Page 32

Three seconds, I thought to myself. I’m going in three seconds. If I don’t, I’ll be eaten alive. Three seconds.



The bed suddenly shook again, nearly jolting me out of it as whatever was underneath began to emerge with a drooling roar.


I jumped out of bed and felt a swipe of pain at the back of my leg as whatever it was reached out for me but I kept going, reached the door and flung it open. I couldn’t find my breath to scream so I just ran, straight for Ada’s room.

I heard the smacking, slobbering snarls at my back as I pushed open her door and jumped into her room. I lost my footing in the dark and fel to the carpet in a heap, while Ada cried out, “What the hel ?” in her half-asleep voice. I picked myself up and quickly ran back to her door and slammed it shut behind me.

Heart in my throat, nerves on fire, I turned and limped back to her.

With a flash of light, the door opened at my back.

In the il umination from the hal way I saw Ada very clearly.

She was sitting up in bed, sheets brought to her chin with shaking hands. There was a look of utter horror on her face as she saw the thing behind me, the thing that was under the bed, the thing that opened her door.

There was no time to react. No time to look.

I was grabbed by what felt like hot claws. They wrapped around my calves and pul ed me out from under me so that I fel flat on the ground, my arms extended, trying desperately to grab onto something to save me. They dragged me backward down the hal , back to my bedroom.

I could only scream.

Ada came running out after me.

The world slowed down in slow motion; Ada running down the hal , wearing only a skinny white tank top and pink short shorts. Her hair flew behind her graceful y. Her skinny bare feet hit the carpet and bounced off as she ran faster, made her strides longer. Her hands were reaching out for me. Her mouth and eyes were screaming my name.

She almost made it to me when I was engulfed into the darkness of my bedroom. The door began to shut by itself on her. And I was being dragged underneath my bed.

Dragged to hel .

I had no thoughts except for two wishes. That my death would be painless. And I wouldn’t stay in hel . I closed my eyes and wasted my last breaths on an unending cry.

But the door didn’t stay closed.

Ada had shoved her shoulder in at the last minute and she squeezed past with a shriek and flung herself on her knees, wrapping her hands around my elbows and pul ing at me, pul ing at me while something underneath pul ed back. I real y was going to be torn in two. My arms made a popping noise in their sockets and I could feel the shoes and socks on my feet disintegrating in a hot pool of liquid that frothed up my calves.

“Hang on!” she yel ed, and gave me a tug with all her might. I found strength in my legs and kicked wildly until it let go. Ada fel backward from the sudden surrender and I flew out from under the bed, landing just short of her.

“Ada!” I wailed. She went on her knees and hauled me up so I was total y out of the bed and beside her.

The light in the room came on and we turned to the door in terror. My parents were standing there in their pajamas, puzzled and frightened.

“We heard screaming, what’s going on?” my mother asked in a shril voice.

Ada and I looked back at the bed. With the light on it looked as it normal y did. There was nothing underneath it except a few dust bunnies.

But my legs. My legs were a different story. We saw them at the same time they did.

My mom screeched, “What happened to your legs!”

My Converses were gone. So were my socks. The jeans I was wearing earlier had been torn off at the knees, leaving messy, wet jagged edges of cloth. My legs were completely covered in a thin sheen of vibrant red blood.

“Oh,” my dad said in a small , shocked voice. He made the sign of the cross across his face.

My mother swal owed hard, staring so hard at my legs that I thought she was trying to read them.

She was trying to read them.

Ada leaned over and nudged my shoulder down with her hand. I turned my body awkwardly and looked down at the back of my calves.

In dark, scabbing writing were the words “your fault”

running down the fleshiest part of my right calf.

My mom continued to stare. She didn’t come any closer.

“I’l get some bandages,” my father whispered to her. He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it.

I wondered why no one was comforting me?

Final y my mom said, “Perry...” but couldn’t finish it. I knew from the tone what she’d say.

I looked at Ada for help. She bailed on me during the Creepy Clown Lady sighting. I had never gotten the chance to reprimand her on that. I begged her with my eyes to tel her the truth. She dipped her chin and her eyes flew over to my mother’s.

“Mom,” she said, shaking. The fear and adrenaline were ripe in her voice. “It’s not Perry’s fault. She didn’t do that.”

“Wel , who did then?” she asked. She shook her head to herself and mouthed a few words I couldn’t hear. Who was going nuts now? My mom was talking to herself in front of us.

I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t know, anyway. I let Ada speak.

“Mom. I was asleep and Perry came running into my room. The door opened...something...”

She broke off and looked down at the carpet, eyes fixing on nothing, and took a deep breath. “Something grabbed her from behind. It grabbed her legs. And it dragged her in here. It was trying to take her under the bed.”

