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Already on the steps, in the hall he heard a strange noise, which seemed to proceed from Spalanzani’s room. There was a stamping, a clattering, a pushing, a hurling against the door, intermingled with curses and imprecations.

“Let go, let go, rascal!—scoundrel! Body and soul ventured in it? Ha, ha, ha! that I never will consent to—I, I made the eyes, I the clockwork—stupid blockhead with your clockwork—accursed dog of a bungling watch-maker—off with you—Satan—stop, pipe-maker—infernal beast—hold—begone—let go!”

These words were uttered by the voices of Spalanzani, and the hideous Coppelius, who was thus raging and clamoring. Nathaniel rushed in, overcome by the most inexpressible anguish.

The professor held a female figure fast by the shoulders, the Italian Coppola grasped it by the feet, and thus they were tugging and pulling, this way and that, contending for the possession of it, with the utmost fury.

Nathaniel started back with horror, when in the figure he recognised Olympia. Boiling with the wildest indignation, he was about to rescue his beloved from these infuriated men, but at that moment, Coppola, turning himself with the force of a giant, wrenched the figure from the professor’s hand, and then with the figure itself gave him a tremendous blow, which made him reel and fall backwards over the table, where vials, retorts, bottles, and glass cylinders were standing. All these were dashed to a thousand shivers.

Now Coppola flung the figure across his shoulders, and, with frightful, yelling laughter, dashed down the stairs, so that the feet of the figure, which dangled in the ugliest manner, rattled with a wooden sound on every step. Nathaniel stood paralysed; he had seen but too plainly that Olympia’s waxen, deadly pale countenance had no eyes, but black holes instead.

The Sandman, by E.T.A. Hoffman

When he arrived at Spalazani’s, the front door was ajar. Had the professor left it open for Nate so he could sneak in and surprise Olympia? How thoughtful of him. But as Nate pushed it open, as quietly as he could, raised voices from the main parlor greeted him. Two voices, both male, one enraged and one pleading. What the hell was going on? Where was Olympia? His heart in his throat, Nate followed the voices.

The parlor was in ruins, the furniture overturned, the elegant glass coffee table in pieces strewn across the floor. Two men grappled over a prone form on the floor, a woman with striking auburn hair. Olympia!

Unseen, Nate started to rush to her side then froze as he recognized the combatants. One was, of course, Olympia’s father. The other…the other was the manifestation of Nate’s childhood fears.

Coppelius. The Sandman.

He was still dressed as Vandran, but he could disguise his true nature no longer. His face was distorted with rage, the way it had been the night he’d discovered Nate hiding in his father’s laboratory. Nate had been right all along. But what was he doing here?

Coppelius was screaming into Spalazani’s face. A large vein pulsed in his neck, and his features were purple with rage. “You promised! You promised they’d be married by now!”

Spalazani was clearly on the losing end of the fight, the corner of his mouth leaking blood as he tried to wrest Coppelius’s meaty hands from his collar. “They will be! He’s going to propose today, I’m sure of it. I—”

“No! It’s too late. It’s over. I’m taking these with me.” He brandished something in his hands, something that made Spalazani blanch and shriek with anguish.

“No! You can’t! You promised! You—”

“Your time’s run out! Someone’s onto us, you fool. You had your chance.” He twisted Spalazani’s collar between his fingers, and the professor began to choke. “I can’t get caught. Do you have any idea what would happen to me? I was close, so close, and then you ruined it!” He gave Spalazani a shake, and the professor’s head jerked violently on his neck. “You should’ve pushed him harder. You and that corpse child of yours.” With one last push, he tossed Spalazani to the ground.

“Please,” Spalazani pleaded from the floor. “Please, just leave them with me. I’ll get you your money, I promise. Just leave me the eyes. She needs them.”

The eyes. The room started to spin.

“No. I made them—they’re mine. We had a deal. No money, no eyes. I’ll finish this myself.” And with that, Coppelius spun on his heel and stalked away, his shoes grinding shards of glass into the glossy marble floor.

Spalazani crawled after him, screaming wordlessly, his hands bleeding from a dozen cuts. Halfway across the room, he gave up and collapsed facedown, sobbing.

But Nate had eyes only for Olympia. He staggered over to where she lay, and ignoring Spalazani, put his hand on her shoulder. “Olympia? My love? Are you all right?”

As usual, she said nothing, but this silence was different, not the silence of a profound spirit, but of shock and pain. Her hands were raised to her face, covering her eyes.

The eyes. The eyes.

“Olympia?” When she didn’t move, Nate took a deep breath, placed his hands over hers, and tried one more time. “My love?”

Slowly, he pulled her hands away.

Clara, Dreaming by A.W. Cross