Ashes to Ashes Page 30


“New York City,” a voice said from behind me.

I whirled around, my hair swinging around me as if in slow motion, and I saw Pippa sitting on a chair a few yards away. Just sitting there in the middle of the bridge’s walkway, the cables framing her on either side, making criss-cross shadows appear on her face.

Her face. My god, she looked even worse than the last time I saw her. She was hunched over in her coat, her hands in her lap looking as breakable as twigs, her legs nothing but bone under her long skirt.

“Pippa?” I said gently.

No need to speak, she said weakly. I must save my energy.

Why are we in New York? I asked, hugging myself against the cold. It was amazing that even though I knew I was in one of my dreams, I was feeling everything like it was real. The damp smell of snow, the cutting chill of the wind.

It all started here, she said. Everything. For both of you.

Me and Dex? I asked.

And me.

Pippa had moved to New York after she left Sweden and became a nanny to Dex and his older brother Michael, but I wasn’t sure how I came into it.

She gave me a sly look with her tired, hooded eyes. You come into it because that’s where I saw you, Perry. When I first used the Veil to look into your life. It’s where Dex and Michael were born, brought into this world. Where both Dex and I were put away. It’s the beginning of so many horrors. And I believe it will be the end.

I frowned and wiped the cold flakes of snow off my face. End? What do you mean?

I don’t know. It’s a feeling.

You know what? I said angrily. I started stomping through the snow to get to her, the cold sinking into the tops of my Converse shoes. I stopped right in front of her, close enough to count the flakes nestling on the top of her thinning hair. I am getting sick and tired of you and your feelings! Why can’t you ever be sure of something for once? Why is it always a hunch? It’s never real.

Because I’m not real, my dear, she said. And I can never be sure of anything. All I have is what I feel and what I fear, and it’s better that than nothing.

Well, what am I supposed to do about it? I shoved my hands in my back pockets to keep them warm. I’m quitting the show now, didn’t you hear? Didn’t you feel that?

I did. A timid smile stretched across her wrinkled lips. And for that I am glad.

Then what’s the problem?

I think the problem is something you won’t see coming. I think the problem will come in the form of someone who is trustworthy. And I think when he comes, he will bring you here. Where everything will end. She breathed out slowly, like her lungs were labored. It will come full circle.

He? I repeated.

She just stared at me, eyes dull. There will be death. And in that, I cannot help you.

“Death!?” I cried out loud.

The world is changing and I am growing weaker. The death may be my own.

“You’re already dead,” I tried to say as politely as possible.

She cocked her head and for once her eyes sparkled as if they belonged to a younger woman. “Death is never the end, only a transition. I have tried to stay here, in the Veil, for as long as I can, to look after you and Dex. But time here can run out. It can be used up. Just like the time in your hands. And when I go, I don’t think we’ll ever have contact again. So whatever I am able to pass onto you, even if it’s a feeling from deep inside my lost soul, I will. While I can.”

Her words seemed to exhaust her. She breathed in deeply through her nose just as the snow began to fall harder, thicker, until she was gone and all I could see was white.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

I woke up with a start.

My eyes flew open and I sat straight up, trying to get my bearings. I wasn’t on the snow-covered Brooklyn Bridge anymore. I was in the teachers’ lounge at Oceanside Arts Academy.

But what the hell woke me up? I thought to myself, holding the covers close to my chest while my heart pounded as if set off by something else, something I wasn’t aware of yet.

I tried to listen, keeping my breathing as quiet as possible, and surveyed the room for anything unusual. The clock on the microwave above the fridge read 3 a.m. It was always 3 a.m. when the scary shit happened, but the room looked normal to me. I’d fallen asleep with the lights on, naturally, and though the window above the sink showed the black sky outside, if I tricked my mind hard enough, maybe I could pretend it was morning and I was safe and I could fall back asleep.

I laid my head back on the armrest and tried to think of nice thoughts. I was drawing a blank. I kept thinking about my dream, about Pippa, trying to decide whether that was a figment of my imagination or if it was real. I kept thinking about Rebecca being pregnant and the fact that Dex stuck his dick in her all those years ago. I kept thinking about Ada and how alone she felt, then about my parents and how disapproving they were going to be when I showed up with Dex.

And then I thought about where I was and what I was dealing with. And it seemed pretty fucking futile to try and think about anything nice.

I sighed and watched with surprise as my breath hung suspended in a cloud. It had grown colder in the last minute, so much that my nose and chin and hands, the only things outside the blanket, felt partially numb. I hated cold spots.

They usually only meant one thing.

A mechanical noise by the door caught my attention, making my pulse jump. I carefully slid my eyes over to it. The doorknob was very slowly turning, almost so imperceptibly that you couldn’t even see it happening.

