Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 6

Page 6

My mom is staring up at the clouds, humming something that isn’t a real song. She’s wearing the same smile as her cat.

“Why the good mood?” I ask. “Isn’t your butt asleep yet?”

“Been asleep for hours,” she replies. “But I think I’m going to like Thunder Bay. And from the looks of these clouds, I’m going to get to enjoy it for quite some time.”

I glance up. The clouds are enormous and perfectly white. They sit deadly still in the sky as we drive into them. I watch without blinking until my eyes dry out. They don’t move or change in any way.

“Driving into unmoving clouds,” she whispers. “Things are going to take longer than you expect.”

I want to tell her that she’s being superstitious, that clouds not moving don’t mean anything, and besides, if you watch them long enough they have to move—but that would make a hypocrite of me, this guy who lets her cleanse his knife in salt under moonlight.

The stagnant clouds make me motion-sick for some reason, so I go back to looking at the forest, a blanket of pines in colors of green, brown, and rust, struck through with birch trunks sticking up like bones. I’m usually in a better mood on these trips. The excitement of somewhere new, a new ghost to hunt, new things to see … the prospects usually keep my brain sunny for at least the duration of the drive. Maybe it’s just that I’m tired. I don’t sleep much, and when I do, there’s usually some kind of nightmare involved. But I’m not complaining. I’ve had them off and on since I started using the athame. Occupational hazard, I guess, my subconscious letting out all the fear I should be feeling when I walk into places where there are murderous ghosts. Still, I should try to get some rest. The dreams are particularly bad the night after a successful hunt, and they haven’t really calmed down since I took out the hitchhiker.

An hour or so later, after many attempts at sleep, Thunder Bay comes up in our windshield, a sprawling, urban-esque city of over a hundred thousand living. We drive through the commercial and business districts and I am unimpressed. Walmart is a convenient place for the breathing, but I have never seen a ghost comparing prices on motor oil or trying to jimmy his way into the Xbox 360 game case. It’s only as we get into the heart of the city—the older part of the city that rests above the harbor—that I see what I’m looking for.

Nestled in between refurbished family homes are houses cut out at bad angles, their coats of paint peeling in scabs and their shutters hanging crooked on their windows so they look like wounded eyes. I barely notice the nicer houses. I blink as we pass and they’re gone, boring and inconsequential.

Over the course of my life I’ve been to lots of places. Shadowed places where things have gone wrong. Sinister places where things still are. I always hate the sunlit towns, full of newly built developments with double-car garages in shades of pale eggshell, surrounded by green lawns and dotted with laughing children. Those towns aren’t any less haunted than the others. They’re just better liars. I like it more to come to a place like this, where the scent of death is carried to you on every seventh breath.

I watch the water of Superior lie beside the city like a sleeping dog. My dad always said that water makes the dead feel safe. Nothing draws them more. Or hides them better.

My mom has turned on the GPS, which she has affectionately named Fran after an uncle with a particularly good sense of direction. Fran’s droning voice is guiding us through the city, directing us like we’re idiots: Prepare to turn left in 100 feet. Prepare to turn left. Turn left. Tybalt, sensing the end of the journey, has returned to his pet carrier, and I reach down and shut the door. He hisses at me like he could have done it himself.

The house that we rented is smallish, two stories of fresh maroon paint and dark gray trim and shutters. It sits at the base of a hill, the start of a nice flat patch of land. When we pull up there are no neighbors peeking at us from windows or coming out onto their porches to say hello. The house looks contained, and solitary.

“What do you think?” my mom asks.

“I like it,” I reply honestly. “You can see things coming.”

She sighs at me. She’d be happier if I would grin and bound up the stairs of the front porch, throw open the door and race up to the second floor to try and call dibs on the master bedroom. I used to do that sort of thing when we’d move into a new place with Dad. But I was seven. I’m not going to let her road-weary eyes guilt me into anything. Before I know it, we’ll be making daisy chains in the backyard and crowning the cat the king of summer solstice.

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