On the day Abigail found her halo, her mother had sent her up into the attic to pick out some ornaments for their tree (for it was that time of year, with snow outside and candles burning in the window; so unlike our winters now!).
She didn't want to, of course. The attic was dark and cold, and as she climbed the ladder up she felt like she was ascending into a den of monsters. The little flashlight dangling from her wrist hardly illuminated a thing, and her neck itched so very horrible as she poked her head up through the trapdoor—
And then, as her eyes adjusted, she found that there was nothing there to be worried about (though a few old chairs covered with sheets gave her a fright!). That's how it goes for children.
Her heart still raced and her brow still sweated as she looked for the ornament box.
There really were so many boxes up there, with so many strange and intriguing labels! "Aunt's kitchen things" and "great-grandma's jewelry boxes" and "old letters" and "toys to donate" and "Abigail"—
She gasped when she saw her name, and of course she couldn't help but open it! She knew that it was probably just some old toys or books, something normal and expected, but ...
Children can find treasure in all sorts of strange places, can't they? And who knows, maybe her mother had hidden some of her old treasures here. Maybe Abigail had herself!
If only it was that.
When Abigail tugged the box over to the trapdoor and carefully undid its cardboard flaps, she found another box; and she took off its lid and cast it aside to reveal another, and another, and—
The fifth box was solid wood, not cardboard. A sturdy, unyielding thing, yet small enough for her to carry down the ladder, and sealed with a combination lock.
In her room, sitting cross-legged on the soft carpet beside her bed, Abigail considered the lock. Four numbers (were they numbers? she wasn't sure) barred her path. Shaking the box revealed nothing; no rattling clanking sound, no softly sliding secrets inside, just a stubborn silence.
She was almost about to go ask her mother about it.
But she didn't.
Instead she took the lock and turned each of its four dials and opened the lid. She couldn't have said how she knew to; an old memory? Something whispering in her ear? Even now, so many years later, she's not quite sure. Perhaps what moved her body was not her; perhaps it was more her than she has ever been willing to admit.
The box's innards glowed with a thick golden light, the sort of oozing dripping light that seeps in through your windows as the sun prepares to drift below the horizon. Wet and warm and clinging, lingering in her eyes and making her skin feel sticky and tacky—
She didn't know what to make of it, for of course the sun wasn't like that in those days; she'd never seen that sort of light before. The sunlight she knew was a pale, attenuated thing, hardly daring to do more than shed illumination and heat.
She thought it was beautiful.
The light puddling inside the box was warm and tingly against her hands when she eagerly reached in, feeling around for its source, for anything that might have been submerged inside it—it felt so strange! She almost laughed, but then her questing fingers found its source. It was ...
When she touched it she knew that it was the most real thing she had ever touched. It made everything around her thin and insubstantial; an illusion cast over the world's truth only now breaking apart. It felt like the emptiness inside her heart—
It was beautiful and real and the only thing that mattered in the fake world, so she plucked it out of its box and put it in the only place she could think it deserved to be: just over her head, just like a sword of myth or an unwary bird. It felt right.
Abigail giggled to herself and skipped out of her room to find her mother, to find out if she was real or not, humming a song she'd never heard before the thing over her head taught it to her—
Her mother wasn't.
But that was okay.
Just because something isn't real doesn't mean you can't love it.
And besides, her halo knew where her real mothers were! And it was happy to tell her exactly what she needed to do to find them, though her fake mother didn't want to cooperate at first. She screamed so much! She screamed and screamed, just like she was a real person, and she screamed more when Abigail told her how much she loved her—
It really was impolite. Abigail knew that people weren't supposed to scream like that, and some of the words she used before she went quiet, well!
But that was okay too.
Because after that her new mothers were there, one tall and sharp and one short and soft, and each more real than anything Abigail had ever seen before—
"Such a clever girl!" the soft one said.
"You made us wait for far too long," snapped the sharp one.
"I didn't know!" Abigail replied. "But I did as soon as I did."
"Not good enough."
"Dear," the soft one wrapped one of its soggy arms around her shoulders, "you can show me around while Wire Mother cleans up the mess. And do you have any little friends to introduce to me?"