Chapter 19: Really?
Written by: Whitney Emeigh
Sunlight stretched across the desolate country lane. Wind sussed gently through the trees, lifting leaves and making them rustle over head. Warmth radiated in the dying orange light of the day. Adette’s basket bumped against her side. Inside, several packages muffled the rattle of her few small bottles. She’d packed a few extra things just in case things went wrong.
Along the way she passed a handful of farmers who were all too tired to do anything more than nod. That didn’t bother her. Adette wasn’t interested in talking to anyone. The fresh air and gentle breeze calmed her, but she knew that ahead of her was a battle. Her fingers closed more tightly around the basket handle and she picked up the pace.
For the third time that day, she made her way through the front gate of the small town. Only a few people were still in the square. Most had gone home to their suppers. The few that were still around glanced at her only long enough to note her presence. Getting across the small town square took a few more minutes. When she reached the front door of the sewing shop, she found that Samantha had already closed up for the night.
Adette shrugged her shoulders. Her skirt whirled around her feet as she darted down toward the end of the row of buildings. At the corner, she turned right and then right again. The houses behind the shops were old but well cared for. Internally, she counted until she came to the house that she thought was Samantha’s. Adette took a deep breath, made a silent wish that she was right, and rapped lightly on the door.
Her light knocking was enough to send the door swinging inwards. Adette’s eyes narrowed.
“Samantha?” she asked the slowly widening space before her. Beyond the door frame was a strange, muted darkness. Adette turned to look first one way down the street and then the other. Since she couldn’t see anyone, she decided to let herself in. Slowly, carefully she shut the door behind her. The bolt made a final snick as it slid home.
“Samantha,” she called again. Firelight flickered in the front room. An embroidery hoop had been left, abandoned, on the chair beside the fire. Adette’s footsteps echoed loudly, bouncing off the walls of the short hallway. When she reached the end of the hallway and the door leading to the little shop, she stopped to listen.
On the surface, there was nothing. Everything seemed normal, but empty. She took a slow, calming breath and listened again. Just beneath the crackling of the fire was the sound of fabric and skin against wood. Adette put the basket before her, and mounted the stairs. When her foot hit the top step, the sound stopped. She took another breath and turned toward the same bedroom she’d visited earlier.
The doorknob squeaked, but the door hinges swung silently inward. Even with the door open, the door frame held nothing but a black wall. There might have been a window, but it let no light into the room. The house had been sealed against the dying sunlight. Breath, wheezing through a pair of lips, broke the silence. Something moved in the depths of the room.
“Come no closer or the woman dies,” wheezed the double voice of the boy and the thing.
“Samantha?” Adette called. She needed to know whether or not the woman was conscious.
“Don’t bother. She can’t answer you right now.”
Adette turned her face toward the sound of the voice. “So you’ve discovered how to use that body you stole?”
Rough gasping laughter roiled across the room. “What of it, little witch?”
Adette let her annoyance out in a quick sigh. “Who sent you?”
The lips tsked, air escaping the corners of the uncooperative mouth, making the sound wet and awkward.
“I’m no amateur, little girl.”
“I’ve only been here a few days, and already, I am tired of these games. Either tell me something or be gone.”
A form, not quite in control of itself, made a lurching step forward in the darkness. Adette focused herself and snapped the fingers of her right hand.