Girl of Nightmares

Page 35



What I'm aware of before anything else is Carmel slapping me. Then the real pain starts. My head may very well be in three or four pieces; it hurts that bad. Blood is everywhere in my mouth, all over my tongue. It tastes like old pennies, and my body has that vibration-tinged numbness that tells me I've just recently flown through the air and come down hard. My world is pain and dim yellow light. There are familiar voices. Carmel and Thomas.

"What happened?" I ask. "Where's Anna?" A few blinks clear the fog from my eyeballs. The light from the camping lantern shines yellow. Carmel is kneeling beside me with dirt smudges on her face and a runner of blood leaking from her nose. Thomas is by her side. He looks dazed and knocked around, positively soaked with sweat, but there's no blood on him.

"I didn't know what else to do," Carmel says. "You were going to reach through. You didn't answer me. I don't think you could even hear me."

"I couldn't," I say, and push myself up onto my elbows, careful not to jar my head too much. "The spell was strong. The smoke and the drum-Thomas, are you okay?" He nods and gives a weak ten-four salute. "Did I try to reach through? Is that what caused the blast?"

"No," Carmel replies. "I grabbed the athame and burned your blood off of it, like Thomas told me. I didn't know that it would be so-I didn't know it was going to go off like a fricking block of C4. I hardly held on to it."

"I didn't know either," Thomas mutters. "I never should have asked you to do that." He presses his hand to her cheek and she lets it linger for a moment before brushing it away.

"I thought you were going to try to go through," she says. Something presses into my palm: the athame. Thomas and Carmel each take an arm and help me to my feet. "I didn't know what else to do."

"You did the right thing," Thomas tells her. "If he'd tried, he'd have probably been turned inside out. It was just a window. Not a doorway. Or a gate."

I look around the dirt lot that used to be Anna's Victorian. The ground that was beneath the circle is darker than the rest, and there are swirling wind patterns cut into it, like desert dunes . The spot where I landed is about ten feet from where I was sitting.

"Is there a doorway?" I ask loudly. "Is there a gate?"

Thomas looks at me with a jolt. He'd been walking around the remains of the circle on shaky legs, picking up his scattered supplies: the drum, the drumstick, the ornamental athame.

"What are you talking about?" they both ask.

My brain feels like scrambled eggs, and my back must be bruised like a hippo's trampoline, but I remember everything that happened. I remember what Anna said, and how she looked.

"I'm talking about a gate," I say again. "Big enough to walk through. I'm talking about opening a gate and bringing her back." I listen for a few minutes while they sputter and tell me it's impossible. They say things like, "That wasn't what the ritual was about." They tell me I'm going to get myself killed. They might be right. I guess they probably are. But it doesn't matter.

"Listen to me," I say carefully, dusting off my jeans and putting the athame back in its sheath. "Anna can't stay there."

"Cas," Carmel starts. "There's no way. It's crazy."

"You saw her, didn't you?" I ask, and they exchange a guilty glance.

"Cas, you knew that's how it might be. She-" Carmel swallows. "She killed a lot of people."

When I spin on her, Thomas takes half a step in between.

"But she saved us," he says, and Carmel mutters, "I know."

"He's there too. The Obeahman. The bastard that murdered my father. And I'm not going to let him spend eternity feeding on her." I squeeze the handle of the athame so hard my knuckles crack. "I'm going to walk through a gate. And I'm going to shove this so far down his throat that he chokes on it."

When I say that, they both take a breath. I look at them, beaten and scuffed up as a pair of old shoes. They're brave; they've been braver than I gave them credit for or had any right to expect. "If I have to do this alone, I understand. But I'm getting her out." When I'm halfway to the car, the argument starts. I hear "suicide mission" and "doomed quest for closure," both in Carmel's voice. Then I'm too far down the drive to hear what they're saying.


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