Girl of Nightmares


Page 21


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"Gideon? Where have you been? Did you get my message?"

"Early this morning. I would have called, but you'd have been asleep. You sound terrible, Theseus."

"You should see how I look." My hand drags roughly across my face, muffling the last few words. Ever since I was a kid, Gideon could solve any problem. Whenever I needed answers, he had them. And he's who my dad turned to, if things got rough. He has his own brand of magic, popping in and out of my childhood at the perfect times, coming through our front door in a dapper suit with some weird English food for me to try. Whenever I saw his bespectacled face, I knew everything was going to be okay. But this time I get the feeling that he doesn't want to hear what I have to say.

"Theseus?"

"Yeah, Gideon?"

"Tell me what's happened."

What's happened. He makes it sound so easy. I must've sat in my bedroom with Anna for four hours, watching her skin peel back and her eyes leak blood. Sometime between then and dawn, I fell asleep, because when I opened my eyes it was morning, and the foot of my bed was empty.

And now it's daytime, full-on sunshine with its ridiculous sense of safety. It drives everything that happens in the dark a million miles away. It makes it seem impossible, and even though the memory of Anna's wounds is fresh and the image of her burning inside that furnace is blasted onto the backs of my eyelids, in the daylight it almost feels like make-believe.

"Theseus?"

I take a breath. I'm standing on my front porch, and the morning is quiet except for the creaking boards beneath my feet. There's no breeze, and the sun is livening the leaves, warming the fabric of my shirt. I'm acutely aware of the empty space in the bushes where I saw Anna standing, staring in.

"Anna's back."

On the other end of the line, something clatters to the floor.

"Gideon?"

"She can't be. It isn't possible." His voice has gone low and terse, and somewhere inside me a five-year-old cringes. After all these years, Gideon's anger still has power. One harsh word from him and I'm a puppy with its tail between its legs.

"Possible or not, she's here. She's contacting me, like she's asking for help. I don't know how. I need to know what to do." The words fall out without a note of hope. All of a sudden it hits-how tired I am . How old I feel. Morfran's words, about destroying the athame, melting it down, and letting it fall into deep water, twist in the back of my head. The thought is disconnected, but comforting, and it has something to do with Thomas and Carmel, and something else, if I let my mind wander a little farther. Something I said to Anna once, about possibilities. And choices.

"I think it's the athame," I say. "I think something's happening to it."

"Don't blame the athame. You're the one who wields it. Don't forget that," he says, his voice stern.

"I never forget that. Not for a single minute. Not since Dad died."

Gideon sighs. "When I met your father," he says, "he wasn't much older than you are now. Of course, he hadn't been using the athame for near so long as you have. But I remember thinking how old he seemed.

"He wanted to give it up once, you know."

"No," I say. "He never told me."

"Well, I suppose that it didn't matter, afterward. Because he didn't."

"Why didn't he? It would have been better for everyone if he had. He'd still be here." I stop suddenly and Gideon lets me finish my own thought. My dad would still be here. But other people wouldn't. He saved who knows how many lives by putting away the dead, and so have I.

"What am I going to do about Anna?" I ask.

"Nothing."

"Nothing? You can't be serious."

"I am serious," he says. "Quite serious. The girl was tragic. We all know that. But you need to put her away and do your job. Stop looking for things you have no business looking for." He pauses, and I don't say anything. It's almost exactly what Morfran said, and it makes the hairs stand up on my forearms.

"Theseus, if you've ever trusted me before, trust me now. Just do your job. Do your job, and let the girl go, and none of us have anything to fear."

* * *

I go back to school, to the surprise of nearly everyone. Apparently, Carmel had already circulated news of my "illness." So I put up with curious questions, and when they ask about my sore and bandaged shoulder, the white edge sticking up from my shirt collar, I grit my teeth and tell them about my camping accident. It was funny at the time but now I wish my mom had picked a less embarrassing cover story.

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