I held my breath, paralyzed by fear, submissive by my lack of options. I watched as the door knob continued its long turn until it couldn’t turn anymore.

The door jumped in its hinges as if someone on the other side tried to push it open.

The lock held.

I let out a little cry, bringing my knees up to my chest, as if shrinking away from it would help.

Suddenly, the door stopped jangling. The room grew silent. I knew this was probably a good time to turn on the camera and film whatever the hell was going to happen, but I didn’t want to turn away, I didn’t want to take my eyes off the door.

There was a knock at it. Faint, just three raps, but definitely there.

“W-Who is it?” I cried out softly. “Dex? Rebecca?”

I slowly got off the couch, tossing my blanket aside. The vinyl floor was ice cold underneath my feet as I crept over to the door.

I gingerly put my ear against it, hoping I could hear something on the other side.

And I could.

Whispering.

At first it was the harsh, ragged whisper of just one voice, male or female I couldn’t tell. They were speaking nonsense, words I didn’t recognize as any language, and yet they sunk into me just the same. The intent still came across.

They were the whispers of psychosis, of pure hopelessness and desperation.

And then they multiplied. One voice became many, all whispering their rough pleas, their nonsensical words getting under my skin, lulling me into their madness until the hundreds of crazed voices were all I could hear.

I pulled away from the door, and the minute I did so, the whispering stopped, leaving me in silence. I counted to ten, gathering the courage to do it again. I carefully put my hand on the knob and my ear back on the door.

There were no whispers.

Just one metallic voice, like it was speaking through a crackly radio.

“She’s behind you,” it whispered in its strained transmission.

My lungs felt like they were shriveling up, my heart seeming to stop. The fear was so strong, so wicked, I thought it might just consume me right there and reduce me to nothing.

She was behind me. I didn’t have to guess who.

I straightened up and turned around to look.

Shawna was across the room staring at me intently, her posture stiff and her head angled down, creating shadows on her sickly white face. Blood dribbled down her chin and a red-stained rag was clutched in one of her small hands.

She didn’t say anything. She just stared at me.

And ever so slowly smiled, displaying a mouth soaked with blood.

I wasn’t about to hear what she had to say.

I pushed out the door lock and was ready to turn the knob when I looked down and saw eight long black fingers coming in underneath the door, wiggling up at me.

I screamed and staggered backward toward the couch.

“Dex!” I screamed. “Rebecca! Someone help!”

“I can scream louder than you can,” Shawna said in her sing-song voice. She took two steps toward me and stopped, her gaze going over to the door, to the wriggling, stick-thin fingers of the bad thing as it tried to get underneath it. It was only a matter of time before it realized the door was unlocked, a matter of time before it was in the room with me.

“Dex!” I screamed again.

“Dex!” she screamed, high-pitched and piercing. Then she laughed, mocking me.

“That’s right,” she said. “Keep screaming. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed when I was locked in that space, locked in that cold box. I wasn’t dead and they wouldn’t believe me.”

I eyed her with trepidation, not wanting to engage her but feeling I had to all the same. “What box?”

“The morgue,” she said, smiling and twirling a strand of her hair around her blood-stained finger. “It wasn’t my time, I wasn’t dead. And they knew it. The nurses knew it. But they had to make room. And my dad wasn’t there anymore. He couldn’t tell them no.”

“The nurses…” I trailed off, finding it hard to speak. My gaze kept going to the fingers under the door, now making long scratches in the floor. “The nurses killed you?”

Her eyes turned black as coal, her irises obliterated. “I was going to die anyway, we all knew that. My father couldn’t save me. He couldn’t save himself either.” She came two steps forward, almost floating along the floor. “I wasn’t the only one. Some of us burned in the incinerator. Some of us were left in the cold to die. My friend Elliot was smothered with a pillow. We were all tossed out to make room.”

“What do you want with me?”

She eyed me curiously. “You’re the only person who really sees me.”

“What about Jody?”

She snarled contemptuously. “She doesn’t have what I need.”

I inhaled icy air into my lungs. “What do you need?”

She grinned. “A way to be alive again. He promised me I could have that if I let him eat.”

I didn’t have to look to the door to know whom she was talking about.

“And he can’t do that without you?” I was afraid of the answer to this one, but I asked it all the same. “He can’t eat?”

With a scraping sound, the bad thing retracted its claws underneath the doorframe. Shawna looked at me in shock. “What did you do?” she hissed at me.

I shook my head, terrified and confused.

Shawna ran over to the door and opened it, poking her head out into the hallway. She gave me one last blood-glazed snarl before she ran out the door and down the hallway. Her already faint footsteps faded into nothing.

Well that was just great. I posed one question and their whole dynamic came crashing down. I had to wonder here who was the pet and who was the owner.

The answer made me shiver.

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