Principal 666: The Number of the Beast

666: The Number of the Beast

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Año:
2007
Idioma:
english
ISBN 10:
0545021170
ISBN 13:
9780545021173
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PDF, 15.19 MB
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Breakfast with Socrates

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666

THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST

THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST

No

part of this publication

may be

reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or

transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. For

information

permission,

regarding

write

Scholastic

to

Permissions Department, 557 Broadway,

Inc.,

New York, NY

Attention:

10012.

ISBN-13: 978-0-545-02117-3

ISBN- 10: 0-545-02117-0

© 2007 by Peter Abrahams
© 2007 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
"Saving Face" Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Pike
"The Little Sacrifice" Copyright © 2007 by Joyce Carol Oates
"If You Knew Suzie" Copyright © 2007 by Heather Graham
"Slam Dance" Copyright © 2007 by Bentley Little
"A Trick of the Light" Copyright © 2007 by Chet Williamson
"Erased" Copyright © 2007 by Jane Mason
"Empire of Dirt" Copyright © 2007 by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
"Incident Report" Copyright © 2007 by Joshua Gee
"Scapegoat" Copyright © 2007 by Robin Wasserman
"Imagining Things" Copyright © 2007 by T.E.D. Klein
"Grandma Kelly" Copyright © 2007 by David Moody
"Shelter Island" Copyright © 2007 by Melissa de la Cruz
"La Fleur de Nuit" Copyright © 2007 by P.D. Cacek
"Ever After" Copyright © 2007 by Isobel Bird
"Haunted" Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Schreiber
"Wolfsbane" Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Hines Stephens
"Channel 99" Copyright

"The Legend of Anna Barton" Copyright

All rights reserved. Published

Publishers since 1920.

by POINT, an imprint of Scholastic

SCHOLASTIC, POINT, and

trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
is

12

available

11109876543

2 1

on request.

789

10 1112/0

Text type was set in Lino Letter Roman; .
Text design by Steve Scott.

Printed in the U.S.A.
First printing,

Inc.,

associated logos are

September 2007

Inc.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
EVIL
Channel 99
Peter Abrahams
13

The Legend of Anna Barton
Laurie Faria Stolarz
25

Saving Face
Christopher Pike
46

The

Little Sacrifice

Joyce Carol Oates
76

If You

Knew Suzie

Heather Graham
80

Slam Dance
Bentley
99

Little

DARKNESS
A Trick of the Light
Chet Williamson
117

Erased
Jane

Mason
135

Empire of Dirt
Amelia Atwater- Rhodes
146

Incident Report

Joshua Gee
165

Scapegoat

Robin Wasserman
182

Imagining Things
T.E.D. Klein

200

BEASTS
Grandma Kelly
David Moody
221

Shelter Island

Melissa de

la

Cruz

238

La Fleur de Nuit
P.D.

Cacek

252

Ever After
Isobel Bird

270

Haunted
Ellen Schreiber

291

Wolfsbane
Sarah Hines Stephens
310

Let him that hath understanding count the number of
the beast: for
is

six

it is

the

number of a man; and

hundred threescore and

his

number

six.

REVELATIONS 13:18

EVIL

CHANNEL 99
Peter Abrahams

"Are you

all

right?"

Mom said. "You look a little pale."

"I'm fine," said Becky.

Mom laid her hand, soft and cool, on Becky's forehead. Her
eyes, tired-looking, with red veins here
slightly.

Two minutes

later,

Mom was

and

there,

squinting at

darkened

numbers on

a thermometer.

"One-oh-one point
"Back in

five,"

Mom said. "Back in your jammies."

my jammies?"

"You don't go

to school

with one-oh-one point

"But — " Back in her jammies, a day

off:

how

five."

pleasant that

would have sounded in the past. But ninth grade was turning out
to

be so much harder than eighth, and Becky, already struggling

in math, could think only about falling further behind.

"No

buts,"

"Don't do
year, plus

Mom said. "I'll take a personal day"
that, Mom." Mom only got two paid weeks

Thanksgiving and Christmas, and

with no pay.

So wasting one just because —

13

five

off a

personal days,

.

"Of course I'm doing

it,"

Mom

said.

"You can't stay

home

alone."

"I'm fourteen."

But

Mom,

already dialing work, wasn't listening. She was

wearing the nicest of her work outfits, in Becky's opinion— Mom

had five, one for every day of the week, rotated on a complicated
schedule only she understood — the blue suit with the gray pinstripes.
still

The

skirt

no longer

fit

right, a little too loose.

losing weight although she'd never

since

Dad

died,

village with a

Mom was

needed to, had lost a lot

blown up by a car bomb

in a far-off roadside

name Becky had trouble pronouncing.

Mom had a habit for when she sensed things starting to go
wrong. She'd take a lock of hair and twirl

was doing it now. "But—" she

said.

it

behind her

ear.

She

And then, "I see. But what if—"

Mom twirled faster. "No, that wouldn't ... of course I'd never
yes." Mom hung up, turned to Becky, still twirling her hair.
"It's all right,"

Becky

Becky got back

couch in the den,

in her jammies, cozy flannel ones with a

her two aspirins, set her up on the

laid a tray within arm's

and jam, vitamins, a chocolate chip
favorite soda,

like that."

"Of course not."

"I

if

cookie,

reach— water,
and a

you

start to feel worse."

won't feel worse."

"Just relax."

"Okay."

"Watch TV"

"Mom. You're going

to

be

late."

14

toast

bottle of

Orangina — and handed her the remote.

"No going out or anything

"Call

.

said. "I'm. fourteen."

Mom gave

floral pattern.

.

her

Becky drank some water, took a

bite of toast,

wasn't hungry. She touched her forehead.
take your
that

a

own temperature

some kinds

of sickness

that

way? Becky

hot.

Could you

didn't know.

Odd

made the whole body heat up, even

unnerving. Becky switched on the

little

It felt

found she

TV

premium package, but now,

In the old days they were on the

economizing, they'd downgraded to superior cable, one step

above

basic. Superior cable

ing with

meant ninety- eight channels,

PBS and ending with

She watched a

bit of a

start-

cooking. Becky clicked through.

show about

antiques,

where a huge

old

sideboard turned out to be a cheap copy and the owner's smile
faded fast; a weather report about big storms in the Rockies; and,

on

98, a

chef making honey-glazed

ribs.

the cooking channel, but today there

Normally, Becky liked

was something off-putting

about food, so she clicked the down arrow button, heading back
to 97,

home improvement. But by mistake, her

finger brushed

the up arrow button instead, taking her to channel 99. Of course,

snow and static. And for a moment,

there was no channel 99, just

snow and

static is

down

hit the

premium

soccer; they

that big

saw. Then, just as she

99.

They were showing a

days,

one

A

to

cartoon.

From back

Becky remembered 99 being Mexican

must have changed the

lineup.

She wasn't usually

on cartoons — actually preferred Mexican soccer— but

there was something about this one, like
for

was about

arrow, a picture wriggled onto the screen.

Hey! Channel
in the

what she

how beautiful it looked,

thing.

cabin stood in the woods, white smoke rising from the

chimney. In the background, a stream flowed through the trees,
its

burbling sounds very

clear.

Birds wheeled around in a blue
15

Hard

sky.

to tell if

it

was computer animation or hand drawn.

The camera moved slowly in on the
through, the

way cameras

Inside the cabin, a

camera.

He wore

up

cabin,

to a

did.

man

sat at a computer, his

a lime-green suit

and a yellow

camera came alongside and showed

a thin face with a

had

seemed like living

skin,

to

be

man looked

prominent nose and high

cheekbones, but what caught Becky's attention was
skin

to the

hat, colorful

his face. This

computer animation, the most advanced yet — the

He had

back

As he typed on the keyboard, the

cartoon- character clothing.

so real.

window and

how

his

and how the way he breathed and

be concentrating and actually thinking were just

appeared

to

like a live

human

actor.

Only

his eyes failed to quite reach the

same realistic standard: dark eyes, not as fine

as real ones, lack-

ing the brightness, the expressiveness, the sense of the person
inside that

made human

The camera

eyes so interesting.

circled back, focused over the man's shoul-

der on the screen.

An

e-mail popped up, addressed to malin@

malinenterprises.com. The

man opened

it.

The message

read:

Malin,

You've

made

a bad mistake. The kid has the code.

HQ
The man, Malin, no doubt, spoke: "What
though talking

to himself.

He had

kid?" he said, as

a deep voice

and a

slight

accent Becky couldn't place.

Then came something
More words,

that couldn't

in real

life:

the answer to Malin's spoken question, scrolled

across the screen:
Becca.

happen

What other

kid could

it

16

be?

"Becca has the code?" the

man said, his voice rising in shock.

The camera moved in to close-up on his
fact his skin wasn't quite right

Back
"But

to the screen:

how? How

face.

Becky saw that in

— a little too blue in the lips.

Don't make

me

did this happen?

repeat myself.

It

wasn't

my fault."

We'll sort that out later. Just do the necessary.

"Should

I

use Greenie?"

Whatever works.

The screen went blank.
Malin rose. He was very tall, the top of his yellow hat almost
brushing the

ceiling,

character could be.
that read

He opened

a cupboard, took out a bottle

woven basket in the corner and

said,

"Greenie? Rise

shine."

The

lid of

the basket vibrated

slightly,

inch or so out of place. For a second, two
the darkness of the basket.

between the
the

only a cartoon

thin, as

demon rum xx in big letters, and drank. Then he turned

to a small

and

and impossibly

floor,

lid

and

— but

eyes shone in

down

rim, curled gracefully

coiled up, also with grace.
it

little

A snake rose up through the space

and the basket

snakes — far from

wobbled, shifted an

to

Becky wasn't big on

this one, Greenie,

was kind

of cute,

very small with a rounded head and a half- smiling mouth.
"Better take your medicine before

Malin.

He took a red pill from one

medicine bottles and held

it

out.

you

of those

go, Greenie," said

brown

prescription

Greenie stuck out his

little

forked tongue — there were no fangs in his mouth, no teeth of

any kind — and swallowed the

pill. It

made

a

funny bulge in

neck going down. Then Greenie slithered across the
the wall to an

open window, and

17

out.

floor,

his

up

The camera followed Greenie. He — Greenie looked
he — slithered through a garden
stalks,

between some

with dried-out flower

filled

and down

trees,

to the burbling stream,

movements unhurried. He slipped

his

making

a ripple

like a

into the water without

and disappeared.

For an instant, the

TV

darkened, as though a commercial

But no commercial came — Becky had seen that hap-

was

next.

pen

before, especially with reruns. Instead, the next scene of

the cartoon started up.

A girl sat

on the bank of a stream,

pole over the water, a line dangling

lazily

holding a fishing

down and a little white float

bobbing on the surface. Like Malin, the

girl

looked very realistic,

except for the eyes and that touch of blue on the

lips.

But what

amazed Becky was how closely the cartoon girl resembled her.
The
sat

face, the hair, the

up

straight

hands, the posture,

on the couch

in the den.

uncanny: Becky had no words
it

possible the animators

of her to

it

was uncanny. She

More than amazing

to describe the

or

resemblance. Was

had somehow got hold of a photograph

work from? Either

that,

which seemed

unlikely, or a

complete coincidence, just a one-in-a-billion chance.

The girl glanced at the float. She kicked off a sandal, dipped
her toes in the water. Becky

her

own

toes. Identical.

slid

the comforter aside, examined

Wow. She touched her forehead. Not

quite as hot.

On

the

TV

the cartoon

Becky recognized the tune: "When I'm
song, one of her favorites.

humming

girl started

to herself.

Sixty-four," a Beatles

Her dad had been

The humming stopped. The girl gazed into

a big Beatles fan.

space, lost in thought,

paying no attention to the fishing pole. The camera panned

away from

her,

swept across the water, zoomed slowly in on
18

the white
still.

girl

float. It

bobbed

moment

for a

or two

and then went

Becky — how could she be so slow? — suddenly realized the

must be Becca.
At that moment, the

float got

which was what happened

jerked

to floats

down

when

out of sight,

a big fish struck.

