Girl of Nightmares


Page 7


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In the middle of feathers and musty bird smell, I shout at Carmel to keep pulling, to not let Thomas fall, but I know she won't, even though tiny beaks and claws are getting caught in her hair. As soon as we have Thomas back inside I shove them both toward the ladder.

Our feet tramp down in a panic of flapping wings. I have to remind myself to look back, to make sure the bastard isn't going to try another push.

"Where are we going?" Carmel shouts, disoriented.

"Just get out the door," Thomas and I shout back. By the time my feet hit the bottom rung of the ladder, Carmel and Thomas are way ahead, running. I sense the ghost materialize to our right, and turn. Now that I have a closer look, I can see that what's wrong with the shape of his head is that the back of it is caved in. I can also see that he's holding the pitchfork.

Just before he throws it, I shout something at Carmel. It must be the right thing, because she whirls to see what it is and jerks her body to the left just before the tines of the pitchfork impale the wall. She finally starts screaming and the sound sharpens me; I draw my arm back and throw the athame in a snapping motion. It flies through the air and finds its home in the farmer's gut. For an instant, he looks my way, at me and right through me, with eyes like tepid pools of water. I don't feel anything this time. I don't wonder where the knife is sending him. I don't wonder whether the Obeahman can still feel it. When he wavers right out of existence like a ripple of heat, I'm just glad he's gone. He almost killed my friends. Fuck that guy.

The athame hits the ground with a soft thud and I run to pick it up before going to Carmel, who is still screaming.

"Carmel! Are you hurt? Did it get you?" Thomas asks. He inspects her as she whips her head back and forth in a panic. The pitchfork came just that close. So close that one of the tines stabbed through the shoulder of her coat and pinned her to the wall. I reach up and yank the pitchfork loose, and she jumps away, brushing at her coat like it's dirty. She's equal parts scared and pissed off, and when she screams, "You stupid ass**le!" I can't help but feel like she's screaming at me.

CHAPTER TWO

The athame is resting in its jar of salt, buried up to the hilt in white crystals. The morning sun coming through the window hits the glass of the jar and refracts in every direction, bright gold, almost like a halo . My dad and I used to sit and stare at it, stuffed into this same jar, having been purified by moonlight. He called it Excalibur. I don't call it anything.

Behind me, my mom is frying eggs. A set of her freshest spell candles are stacked on the countertop. There are three different colors, each with a different smell. Green for prosperity, red for passion, white for clarity. Next to them are three small stacks of parchment bearing three different incantations, to be wrapped around the candles and tied with string.

"Toast or no toast?" she asks.

"Toast," I reply. "Do we have any more saskatoon jam?"

She gets it out and I pop four pieces of bread into the toaster. When they're done, I layer them with butter and jam and take them to the table, where my mom has already set our plates with eggs.

"Get the juice, would you?" she says, and as I'm half-buried in the refrigerator, "So, are you going to tell me how things went Saturday night?"

I stand up and pour two glasses of orange juice. "I was on the fence about it." The ride back from Grand Marais was near silent. By the time we got home, it was Sunday morning, and I immediately passed out, only regaining consciousness to watch one of the Matrix movies on cable before passing back out and sleeping through the night. It was the best avoidance plan I'd ever come up with.

"Well," my mom says chirpily, "get off the fence and dive in. You have to be to school in half an hour."

I sit down at the table and set down the juice. My eyes stay trained on the eggs, which stare back at me with yellow yolk pupils. I jab them with my fork. What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to make sense of it for her, when I haven't made sense of it myself? That was Anna's laugh. It was clear as a bell, unmistakable, falling out of the farmer's black throat. But that's impossible. Anna is gone. Only I can't let her go. So my mind has started making things up. That's what the daylight tells me. That's what any sane person would tell me.

"I messed up," I say into my plate. "I wasn't sharp enough."

"But you got him, didn't you?"

"Not before he pushed Thomas out a window and almost turned Carmel into shish kebab." My appetite is suddenly gone. Not even the saskatoon jam looks tempting. "They shouldn't come with me anymore. I never should have let them."

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