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Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Chester and Serena Wolcott are very serious people who haven't ever had any interest in having children, they're far too untidy, until they both do all of a sudden. All the men at Chester’s firm will be very impressed as will all the ladies in Serena's charitable foundations. They immediately get pregnant and have not one but two perfect children, though, when they learned they were having twins, they of course wanted one boy and one girl but instead had two baby girls, Jacqueline and Jillian. 

The babies are too much for Serena to handle and, well, Chester is a man and therefore doesn't have anything to do with them, so they call Chester's mother to come care for the children, but pretend she is a nanny and/or too frail to care for herself on her own and they tell everyone they are charitably supporting her. As the girls grow, Chester and Serena force them into boxes. Jacqueline seems timid, so she's the girly one and made to wear frilly dresses and is never permitted to get dirty. Jillian seemed more rambunctious one time, so she's the tomboy. They cut her hair into a pixie cut and buy her jeans. After the girls turn five, Chester and Serena send the girls’ grandmother away, assuming they can handle everything now, even though they have never done anything loving for their children.

The girls continue to grow into the people their parents force them to be. Jacqueline is the pretty one that everyone fawns over and Jillian is the sporty one, though she wishes people would fawn over her too. The girls spend a lot of their time hating each other because they each want what the other has. One day, when the girls are twelve, it is pouring down rain outside and Jillian gets bored. After some pestering, Jillian convinces Jacqueline to go to the attic to play with their grandmother's old costume trunk. When they open it, however, they don't find dress up clothes and props. Instead, they find a stairwell that leads down down down to a doorway with a sign on it that says Be Sure. They go through.

On the other side of the door, the girls encounter a huge field under a blood red moon. They don't know it yet, but they are in the Moors. They run and explore and enjoy themselves for a little while, but then they realize the door is gone and they have to figure out what to do. There are a few different ways they can go and Jacqueline lets Jillian choose. There are mountains and a sea, but instead of going toward either one of those, they keep going through the moors until they fall down a hill and tumble into a wall. In the wall is a gate, and Jacqueline knocks on it.

The doors open and the girls are greeted by a tall, pale man with blood red lips. They apologize for disturbing him and explain that they were in their house and found stairs that led to the door that led them here and they don't know where they are. The man asks if the door said to Be Sure and if they were before they went through. They both tell him no, which he appreciates because it is not a lie. After asking their names, the man takes Jacqueline and Jillian, or Jack and Jill as he calls them, which their parents never permitted, to his huge castle to get something to eat.

Inside, the man tells Jack and Jill that he is the Master of the Moors and they will be permitted to stay with him in safety for three days, but after the third moon rise, they will follow the rules and behave as everyone else in the Moors. As they enter the dining room, the Master calls for his maid to get dinner for the girls and asks another servant to call Dr. Bleak. Mary brings two dinners, one that looks very rare and bloody and one that is simpler and Jill immediately chooses the bloody meal, which looks a lot like the Master's meal. Jill seems enthralled by this place and the Master but Jack is more curious. At first, the Master seemed very interested in Jack because of her girliness and beauty, but now he seems more intrigued by Jill.

Dr. Bleak arrives shortly after the meal begins and the two men discuss which girl they will keep. Wait. What? No one's keeping anyone! Dr. Bleak explains that it could be a very long time before they're able to get their door and that he and the Master have agreed to care for the foundlings when they arrive, in their own ways of course. The Master tells them that they will want for nothing and Dr. Bleak says he will teach them but they will have to work hard. For now though, they have three days with the Master.

Their first night with the Master, Jack tells Jill that she wants to go with Dr. Bleak, but Jill says she wants to stay with the Master and that they don’t always have to do whatever Jack wants, which has never actually happened before, but Jill just seems to want to be petulant. Jack is worried because she doesn’t think Jill understands that the Master isn’t all he seems to be, so she tells her sister that they don’t have to stay together, which hurts Jill’s feelings a little. 