That snapped Becca out of her reverie. She looked out
water just in time to see

it

at the

erupt with an enormous spouting roar,

and Greenie — a greatly transformed Greenie, huge and thick
with savage eyes and a wide-open mouth exposing enormous
fangs — came flying right up the

line, right

up the pole, swallow-

ing everything, and sank those fangs deep into Becca's hand.

Becky screamed in pain. She

a searing in her

felt

own hand,

white-hot and excruciating, the worst pain she'd ever known.

She jumped up and bolted from the den in total screaming panic,

hand swelling

up, all purple.

Impossible. But there

A small part of her was thinking,

was no way

to disbelieve

In the kitchen, Becky thrust her
it

there. After a

pain like

this.

hand under cold water, held

minute or two the pain receded and the swelling

started to go down.

She got an

kind with Velcro straps, and

ice

pack from the

wound

it

freezer, the

around her hand. Then

she crept back toward the den, listened outside the door. She

heard nothing.

Becky went

inside.

From

screen, facing the couch.

the doorway, she couldn't see the

She

circled slowly

around

it,

took a

quick glance. They were back in the cabin, Becca tied to a chair,

Malin standing over her, one of those barber's straight razors in
his

hand and the straw basket
"I

want that

code,"

Becky sprang
off.

Malin

in the corner, lid closed.

said.

to the couch,

grabbed the remote, pressed

The TV stayed on. The camera showed
19

a close-up of Becca

"

working

knotted rope behind her back. Becky pressed the

at the

off button again.
harder.

And

again and again and again, harder and

No use. She tried the down arrow the up arrow. Nothing

happened. The

TV was

stuck on channel 99.

The knots were coming
this is?"

Malin

"Imagine
"I

Close-up of the razor. The blade gleamed.

how your face will feel.

don't have

what you're
with

said.

"Do you know how sharp

loose.

any

code,"

talking about."

Give

Becca

Her

me the

code."

said. "I don't

voice,

even know

her whole body shook

fear.

"That won't work," said Malin, bringing the razor closer to

how sharp?"

Becca, closer to her eyes. "See

Becky dove across the
once, twice, three times.
"I can't tell

ing

floor, hit

No

the power button on the TV,

use.

you what I don't know," Becca said, tears stream-

down her face, a face now inches from Becky right in front of

the screen. A face so
feel that pain, the

much like her own. And she, Becky, would

pain of the razor, on her

own face, a certainty.

She reached out and yanked the plug from the
be

"Just to

ward from
"I

fair,"

said Malin, "before

wall.

No

use.

we begin, I'll count back-

ten. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, fi—

don't

know anything about

codes,"

Becca

said. "I'm ter-

rible at math."

"Funny

joke," said Malin. "Will

you

still

be witty when

we're done?"

"But-"

"Where were we?

Six,

was

it?

No,

five. Five, four,

Close-up: razor.
Close-up: Becca's hands, not quite free.
"Two, one. ZERO!"

20

three—"

Malin slashed
to

ward

Becky raised her own hand

at Becca's face.

off the blow, but at the

same moment Becca dove

off

the chair. She raced for the cabin door. Malin flew across the

room, his speed astonishing, and got there

first,

barring the

way. Becca ran back, got behind the desk, keeping

it

between

her and Malin.
"Stop playing games," Malin said. "There's no

Becca picked up a paperweight and threw
so brave — actually hitting

was

twisted in fury.

He

it

way
at

him on the arm. His

took out the prescription

out."

him — she

face got

bottle,

all

fumbled

with the cap.
"Greenie? You awake?

I

need a moment of your

time."

"No, no, please," said Becca.
"No, no, please."

the

little

Becky said

it,

too, all

alone in the den of

apartment.

The basket lid vibrated, wobbled slightly,
two.

OK

ditch,

no.

But

at that

moment, Becky had

emergency thought: master

shifted

an inch or

a thought, a last-

switch.

She tore out of the den, down the

hall, into

the kitchen,

ripped open the fuse box. Becky had never been in the fuse box
before,

knew nothing of fuses or electricity, but she'd heard that

term, "master switch."

Which one was

switches, nothing labeled.

Maybe

it?

There were

all

this one, the biggest?

these

As she

reached for it, Becky heard a faint scream, coming from the den.

She banged the switch down with

The
off.

fridge

silent.

The

lights

her might.

on the microwave went

From down the hall, Becky heard nothing. She walked back

to the den,

the

went

all

every step cautious and slow.

No sound came from

TV Becky circled around, giving it a wide berth. The screen

was

black,

power

light off,

show
21

over.

Becky took a deep breath,
hand. Back to normal. She

sat

on the bed. She looked

no pain

felt

at

all.

at

her

"Brain fever." That

was another expression she'd heard. Becky put the thermometer in her mouth, took her temperature. Ninety-eight point six.

Back

to

normal. She drank some water.

A horrible brain fever

had passed through her, doing weird things

to

her imagination.

She could prove that by switching the power back on, turning

on the

TV Maybe later.

For now, she reached for the jam, spread

it

toast.

Raspberry jam, her

came

strawberry, with blueberry in third place,

What was

on a piece of

favorite. After that, a close second,

and —

that?

A footstep in the hall?
"Mom?"
Becky
fell

Mom's, came

rose. Footsteps, not

across the

closer.

A

shadow

open doorway to the den. Then a man walked in,

a very tall, very thin

man in a green suit and a yellow hat: Malin.

Only this was not a cartoon character, with not-quite-real eyes

and too much blue in his lips. This was a flesh- and-blood human
man, and
little

his eyes

were

full of

expression,

all

bad.

He

carried a

wicker basket in one hand.

"I'll

have that code," he

Becky froze, so

terrified

know about any codes," she
"I'll

said.

she couldn't move an inch. "I don't
said. "This is insane."

be the judge of that," Malin said, coming closer. He stood

beside the

TV

He reached

"You'll give

up the

into his pocket, held

code,

one way or another."

up the prescription

bottle.

"Greenie?" he said.
"No."

Becky

tried to

scream the word, but

muffled and ragged. The basket
22

lid vibrated.

it

came out

She had

to

all

do

down

something, had to fight somehow, get out,

She had

to

be brave — brave

like Becca,

to the street.

who'd had the nerve,

the defiance to hurl that paperweight. Becky had no paper-

Her best weapon was the

weight.

bottle of Orangina. Becky-

grabbed the bottle of Orangina and threw

at

Malin as hard

terrible throw, ridiculously off target. It

missed Malin

it

as she could.

A

TV

completely, striking the

dead center and smashing a big

hole in the screen.

Malin saw what had happened. His eyes opened wide. And

now he was

the screamer, a scream quickly cut

moment he was

off.

The next

gone, and the basket, too, re-formed into two

whirling spirals of blue light that soared around the den, swept
right

around her head and then got sucked

the hole in the

After that

the

TV

at

superspeed into

TV screen.

it

was very

quiet in the den.

Becky bent toward

gazed into the hole, saw nothing but

TV

parts,

some

broken. She went to the kitchen closet, found the flashlight,

shone

more

A

it

inside the

TV and saw what

she had just seen, a

clearly

few minutes

Becky had stopped shaking and her

later,

pulse had settled back down. Broken glass lay on the

could clean that up, but

how to

fever? Could brain fever

make

explain the broken
it all

seem

her temperature again. Ninety- eight point
the

little

phone

rang, the only

Becky went

six.

She

TV? Brain
Becky took

Out in the

hall,

non plug-in phone they had.

to the hall table,

"Becky?" said

so real?

floor.

Mom. "Just

picked up the phone.

checking

in.

How are you feeling?"

At that moment, Becky saw herself in the mirror above the
hall table.

Not quite

herself.

The
23

face in the mirror wasn't right

in the eyes, lacked that full sense of the person inside,

a

little

and was

too blue in the lips: the face of Becca.

"Becky?"

And

in the pocket of her jammies,

Paper? She took
written: ignition

it

out:

what was

this

she

felt?

an envelope. And on the envelope was

code— bomb

#2.

"Becky? Are you there?"

24

THE LEGEND OF

ANNA BARTON
Laurie Faria Stolarz

The

shrill of

the

phone ringing

startles

me

out of sleep.

I

wake

my chest heaving in and out, and reach for the
phone on my bedside table, accidentally tumbling over my glass

up with

a gasp,

of water.

ing

It

shatters against the floor. The water spills out, pick-

up the deep molasses color
For just an instant,
"Hello?"

I

mumble

it

of the hard

reminds

me

oak wood.

of blood.

into the receiver, only half asleep

now

No one answers, but there's definitely someone there. I can
hear

static

on the other end,

like

maybe someone has

a

bad

connection.
"Hello?"

repeat, almost detecting the

I

sound of a

voice,

a soft, faraway giggle that cuts right through the fuzz.

"Macy?"

The

I

ask,

static

a high-pitched

wondering

if it's

my friend from next door.

sound gets louder and so does the laughter,
menacing giggle

that sends chills straight

my back.
25

down

my ear,

The phone pressed up against

move down

the hallway.

The

sign

NOT

Grey: the stylin' sophomore,

and she answers not two seconds

I

exit

my room and

on Macy's door reads Macy
the soulful singer.

later,

a

I

knock,

wide and cheeky grin

across her heart-shaped face.

"What's up?" she asks, supersize bags of Sun Chips and

Cheez Doodles gripped

in

each hand.

"I

was

just

coming

over."
I

feel

my

face scrunch,

still

listening to the giggle

on the

other end of the phone.

"Who is this?" I insist, turning the volume up higher on the
receiver.

The buzzing sound
like

ing

someone's trying

my opposite
"I can't

pers.

me

It

gets louder

to talk.

and changes

pitch,

"Can you hear me?"

I

almost

ask, cover-

ear.

wait until you leave her alone," a female voice whis-

buzzes out and cuts through the

static,

nearly making

drop the receiver.

A second later, the phone clicks off, followed by a dial tone,
making

my heart beat fast.

"Kayla?"

Macy

asks, taking a step out into the hallway.

"Are you okay?"
I

shake

my head, completely weirded out.

"Who was

that?" she asks.

Fingers trembling,

I

click off the receiver

Macy. "She said she couldn't wait until
"Until
I

you

left

at

her alone."

who alone?"

shrug.

Macy smirks
I

I left

and peer up

in response. "Obviously another prank."

nod, telling myself that she's right.
26

And maybe

she

is.

my fair share of pranks this week — faux
bloody rocks left outside my door; numerous prank phone calls
I

mean,

have gotten

I

in the middle of the night;

and dozens of well-timed knocks on

my door with no one on the
Tonight

Anna

to answer.

the one -hundredth anniversary of the death

is

Barton, the girl

Anna Barton was
self

when I go

because of tonight.

It's all

of

other side

a student here, but she

when she found

went looking

ended up

school.

killing her-

out that her boyfriend was cheating on

her— and with her best
Needless

who supposedly haunts our

friend,

to say, Anna

no

less.

was beyond devastated, but when she

for a shoulder to cry

on — for someone

to console

her — she found that no one wanted to get involved. And

so, just

before she killed herself, feeling completely abandoned, she

wrote the words "You shouldn't have

bedroom wall

me alone!" across her

in dark red paint.

Legend has

it

that every twenty-five years following Anna's

death someone on campus will

And

left

die.

happens.

it

Seventy-five years ago, only twenty-five years after

Anna's suicide, Maria Bradley was discovered drowned inside
the school's
left

me

swimming

alone!"

pool.

The words "You shouldn't have

were smeared across the wall

in bright pink

lipstick.

Fifty years

in the

ago

it

was Sarah Wheeler. Her body was found

woods behind the

ning, that

school. People say that she'd

someone was chasing her and

that she tripped over

some brush and smacked her head hard against
her almost

instantly.

beside her in the

been run-

a rock.

It

killed

Those same words had been scribbled right

dirt.

27

The girl who died twenty-five years ago was

also discovered

with that same phrase beside her bed. Her name was Rosemary
Allegro,

and they found her

dorm room

in her

closet.

