The air is cold. Carmel’s breath comes in hot little puffs. She’s got on a dark gray corduroy jacket and a red loose-knitted scarf; buried inside the scarf is my mother’s bag of herbs. Will showed up in a letterman jacket, of course, and Thomas looks as scruffy as ever in his beat-up Army fatigue coat. He and Will are huffing in the dirt, arranging the stones from Lake Superior around our feet in a four-foot circle.
Carmel walks up to stand beside me while I stare at the house. My athame is hanging over my shoulder by its strap. I’ll put it in my pocket later. Carmel sniffs at her herb bag.
“Smells like licorice,” she says, and sniffs at mine to make sure they’re the same.
“That’s smart of your mom,” Thomas says from behind us. “It wasn’t in the spell, but it never hurts to add some luck.”
Carmel smiles at him in the shiny dark. “Where’d you learn all this stuff?”
“My grandpa,” he answers proudly, and hands her a candle. He hands another to Will, and then gives me mine. “Ready?” he asks.
I look up at the moon. It’s bright, and cold, and still looks full to me. But the calendar says that it’s waning, and people get paid to make calendars, so I guess that we’re ready.
The circle of stones is only about twenty feet from the house. I take my place in the west and everyone else moves to take theirs. Thomas is trying to balance the scrying bowl in one hand while holding the candle with the other. I can see a bottle of Dasani water sticking out of his pocket.
“Why don’t you give the chicken feet to Carmel,” I suggest when he tries to hold them between his ring and pinky fingers. She holds her hand out gingerly, but not too gingerly. She’s not as girly as I thought she’d be when I first met her.
“Do you feel it?” Thomas asks, his eyes bright.
“The energies are moving.”
Will looks around skeptically. “All I feel is cold,” he snaps.
“Light the candles, counterclockwise from the east.”
Four small flames ignite and illuminate our faces and chests, revealing expressions that are part wonder, part fear, and part feeling stupid. Only Thomas is unperturbed. He’s barely with us anymore. His eyes are closed, and when he speaks, his voice is about an octave lower than usual. I can tell Carmel’s scared, but she doesn’t say anything.
“Start chanting,” Thomas commands, and we do. I can’t believe it but none of us mess up. The chant is in Latin, four words repeated over and over. They sound stupid on our tongues, but the longer we do it the less stupid it feels. Even Will is chanting his heart out.
“Don’t stop,” says Thomas, opening his eyes. “Move toward the house. Don’t break the circle.”
When we move together I feel the power of the spell. I feel us all walking, all of our legs, all of our feet, joined together with invisible thread. The flames of the candles stand up strong without flickering, like solid fire. I can’t believe that it’s Thomas doing all this—short, awkward Thomas, hiding all of this power inside a fatigue jacket. We drift together up the steps, and before I can think, we’re at her door.
The door opens. Anna looks out at us.
“You’ve come to do it,” she says sadly. “And you should.” She looks at the others. “You know what happens, when they come inside,” she warns. “I can’t control it.”
I want to tell her it’ll be all right. I want to ask her to try. But I can’t stop chanting.
“He says it’ll be all right,” Thomas says from behind me, and my voice nearly falters. “He wants you to try. We need you inside the circle. Don’t worry about us. We’re protected.”
For once I’m glad that Thomas reached into my head. Anna looks from him to me and back again, then slips silently away from the door. I cross the threshold first.
I know when the others are inside, not only because our legs are moving as one, but because Anna starts to change. Veins snake up her arms and neck, winding through her face. Her hair becomes slick and shimmering black. Oil covers her eyes. The white dress saturates through with bright red blood, and the moonlight bounces off it, making it shine like plastic. It runs down her legs to drip onto the floor.
Behind me, the circle doesn’t hesitate. I’m proud of them; maybe they are ghostbusters after all.
Anna’s hands are clenched in fists so tight that black blood begins to seep through her fingers. She’s doing as Thomas asked. She’s trying to control it, trying to control the urge to tear the skin from their throats, to pull the arms from their shoulders. I lead the circle forward and she squeezes her eyes shut. Our legs move faster. Carmel and I pivot so we’re facing each other. The circle is opening up, letting Anna pass through into the center. For a minute, Carmel is obstructed completely. All I see is Anna’s bleeding body. Then she’s inside, and the circle closes back up.