The next day, Mary comes to wake the girls for breakfast. Instead of eating, Jack decides to go straight down and tell Dr. Bleak that she wants to come with him. Mary tells her that she’ll be saving her sister a lot of pain and grief if she goes with Dr. Bleak because the Master would just toy with Jill for their three days of sanctuary before choosing to keep Jack, which would break Jill’s heart. When Jack makes her choice, the Master asks Dr. Bleak why he shouldn't just kill her, but Dr. Bleak explains that the master might need Jack to draw parts from if something were to happen to Jill. The Master relents. What does that mean?!

When Jill finishes her breakfast, and Jack's too, she tells Mary she wants to go see the Master to tell him she’d like to stay with him. Mary tells her she no longer has a choice, which makes Jill mad. Just because Jack chose first, Jill gets no choice at all? Well, it doesn't matter, because she chose to stay with the Master when she first saw him, and she tells him that. He tells her she will want for nothing and will have the finest tailors and tutors, then smiles at her with a mouth full of sharp white teeth.

Jack follows Dr. Bleak across the Moors for an exhaustingly long time. He tells her that the Moors are dangerous at night and pushes her to continue in a strict but kind manner. They finally arrive at a giant windmill that Dr. Bleak calls home, and now Jack will too. He tells her not to touch anything she doesn't understand and to ask questions. He appreciates when she says she doesn't know any questions yet, but she does know that he will give her the answers so she'll have to put everything together later. She asks for more practical clothes and to get cleaned up so he gives her a trunk of clothing to choose from and a kettle to fill from the well for a bath. He gives her two hours to figure out what to do and heads back onto the Moors. When he returns, Jack has cleaned herself and the tub and is ready to learn.

Jill meanwhile is led to an exquisite bathing pool that looks fit for a mermaid. She luxuriates in the bubbles and oils until it is time for lunch. Before eating though, she is dressed in a gorgeous gown and given a purple choker that she must always wear. Mary tries to warn Jill about the Master clearly being a vampire, but Jill is too wrapped up in finally being the pretty pampered twin that gets to wear frilly dresses and be fawned over. She even gets to grow out her hair! If she knew her sister, who frets over being too dirty, was toiling away gathering her own bath water, would she have felt bad for her? No. Probably not.

A couple of years pass and the girls change. After getting their first periods on the same day, Jack invents a way to hide the smell of blood from the monsters on the Moors and the townswomen appreciate her while Jill bleeds out comfortably in her mermaid bathing pool. The Master finally reveals his teeth to her and she is finally allowed to remove her choker for him. She becomes his daughter in all but name. Jill is on her way to an immortal life as a vampire while Jack learns to create immortality through science. She and Dr. Bleak bring a beautiful girl back to life with lightning, and that girl, Alexis, brings Jack to life with a kiss. Both Jack and Jill know that they are finally home and that they never want to go back through their door.

Another couple of years later, after spending a rousing time with Alexis, Jack is called by Dr. Bleak to go to town for some supplies. Night will be coming quickly but Dr. Bleak knows that the girls will be safe on their way to and from town because vampires won't bother them - Alexis because she's died and been resurrected and, for some magically scientific reason, that means she can't become a vampire and Jack because her sister is very nearly a vampire and should be reminded that her twin exists and that they are both living, human girls.

Jack and Alexis walk to the village, hand in gloved hand, soft and buxom with taut and thin, and Alexis talks of her desires to touch and be touched by Jack without gloves and excessive bathing, but Jack’s mother taught her to be terrified of dirt before she could even spell her name and unfortunately this is just how she is now. They make it to the village and are allowed to pass through the gate. Jill, up on the battlements of her castle, stares down at them. Her Master has said he will not make her a vampire until she is an adult, so she has two more years that she must wait. Seeing her sister with the fat girl from the village makes her angry.

Jack and Alexis sit to eat dinner with Alexis’s family in their inn, but suddenly, the door bursts open and Jill comes inside, mocking Jack for coming to stuff her face with her fat friend instead of coming to see her sister. Jack sees that Alexis and her family are terrified, so she apologizes for her “crankiness” and placates her sister, suggesting that they go shopping for Dr. Bleak's supplies together and offering to buy her something pretty. 

