“You are aware that Mike Andover lived at least ten miles from the area you’re talking about,” Officer Roebuck said.
“No, I didn’t know,” I reply.
“We tried to stop him,” Carmel pipes up, “but he wouldn’t listen. So we left. I thought he would just call later, and we’d go pick him up. But he never did.” The ease of the lie is disturbing, but at least it explains the guilt clearly written on all of our faces. “He’s really missing?” Carmel asks shrilly. “I thought—I hoped it was just a rumor.”
She sells it for us all. The cops visibly soften at her worry. Roebuck tells us that Will and Chase took them out to where we dropped Mike off, and that there was a search party started. We ask if we can help but he waves us off like it’s better left to professionals. In a few hours Mike’s face should be plastered all over the news. The entire city should have mobilized into the woods with flashlights and raingear, combing for traces of him. But somehow I know that they won’t. This is all Mike Andover is going to get. One lame search party and a few questioning cops. I don’t know how I know. Something in their eyes, like they’re walking half-asleep. Like they can’t wait for it to be over, for hot meals in their bellies and their feet up on the couch. I wonder if they can sense that there’s more going on here than they can deal with, if Mike’s death is broadcasting on a low frequency of the weird and unexplainable, telling them in a soft hum to just leave it alone.
After a few more minutes officers Roebuck and Davis say their good-byes to us and we sink back into our chairs.
“That was…” Thomas starts, and doesn’t finish.
Carmel gets a call on her cell and picks it up. When she turns away to talk I hear her whisper things like “I don’t know” and “I’m sure they’ll find him.” After she hangs up her eyes are strained.
“Everything okay?” I ask.
She holds her phone up sort of listlessly. “Nat,” she says. “She’s trying to comfort me, I guess. But I’m not in the mood for a girls’ movie night, you know?”
“Is there anything we can do?” Thomas asks gently, and Carmel starts riffling through papers.
“I’d just like to get this bio homework done, honestly,” she says, and I nod. We should take time for some normalcy now. We should work and study and prepare to ace our quiz Friday. Because I can feel the newspaper clipping in my pocket like it weighs a thousand pounds. I can feel that photo of Anna, staring out from sixty years ago, and I can’t help myself from wanting to protect her, wanting to save her from becoming what she already is.
I don’t think there’ll be much time for normalcy, later on.
I wake up covered in sweat. I had been dreaming, dreaming of something leaning over me. Something with crooked teeth and hooked fingers. Something with breath that smelled like it had been eating people for decades without brushing in between. My heart’s pounding in my chest. I reach under my pillow for my dad’s athame, and for a second I could swear my fingers close on a cross, a cross twisted round with a rough snake. Then my knife handle is there, safe and sound in its leather sheath. Fucking nightmares.
My heart starts to slow down. Glancing down at the floor, I see Tybalt, who is glaring at me with a puffed-up tail. I wonder if he had been sleeping on my chest and I catapulted him off when I woke. I don’t remember, but I wish that I did, because it would’ve been hilarious.
I think about lying back down, but don’t. There’s that annoying, tense feeling in all of my muscles, and, even though I’m tired, what I really want to do is some track and field—throw a shot put and run some hurdles. Outside, the wind must be blowing, because this old house creaks and groans on its foundation, floorboards moving like dominoes so they sound like fast footsteps.
The clock by my bed reads 3:47. For a second I blank on what day it is. But it’s Saturday. So at least I don’t have to be up for school tomorrow. Nights are starting to bleed together. I’ve had maybe three good nights of sleep since we got here.
I get out of bed without thinking and pull on my jeans and a t-shirt, then stuff my athame into my back pocket and make my way down the stairs. I pause only to put on my shoes and slide my mom’s car keys off the coffee table. Then I’m driving through dark streets under the light of a growing moon. I know where I’m going, even though I can’t remember deciding to do it.
* * *
I park at the end of Anna’s overgrown driveway and get out of the car, still feeling like I’m mostly sleepwalking. None of the nightmare tension is gone yet from my limbs. I don’t even hear the sound of my own feet on the rickety porch steps, or feel my fingers close around the doorknob. Then I step in, and fall.