Girl of Nightmares

Page 86


"Does it matter? I'd be wrong, wouldn't I?"

She smiles. "Exactly."

I look around. This place looks the same in all directions. Even stranger is the fact that despite knowing that I'm dying somewhere behind me, there is no sense of urgency. I might stand in the same place and look around passively for Anna until it's been too late for days, until my body on the other side had been sent home and buried. It's an act of will to make my legs move. Everything here is an act of will.

When I walk, the stone juts sharply into my feet like I'm not wearing any shoes. Apparently shoes of the mind have really shitty tread.

"This is pointless," I say. "She isn't anywhere. There isn't anywhere for her to be. It's an expanse."

"If you're looking for her, then you'll turn a corner and there she'll be," replies Jestine.

"There aren't any corners to turn."

"There are corners everywhere."

"I hate you." I lift my brows at her and she smiles. She's looking too, eyes rolling from side to side desperately. I have to remind myself that she was chosen, and it's the Order's fault, not hers, that she's lying bleeding by my side. She's got to be scared. And she's turning out to be a better guide than I could have asked for.

A wall appears all at once in front of us, a black, porous stone wall that seeps water like the bedrock along the roads on the way to Thunder Bay. Turning my head, I see other walls too, to my left and right. They stretch out behind us in a line for miles, like we've been walking in a maze. Except that we hadn't been until just now. I twist my head more sharply to look back through the window at Thomas. He's still there, my anchor. Do we keep walking, or turn around? Is this the way? His face doesn't react to these questions. His eyes are trained on my body, watching the blood saturate my shirt.

We're passing by something, lying on the ground. It's a carcass, busily being worked on by bugs. The fur of whatever it was used to be white, but aside from the presence of four legs it could have been anything. A dog maybe, or a big cat. It might've been a small calf. We walk past without comment and I try to keep my eyes off of the movement beneath the hide. It doesn't matter. It's not what we're looking for.

"What's that say?" Jestine asks, and points to the wall ahead . It's not a wall really, but a low limestone formation, white and eroded, low enough to climb over. There's wet black paint on it that says MARINETTE OF THE DRY ARMS. Beside it is what looks like a rough sketch: the blackened bones of forearms and fingers and a thick black cross. I don't know what it means. But I suspect that Morfran would.

"We shouldn't go this way," I say.

"There's really only one way to go." Jestine shrugs.

Ahead the wall changes, from porous wet rock back to colorless stone. As we get closer, I blink and it turns translucent, like thick, dusty crystal or glass. There's a pale mass at the center, something frozen or trapped. I wipe across the stone with my hand, feeling the granular dust slide against my palm. It reveals a pair of eyes, wide and yellowed and full of hate. I clear the glass lower as my hand drags down, and see that the front of his white shirt still bears the bloodstains of his wife. His widow's peak of hair is wild and suspended in the rock. It's Peter Carver. The first ghost I ever killed.

"What is it?" Jestine asks.

"Just a scarecrow," I reply.

"Yours or hers?"

"Mine." I stare into his frozen face and remember the way he chased me, the way he scrambled after me across the floor, his stomach sliding and legs flopping uselessly. A crack forms in the glass.

"Don't fear it," Jestine says. "He's just a scarecrow, like you said. Your scarecrow."

The crack is a tiny hairline fracture, but it's getting longer. As I watch, it races upward, crackling across the bloodstain on his shirt like a lightning bolt.

"Focus," Jestine hisses. "Before you let it out of the rock."

"I can't," I say. "I don't know what you mean. We just have to go. We have to keep going." I walk away. My heavy legs move as fast as I can manage. I turn a corner and then another. It feels like running and it's stupid. The last thing we need is to be lost. The last thing we need is to not pay attention and the path to turn into a cave. My legs slow. There are no scraping sounds behind us. Peter Carver isn't dragging himself along in our footsteps. For all I know, I might've imagined the fissure in the rock to begin with.


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