Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 20

Page 20

Nobody listens. They’re all just taking swills of beer and talking too loud to cover their nervousness. I creep toward the house with careful steps, my eyes moving from window to window, anxious for movement that shouldn’t be there. I duck as a beer can goes winging past my head to land in the driveway and bounce up toward the porch.

“Anna! Hey, Anna! Come out and play, you dead bitch!”

Mike is laughing, and Chase tosses him another beer. Even in the growing dark I can see that his cheeks are flushed with booze. He’s starting to waver on his feet.

I glance between them and the house. As much as I’d like to investigate further, I’m going to stop. This isn’t right. Now that they’re here and afraid, they’re laughing at her, trying to turn her into a joke. Crushing their full beer cans against their heads feels like a great idea, and yes, I feel the hypocrisy in my wanting to defend something that I’m trying to kill.

I look past them at Carmel fidgeting from foot to foot, hugging herself against the chill lake breeze. Her blond hair is wispy in the silver light, strands of spider web around her face.

“Come on guys, let’s get out of here. Carmel’s getting nervous, and there’s nothing in there anyway besides spiders and mice.” I push my way past, but Mike and Chase grab me by each arm. I notice that Will has gone back to stand with Carmel and is talking to her quietly, leaning down and gesturing toward the waiting car. She shakes her head and takes a step toward us, but he holds her back.

“No way we’re leaving without looking inside,” Mike says. He and Chase turn me around and walk me up the driveway like prison guards escorting an inmate, one at each shoulder.

“Fine.” I don’t argue as much as I maybe should. Because I would like to get a closer view. I’d just rather they not be here when I did it. I wave to Carmel to tell her everything’s fine and shrug the guys off.

When my foot hits the first moldy board of the porch steps I can almost feel the house constrict, like it’s breathing in, awakening after being so long untouched. I walk up the last two stairs and stand, alone, before the dark gray of the door. I wish I had a flashlight or a candle. I can’t tell what color the house used to be. From a distance it seemed like it was once gray, that the paint peelings were slivers of gray falling to the ground, but now that I’m closer they seem rotted and black. Which is impossible. Nobody paints a house black.

The tall windows on either side of the door are caked over with dirt and dust. I walk to the left and rub my palm across the glass in a quick circle. Inside, the house is mostly empty, except for a few pieces of furniture scattered about. There is a sofa in the center of what must’ve been a living room, covered in a white sheet. The remains of a chandelier hang from the ceiling.

Despite the dark, I can see the interior easily. It’s lit with grays and blues that seem to come from nowhere. There is something strange about the light that I can’t process initially, until I realize that nothing is casting a shadow.

A whisper makes me remember that Mike and Chase are here. I start to turn to tell them it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, and could we please get back to the party, but in the reflection in the window I see that Mike is holding a piece of broken board, aiming at my skull with his arms raised above his head … and I get the feeling that I’m not going to be saying anything for quite some time.

* * *

I wake up to the smell of dust and the sensation that most of my head is lying in shards somewhere behind me. Then I blink. Each breath I take sends up a small puff of gray across aging and uneven floorboards. Rolling onto my back, I realize that my head is still intact, but my brain hurts so badly that I have to close my eyes again. I don’t know where I am. I don’t remember what I was doing before I got here. All I can think of is the fact that my brain feels like it’s sloshing around in there unattached. An image pops into my head: some Neanderthal oaf swinging a board. The pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. I blink again in the strange gray light.

The strange gray light. My eyes flash wide. I’m inside the house.

My brain shakes itself off like a dog ditching water and a million questions fly from its fur. How long have I been unconscious? What room am I in? How do I get out? And of course, the all important: Did those ass**les leave me here?

My last question is answered quickly by Mike’s voice.

“See, I told you I didn’t kill him.” He taps his finger against the glass and I twist toward the window to stare up at his grinning idiot face. He says something stupid about how I’m a dead man and that this is what happens to guys who mess with his property. That’s when I hear Carmel shouting that she’s going to call the cops, asking in a panicked voice if I’ve at least woken up yet.

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