We both eyed our mother expectantly. Her brows were raised up on her face and seemed to be frozen in shock.

Then she smiled. It wasn’t pleasant.

“I can’t listen to this,” she said. She turned around and walked down the hal . I heard her pass my dad in the hal way and hiss to him, “Oh, Ada’s going along with it now.

It real y does run in the family.”

What runs in the family? Ghosts? Crazy? Ada and I looked at each other questioningly just as my dad came in.

He sighed and knelt his pudgy frame on the floor beside us.

He laid out the first aid kit and a small bowl of water and washed my legs with a wet towel, then anointed the words with ointment, which might have stung normal y but I didn’t feel a thing. With the blood washed off the writing was chil ingly visible. Your Fault.

My fault? What had I done? I eyed Ada and my father.

From the way their brows were creased uneasily, they were probably wondering the same question.

And I started wondering if I had written the words myself.

I had a Swiss army knife in the drawer beside my bed. I had sewing needles and pins about. How would this be any different from the cutting I did back in high school? I guess I at least remember intentional y hurting myself back then.

“That was a lot of blood,” I said weakly.

He nodded and his lips became drained of color as he squeezed them into a hard, stern line. “These were deep cuts.”

“Stitches deep?” I asked.

He paused and gave me a funny look, like I was foolish to care about something like stitches at this point. Perhaps he was right.

“No, you’l be all right.”

He finished wrapping my leg with gauze and a tensor bandage, then fingered the edges of my jeans.

“What happened here?”

I looked him square in the eye. “A monster ate them.”

His eyes flitted to Ada then back to mine. “That’s not funny, Perry.”

He stood up with a groan.

“No,” I said forceful y. “It’s not funny, is it?”

He peered down at me with a strange sense of wonder.

It was almost like he was trying to decide just how serious I was. Maybe if there was even something worth believing.

But if he was thinking that, he didn’t say it. He walked to the door and before closing it behind him, said, “Ada, look after your sister.”

“I’m trying,” she said in a breath of a voice. It was directed at me.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, twisting around to face her, unsure of what to do with my legs.

“It’s not your fault,” she said.

“That’s not what my leg says. what my I thought she’d laugh at that but instead she let out a whimper and wiped her nose. “Perry, I’m scared. I’m super, real y scared.”

I scooted closer to her so our shoulders were touching. “I am too.”

“Did you see that thing?”

“No.” I shuddered. “But I’ve seen other things. And they aren’t pretty.”

We fel into silence for a while, both of our eyes trained on the bed.

After a deep breath, Ada said, “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything about the woman in the hal way. About Creepy Clown Lady.”

I was no longer angry about it. I understood completely.

Someone had to be the sane one here and it sure wasn’t going to be me. Especial y not after this, if there even was an after.

“You know,” she lowered her voice. “I heard her say something to me. In the hal . I heard it in my head.” She sounded incredulous. It was amazing how used I had gotten to seeing Pippa, I sometimes forgot how supernatural she real y was.

“What did she say?”

“She said we had to stop them.”

“We had to stop them? Who is we? Who are them?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. I kind of felt like I knew her.”

My mouth twitched. Somewhere in the back of my head the wheels wanted click on that, to turn and turn until something made sense. But I was too tired. I yawned and shivered simultaneously.

“Let’s go to bed,” she said, and careful y hauled me up to my feet. I stripped off my chewed jeans, put on pajama pants and turned my back to her to take off my shirt.

“Uh, Perry?”

I paused with the shirt half over my head. “What?”

“Your back.”

I tried to turn and see but couldn’t. I half lowered the shirt as I felt Ada walk over and touch my mid-back. I winced at her touch. The spot was raw.

“His fault,” she mused.

“More writing?”

“More writing,” she said. “It’s not nasty, though. You’re not, like, real y bleeding.”

Wel there went that whole theory that I did it to myself.

Now it was his fault.

I fished out a t-shirt and put that on and we went to her room. We left the small lamp on and she put the radio on room. We left the small lamp on and she put the radio on very low volume, just to calm our nerves. I cuddled up next to her in bed, like the way she used to do when I was twelve and she was five and I’d read her my Goosebumps stories and scare her half to death.

Despite the horror that permeated the air around us, the edginess that something could happen at any time, I wasn’t scared. I was beyond scared. I was...wretched. Like a blanket of sadness had rested somewhere in my mind and smothered me with every reflective, heart-rending fiber.

I felt like this was it. There was no more. And I wasn’t strong enough to fight it.

“Ada,” I began slowly, softly, “I love you. You’re the best sister a girl could have and I’m sorry it’s taken me twenty- three years to say that.”