Jill is not accustomed to paying or respecting anyone in the village, so she's awful to everyone while Jack tries to maintain her relationship with the shopkeepers. Jill flounces off with a handful of ribbons from one vendor telling her that her sister will pay, but Jack doesn't have enough money. She promises to return with more money, but the vendor tells her to go away before the Master notices and thinks that they are friends. Anyone who is friends with Jill or her sister seems to die because the Master is a very jealous man. Jack rushes home to her windmill and straight into Dr. Bleak who comforts her in his own way while she cries.

For the next little while, Jack does extra chores instead of going to the village and eventually, Alexis starts visiting more and more often. Nothing happened to her or her family after the night Jack and Jill had their encounter, so things seem to be back to normal. On the day marking their fifth anniversary of going through their door, Mary wakes Jill with a bouquet of red roses and Jill is excited. The Master must have decided to change her, to make her his daughter and a vampire. Mary tells her this isn't so, that the Master intends to wait until the start of the next season to ensure that Jill is definitely eighteen and therefore not at risk for her door to return. Jill gets mad at Mary. What does she know? She turned down the Master's offer to make her a vampire. Mary tells Jill that she didn't want to become ruthless, and she would have if the Master changed her. Jill intends to prove she can be ruthless now, so there's no need for the Master to wait.

Jill dresses in a cream gown and covers herself with an ugly brown cloak. She sneaks out of the castle toward the inn, knowing that Alexis will be heading to the windmill to see Jack soon. She sees Alexis kiss her mother goodbye and leave through the gates carrying a basket of apples and bread and wine. Jill follows and reaches for Alexis’s shoulder. She turns, thinking Jill is Jack until she realizes she is not. Jill throws her cloak to the ground and pulls a knife from the bodice of her dress.

Jack is worried about Alexis. She's never late! Dr. Bleak knows that being late in the Moors isn't an innocent thing, but tells Jack she can go look for Alexis, but to be sure to return to do her chores before her anniversary festivities can begin. Jack sees red and knows that nothing red grows in the Moors. She sees a spilled basket with red apples and bread. She wants to gather the items, not wanting to waste anything and not wanting to look at the cause of all the red, but she can't tell if the apples are clean enough to pick up. Soon Dr. Bleak arrives and offers to try to resurrect Alexis again, knowing that a second resurrection could create a monster, but Jack wants him to try. He carries the body back to the windmill and sends Jack off to retrieve her love's missing heart.

Jack follows a trail of blood through the gates of the village and hears a ruckus inside. The villagers are shouting at someone, calling them a witch, a beast, a monster. Jill stands opposite of the crowd with arms covered in red like gloves, saying that they can't talk to her that way because she belongs to the Master. Mary arrives then and tells the crowd that they can do with Jill what they will because she killed someone without the Master's permission and without being a vampire. Even though he rules the villagers and even drinks their blood, he must also protect them from wrongful death. The Master has revoked his protection over Jill. 

Jack could leave her sister to the mob, but deep down, she still loves her because Alexis taught her how to love, so she rushes to Jill and grabs her hand. Together, they run to the windmill. Dr. Bleak hears them coming, covers Alexis's body, and grabs a cloth. When the sisters arrive, Dr. Bleak knocks Jill out with the chloroformed cloth, then grabs a machine and a jar of lighting and heads to the back door of the windmill. He tells Jack that he's sending them back where they came from because of course he has harnessed the power of the doors. He’s a scientist! He doesn't want to send Jack away but he knows the Master will burn the village to the ground if they kill his almost-daughter, even though he revoked his protection over her. Dr. Bleak tells Jack that she should wait a year to come back and that she can open the door with blood on her hands, hers or her sister's, but that if she does come back, it must be alone or with her sister's corpse. Jill cannot come back the way she is now. The door opens and the sisters go through.

Jack carries a still unconscious Jill up the long staircase until she stirs and asks where they are. Jack drops her sister and tells her they are on the stairs and that the Moors kicked them out. Jill tries to turn back, but it's no use. The door is gone and the stairs are disappearing. Jack opens the lid of the trunk that they climbed into five years ago and the sisters exit into the attic that still smells faintly like their grandmother. When the lid closes, Jill panics and digs through the costumes and props, trying to find the stairs, but they are gone. The sisters huddle together and go downstairs to find their mother and father and an impeccably clean young boy sitting around a dinner table.

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