Chapter 17



I couldn't even hear any floorboards creaking. It was so strange, I didn't know what to do. I gasped when something frozen touched my shoulder. I turned around and opened my eyes to find Ray. I smiled. This was the Ray I knew! He wasn't covered in blood and looked...alive.

"Ray!" I hugged him-no I didn't, my arms just passed through frozen air. I saw my hands half-phased through him and pulled them out slowly. It was the most depressing moment of my life, even more so than his funeral.

"Tanya, I've gotta go," said Ray, so softly, so warmly.

I tried to hold in my tears as I nodded. I stared into his eyes, willing myself to never forget them, the way they were looking at me. "I don't wanna say goodbye. I thought that night together was so wonderful, we could've experienced so much more. I'm sorry, I shoulda been more responsible!"

"You mean that night-no! Tanya! How could we have known? It's not like guys are the typical night target. I wanted to make sure you were safe, I don't regret it. I don't regret our anniversary either."

I just stared. "You're not mad at me for being drunk and lifting my skirt?"

He laughed. "No, I do hope you won't do it again though."

I smiled. "I'll never forget you."

Ray smiled sheepishly. "Give my family my love. And Tanya, live, please. I'm glad you'll always think of me, but don't let this ruin your life. Go to college, have kids, visit stupid comic conventions, whatever. Just...make sure, when you find another man to love, that he treats you right. First sign of trouble, get outta there. Don't just settle for any guy, you're better than that!"

"Always protecting me," I said, smiling. "I will. I'm not sad anymore." I lost my smile. I swallowed. "You can go, Ray."

With a smile, he slowly faded from existence.

"Luke! There you are!" Luke was standing some distance behind where Ray was.

He was smiling like a wise old man. "How sweet. I'm glad that you two could have that goodbye."

"Aren't you going with him?"

He nodded. "I just wanted to say goodbye to you first." He walked towards me. "You're my last friend in this world. That means something. You should be proud, we're all indebted to you, 'cos now we're free."

I huffed. "But none of you are alive. None of you get to grow up and go to college parties and watch the next big movie and worry about paying for your wedding-"

"That doesn't matter." I stared at him. Luke laughed. "Not to me anyway. We all have our experiences and that makes us unique. There's nothing more for me here."

I still stared at him. "So, you have no more regrets? No wishes?"

He shook his head happily. "Just do what Ray said, live your life. I look forward to the day you join us, then you can tell us about all your experiences. And one more thing. Please wear the Pentagram as much as possible."

I felt my pockets. I pulled out the star-necklace that Luke had given me earlier. What was it for? Protection? "Why?"

"When Alicia tried to immobilise you, the Pentagram could ward off some of it, but its lack of use meant it was low on energy. It's already spelled, you just need to wear it to re-energise."

I slowly fastened it around my neck, telling myself I would never have a day when I wouldn't wear it. When fastened, I looked down at the star.

"It suits you," said Luke happily. "Anyway, good luck."

I could only watch as he faded from existence. I didn't want to say goodbye, so I just waved. Soon I was waving at air.


Stillness. It was silent. I couldn't sense anything, the orangey glow from the candles made me feel safe. I glanced down. Alicia's beheaded corpse lay still. Her head lay next to her shoulders like it should have been there, but the head was lying on its right side, staring at my feet, while the body was lying on its back. Alicia's dead face had an expression of pure terror, her eyes and mouth wide and open. The pool of blood underneath the neck was quite big. The neck had been cut through cleanly; it seemed to me that way anyway.

I don't know how long I stared at the corpse. It was the most interesting thing in the room and I didn't feel any kind of horror or sickness, it just wasn't the worst thing I had seen in that mansion. I was also tired, completely worn out. All my energy was just gone and I wanted nothing more than to wrap a blanket around myself and just fall asleep. But I had no blanket and I didn't have the energy to move anywhere. So I just stared at the dead Alicia.

I'll come out and say it: I was trying to figure out how my life could possibly go back to normal after all this.

I jumped. I panted. My heart was beating so fast...but it was just my cellphone. Huh, I'd forgotten I had it switched on. With shaking hands, I grabbed it as fast as I could, not easy considering how energy-less I was; I was just so desperate not to miss this call.

Eventually I held it and pressed the button to answer. "Hello?"

"Tanya!" gasped my mom over the phone. "My God! What happened? I haven't been able to reach you at all today, I've been so worried."

"A lot's happened, Mom, I'll tell you later." I could also hear my dad say something in the background.

"Tanya, are you alright? What's wrong? You sound awful."

I sighed wearily. "Just drained, I haven't slept very much."

"Well your father and I will see you very soon, we're coming right now. Also, I did have a fright..."

It took me a moment to figure out why she sounded a bit hesitant. "You called the cops?"

"I think they decided to send an ambulance too. Please don't give me the overprotective-mother-lecture, I just wanted my daughter safe."

I thought about the bodies in the cellar. "It's okay, Mom, you did the right thing. See you soon." I ended the call. But then my cellphone went off again, again and again, telling me every single missed call and text and voice message I had. I didn't wanna deal with those, so I just put it back into my pocket.

Feeling a little more motivated, I walked out of the room. I had no fear when opening the door to the entrance hall, I just knew there was nothing behind that door. I stared at the entrance hall. The few candles were still lit, but I could see everything slightly better; the unlit areas weren't all black, like they were earlier. Also, I didn't sense anything uneasy or unreal or anything to make me a little scared. There was nothing here. The building was just a building again, and very empty. I walked along easily, confident that nothing would try to kill me. I walked slowly though, as if I didn't want to disturb the peace. Maybe I didn't.

I heard something in the distance. It slowly got louder. It was coming from outside. A siren, no, lots of sirens. How many vehicles were there gonna be? I walked a little faster to the front door. I turned the knob and it opened easily. No surprise there. I stared out at the sight of parked police cars, an ambulance and people coming towards me. What I saw was similar to the crime scene that was set up here when Ray's body was first found. I could also see that the sky was a dark blue. That could only mean one thing: it was morning.

I heard someone shout my name and her arms went around me. I knew that hug: it was Mom. I closed my eyes and melted into her. This was the first time in a long time I had felt warm. I felt warmer when Dad joined in on the hug.


My memories after that moment are all a blur. Just know this: I didn't go home straight away.

First I had to go back inside that mansion to show the cops where the bodies were and to let my parents pick up my stuff, not forgetting the iron rod actually belongs to them. They couldn't keep everything though, the cops took some things as evidence. I remember the paramedics looking me over and saying I was in shock and needed sleep, but they also made sure I kept a blanket wrapped around me. I have no idea where the blanket came from. I didn't tell the cops everything that happened to me, instead I explained what had happened between Alicia, Luke and Robert, before talking about how she died. I knew they didn't believe me; I can't remember how they looked or sounded when they said something, but I didn't need to.

Dad also had to give a statement, since he was the last one before me to see Alicia alive. At some point the cops named me prime suspect to her murder, my parents were obviously not happy. But a forensics guy then said I couldn't possibly have killed Alicia. Somehow he could identify what weapon was used, how heavy it was, and the force used to swing it. Basically, I couldn't have possibly done it. I also remember people in the neighbourhood either staring at us through the windows or standing on their front lawns to watch us. I also remember my mom keeping a guy with a camera away.

When I finally could go home, I sat in the back of the car and fell asleep.
© Ruth Hüneke 2009