She had

both her wrists and written those words, in blood, across

slit

the inside of the closet door.
It's

thing;

I

not that I'm
just

happen to know some

of this stuff. Everybody here

Prep (more commonly known as

at Schillington

Shrillington) does.

come

some Anna Barton-murders guru or any-

Some

to this school

CTiz'ZZington or

my boyfriend, James, even
legend — because they love

kids, like

because of the

the idea of being scared. And they love, even more, to try to freak

people out with their lame-o pranks —which

Macy seems
I

right

so

unconcerned about

is

undoubtedly why

my recent call.

take a deep breath, reminding myself that,

down

to

it,

when it comes

there isn't a single soul at Shrillington

who

hasn't seen, heard, or tried to freak out one of their teachers

with the infamous phrase or some variation of

it.

Some

of

my

personal favorites:
"Don't dine alone!"

"Don't do

alone!"

it

"Don't leave

me

alone!"

"You really shouldn't have
Pranksters
call

you up

into

your

left

me

school think

tonight!"

it's

absolutely hilarious to

in the middle of the night

and blare these words

ear.

at this

They

also like to graffiti

locker rooms and scribble

them

them on the walls

across the chalkboard

in the

menus

in the cafeteria.

But while pranks
than a nuisance,

like that

I feel like this

have become nothing more

recent call

Scarier.

28

is

different.

.

A lot more menacing.
"You really don't think

Macy

"Oh, please,"

I

should be worried?"

ask.

I

quacking her way into

says,

my

room.

She's got on her favorite pair of slippers — fuzzy ducklings
that

quack with each

step.

But

for tonight's festivities.

happy fuzzy mass
up

in

A
I

itself,

we

call

phone

call. "It

kept laughing at
"Right,"

"I'll

my bed and

and then

be surprised

that's the only

says,

creepy

my

stomach,

was making fun

I tell

of me.

She

giggle."

seemingly uninterested. She flops onto

busts open the bag of

what pranksters

if

her in on the rest of the

I fill

like the caller

me — this

Macy

hair, a

get tonight."

right,

was

opinion,

suppose they go with her

Despite the uneasy feeling in the pit of

myself that she's

my

bleached-blond spikes that stick

straight all over her head.

weird phone

chipper choice, in

Sun

Chips. "Because that's

do."

"Do you think

it

might have been Georgiana?"

I

ask,

still

hesitant to drop the subject. For the record, our friend Georgiana
is

a self-proclaimed prankster. The

itching

been known to sprinkle

girl's

powder in people's beds, leave ransom notes in people's

mailboxes

(after stealing

something

like their favorite

teddy

bear),

and contaminate the food of fellow lunch companions

when

they least expect

to

my chocolate

it

(like

milk)

Macy

sighs.

"Everybody went

home

"Negative."

the time she added Pop Rocks

"She went

home

for the

weekend,

remember?"

It's

for the

weekend,"

I clarify.

true that aside from a handful of die-hard horror fiends,

nobody

in their right

mind wanted

Including me.

29

to stay

here this weekend.

But James talked

would be

me

into

fine, especially if

was stranded

here, too

wedding thing

"When

is

it,

we

— her

assuring

me

that everything

And

stick together.

since

Macy

parents have some out-of-state

they're going to — I caved.

James getting here?" Macy

asks,

wiping the chip

dust from the corners of her mouth.
"Soon,"

I say,

somewhat dreading

his arrival.

James and I have been going out for almost
but during the past couple of months

it's

endless cycle of fighting and making up.
relationship.

I

months now,

six

been pretty much an
I

mean, I'm not one of those

hate that about our
girls

who's

all

about

the drama. And so I've found myself bending and yielding where
I

know I

shouldn't.

Like tonight.
There's a reason he wanted to stick around this weekend.

He

thinks

it's

the ideal night to try to contact Anna's

being the hundredth anniversary and
dabbler on the

side,

seems

all.

And

Macy, a horror

fairly into the idea as well.

going along to keep the peace — to

spirit,

I'm just

make it five full days without

getting into yet another fight with him.

"You're

Macy
I

still

freaking out over that phone

call,

aren't you?"

asks.

shrug, not wanting to admit

the idea of ghosts scares me.
this school is all

think

it's

I

much,

because honestly

it's

not like

mean, even though everybody at

abuzz about Anna Barton — even though they

fun to pull out the school annual from 1907, to post

her picture, and come to tour

enough

it,

to score

my room

(since

I

was unlucky

Anna's old room)— I haven't really noticed

spiritly speaking.

30

Even just

month, the producers of the SciFi Channel's

last

Ghost Hunters series visited our campus for an upcoming show.
People around here couldn't get enough, bragging about feeling
cold spots on a regular basis, about noticing lights flickering

and seeing sparkling, purplish globes
all

floating

hours of the day and night. Meanwhile,

I

toward them

sort of

at

hung back,

because aside from icy-cold water in the morning for showers
I

and a clunky old heating unit

haven't really noticed anything
"So,

A

why don't you just

good

idea. I click

that

all

makes

a

huge ruckus,

that dramatic.

dial star six-nine?"

on the receiver and

Macy

suggests.

start dialing.

But

nothing happens.

And

so

I

"Hello?"

know someone's on

my voice

I say,

quavering over the word.

"Do you want

to die?" the voice

"Very funny,"

say with a sigh of relief, recognizing the voice

I

right away, despite his
last

the other end.

summer
It's

I

at

whispers.

lame-o voice -changer

Spencer

Gifts, this

It's

a

little

He bought it

gag shop downtown.

James, and he's trying to freak

glance at the clock.

tool.

me

out.

after ten. "You're

still

coming

over tonight, right?"

But he doesn't answer.
"James?" I ask, hearing the irritation in

my voice. "This isn't

funny."

"Do you want
"Okay, are

The

to die?"

you

the voice repeats.

trying to piss

me

off?"

boy's a total dork, complete with the cheesiest

collection of horror flicks lining the shelves of his room. He's

even got pictures of just about every ghoul, vampire, and werewolf

3i

adorning

all

four walls, not to mention an Elvira blow-up

"I'm hanging up!"

doll.

him.

I tell

"Okay, okay," he caves; in his normal voice now.

"You're such an ass."

"You know you love me."

"Sometimes

I

wonder,"

dark bed-head hair. Before

minutes working
just like

told

I

But

now it's

"Did you
"No.

I

"Wait,
to

I

my

glancing in the mirror at

nodded off, I had spent

a

good forty

my mane into two perfectly frumpled braids,

had it during last

me how cute

I say,

I

spring's school carnival,

when James

looked.

a mess.

call

before?"

I

ask.

called now."

you

be some

didn't call a

girl

crying?

few minutes ago? You

Were you on your

cell

didn't pretend

phone?

It

was

all fuzzy."

"Urn, no."
"Seriously, James. Don't

screw with

my head."

"Moi?" he jokes.

"Come
"It

on," I insist.

wasn't me, okay?

Because you
the inside of

called,

Why didn't you star six-nine?"

dumbass, I want to

my cheek and James

soon as he can sneak past

say.

promises

But instead I bite

to

come by just

as

security.

They've beefed things up for tonight, hiring extra cops to
scout out the area and

upon

making us show our badges

in the lobby

entrance. Apparently there are a few other brave (or stu-

pid) souls sticking

Raquel,

around

my resident

this

director,

weekend — at

least that's

what

has told me. She's also called

32

me

four times today, checking that I'm okay, reminding

at least

that there's

Movie Night in the rec room (featuring Psycho, The

Blair Witch Project,

and Friday the 13 th with all-you-can-snack,
)

skull-shaped popcorn balls for people

way through
"Soon,"

"Let
I

been

I

me

to

break

months, reminding
I

I

munching her

pissed at

it

off

him
it.

again, right?"

The

truth

is

that Macy's

with James for the past couple

me over and over and over again how much

have nothing in common.

But I don't think that's
all

still

true. I

mean, just because I'm not into

the haunted happenings around this place doesn't

don't appreciate a
I

home.

whisper, completely irritated.

me guess: You're

telling

didn't go

the bag of chips.

shrug, not wanting to go into

he and

who

when's he getting here?" Macy asks,

"So,

me

good scary movie once

remind myself of this as

that Bonnie,

my

I fix

in a while.

my hair, suddenly convinced

hairdresser back home, was right. Not only

do these auburn highlights add texture to

mousy brown

mean that

my not-so-fabulous

tresses, but they also help to bring out the

golden green in

my otherwise

deep

olive -drab eyes.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

Macy

asks for the second time

tonight.
I

nod, feeling unusually unhinged.

I

look over at the radiator

by my window— where Anna Barton killed
that she tied

one end of a rope

herself.

Word has it

to a vertical pipe, the other

end

around her neck, and then hung herself out the window

A few moments later, a banging sound comes from that same
window, making
"Relax,"

me jump.

Macy squawks. "It's

33

only James."

I

nod and take a deep breath,

trying to get a grip. Since the

school has this stupid rule about not letting boys in the

dorms and vice

versa,

James has become quite adept

And luckily,

the side of the building.
Slowly,

shoulders as
as

I

move

past the radiator.

James hoists himself onto the

at scaling

I'm only two floors up.

approach the window, feeling a

I

girls'

tug

I

chill

pass over

up on the

sill

my

just

ledge.

"Hey, beautiful," he says, once inside.
"Hey,"

say back, trying to force a smile. "I'm almost sur-

I

made

prised you

it.

Security's pretty tight tonight, no?"

James shrugs, commenting about how the new security
really just a
his

bunch

of rent-a-cops in uniform.

is

Then he wraps

arms around me, remarking on how cold my skin feels. "Like
he whispers, running his fingers over the gooseflesh on

ice,"

my forearms.
nod, pulling a sweater from the closet, suddenly over-

I

whelmed by
or James.

I

the feeling of being watched — and not by

glance out the window, wondering

out there, imagining Sarah Wheeler as she

our school that night,

fifty

her

last breath, that

anyone

else

is

was chased behind

years ago, then as she tripped over

some brush and landed down hard
that she scribbled those

if

Macy

against a rock. People say

words in the

they found the

dirt just

dirt

before she took

embedded under her

fingernails.

The thought
I

of

it

sends

chills

down

the back of

my neck.

wrap the sweater around me and then lock the window

back up. Meanwhile, James pulls a present from his backpack,
almost making
"I

me

forget his stupid

brought you something," he

"For real?" I perk up.

I

phone

call.

says.

tear off the silver wrapping, producing

34

a velvety black pouch with a purple drawstring. "What's this?"
I

ask,

opening

it

up. There's a palm-size crystal inside.

on top and pointed

The

at the

in front of

James dangles

it

my eyes.
me?"

"Are you trying to hypnotize

He

wide

bottom, almost like an inverted cone.

crystal is attached to a long silver chain.

down

It's

I

ask.

grow wide.

smiles. His gray-blue eyes

"It's

for our

seance."

"Oh,"

I say,

wondering how

this is

supposed

to

be a

gift.

Meanwhile, James empties out the rest of his backpack. He's

brought along a handful of incense
a box of sea
"I

salt,

know

didn't

board,"

and

Macy

I

bunch

sticks, a

of candles,

a square black handkerchief.

was supposed

to bring along

says with a smirk. "Too bad

retired

I

my
it

Ouija

back in

fifth grade."

"Laugh
the

floor.

if

you want," James

"But this

"And what
as
its

if

is

says, setting everything

up on

going to help us contact Anna."

I'm having second thoughts?"

I

ask,

he places down the handkerchief. He sprinkles sea

watching
salt

along

perimeter.

"The
ing

salt will

help keep evil spirits

out,"

he explains, ignor-

my question.
"Since

when is Anna Barton's

spirit

not evil?"

Macy asks.

James pauses, like the question never even occurred to him,
but then he quickly resumes his setup.

He

lights the incense

and candles and then wafts the smoke from them over the
handkerchief, as though that's supposed to bless the space — or
so I'm guessing.

