Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 61

Page 61

I look at Anna, facedown on the floor, terrified but not nearly scared enough. I watch this girl, struggling to escape, not just from Elias’s grip, but from everything, from this stifling house, from this life like a weight around her shoulders, dragging her down and planting her in dirt. I watch this girl as her mother bends over her with a kitchen knife and nothing but anger in her eyes. Stupid anger, baseless anger, and then the blade is at her throat, dragging across skin and opening a deep red line. Too deep, I think, too deep. I listen to Anna scream until she can’t anymore.


Behind me I hear a thud, and I turn away from the scene, grateful for the distraction. Inside the circle, Anna is no longer hovering. She’s collapsed onto the floor on her hands and knees. The black tendrils of her hair twitch. Her mouth is open like she might moan, or cry, but there is no sound. Streaky gray tears roll like charcoal-tinted water down pale cheeks. She watched her own throat get cut. She’s watching herself bleed to death, redness soaking down into the house and saturating her white dancing dress. All of these things that she couldn’t remember were just slapped into her face. She’s growing weak.

I look back at Anna’s death even though I don’t want to. Malvina is stripping the body and barking orders at Elias, who flees into the kitchen and comes back with what looks like a rough blanket. She tells him to cover the body, and he does. I can tell that he can’t believe what’s happened. Then she tells him to go upstairs and find Anna another dress.

“Another dress? What for?” he asks, but she snaps, “Just go!” and he scampers up the steps so fast that he stumbles.

Malvina spreads Anna’s dress out on the floor, so covered in red now that it’s difficult to remember that it used to be white. Then she goes to the closet on the opposite side of the room and comes back holding black candles and a small black bag.

She’s a witch, Thomas mentally hisses at me. The curse. It makes perfect sense. We should have known that the killer was some kind of a witch. But we might never have guessed it was her own mother.

Keep your eyes sharp, I shoot back at Thomas. I might need your help figuring out what’s going on here.

I doubt it, he says, and I guess I doubt it too, watching Malvina light the candles and kneel over the dress, her body swaying as she chants in whispers, soft Finnish words. Her voice is tender, like it never was for Anna in life. The candles glow brighter. She lifts first the one on the left, and then the one on the right. Black wax spills across the stained fabric. Then she spits on it, three times. Her chanting is louder, but I don’t understand any of it. I start trying to pick out words to look up later, and that’s when I hear him. Thomas. He’s speaking softly out loud. For a second I don’t know what he’s saying. I actually open my mouth to tell him to shut up, that I’m trying to listen, before I realize he’s repeating her chants in English.

“Father Hiisi, hear me, I come before you low and humble. Take this blood, take this power. Keep my daughter in this house. Feed her on suffering, blood, and death. Hiisi, Father, demon-god, hear my prayer. Take this blood, take this power.”

Malvina closes her eyes, holds up the kitchen knife, and passes it through the candle flames. Impossibly, it ignites, and then, in one fierce motion, she stabs the knife through the dress and into the floorboards.

Elias has come to the top of the stairs, holding a swath of clean, white fabric—Anna’s replacement dress. He watches Malvina in awe and horror. It’s clear that he never knew this about her, and now that he does, he’ll never speak a word against her, out of sheer terror.

Firelight is shining up from the hole in the floorboards, and Malvina slowly moves the knife, stuffing the bloodied dress down into the house as she chants. When the last of the fabric disappears, she pushes the rest of the knife in to follow it and the light flashes. The floorboard is closed. Malvina swallows, and gently blows the candles out, from left to right.

“Now you’ll never leave my house,” she whispers.

Our spell is ending. Malvina’s face is fading like a nightmare memory, turning as gray and withered as the wood she murdered Anna on. The air around us loses color and I feel our limbs beginning to unravel. We’re separating, breaking the circle. I hear Thomas, breathing hard. I hear Anna too. I can’t believe what I’ve just seen. It feels unreal. I don’t understand how Malvina could murder Anna.

“How could she?” Carmel asks softly, and we all look at each other. “It was terrible. I never want to see anything like that ever again.” She shakes her head. “How could she? She was her daughter.”

Prev Next