Girl of Nightmares


Page 87


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"I don't think anything happened," I say, but she doesn't reply. "Jestine?" I look around. She isn't here. Without thinking, I go back the way I came. I shouldn't have run. Leaving her in front of Carver, thinking she was the one who had to do something about it. What the hell is the matter with me?

"Jestine!" I call out, and wish that my voice would ring off the stones rather than fall flat. No sound comes back, not mine or her answering yell. I turn a corner, then another. She isn't there. And neither is Peter Carver. They're both gone.

"It was here," I say to no one. It was. It's just that coming back the way I came didn't work. None of the walls look the way they did when I passed by the first time.

"Jestine!"

Nothing. Why didn't she tell me we couldn't separate? Why didn't she follow me? My stomach hurts. I put my hand against it and feel warm wetness. The wound is coming through.

I don't need that. I left that behind. I need to focus. To find Anna, and Jestine.

A few deep breaths and my hand comes away dry. Wind passes over my cheeks, the first sensation of that kind since I've been here. It brings noise with it. A manic, girlish giggle that sounds nothing like Jestine or Anna. I hate this place. Even the wind is nuts. Footsteps patter behind me, but nothing's there when I turn. What am I doing here? It feels like forgetting. There's pressure against my shoulder; I'm leaning against the cliffside. When the wind brings the laughter again, I close my eyes until I feel her hair brush against my cheek.

She's sunk half in and half out of the rock. Her eyes are bloodless, but she looks a whole lot like Cait Hecht.

"Emily Danagger," I whisper, and she smiles without humor as she melts backward. The instant she's gone her footsteps sound behind me, running closer. It sends me stumbling forward. I twist through rock formations that look like spined fossils and trip over stones that weren't there before I hit them. Just another scarecrow, I keep thinking, but I don't know how long I run before the wind changes from a giggle to harsh, unintelligible muttering. It gives me such an urge to clamp my hands over my ears that at first I don't notice the other thing that it carries: a strong smell of sweet smoke. The same smoke that spat down over my bed last fall. The same smoke my father smelled right before he died. It's the Obeahman. He's here. He's close.

All at once my legs feel pounds lighter. The athame sings in my hand . What was it Jestine said? If I'm looking for her, I'll turn a corner and she'll be there. But what about him? Should I be so eager? What can he do to me anyway, in this place?

It happens just like she said it would. One corner of stone and there he is, at the end of the maze of walls, as if it was leading me to him.

The Obeahman. The athame spins deftly between my fingers. I've been waiting for this. And I didn't know that until right now. Looking at him, at his hunched back, clothed in the same long, dark green jacket, the same rotting dreadlocks hanging over his shoulders, my stomach twists like an eel. Murderer. MURDERER. You ate my father in a house in Baton Rouge. You stole the power of the knife and took in every ghost I meant to send away.

But even as my brain screams these things, my body stays hidden behind the stone wall in a half-crouch. I wish I'd asked Jestine what could happen to us here. Is it like they say in dreams? That when you die in them, you die for real? I slide closer to the edge, letting a sliver of eye show around the corner. If it's possible, the Obeahman is bigger than I remember. His legs seem longer, and there are more bends to his back. It's like seeing him through a funhouse mirror, elongated and unnatural. He still hasn't seen me, hasn't smelled me or heard me. He's just bent over a low, flat stone, his arms working like a spider at a web, and I could swear that each arm has grown an extra joint.

I remember the spell using the Lappish drum, and how frightened Anna seemed. She said this was his world.

The Obeahman pulls hard at something. He tugs and jerks; it looks like white string, the kind a butcher uses to tie up a roast. When he pulls the string again he raises his arm, and I count four distinct joints.

Rushing in would be a mistake. I need to know more. Looking around the maze walls, there's a set of rough-cut steps to my right. I didn't notice them when I passed. Probably because they hadn't been there. I climb up silently, and when I reach the top I drop down on my hands and creep to the edge. I have to dig my fingers in to keep from throwing myself over it.

It's Anna on the rock. He's got her lying there as on a mortuary slab. Her body is wrapped round and round with white string, stained dark with blood in places. The jerking motion I watched him do with his arms was from sewing her mouth and eyes shut.

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