"James?"
"Hey,"

he

I say, still

trying to get his attention.

says, finally glancing

35

up

at

me

as

he positions a

few of the candles around the room, "did I leave
last night? I can't find

"I

think

I

anywhere."

my head, annoyed

shake

I

it

my watch here

that

he

isn't really

might be having second thoughts,"

I

hearing me.

repeat, a

little

louder this time.
eye-roll — like

He and Macy exchange an
them — and then James flicks

off the

know."

"I

about

this.

"Since

is

shrug. "It's just that

I

can't see

overhead light, leaving only

the candles and the tiny reading lamp over

the room. "Relax," he says. "This

I

my desk to illuminate

supposed

to

be

fun."

maybe I don't feel quite

right

Especially tonight."

when

are you scared about

all this

ghost stuff?" he

continues.

"I'm not,"

He

"Good."

"Then
I

color

let's

I say,

silently caving.

crosses the

room

my cheek a cold peck.

get started."

nod and glance back over
it

to give

was when Anna

at the radiator,

lived here.

wondering what

Or how the room was dec-

orated—white walls or moss green,

now? Was her bed

like

positioned opposite the dresser like mine, or did she kitty- corner
it

to the

left

me

door? Did she scribble the words "You shouldn't have
alone!" across the east wall, like everyone says, or

the window,

where the paint never seems

"Are you ready?" James asks, snapping

by

to stick?

me back to attention.

He's sitting on the floor by his setup now, dangling the crystal
at

me.
I

nod some more, suddenly

and the musky scent

feeling a

little

nauseated —

of the incense isn't helping.

him, and so does Macy, and

we

listen diligently as

the directions.

36

Still, I

join

he explains

"It

works

the crystal.

like this,"

he begins. "We each take a turn with

We close our eyes, concentrate hard,

and ask Anna

a question."

how do we

"And

get the answer?"

James demonstrates,

down on

the handkerchief.

He

left to right,

"And
right?"

if it

ask,

I

the answer

moves from

to

from the

crystal

back for a

is yes,"

"If

other, the point

moves

the crystal

he explains.

front to back, the

remembering some

before — something

our hands palm

holds the end of the chain in

downward toward our hands.

dangling

asks.

telling us to position

one hand and then drops the

from

Macy

answer

similar practice

I

is

no,

heard of

about determining the sex of a baby, front

boy, side to side for a girl.

James nods, reminding us that

we'll

need

to

phrase our

questions so they have only a yes or no answer.
"So, let's get started."

Macy rubs her palms

together and

then places them in the middle of the handkerchief.

(minus the palm rubbing), noticing

suit

over

my desk keeps

"Are you okay?"
"Yeah,"

polish

on

"So,

He
from

reading light

flickering.

Macy

asks, noticing

trying to refocus

my spaciness, maybe.

by staring at the chipped pearl

my thumbnail.

I'll

go

first,"

James

says. "Anna, are

drops the crystal and

left to right

"Let
tal

I say,

how the

follow

I

me ask

it

dangles downward, wavering

over our hands and making him smile.
it

something,"

Macy

from him. She closes her eyes

grin inching

you here tonight?"

up her

says, taking the crys-

to concentrate, a

lips like she's really

"Anna," she whispers,

"is it

true that

tonight?"

37

enjoying

someone

is

happy

this, too.

going to die

At that the flickering light over my desk goes out completely,
turning

my bones to

Macy lets

absolute

out a gasp.

At the same moment,
inside

ice.

hear a banging noise come from

I

my closet, like maybe

box tumbled

a shoe

off the shelf.

Macy leans over to snatch a candle from atop my night table.
She positions
"Holy

in front of us for

it

James shouts,

shit!"

Meanwhile,
something else

up

remain

I

to

added

beaming.

totally

and

still

light.

myself for

quiet, bracing

happen. When nothing else does, James gets

to inspect the light.
"It's

Anna."

"Or maybe

He

grins,

it's

a coincidence,"

unscrewing the dead bulb.
I say,

perhaps trying

vince myself. "That bulb's been flickering

The
right.

crystal, still

"Check

"So

it's

it

dangling in Macy's

out,"

true!"

to

con-

all night."

grip, shifts

from

left to

she whispers.

James

says, practically drooling.

"Someone

is

going to die tonight."

"And why do you look so happy about that?"
ing

how

moved

to

"It's

his

accurate the dangling even

wonder-

especially since

Macy

reach for a candle.

not that I'm happy," he says, running his fingers through

shaggy dark

victim

is,

ask,

I

hair.

"But

maybe we can find

out

who the

next

is."

"We can
"Right,"

name some
"No!"

I

stop the death before

James

says, joining

it

happens,"

us back on the floor "So,

people. Who's staying on

shout. "I don't

"Why not?" James
"He does have a

want

asks.

Macy pipes

campus

this

up.

let's

weekend?"

to know."

"We could be helping someone."

point,"

Macy
38

says, continuing to

defend

him. "Maybe

have
I

someone had warned those

if

girls,

they wouldn't

died."

glance at

my closet thinking about the snippets I've heard

about Rosemary the third

girl

who

died after Anna. People say

was pretty and popular and perfectly happy Apparently

that she

she played

lots of sports

newspaper

staffs

and participated on the yearbook and

and volunteered

at the library

on Sunday

afternoons.

No one

ever imagined that she'd do it— that she'd

Though neither

of the other deaths really

kill herself.

make any sense,

either.

Maria Bradley, the

who drowned, was

girl

Schillington's

champion swimmer. When the coroner examined her body — for
a

blow

to the head, or

something toxic in her bloodstream,

anything that might have explained the reason for her drown-

ing— they became even more perplexed, because she checked
out perfectly fine.

was ever able

In Sarah's case, no one

what had been chasing her
of footprints

that night.

— her own — but

pretty frantically because

to discover

who

There was only one

or
set

she had to have been running

when

they found her body

it

was

covered with scratches from having broken through branches

and brush the
I

look

at

entire way.

James, wondering what he's thinking.

are laughing at a joke he told, something about

and something
they

tell

else

I

He and Macy

Norman Bates

wouldn't understand. At least that's what

me. James tops the joke off by picking up a candle.

positions

it

under his

chin.

The shadow

He

of the flame dances

against his face, illuminating his wicked expression, like

Halloween come

to

life.

39

Macy laughs, throwing a Cheez Doodle

"You're such a spaz."
at

him.

James goes

to catch

it

in his

mouth, but he's interrupted by

a noise.

We

all are.

It's

coming from the

"What the

Macy

closet — a

hell is that?"

weird scratching sound.

James whispers.

stands and takes a step toward

"Maybe

it's

a

suggest,

rat," I

James stands, too, angling

it.

somewhat

for

my own benefit.

his ear to listen harder. "It

sounds

was

just in

someone's in there."

like

my

"There's no one in

assure him.

closet," I

"I

there to get a sweater."

But the noise

unmistakable, like someone's clawing

is

at

the wood.

"You know," James begins, "that Rosemary girl, the one
slit

her wrists, word has

when

she did

it

that she

was locked

inside her closet

— she was trapped."

"No way," Macy
of

it

who

says, like this is the first

time she's hearing

it.

It's

the

first

"It's true."

time I'm hearing of

it,

too.

James nods. "When the police entered her room

that night, they had to bust the closet door open.

were

all

get out.

bloody; she'd

damaged

Her fingernails

them

trying to

got in there, but

someone

the hell out of

Nobody knew how she even

must have done it because the door was locked from the

meaning she

had

either

time of entrance

"Or maybe

to

outside,

have had the blades with her

at

the

."
.

.

Anna

slid

them under the

suggests.

40

door,"

Macy

"Bingo!" James says, flicking on the overhead light.
I

my head, fighting the urge to cover my ears. People

shake

say that the ghost of Anna

what drove those

is

girls to die.

say she chooses her victims carefully, picking girls

common — they've

one very important thing in
relationships with

someone

Anna's way of getting back

else's boyfriend.

all

They

who have
had

secret

People believe

it's

her best friend, that just before

at

they wind up dead she prompts her victims to write the words

"You shouldn't have

left

me alone!" as a sort of tribute to herself,

so she's never forgotten.

"Anna,

is

He

closet door.

corner of

James whispers, edging closer

that you?"

to the

grabs the heavy silver picture frame from the

my dresser, the

grandpa, and positions

one with the snapshot of me and

it

my

over his shoulder, like a makeshift

mallet.

The clawing sound
ing

my heart

to

continues, getting

thrash around in

my

more

chest.

urgent, caus-

James extends his

hand to the doorknob. And in one quick motion, he whips open
the door.

Macy lets

out a gasp in response.

from our seance

so do

I,

standing up

spot.

my closet, grappling through my clothes, my

James rushes
shoes, the boxes

And

on the overhead

shelf.

But there's nothing there.

And

the noise has suddenly stopped.

"That's totally

messed

up,"

Macy whispers.

James nods, taking a step back. Finally, he turns

was Anna," he beams,
"Or Rosemary,"

Rosemary,

it

as

Macy

to us.

"That

though thoroughly amused.
suggests. "Of course,

would make a

lot

4i

more sense

if it

were

for her to

really

haunt

Janice Acher's closet on the fourth floor. You know, since that's

where she died and
"Maybe

all."

she's lost,"

"And maybe

James

that scratching noise

all

one of the other rooms," I
"You have

James

"Maybe,"

I say,

I

was just an echo from

my voice shaking over the words.

say,

to admit, the walls in this place are pretty thin."

"Denial,"

maybe

jokes.

sings.

noticing

don't feel so well."

how my head keeps
I

spinning. "Or

take a deep breath, wondering

if

Raquel would mind if I stopped by her room for a bit. Sometimes
she

lets

us take a rest on her spare futon. She has a peppermint-

scented pillow that never

fails to

"Take some Advil," James
off.

He reignites the

tion,

using

resume
This

is

on,"

like

me, clicking the light back

Macy blew out — and

floor.

join him, curled

my arm

everything out.

"Come

I

tells

candle — the one that

takes a seat back on the

Reluctantly

ease me.

as a pillow

up on my side

and wishing

I

in a fetal posi-

could just block

•

James urges. He grabs the

nothing happened. "Don't ruin

crystal,
it

eager to

for everybody.

just getting good."

"Maybe you're the one who's ruining it," I venture, suddenly
feeling bold.

"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It

sitting

means you knew

I

didn't

want

to

do

this tonight," I

say

back up.

James's face twists up into a giant question mark. "What are

you talking about?"

"Maybe

I

should leave,"

Macy

42

says.

"No,"

I insist.

"Nobody is going anywhere." I take yet another

deep breath, trying
believe in

have
"I

my

cool,

knowing

that

whether

I

seance stuff or not, there's one question I just

all this

to ask. "Let

keep

to

me go

knew you'd get

next."

into

it

eventually."

James

smiles.

He hands me the crystal and I concentrate hard, really imagining myself talking to Anna's spirit — if it truly even exists here.

"Was that you who called
ing, I

drop the

crystal,

But instead
to

it

me earlier?" I whisper. Fingers

wishing

shifts

it

to

from side

move from

shak-

front to back.

to side, causing

my stomach

churn.
"Urn,

idea

is

no offense, James," Macy

a load of crap.

"Wait!"

I insist,

It

says, "but I think this crystal

only moves in one direction."

somewhat surprised by my urgent

tone.

"Maybe we should ask it a 'no' question — something we already

know the answer to."
"Good idea," Macy says with a wink. "Does James have even
the slightest clue about
crystal

and drops

it

how to

from

its

contact spirits?" She grabs the

chain, purposely forcing

it

in a

front-to-back motion.

"You can be such a downer-bitch, you
says to her, completely setting

me

know

James

that?"

off.

We end up in a huge argument, one that segues into the real
problems between us. How James is completely insensitive, how
he only thinks about himself, and how he consistently
see

all

the sacrifices

I

make

for the sake of our relationship.

"I'm outta here," Macy announces
it all.

fails to

somewhere in the midst of

And then James and I just keep on fighting, arguing to the

point of exhaustion, until

my voice grows tired and hoarse.

