Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 28

Page 28



Eerie gray light is leaking out without casting a beam. It just sort of melts with the dark air, like an illuminating fog. My ears strain to hear anything; in the distance I think I hear the low rumble of a train, and there’s a leathery squeak as I tighten my grip on my athame. I walk through the door and close it behind. I don’t want to give any ghost the opportunity for a cheap B-movie scare by slamming it shut.

The foyer is empty, the staircase bare. The skeleton of the ruined chandelier hangs on the ceiling without twinkling, and there’s a table covered in a dusty sheet that I could swear wasn’t here last night. There is something off about this house. Something besides the presence that obviously haunts it.

“Anna,” I say, and my voice rolls into the air. The house eats it up without an echo.

I look to my left. The place where Mike Andover died is empty save for a dark, oily stain. I have no idea what Anna has done with the body, and honestly, I’d rather not think about it.

Nothing moves, and I’m in no mood to wait. Just the same, I don’t want to face her on the stairs. She has too much of an advantage, being as strong as a Viking goddess and undead and everything. I walk farther into the house, winding my way carefully through the scattered and dust-sheeted furniture. The thought crosses my mind that she may be lying in wait, that the lumpy sofa isn’t a lumpy sofa at all, but a dead girl covered in veins. I’m just about to stab my athame through it for good measure when I hear something shuffle behind me. I turn.

“Jesus.”

“Has it been three days already?” the ghost of Mike Andover asks me. He’s standing near the window he was pulled through. He’s in one piece. I crack a tentative smile. Death, it seems, has made him wittier. But part of me suspects that what I’m looking at isn’t really Mike Andover at all. It’s just the stain on the ground, raised by Anna, made to walk and talk. But just in case it isn’t …

“I’m sorry. For what happened to you. It wasn’t supposed to.”

Mike cocks his head. “It’s never supposed to. Or it’s always supposed to. Whatever.” He smiles. I don’t know if it’s meant to be friendly, or ironic, but it’s definitely creepy. Especially when he abruptly stops. “This house is wrong. Once we’re here we never leave. You shouldn’t have come back.”

“I’ve got business here,” I say. I try to ignore the idea that he can never leave. It’s too terrible and too unfair.

“The same business that I had here?” he asks in a low growl. Before I can reply, he’s ripped in two by invisible hands, an exact replay of his death. I stumble back and my knees run into a table or something, I don’t know what and don’t really care. The shock of seeing him collapsed into two grisly wet puddles again makes me disregard the furniture. I tell myself it was a cheap trick, and that I’ve seen worse. I try to get my breathing to slow down. Then, from the floor, I hear Mike’s voice again.

“Hey, Cas.”

My eyes travel over the mess to find his face, which is twisted around, still attached to the right side of his body. That’s the side that kept the spine. I swallow hard and keep from looking at the exposed vertebrae. Mike’s eye rolls up at me.

“It only hurts for a minute,” he says, and then he sinks into the floor, slowly, like oil into a towel. His eye doesn’t close when it disappears. It keeps on staring. I really could have lived without that little exchange. As I continue to watch the dark spot on the floor, I realize that I’m holding my breath. I wonder how many people Anna has actually killed in this house. I wonder if they are all still here, shells of them, and if she could raise them up like marionettes, shuffling toward me in various states of decay.

Get it under control. Now’s not the time to panic. Now’s the time to squeeze my knife and realize too late that something is coming up behind me.

There’s a flicker of black hair around my shoulder, two or three inky tendrils reaching out to beckon me closer. I spin and slice through the air, half expecting her to not be there, to have disappeared in that one instant. But she didn’t. She hovers before me, half a foot off the ground.

We hesitate a second and regard each other, my brown eyes peering directly into her oily ones. She’d be about five foot seven if she was on the floor, but since she’s floating six inches off of it I almost have to look up. My breathing seems loud inside my head. The sound of her dress dripping is soft as it bleeds onto the floor. What has she become since she died? What power did she find, what anger, that allowed her to be more than just a specter, to become a demon of vengeance?


Prev Next