Girl of Nightmares

Page 30


"I have to be," I say, and she nods.

When Carmel decided to do the ritual with us, I was surprised. Ever since that day in the hall, when I saw the detachment lurking behind her eyes, I haven't been able to look at her the same way. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was hallucinating. Three hours of sleep riddled with dreams of your girlfriend killing herself will do that to you.

"This might not work at all, you know," Thomas says.

"Hey, it's okay. You're trying, right? That's all we can do." My words and voice sound reasonable. Sane. But that's because I don't have anything to worry about. It's going to work. Thomas is strung tight as a violin, and you don't need a tuning fork to feel the waves of power coming off of him. Like Aunt Riika said, he's more than witch enough.

"Guys," he says. "After this is over, can we go get a burger or something?"

"You're thinking about food now?" Carmel asks.

"Hey, you haven't spent the last three days fasting and doing herbal rue steams and drinking nothing but Morfran's gross chrysanthemum purification potions." Carmel and I grin at each other in the mirror. "It isn't easy becoming a vessel. I'm freaking starving."

I clap him on the shoulder. "Dude, when this is over, I'll buy you the whole damn menu."

The car goes quiet as we turn down Anna's road. Part of me expects to round the corner and have the house curl into our vision, still standing, still rotting on its crumbling foundation. Instead there's empty space. Carmel's headlights shine into the driveway, and the driveway leads to nothing.

After the house imploded, the city came out and cleared the debris in an effort to determine the underlying cause of the blast. They never found it, though true to form, they didn't really try. They poked around in the basement and shrugged their shoulders and filled it in with dirt. Now everything that was left is concealed completely. The place where the house stood looks like an undeveloped lot, packed dirt and scrubby, fast-growing weeds. If they had looked any closer, or dug any deeper, they might have found the bodies of Anna's victims. But the current of the dead and unknown was still too close, whispering that they should walk softly and leave it alone.

"Tell me what we're doing, again," Carmel says. Her voice is steady but her fingers are curled around the steering wheel like she's going to rip it off .

"Should be relatively easy," Thomas replies, scrounging around in his messenger bag, making sure he's remembered everything. "Or if not easy, then at least relatively simple. From what Morfran told me, the drum used to be used by Finnish witches on a regular basis, to control the spirit world and talk to the dead."

"Sounds like what we need," I say.

"Yeah. The trick of it is to be specific. The witches never cared much who they got. As long as they got someone they figured they were wise. But we want Anna. And that's where you and the house come in."

Well, we're not getting any younger. I open the door and step out. The air is mild and there's only a hint of a breeze. When my shoes crunch against the gravel the sound brings a flash of nostalgia, a jolt that takes me back six months, when the Victorian still stood and I used to come at night to talk to the dead girl inside it. Warm, fuzzy memories. Carmel hands me the camping lantern from the trunk. It illuminates her face.

"Hey," I say. "You don't have to do this. Thomas and I can handle this one on our own."

For a second she looks relieved. But then the trademark Carmel squint is back in place.

"Don't say that shit to me. Morfran can ban me from his dead tea party if he wants, but not you. I'm here to find out what happened to Anna. We all owe her that."

When she walks by, she nudges me with her shoulder, to buck me up, and I smile even though the burns are still sore. After this is over, I'm going to talk to her; we're all going to talk. We'll find out what's on her mind and set it right.

Thomas is already ahead of us. He's got his flashlight out and is strobing it around the lot. It's a good thing that the nearest neighbors are half a mile away and separated by dense forest. They'd probably think a UFO had landed. When he gets to where the house once stood, he doesn't hesitate, just jogs into the center. I know what he's looking for: the space where Malvina poked a hole through worlds. And where Anna blasted through it.

"Come on," he says after a minute, and waves to us. Carmel goes, moving carefully. I take a deep breath. My feet won't seem to cross the threshold. This is what I wanted, what I've waited for since Anna disappeared. The answers are less than twenty feet away.


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