43

Somehow at the end of it all, he ends up
ping his arms around

want

doesn't

to lose

But for once

I

We fall asleep
up with
I'd

me and

saying that he loves

me.

don't say anything back.

shortly after. But then, around 3 a.m.,

I

wake

remembering Macy

a start,

meant

me and

apologizing, wrap-

to

go and get her right after the fighting ended.

"What's the problem?" James asks, turning over in bed, pull-

up over

ing the covers
I

his ear to block out

move

grab the phone and

room.

I

try knocking, but

any answer.

out into the hallway to Macy's

no one answers. I try pounding,

calling

her on the telephone, and shouting her name.
Still

no one comes, even

"What the

my aid.

after five full minutes.

hell is going on?"

Raquel

She's dressed in her robe

and

asks, finally

slippers.

coming

to

A security guy

follows close at her heels.
I

try to explain, but I can't get the

to get in there;

words out — how

how Macy, James, and I were supposed

I

need

to stick

together tonight.

The

security

guy unlocks Macy's door and

lets

us

in.

And that's when we see it —the open window and the curtains
flapping in the breeze. And the words "You shouldn't have

left

me

alone!" scribbled across the mirror in dark red lipstick.
Sitting atop the dresser is James's watch, the

he

lost,

enabling

jokes and

all

trying to get

me to put the pieces together — all the private

the secret glances, and the

me

one he said

to

break

it

off

way Macy was

forever

with James.

My stomach churns. My hands start to sweat. And that menacing giggle — the one from the phone call earlier— begins to
play in my mind's ear.
44

I

take a deep breath, trying to get a grip, noticing

end of a rope

tied to the radiator while the other

is

how one

end

trails

outside.

Raquel clenches
the

window He

there.

my hand

as the security

doesn't even flinch

when he

He just turns around and nods

That Macy

is

sure.

dead.

But the legend of Anna Barton

45

sees her, hanging

to us, tells

9-1-1.

And that's when I know for

guy approaches

lives on.

Raquel

to call

SAVING FACE
Christopher Pike

"I

want

to

"Jane.

be you,"

my twin

Shut up,"

I

sister said.

"You have

to die."

replied with a laugh. Jane often said

off-the-wall stuff. That last

she brought out a knife.

remark

didn't scare me.

was part

It

of a set

I

Not

until

had bought

her the previous Christmas for her apartment — a Cutco
carving knife.

The blade was

my laugh

died in

big, shiny,

my throat,

very sharp. She toyed with

probably on purpose. So

imagine what

I

me

to

shut up.

make

She pricked her

my own blood would look like.

of crap that bugs

going to

tip.

could see the blood and better

Jane sighed as she spoke next.
tell

as

not looking at me, not now, just at

the knife, fingering the metal, testing the
finger,

it

And you do

it

looked up and stared

at

it

all right.

famous model and everyone

likes

me. "But

46

always hate

it

when you

anyway, you don't care. Tons

me— you just do

everything

"I

and then smile

like that's

You think because you're a

you that
I

don't,

I

like you, too."

Jane

don't like

you

Jill, I

at all.

The

truth

is,

stupid to realize

hated you for years. Only you were too

it."

forced a smile, although

I

ious.

I've

I

was beginning

to feel

come out

This turn in our conversation had

anx-

of nowhere.

Minutes ago we had been "just hanging" in Jane's new apart-

ment—she had moved from our
month — eating Chinese and
were going
It

parents' house only last

trying to decide

which

DVD we

to watch.

had been

a while since

had spent time with

I

Jane.

My

schedule was demanding. The evening had not looked particularly exciting, but I figured

it

would be pleasant enough.

Especially when Jane brought out a
for dessert

brew

tea

ning—that

The

truth

straight

chocolate cake

— which she knew I loved — and whipped up a special

of herbal tea to drink with

The

homemade

it.

had been the only thing unusual about the evebefore she started talking about murdering me.

is,

was I had never seen Jane drink herbal tea. She was a

Coke

girl,

unlike me,

who seldom drank soda. As

a bud-

ding model — I was not famous, not yet, but I had done a few covers

and had finally landed a real New York agent — I had to watch my
weight. Jane usually ran fifteen pounds heavier, although in the
past few

months she had dropped down

To exactly

My guts

my size,

I

to

my size.

thought.

rumbled from the tea — the

stuff

Only the sugar in the cake and the vanilla

heaped on

it

had allowed me

a face. Yet that

to

ice

lousy.

cream she had

drink the stuff without making

made me wonder

all

the more.

trying to disguise the taste of the herbs?
I

had tasted

stopped smiling.

47

Had

she been

"Why are you saying all this stuff?" I asked. "I'm here, right?
Isn't that

this

what you wanted? We're having

think about
If

me and how

junk about hating
it,

dumb

I'm

Why bring up
am? When you

fun.

stupid

I

we're identical twins; we're genetically the same.

means

that

you're dumb."

I

sucked

drops of blood that

paused. "Put that

knife away."

me and

Jane ignored

at the

The knife was

formed

at the tip of

her

hand. Unlike me, Jane was left-handed. "I wasn't

left

enough

her right index

finger.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

waves.

I

my belly. The

wanted

same time
was about
eye.

I

I felt

to

ask

to

weak,

demanded, putting

I

to the
like

knew

doesn't matter

if

a

rumbling was turning into nauseous

I

bathroom and throw

wouldn't

make

it

what I was

exactly

you throw up or

up.

At the

without help.

my sister for assistance when

realized she

"It

run

dumb

she muttered.

to drink the tea,"

hand over

in

she caught

I

my

feeling.

not,"

she said. "You

swallowed a whole cup. It's been in your system thirty minutes."

She added, "You're already screwed."
"I

don't understand."

"It

means

you're going to

"Stop talking like that!"

die."

snapped. "I'm feeling real

I

Besides the nausea and overall weakness,
ing heavily.

my

pores,

It

was an

oily

kind of sweat;

maybe my lungs

as well.

It

I

noticed

it

seemed

was an

I

sick."

was sweat-

to suffocate

effort to talk,

to breathe.

Jane nodded. "You feel like you're smothering."

"What was

in that tea?"

I

whispered.

Jane shrugged. "Leaves. Twigs. Bark.
details of the concoction, but

I

know

48

it's

I

don't

know

all

the

poisonous. With the

dose you drank, you'll be dead in an hour. Probably within
thirty minutes."
I

into
face.

my arm

raised

wipe away the sweat that was pouring

to

my eyes. It seemed as if the limb took an hour to reach my
Everything

as

felt

if it

"Call nine -one -one,"
"Call

was happening

in slow motion.

mumbled.

I

them yourself."

"Jane,

I'm serious. Call for an ambulance."

My sister shook her head and said nothing.
I tried to stand. I managed to straighten my legs and get
to my feet. But then something happened to my knees. They
disappeared. My brain was no longer connected to them. No
knees, no walking to the

myself fall more than I

phone and

felt

the

calling

an ambulance. I saw

— until I hit the floor. My nose

fall

shattered on impact and sent out a spray of blood.

The red
blinded
sister

me

liquid pooled
if

my eyes and might have
rolled me over. How tall my

around

Jane had not

looked right then, standing over me, the knife

still

in

her hands.

"Why?"

I

gasped.

Jane knelt by

my

"The simplest reason would be the

side.

most honest. Because I can. Our parents hardly see me anymore,

and when they do, you're never around. You must have noticed
that for the past year I've

same room
to

as you. Except for the last month,

sucker you back into

"Why?"

I

mumbled

her head closer and

it

my life

life,

and

so

we

and

be in the

that

was just

could have tonight."

again, not understanding. Jane

moved

looked as large as the Goodyear blimp.

"You're not listening,

have your

my way not to

gone out of

still

Jill.

be

me
49

It's

easy

at the

to

become

same

you, to

time. Since

we

graduated from high school last year, no one ever sees the two of
us together. We're both nineteen and we both live on our own.

can play both roles and enjoy the best parts of the two

no one will be any the wiser. I'll get to model, make

swanky apartment of yours,

live in that

paused. "Best of
"No."

It

all, I'll

make

get to

was the only word

I

it.

to

The guy is a walking

had

frustration.

that cash,

drive your Carrera." She

left.

be

to

for us.

Henry and

are about sex.

and

out with Henry."

"Think how much better it's going

how uptight you

all

lives

I

We both know

have talked about

But as of tonight he's going

go to sleep smiling and wake up grinning." Jane smiled.

you do love him, you have
"No,"

I

to

admit

little

fun with your face before you

must know,
ahead with

my face and

it.

You think you're

that's the

my plan.

It

fast. I

left

was your

you've never once looked at

sighed.

wanted

the world.

I

to

vanity.

know how

me

you

decide to go

Two minutes ago you

you don't believe

me and

have a

prettier than me. If

one thing that made

said we're genetically identical, but

I

for the best."

it's

wish you weren't passing out so

attached you are to

was.

"If

heard myself repeat.

Jane brought her knife close to
"I

I

thought

how

it.

I

bet

beautiful

I

Have you?"
tried to

answer but could

not.

My jaw was numb, my tongue frozen.
But the answer would have been no.
I

had never thought Jane was

Not

like

beautiful.

me.

my face. Ralph,
my black cocker spaniel, was licking my face. I'd brought my dog
over to my sister's house because he sometimes got lonely when
I felt

a

sudden warm sensation on the

50

side of

I

my dog. Henry often

was away too long. I was very attached to

joked that
true,

but

I

Ralph more than him.

liked

I

sure did love

He was

I

had

Ralph groaned in pain as

down

"Don't worry,

right now.

my pain.

sensing

if

the knife and stroked

I'll

was

didn't think that

my dog. He was, like, my best friend.

the only friend

Jane set

I

him

lovingly.

take good care of Ralph. I'm sure in a few

days he won't be able to

tell

me from you. Like Henry, he might

even prefer me."

What

could

I

say

when I

could not speak?

Jane picked up the knife and pointed

at the tip of

it

my nose.

"The poison has probably numbed you up some, so you're
not going to feel this the

way

I'd like.

But

I

want you

to

know

I'm going to mess you up real good. I'm going to poke out those
bright blues
off

your

talked

lips, too.

Dad

you think
I

and carve away those high cheekbones.

I

You can deny

into letting

had

stared.

to

My

it

all

you want, but

you have collagen

I

I'll

take

know you

injections.

Why

do

go and get them, too?"

eyes were frozen open. All

could do was

I

stare.

Jane grinned again and leaned over with her knife.

She began

numb,

I

began

to tear

to cut,

suppose. But

the last thing
pieces of

away
I

and

it

was

I felt it

my

inside, oh, yes,

flesh

saw before

I

it.

Too

inside, as

she

true, I didn't really feel

and feed

it

to

deep

my

dog. That

lost consciousness.

was

Ralph eating

my face.

When I woke up I felt as if I was on fire. The weird thing is,
besides the burning sensation,

I

wood. The smell of smoke.
5i

heard flames. The crackling of

.

Then I opened my eyes and saw a campfire. It was four feet
was

I

three

medium- size

lying

off a lot of heat.

radiating from

my skin.

.

my right

on

away.

it.

There were only

logs in the center of the pyre but they gave

Still, it

my

did not match the burning sensation

face. It

was

as

if

someone had peeled

off

.

The thought was enough.

That meant

I

bad enough

I

remembered.

my face before

Jane had carved up

I felt

side, close to

was dead, and
be in

to

hell. It

this

was

she killed me.

was what? Purgatory?

dark,

away from the

fire;

everything was a dim blur.
"Don't try to

sit

up," a scratchy voice said

immediately disobeyed. Twisting around,
talking, but

pressed

I

behind me.

tried to see

I

who was

two dusty hands came out of the dark and gently

me back down. The female voice added, "Rest. You have

to regain

your strength."

"Where am I?" I mumbled, and it was no ordinary mumble.
I

of my

was missing parts

anatomy needed to form clear words.

My lips, for example.
"You're in the middle of nowhere," she said.

"Who

are you?"

I

asked.

"Name's Arleen."

