Girl of Nightmares


Page 4


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"Like we have anything better to do?" I say. In my backpack, the athame shifts. The knowledge of it there, tucked into its leather sheath, sharp as a razor without ever needing to be sharpened, makes me uneasy. It almost makes me wish I were back on that damned date.

Ever since the confrontation with the Obeahman, when I found out that the knife had been linked to him, I … I don't know. It's not that I'm afraid of it. It still feels like it's mine. And Gideon assures me that the link between it and the Obeahman has been severed, that the ghosts I kill now no longer go to him, feeding him and increasing his power. Now they go where they were supposed to go. If anyone would know, it would be Gideon, over in London, knee-deep in musty books. He was with my dad since the beginning. But when I needed a second opinion, Thomas and I went to the antique shop and listened to his grandfather Morfran run through a speech about how energy is contained on certain planes, and that the Obeahman and the athame don't exist on the same plane anymore. Whatever that means.

So I'm not afraid of it. But sometimes I feel its power reach out and give me a shove. It's a little bit more than an inanimate thing, and sometimes I wonder what it wants.

"Still," Carmel says, "even if it is a ghost, it only kills once every few years? What if it doesn't want to kill us?"

"Well," Thomas starts sheepishly, "after the last time we came up empty-handed, I started working on this." He reaches into the pocket of his Army surplus jacket and pulls out a circular piece of light-colored stone. It's flat and about one inch thick, like a large, fat coin. There's a symbol carved into one side, something that looks like a modified Celtic knot.

"A runestone," I say.

"It's pretty," Carmel says, and Thomas hands it to her. It really is well done. The carving is exact, and he's polished it so it shines white.

"It's a lure."

Carmel passes it to me. A rune to lure them out, sort of like ghostly catnip. Very clever, if it works. I turn it over in my hand. It's cool to the touch and heavy as a hen's egg.

"So," Thomas says, taking the runestone back and pocketing it. "Do you want to try it?"

I look at the two of them and nod.

"Let's get going."

* * *

The drive to Grand Marais, Minnesota, is long, and boring in the dark. Boughs of pine trees flicker in and out of the headlights, and watching the dotted line is starting to make me motion-sick. For most of the ride down I try to sleep in the backseat, or at least feign sleep, alternately eavesdropping on and tuning out their conversation . When they whisper, I know they're talking about Anna, but they never use her name. I hear Carmel say it's hopeless, that we'll never find out where she went, and that even if we could, maybe we shouldn't. Thomas doesn't argue much; he never does where Carmel is concerned. That kind of talk used to make me angry. Now it's just commonplace.

"Turn off," Thomas says. "I think that might be the road."

I crane my head over the seat as Carmel tries to navigate the Audi down something that isn't so much a road as a mud-rutted four-by-four trail. The car has all-wheel drive, but this still poses a high risk of getting stuck. They must've had heavy rain here in the last day or so, and the tracks are covered over with puddles. I'm just about to tell Carmel to forget it, and to try to back out, when something black flashes up in the headlights.

We skid to a stop. "Is that it?" Carmel asks. "It" is an enormous black barn, standing at the edge of a barren field with dead stalks of plants shooting up like stray hairs. The house that it must have belonged to, along with any other buildings, has long since been torn down. All that remains is the barn, dark and alone, waiting for us in front of a forest of silent trees.

"Matches the description," I say.

"Description nothing," Thomas says, rooting around in his messenger bag. "We got the sketch, remember?" He pulls it out and Carmel flips on the dome light. I wish she hadn't. There's an instant sensation of being watched, like the light just gave away all of our secrets. Carmel's hand jerks to turn it off, but I put my hand on her shoulder.

"Too late."

Thomas holds the sketch up to the window, comparing it to the shadowy figure of the barn. In my opinion, it isn't much use. It's rough, and done in charcoal so everything is just a different shade of black. It came in the mail along with the tip, and is the product of a psychic trance. Somebody drew out his vision while he was having it. He probably should have opened his eyes and looked down at the paper. The sketch has a definite dreamlike quality, a blurring of the edges and lots of harsh lines. It looks like it was done by a four-year-old. But as I compare them, the barn and the sketch start to look more and more similar, like it isn't really the shape that matters so much as whatever is behind the shape.

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