fallen ill so they could quit this place. Of course, she didn’t have to hover in the slave quarters. Lucius Newmont was in his study but would gladly keep Persephone company in the parlor.
The Ghoul was ten years Persephone’s senior and even as a lanky youth, Lucius had been very serious and solemn. The Newmonts had lost their parents towards the end of the Civil War, before the humans’ defeat, and at 14 years of age, Lucius took the responsibility of his and his sister’s welfare on to his ossified shoulders. Being business partners as well as neighbors, Dr. Sebastian Greaves assisted Captain Newmont’s children as often as Lucius would allow and so became like an extended family. Dr. Greaves would on occasion allude to a match between Persephone and Lucius but she simply was not interested.
Repulsive as Ghouls were, the Newmont siblings always made the effort to be fashionable. Lucius was tall, slender, and always well dressed. Finding the dried whispers of hair typical of his kind unacceptable, he preferred a clean-shaven head much as his sister, Emaline, cropped her own tresses short and hidden beneath an array of hats. Sunken eyes black as pitch held a cold, severe light more often than not above a short pug nose and thin lips pulled back into a macabre grin. Lucius was an intelligent, ambitious sort who always regarded Persephone and her father with the utmost respect. The creature was a little too cold in his demeanor, though, too hard and too focused on advancing his business and Persephone didn’t think him capable of love. A marriage between the pair would simply be a deal, an obligation to the Zombi who had shown his family a kindness in their time of need.
At last, Persephone heard her father say, “Lady Newmont, I’m afraid Mimi is dying. She is human after all and after 60 years of labor, the human body starts to break down. I’m surprised she’s lasted this long.”
“Oh dear, is there nothing to be done, then Dr. Greaves?” asked Emaline as the pair emerged from the darkened room.
Sebastian was soft-spoken and dignified, his sharp blue eyes, silver-white hair, and broad shoulders caught the eye of many a lady. Currently, he was looking down at the young Ghoul who clung to his arm with a hopeful expression in her sable colored eyes. Emaline Newmont was a whisper of a girl not much older than Persephone herself. She wore a black draped turban on her head and a pair of pearl drop earrings offset those that adorned her black gown.
“Not for Mimi but I must say I don’t like the look of your other slaves. Have you been feeding them regularly?” Sebastian asked.
“They get a bowl of gruel once a day which is more than most slaves get.” Emaline sniffed.
The doctor frowned. “Ah yes, and I have found myself as busy as ever making the rounds at the homes of my neighbors whose slaves have weakened and died. My advice would be to add a tablespoon of cod liver oil to the slaves’ morning gruel and a serving of vegetables with their evening gruel. Also, a cup of beef-tea before bedtime would not be amiss.”
“Our own beasts are not fed so well!” Emaline gasped.
“Your own beasts are not worked as much, milady,” Sebastian replied gently. “Unless you wish to see me here on a regular basis, you will follow my advice.”
Emaline smiled up at him. “Would it be such a trial to visit regularly?”
Dr. Greaves smiled back. “Never but it would be far more pleasant to call upon my neighbors without an illness to throw a rub in the way.”
Persephone followed the pair as they climbed the stairs to the main part of the house. In the hall, they were met by Lucius who was coming out of his study. The men bowed as the ladies curtsied.
“What say you, Dr. Greaves? Will the slave improve?” Lucius asked, his voice rumbled throughout the corridor.
“Alas no, she is an old woman whose time has come.”
Lucius nodded. “As I thought.”
“Dr. Greaves thinks we need to provide the slaves with a better diet,” Emaline added.
“The human body needs more nourishment than ours in order to function properly. The addition of cod liver oil and vegetables will extend the lives of your slaves.” Sebastian said.
Lucius regarded his neighbor with a blank countenance that was familiar to those who knew him. “Then it shall be as you say, Doctor.”
Turning to Persephone he asked, “I trust you are well, Miss Greaves. Will you be joining us for luncheon?”
“I’m afraid not, Lord Newmont. I planned on visiting with the families of those Papa will be calling today before hosting friends for tea.” Persephone responded, shooting her father a look as he opened his mouth to protest.
“Hm, pity. I shall be away on business this afternoon. Perhaps I may call upon my return?” Lucius asked.
“It would be a pleasure.” Sebastian smiled, donning his hat and cloak.
“I shall look forward to it,” Persephone said, curtseying again before rushing out the door.
Once they were outside, the doctor said, “Persephone, my dear, there was no need for you to accompany me on my rounds. Lucius and Emaline were most anxious to visit with you.”
“Nonsense, Lucius was quite busy working in his study and I will see Emaline later when she comes to tea.”
“It is good to see the lad doing so well in business.”
“He has you to thank for it, Papa.” Persephone smiled up at him as she tucked her hand beneath his arm.
“No, it is ingenuity and the enterprising nature of his kind propels him thus.” Sebastian eyed his daughter. “Such traits bode well in a husband. You would do well to set your cap for him.”
Persephone frowned. “Are you so eager to be rid of me, Papa? What would you do without me to assist you and keep you company?”
He patted her hand. “Your assistance is most vital and I shall miss your company when you are wed at last but solace shall come to me whence my grandchildren sit upon my knee.”