"Why are you here?"
"Be happy I was here tonight,

be in the belly of a

child.

Or else

right

gator."

The Everglades. Jane must have dumped me
Did

this

now you'd

in the

swamp.

woman rescue me?

"Did you see her?"

I

asked, feeling a drowsiness sweeping

over me. An angry note entered the woman's voice.

52

"Not

you

clearly.

But

I

saw her drag you

to the

water and

roll

in."

Tears burned

my eyes, and I wanted to

sob loudly But the

weariness continued to grow in strength, and besides, there was

something wrong with my vision. I could not focus properly My
depth perception was
side of
It

I

off;

my tears were

flowing on only one

my face.

was then

closed

I

realized

my one

"How do

I

eye. I

look?"

The woman

I

I

was missing an

wished

I

eye.

were dead.

whispered.

sighed. "You're alive, child. That's

all

that

matters."

Not

true, I

thought as

The woman's
gypsy of
said she

full

who

sorts,

passed out again.

name was Arleen Tabbit. She was

lived in a hut

had friends

the whole time

I

a

deep in the Everglades. She

in the woods, but I never

we were

forty,

met any of them

together.

Arleen had been gathering roots for a stew she was cooking

when

she chanced upon Jane and her unique burden. She

stumbled upon my sister before Jane had finished wrapping
up.

Arleen described

over me, one over
sealing

how my

my head,

them with duct

she rolled
left right

me

sister

tape, she
I

me

sank.

It

my legs.

Before

was only because Jane

fast that I

die," I

was

groaned as

outside Arleen's shack while she applied
"ancient healing paste" to

two trash bags

scooped in rocks. The instant

away and Arleen moved
let

fitted

the other around

into the water,

"You should have

had

me

I

still alive.

sat

what she

on a

stool

called

an

my face. The formula was remarkably

53

soothing. If not for the

been in horrible
it

woman's

pain. As

it

skill

with herbs,

I

would have

my face and head throbbed but

was,

was not unbearable.
"Nonsense," Arleen said. "Nothing wrong with you the best

plastic
I

me!

surgeons in Miami can't

brushed away her hand. "Nothing they
I

have no

you look

surgeon

go see him

going to

is

fix

me up with

years of soot. The

Her

filth

my

black. There

my face.

If

eye. Tell

one of those and

She had cleaned her

outburst.

made her

missing eye — but

coloring

off

this afternoon."

fingers to apply the paste, but otherwise she

my

at

you might notice I'm missing an

Arleen brushed aside

did

Look

can't fix?

The skin has been scraped

lips!

real close

me which
I'll

fix."

was

I

could

face hard to describe — as

tell

she had exotic features.

dark, although her skin

were streaks of white

wore knotted under a woolen
around her lustrous

eyes.

in her

was more

latter

olive

than

brown hair, which she

cap, but there

The

was buried under

were few wrinkles

shone as

if

from a great

depth, despite being as dark as coal. If she cleaned herself

and put on nice clothes she could be
But

I

figured that

She chuckled as
"Why,

child,

I

was the

you can

still

that matters. As far as your

doctors

who can

fit

pretty.

last thing

wept about

up

Arleen cared about.

my missing eye.

see, can't

you?" she

said. "That's all

empty socket is concerned, there are

a glass eye in there that looks no different

than the other one. Then no one's going

"Yeah? What about the rest of

to

look at you twice."

my face?"

Arleen shrugged. "From what you've told me, you've got
money. Get your face fixed up as best you can and get on with

your

life.

No

sense worrying whether you're pretty enough to
54

be on the cover of a magazine.

No one

reads those kinds of

magazines anyway. They just buy them 'cause everyone else
buys them. There
I

no fun

ain't

stories to

read in them."

kicked the ground in frustration. "You don't understand!

I

my life! The life I was living! I have a boyfriend,
Henry, and if he saw me like this he'd dump me. The same with
my friends. They'd never hang out with a monster like me."
go back to

can't

"If this

Henry really loves you, he won't care what you look

she said as she continued to apply the ointment. She had

like,"

an odd accent. At
islands, but the

first I

assumed she was from the Caribbean

more she talked the more

I

heard European

tones.

Not one but a strange mix of accents. She added,

leaves

you because of what's happened

to you,

"If

then you've

he

lost

nothing of value."
snorted. "You don't live in the real world."

I

That amused Arleen. "Are you saying you do?"
I

gestured to her shack and the swamp.

"This place stinks,"

I said.

Arleen stopped applying the paste. "This place

She added, "You need
about you no matter
I

to get

home

how you

to

your

my home."

family. They'll care

look."

hesitated. "I didn't tell you. That girl

dumped me

is

in the water — that

was

who

cut

me up and

my twin sister."

For once, Arleen was shocked. She sighed and shook her
head.

"Maybe you shouldn't go home,

girl,"

she muttered.

Of course, Arleen was not serious when she said
avoid home. She told

me

to call

they would be worried about me.
55

my
I

I

should

parents right away, that

explained that as far as

my

parents knew,

I

was doing just fine. When Arleen heard the

full

scope of Jane's plan, she gasped in wonder.
"That

girl's

got an imagination,

you gotta grant her

that,"

she cackled.
"That girl

made a mistake when she didn't see you," I replied.

"She's going to pay for that mistake."

Arleen gave
let

me

them take care
I

of the nasty

my

for revenge.

Even

satisfaction

would

life:

my

hideous face and

Jane went to

day

my

I

they saw me. In

impos-

my

desire

that bring?

died.

friends,

it

thought, what kind of

jail, I

was the one who would have

until the

that

if

old

and

end of this business."

shook my head. There were two things that made

sible to return to

I

a long look. "Best you go to the police

I

to live in a

hadn't been lying

Henry

included,

my world,

walking prison

when I had told Arleen

would dump me the second

looks were everything.

They were

everything to me.
If I

least

could not have

wanted Jane

my

But

to suffer.

with a plan, and to do that
figure out

face back the

I

to

way

hurt her

needed

I

to stalk

it

had been,

had

to

I at

come up

her until

I

could

how to make my move. I said as much to Arleen, who

naturally disapproved.
"You're underestimating

she

said.

"Why,

brand-new
I

face

I

what them fancy doctors can

read about a

sewn

on.

woman

Imagine

in

do,"

Europe who had a

that!"

grumbled. "She had the face of a brain-dead woman trans-

planted on. After the surgery, she didn't look anything like she

used

to.

She looked

like the other

woman."

Arleen shook her head. "So you want revenge.
stand that.

I'd

probably want the same
56

if

someone

I

can under-

tried to feed

me

But you've

still

thought to

that."

to the gators.

You have
I

to give

didn't reply.

got a

life

ahead of you

to live.

My future was the last thing I wanted to think

about.

My

face healed, slowly painfully. If not for Arleen's help,

the process would have
kind.

been unbearable. She was weird but

She often hitchhiked

into

alcohol, antibiotic ointment.

black patch for

town

to

buy bandages, rubbing

She even managed

my empty eye

to find

me

a

socket.

But although she was wise enough to embrace what modern
drugstores had to

offer,

it

was her knowledge

and pastes that helped the most. When
pain, the Tylenol

came

me

to soothing

did not

come

my

close

brews she made out of the bark of trees and the leaves

to the

of

and aspirin she gave

it

of herbal teas

me

the

teas,

my

bushes that grew in the Everglades. She never told

names

whenever

of the ingredients, but

I

pain would recede to a distant ache. Then

drank the
I

would be able

to

sleep like a child.

But each morning
to

have

my
and

mirror,

I

revenge. At
after

I

my

Arleen brought

insistence,

got over the initial

of crying — I swore that

shock— after two

no matter what

it

took, Jane

me

a

nights

was going

worse than me.

to look

A

awakened more determined than ever

month

after Jane buried

me,

I

hitched into town.

I

went

my old neighborhood, to the apartment I rented the day
graduated from high school last year. I was third in my

back to
after

I

class

and had been voted homecoming queen the previous

Jane had dropped out of school

and

didn't go to the

early.

She took the

homecoming dance, although
57

fall.

GED test

several guys

had asked

her.

then,

and said

want

to

go

remembered how she had

I

she couldn't go with Henry, then she didn't

if

at all.

Jane was not in

know where
about

smiled, even back

my

apartment

when

I

kept a secret key. She didn't

I

my life. Once inside I was

account and read

all

arrived.

She

know a lot

able to go online to

didn't

of things

my e-mail

the mail Jane had been unable to access.

I

saw she had managed to make contact with my modeling agent
and had

in fact

gone on several

jobs.

The man wrote

that she

was doing a wonderful job.
Jane did not

know my ATM password and

had been unable

as a result she

my account. That had not stopped
on my account, but she had not made

to drain

her from writing checks

any cash withdrawals. Without the password, she could not see
exactly

what

had

I

But

in the bank.

about grabbing everything in

hurry? She thought

I

doubted she was worried

I

my bank. After all, what was the

was dead.

Yet her inability to directly view

advantage.
I

I

could withdraw

did just that

when

my

balance gave

me an

money without her knowledge.

sent a wire for ten thousand dollars to a

I

new account at a different bank. I needed to rent an apartment
ancj.

a car, but

cions.

I

didn't

want

Then she would know someone was on

knew I had money in
Before

I left

to her.

Jane

the bank.

the apartment, Jane

came home— with Henry.

got trapped in a garden area off the master bedroom.

There

and

much that I raised suspi-

could never drain the account so low that she bounced

I

a check.

I

to take so

I

found Ralph,

didn't

bark once.

my
I

dog.

Thank God he recognized me

petted

58

him and whispered soothing

words in

and Henry made a beeline

his big ears while Jane

for

the bedroom.

had

I

screen door while they fooled

to sit outside the

around.
It

made me

hate Henry almost as

Eventually they

left,

and

I

much

as

staggered into the bedroom and

my remaining

collapsed on the rumpled sheets and wept out

Ralph followed

eye.

seemed
that

so

I

my

away He

tears

my heart he understood

make Jane pay

to

my plan? To be honest, I wasn't sure. I would

stalk her to establish

of

and licked

an impostor.

vowed

But what was

alone,

inside

happy to see me, I knew in

my sister was

Again,

me

hated Jane.

I

her routine.

I

had

know when she was

to

when she was vulnerable. I also knew I needed a weapon

some

sort.

But

didn't

I

know what I wanted

do

to

to her.

There were spare debit and credit cards plus a copy of
driver's license in a

that Jane

them,

left

was aware

me
did

was

the apartment, and went in search of a place to

live.

all

easy. I just

of the duplicates

the bandages on

had

that

I

my

close to zero.

face, renting a studio

wave the cash and the agent asked

to

on the dotted

and disgust

line.

wanted

But he looked
to

at

me

empty apartment.

get used to

I

with such

break his nose. However,

was weep when he handed me the keys and

in the

was hideous.

I

left

was going

me
to

all I

alone

have

to

it.

Renting a car proved more
girl

my closet. The chance
took

to sign

pity

at the rear of

I

Even with
proved

shoe box

my

difficult. I didn't

look like the

on my license. It was not until I answered a dozen questions

about my personal life — my Social Security number,

59

my mother's

maiden name, and so on — that they
year-old

but

I

Camry The

car

was

a big step

wanted inconspicuous wheels

My new

shoots or to Henry's house.

with

my stalking hours.

of shoots

my

I

I

sit

When

I

But

outside in the dark

to

my lonely ears.

several surprising things.

was. She

was doing twice the

had been doing. She had

parents.

I

follow her to photo

echoed out

Jane was a harder worker than

faked out

for

would even

I

work taught me

detective

number

down from my Porsche,

Camry and

listen while their laughter

My

drive off in a four-

my sister whenever I wished.

preferred to stay inside the

and

me

apartment was three blocks from the old one.

could walk over and look at
I

let

trailed her

also completely

on a shopping

trip

my mother, I saw she had my mannerisms down pat. Mom

didn't notice a thing.

Jane spent almost no time being Jane Clayten. She had quit

her job

at the

music

store.

The few times she returned

apartment — the place where

I

to

her

had been poisoned — she merely

my

made

a

place,

which made sense. It cost three grand a month. Her dump

few

calls

cost only seven

and checked her e-mail. She preferred

hundred bucks.

Jane never drove her old Honda. She was addicted
Carrera. She

by the

cops.

was

a speed freak.

Only once was she given

she just smiled

at the officers, told

batted her big blues, and got
Stalking her gave

me how

to

wonder

if I

into
to

end her

me

life. I

I

a ticket.

my

saw her stopped

The other times

them how sorry she was,

away with

it.

the details of her

life

lacked inspiration.

I

but did not

tell

even began

to

lacked the guts to destroy her. As the days turned

weeks and into months,

bandage

Three times

to

my

face. It

was

my wounds healed, yet I continued
better to be a recovering patient,

60

I

thought, than

the world

let

I

was a

horror. For the

seriously contemplated killing myself.

first time, I

Jane had wanted to be me.

Every mirror on earth

was UGLY!

I

know

I

Now I wanted to be her.

silently

could not bear

Then, one night, while

cursed me.

it!

sitting in the

Camry outside my old

apartment, listening to Henry and Jane enjoying a movie and
buttered popcorn,

I

had

a revelation.

I

know why the idea

don't

had taken so long to come. My only excuse was I had undergone
a major

trauma and wasn't thinking

began

I

to think

back

clearly.

to the night

Jane had attacked me.

She had given me a poisonous herbal tea. A concoction, she
said, "of leaves, twigs,

bark." Yet Jane

and her poison had not

herbs,

me

and

out.

killed me,

knew nothing about
had only knocked

it

Once Arleen had rescued me from the

water,

I

recov-

ered rapidly.
It

was only because

only because the

of Arleen that

I

was

still alive. It

woman had "just happened"

to see

Jane

was
roll

me into the water that I was still breathing. What a coincidence,
I

thought, that she had been at the right place at the right time

to save

me.

What

when it came
It

I

a coincidence that Arleen

was

also a master

to herbs.

occurred to

me

that

I

might be stalking the wrong person.

had only been back to see Arleen twice since returning

to

town. Both times she had been living in the shack, the same as
I

had

left her,

through the

eating her strange diet of herbs

swamp late

at night,

was no doubt she was a genuine

and

and talking to the
gypsy, but

was

it

fish,

hiking

stars.

There

possible she

was something more?
I

returned to the

swamp and
61

stalked her. For several days

she kept to her usual routine. As she had during the time
spent with her, she awoke

tended a

still

at

dawn and

I

fished until noon. She

she had set up deep in the swamp. Then she

and herbs and stored them

collected flowers

in burlap sacks

outside her hut.

But after a week she had a

The man arrived
but

alert.

visitor.

in a black Mercedes.

Wearing an immaculate blue

climbed out of the
not Arleen.

I

car. It

had only

to

He was

suit

Chinese, old

and a red

tie,

he

was he who bowed when they met,
watch them

for a

minute

to see that

she was the boss and he the servant.

He had

with him a white poodle that Arleen fawned over

excessively.

She treated the dog the same way I treated Ralph.

She let the animal lick her mouth, and she hugged it as
a child, not a pet.

The time

I

I

was jealous

had spent with

she had never showered
It
I

if it

were

of her relationship with the dog.

her,

she had treated

me with

me

kindly, but

affection.

was obvious the poodle was the

love of her

life.

was not surprised when Arleen climbed into the Mercedes

and drove away with the man.
nearby.

I

It

was fortunate

I

was parked

was able to catch up with them, and I followed them to

Palm Beach, where the

stars

and jet-setters had their mansions.

Arleen had a palace of her own. As they pulled into the driveway,

two dozen employees lined up outside. She was given roses as
she stepped from the

car.

few had tears in their

"Who
I

the hell

is

Her servants

eyes.

that

It

was

woman?" I

did not know. But one thing

inside

was

that she

like

I

all

smiled in welcome. A

they worshipped her!

said aloud.

realized as she disappeared

had been behind Jane's

62

attack.

That Arleen

had been behind

from the beginning. Alone,

it

my sister would

never have had the nerve to carry out such a bold scheme. But

was

strength of will
Plus, she

was

clearly a quality Arleen did not lack.

so

damn

rich.

With money, one could do

anything.

But why had Arleen helped Jane? I had to discover the answer
before

to that riddle

I

could figure out what to do next.

Easier said than done. Stalking Arleen,

mansion, proved

woman

never

to

left

be more

difficult

when she was

at

her

than following Jane. The

her palace without an entourage, and never

without wearing the latest fashions. Jewelry,

diamond necklace

that

too.

She had one

must have been worth ten

million. In

her hands, she always carried the beautiful white poodle.

When

she stopped

at a store to shop,

her people entered

and cleared the place before Arleen put

Her

a foot inside.

precautions were elaborate — they more closely rivaled those
of a

head of

state

than a world-famous

actor. It

was

as

if

the

woman lived in constant fear of being assassinated.
But not when she returned to the swamp, which

she came

back to

and wear-

regularly. In the Everglades,

covered with

dirt

ing her rags, she

seemed carefree. It was amazing how she could

swing from one

lifestyle to the other.

the swamp.

It

was the only place

I

She was more

saw her

at

home in

smile.

Then one day I caught her and Jane together, in a shopping
mall in

downtown Miami.

For once Arleen was without her entourage.

And

for

once

my sister looked uneasy. To remain unseen, I had to keep a distance. Consequently,

the whole time

I

I

had no idea what they talked about. Yet

could see Jane was nervous. She kept nodding

63

and

fidgeting.

Twice Arleen pointed a finger

at her, practically

scraping the tip of Jane's nose with a sharp fingernail.

Their meeting raised more questions than

same

the

them

when I saw them

together,

answered. At

knew I had

I

to kill

both.

took another two grand in cash out of

I

and

time,

it

visited the underbelly of Miami.

There

my new
I

account

bought a snub-

nosed Colt revolver and a switchblade. The guy who sold me the
goods threw in the ammunition

free.

He was

the

person

first

I

my disfigurement who seemed to appreciate my
scars, even through my heavy bandages. He gave me his card,
told me to call anytime I wished, day or night.
had met since

I

practiced with the

Coke
I

bottles in

honor of my

took Jane hostage

she was

week

gun outside

of town.

Blew away a dozen

sister.

easily,

on a Thursday night, when I knew

home alone, and when I knew Arleen was spending the

in the

the door,

swamp. Jane almost fainted when

my gun

held ready.

It

was

I

burst through

clear Arleen

had

told her

my life. After getting over her initial shock,
she tried reasoning with me, but I took out my blade and drew

nothing about saving

a red line across her chin.
It
I

let

was wonderful. She began

made her

my car.

drive

I

to beg. I

chin was

all

it!

sat in the backseat with Ralph,

the dog cuddle with me, and kept the

sister's skull.

loved

gun on the back of my

She could not stop trembling. The blood from her

over her

shirt.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"Same place you took me."
Jane shook her head. "You'll never get away with
I

smiled.

"I

don't

need

to get

64

away with

it."

it."

"

please, listen to me.

"Jill,

but

can make

I

were.

I

it

up

to you.

I

know what

I'm making

I

did

was

totally evil,

much more than you

can afford the best surgeons in town. They're doing

amazing work these
"Shut up!"

—

I said,

belting her

hard she almost swerved

on the back of the head so

off the road. "Just drive."

When we reached the swamp, I wrapped Jane's hands and
mouth with duct tape. We crept through the trees toward Arleen's
hut. I was pleased to find the woman sitting alone beside a fire
outside her shack.

When she saw us, even when I held out my gun, Arleen did
not flinch. That worried me. Putting Jane between us,
the

woods but heard no

one.

There was

I

scanned

just me, Jane, Arleen,

Ralph, and Arleen's poodle.
I

had never seen the dog in the swamp before. I had assumed

Arleen considered the animal too special
place.

than

I

found

its

ironic that the

it

master

did. It

to

wander the

dirty

dog seemed more scared of

me

had large black eyes — they fastened on

me and never let go, while Arleen acted as if I had shown up
with my folks and a box of pizza.
I pointed my revolver at Arleen. "Answers," I said.
"Do you plan

to kill us both?"

she asked.

"Yes."

Arleen shrugged. "Then
I

shifted

my

why

should

I tell

you anything?"

aim toward her knee. "There are many ways

to die."

Arleen studied me. "When you're through taking your
revenge,

it's

not going to be enough for you."

Arleen had
I

snorted.

lost

her thick accent.

"It will

be

plenty, believe me."

65

Arleen shook her head.

know you

"I

yourself. Your desire for revenge

as your feelings of loss.

When

is

better than

strong, but

it's

you know

not as strong

you're finished with us, you'll

finish with yourself."

The woman
better than

swamp

I

is

a sorcerer,

could.

thought. She had read

my mind

was true, I had no intention of leaving the

With

that night.

Nevertheless,
I

It

I

I

my face

sneered

in ruins, there
at

was no

Arleen. "Tell

point.

me

why,"

demanded.
Arleen looked

at Jane,

She sighed. "Each of us

is

who was weeping quietly then at me.
given a single

life to live.

That

life is

granted to us by nature or the universe or God, whatever you

want

to call

it.

Many people speak of life

have learned

as a

gift,

and over the

many that gift is

But for

years

I

lived.

People die before their time, cursing whatever forces put

them

in their grave. Others live for decades, but they're miser-

this is true.

short-

able and they curse the world just the same." Arleen paused.

"A long time ago, as a child,

I

used

to

puzzle over this enigma.

Why are we given only one life when it is so nice for some and
so terrible for others?

It

did not

seem

fair."

She paused. "Do

you understand?"
I

snorted.

"I

haven't a clue what you're talking about.

did you help Jane to ruin

my life?"

Arleen held up a hand. "Before

you have

to

Why

I

can answer that question

understand these points.

First, that life is a gift.

A single life is given to a man or woman to live as he or she sees
fit.

This

die.

is

the nature of life on this planet.

But, like

I said,

We are born and we

even as a child I used to question if this rule

could be broken. Did a person have to live just one

66

life?

Could

he or she not

live a series of lives

through different bodies,

the people inhabiting the other bodies decided to give
gift

of life?"

grew

She paused. "It was a question

into adulthood

and began

the all-consuming goal of
I

grew impatient. The gun shook

you don't

And

it's

start

I

feels like to

it

hand. "Arleen,

if

to start shooting.
first.

You're

have a kneecap explode."

my question about Jane!"

life,

and Jane's

life,

and

my life, and

Sira's life."

blinked. "Who's Sira?"

Arleen stroked the poodle. "This
"That's a

damn

dog,"

I

is Sira."

said.

Arleen shook her head. "No. She just appears
dog

became

am answering your question about your sister. I'm dis-

cussing your
I

my

not your heart I'm going to put a bullet in

paused. "Answer
"But

in

I

this riddle."

making sense soon, I'm going

going to discover what
I

answer

their

dwelled upon as

I

to travel the world. It

my life to

up

if

not an animal. She

at this time. Sira is

is

as

to

be a

human

as

you and me."
"You're mad,"

I

said. Yet

my

voice shook;

I

did not

know why
then decide

"Listen,

was

her

story.

live

more than one

"While

I

if I

am crazy or not." Arleen continued

trying to discover

life

— to

sister

and began

wither away. Sira and

to

was possible

to

pass our soul from one body to

another— my

became

if it

ill

with what
I

is

now called

were very

close.

cancer

We were

not twins, like you and Jane, but she was only a year younger,

and

it

was

as

if

together. There

we were

joined at the hip.

We

did everything

was nothing incestuous about our relationship,

and yet, I will go as far as to say she was the love of my life. It was

67

this great love

death that

we shared

made my

that

quest for a solution to

much more vital. For I could not accept that our love

should one day perish, even as

and she began

cancer continued to spread

Sira's

Arleen paused. "But she didn't

to die."

die."

"What happened?" I whispered.
"I

saved

her."

"How?"
"By finding the answer

dog with

affection.

my riddle." Arleen

to

stared at the

"You would have trouble imagining

long ago that was. But

I

suppose

it

doesn't matter when

happened, just as long as you understand

it

how

all this

was more than one

lifetime ago."
I

hesitated. "I don't believe

The odd thing was,

I

words, in her voice, that

was

it," I

whispered.

lying.

made me

There was a power in her

believe her. Yet that did not

mean I understood her.
know more than

"You
think as

I

indeed a
other

gift

you're willing to admit,

thought in those days. Follow
gift,

then

receive.

Or

else

it

Try to

my reasoning. If life is

can be accepted and cherished

it

one might

Jill.

like

can be rejected.

It

any
can

be scorned and sent back." Arleen added, "When that happens

one

is

no longer worthy of the

gift.

One

loses

all

rights to

it,

so to speak."

A glimmer of insight began to dawn inside.
"Can the

gift of life

"Yes and no.
the word. But

it

It

I

asked.

cannot be stolen in the ordinary sense of

can be taken by another, especially when it has

been relinquished by
I

be stolen?"

cocked the

its

owner."

hammer on my

68

revolver.

"Whose

life

did you

plan on taking? Mine? Jane's?

Who did you plan on giving

it

to?"

Arleen petted the poodle. "The answer to your last question
is Sira. I

need a human body

time now. But

it

for

some

has not been easy to find a proper body

much

less arrive at a situation

longer wanted
"But

I

for her.

We've needed

it

where the person inside the body no

it."

want

to live!"

Jane suddenly cried, having pulled the

tape from her mouth.
I

belted her with the gun. "I'm asking the questions here!"

I

turned back to Arleen and spoke in a quieter voice. "You're saying

you and Sira have been able to live throughout the ages by finding
people

who no longer

appreciate the

Arleen nodded. "That
I

glanced

at Jane,

is

gift

own lives?"

of their

correct."

then back

at Arleen. "If that's true,

neither of us can be of any use to you. Sira won't want

I'm half blind and badly disfigured. Even

from me. And Jane may be a murdering
the truth

when

she says she wants to

my body.

children run

little

bitch,

then

but she's telling

live."

Arleen shook her head. "There's seldom been a worse

example of someone who rejected the
refused to be

gift

of life than Jane.

She

who she was born to be. She wanted to be you. She

was willing to murder to become you." Arleen paused. "Jane has
forfeited all rights to her body.

her

at birth

can

now be

The

everyone what

please don't
I

found

that Jane

kill
it

I

was given

to

taken away and given to another."

"No," Jane whispered, crying.
tell

gift of life that

did to

"I'll

Jill. I'll

go back to being Jane.

go

to jail if I

have

to.

I'll

Only,

me."
interesting, since

was begging Arleen

69

for

I

was holding the gun,

her

life. It

increased

my

suspicion that there were people in the swamp waiting for Arleen's

But try as

call.

might,

I

I

could hear no one else in the imme-

diate area.

Arleen shook her head
she

at Jane. "It's too late for tears, child,"

said.

"No!" Jane wailed.

"Would you please shut up!" I screamed at her before turning back to Arleen. "I follow what you're saying, and

why, but

where

I

I fit

believe you. At the
in this picture.

had no desire

to give

it

I

same time

mean,

I

I

I

don't

know

don't understand

was happy with my

life; I

up."

Arleen nodded. "In the beginning, we used you to get Jane to
forsake her right to her
to

own life. We needed you to convince her

commit murder — another

one

excited. "But

if

lifted

"Then what
"If you

I

should get

it!"

up the poodle and placed

is

to

become

it

in her lap.

of Sira?" she asked.

can transfer me over to Jane's body,

Sira another body,"

Arleen sighed.

I

again.

It's

I'll

help you find

swore.

"It's

as perfectly suited as

human

long ago discovered caused

I'm innocent, and Jane has forsaken

the right to her body, then

Arleen

I

own body."

to lose the right to their
I felt

sin

taken us

you

many

years to find a pair

two. Sira's waited a long time to

not fair that

my

sister

be

should have to wait

any longer."
I

snorted. "The hell with your sister! If you don't help me,

you'll die, you'll all die. Including

your precious

Arleen was unmoved. "That's not going

There was a sound behind me.

70

I

to

Sira."

happen."

stood quickly, keeping

my

gun aimed
I'll

at Arleen. I

shouted into the woods, "If you rush me,

shoot!"

No one responded.

It

was possible there was no one

there.
I
I

stared

down

Arleen. "You said

at

it

yourself, I'm innocent.

don't deserve to be a part of your plan.

have no right

to take

didn't ask for

I

it.

You

away my life!"

There was a note of sorrow in Arleen's voice when she
spoke next.

"We

gave her a package
she knew,
going to

away your life, your

did not take

full of

sister did.

herbs and a few instructions. As far as

when she came to dump you in the swamp, you were

die.

my plan for her body."
ruining my life!" I shouted.

She knew nothing about

"But you maneuvered her into

"We helped her do what she wanted
"We're not at fault

Her

We merely

last

when it comes

remark caught me

to

your

to do,"

life.

off guard.

Arleen

But you

said.

are."

"How can

I

be

at

fault?"

Arleen pointed
your

to

my

sister attacked you,

face.

"You woke up out here, after

and you were perfectly

healthy. True,

you were wounded and your looks had been ruined, but there

was no reason you
had your face

couldn't have gone to a plastic surgeon

fixed."

There was nothing but bitterness in

had

my face

and

my voice. "I could have

fixed, yeah, so I didn't look like a

was never going

to

monster! But

I

be beautiful again!"

Arleen set down the dog and rose

to

her feet, standing across

the campfire from me. "True, you would no longer have been
beautiful.

But you could have had a life. You could have married

71

and had

children.

a teacher. There

You could have gone

to college

and become

were many things you could have done. But

because you could not be beautiful, you decided you had only

two options — the same two options Jane

settled

upon when she

forsook her right to her body"
"That's nonsense!"

"No.

It's

I

snorted.

the truth. Just because you were no longer beau-

tiful—just because of your vanity— you decided you

commit murder and then

suicide."

had

to

Arleen paused. "No, Jill, you

are not the innocent one here."

Her words struck

deep.

But that did not mean
I

aimed the gun

I

heard the truth of them.

was going

I

to give in to

at Arleen's face. "I

may

them.

not be innocent,

but neither are you. You're not going to walk out of this

swamp

alive."

you would

Arleen shrugged.

"I

planned from the

figure out I

had a role

in

what Jane did to you. But as you stalked

your

my people

sister,

stalked you.

start that

We knew you would bring

Jane here tonight."

As she spoke,

a

men in dark clothes came

dozen

swamp. They were armed — their weapons were
me. The Chinese
rifle

equipped with a laser

dot on

Yet

cried.

Arleen

with them.

He

pointed

at

carried a high-tech

sight. I felt rather

than saw the red

my forehead.
I

acted like

"I've got four
I

man was

all

out of the

I

didn't care.

pounds

"Even if you shoot

of pressure

on a five-pound

trigger!"

me in the head, my finger will twitch.

will die."

Arleen spread her hands.
That belongs

to Sira.

But

I

"I can't

give you Jane's

can give you back your
72

body

life.

You

can walk out of here and no one will harm you,

my

Tears burned

remaining

Jill."

The gun trembled

eye.

in

my hand.
whispered.

"I can't live like this," I

Arleen was sympathetic. "Then

tell

me what

I

can do for

you."
I

stared at Sira and

seemed smart,

too,

the

sound. She was like

I

thought, what a pretty poodle. She

way she

my own

making

sat beside Ralph, not

dog, very well behaved.

I

a

bet the

two animals could have been friends.
Arleen seemed

"Maybe there
I

to

is

read

my mind again.

something

we can do

lowered the gun. "Really?"

I

for you," she said.

whispered hopefully.

Arleen smiled and nodded, and then her gaze

on Jane.

fell

The mysterious woman scowled. "We can do something with
Jane, as well," she said.

Henry
and stared

felt sick at

at his girlfriend.

and orderlies had
shot that

was

left just after

empty

She had tried

scribble

She was

tied to the bed.

sedating

Jill

just beginning to take effect.

closing over their
attacks.

heart as he stood in the mental hospital

to

sockets. She'd

The nurses

with some kind of
Jill's

were

eyelids

had another one

of her

grab a pen from one of the nurses and

on the hospital wall that she was not

really

Jill.

That

name was Jane.

her

Of course, since the brutal assault three months
that

had

killed

her

sister, Jill

was no longer equipped

earlier

to think

or write coherently. Besides the severe emotional trauma that

had caused her
see what she

to identify

was

writing.

with her dead

Her
73

assailant

sister, Jill

could not

had taken both her

eyes and cut out her tongue as well.

her inability

to

Henry often

was

felt it

communicate properly that had thrust her into

such a deep psychosis.
It

was

Perhaps

a pity the police

if

had been unable

they had, the sight of it

convinced Jill that her

sister

senses stripped away, the

.

.

seemed sure

it

self

in a nightmarish

had been

if

might have

stood, with half her

was trapped

girl

Henry wondered

Occasionally,

no, the feel of it

was gone. As

realm where even her sense of

the police

.

to find Jane's body.

obliterated.

Jane was truly dead. But

of their facts. The crime scene

had been

soaked with blood, too many pints of blood for Jane

The

survived.

Jill's sister,

DNA tests

and since

said the blood

was the

that

to

have

must have come from

case,

it

followed that Jane

must be dead.
But no body.

How strange,

he thought.

Henry knew the mystery would haunt him
he

until the

day

died.

With
bye.

It

tears burning his eyes,

was then her own

uncanny sensation

eyelids

that she

was nothing but gruesome

was

Henry

knelt to kiss

Jill

good-

popped open and he had the
staring at him, although there

scar tissue

where her beautiful blues

had been.
She moved her mouth. Her lips were gone, too. The monster

had taken it

was

all.

Yet,

somehow, Henry recognized the words she

trying to say.

"Jan
Jill

.

.

.

was

Iggg

...

Jan

."
.

.

trying to say, "I

A minute later she was

am Jane."
asleep.

His heart breaking, Henry

left

the hospital.

When he got home, he was greeted by a cheerful sight. Jill's
74

cocker spaniel, Ralph, and a beautiful white poodle Henry had
discovered outside his door not long after the attack on his
friend,
it

were both

sitting

on the couch watching TV Or

girl-

at least

appeared that way. The two dogs looked so comfortable, they

could have been enjoying a movie together.

Then Henry noticed it was only the poodle that was focused
on the

set.

Ralph wagged his

tail

and came running over to

Henry's hands, but the poodle remained seated.

him

a welcoming bark until there

was

It

lick

did not give

a commercial.

Henry had seen the poodle behave the same way before.
always weirded him out a

little.

the dog chose to watch the

uncanny,

really.

It

He wondered if it was because

same shows Jill used

The poodle had

girlfriend.

75

exactly the

to like. It

same

was

taste as his

THE LITTLE SACRIFICE
Joyce Carol Oates

"Where

our sister?" — the cry went up

is

among

us,

who were

her older sisters and brothers on the morning after the

one was discovered missing.

We were

a large

our farm was not very prosperous, and so

farm

we

little

family,

children were

obliged to share rooms and beds; but our youngest sister
slept alone in a corner of our parents'

bigger than a

Who

crib.

"Oh, where

is

she?

and

bedroom in

a

still

bed hardly

My daughter, my baby?

has taken her from us?" So our distraught mother

cried,

for

Momma knew that the little one would not have wandered

off

by

herself, but

upset; but
in

was

typical of Father to turn

(Father, too,

away

was

in silence, as

if

shame; for Father could not forgive himself, his farm was

less

us

it

must have been abducted.

than prosperous no matter

how hard he and

the rest of

toiled.)

All that

day we searched for our

little sister,

and

month and year we would search

week, and

all

little sister;

and never would we abandon our search

that

the remainder of our troubled

lives.

76

Had

all

that

for our

for her, for

cruel fairies carried

Had

her off into the Underworld?

through an o