Bone Maiden

The devil's got my secret.
He swore he'd never tell.
I left it for safe-keeping.
I'll pick it up in hell.

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3. Chapter Three

I had been in that barn numerous times during the daylight hours. Sometimes when Theresa spent the weekend at my house we would walk down that mile long lane to the house she used to live in before a car accident took the lives of her parents.

The fields had overgrown. The county seized the property after her grandparents failed to pay it off. No one wanted to buy the place. No one tended it. So it was left abandoned at the end of the dirt road. The house had been boarded up, still with some of their things inside. We tried to break in several times, but after all our failures we decided it was probably best to leave it alone.

The barn hadn’t been boarded up. They’d only chained the doors together, but when you pulled them apart, it left a wide enough opening that the both of us could slip through. The animals had all be sold to pay off their debts, and there was nothing left inside but stacks of stale hay and a rusty old wheelbarrow.

I never met Theresa’s parents, but she talked about them a lot. She always made them out to be great people, and sometimes when she was feeling low, we would walk down the lane to the barn and sit in the loft talking about our parents for hours and hours. I didn’t have the luxury of going back to my old house to show here where I lived before they did.

Theresa loved that barn. She said she used to play in it when she was a kid. She would pretend she was a princess trapped in the loft, waiting for a prince to rescue her. One time she even spent the night up there, scaring her parents half to death. I imagined that the stench of animals and rotting wood was stronger then, but she said it didn’t bother her. The barn was her sanctuary, and she was mine.

The barn was always different at night. During the day sunlight would shine through the spaces between the slats of wood in golden beams. They flickered like fairy dust when Theresa danced through them. At night, the golden beams turned to a silvery blue when the moon was bright. The corners were so dark that all I could see was whatever the moonlight touched.

Theresa stood at the edge of the loft overlooking the whole barn from above. I could only see the parts of her that were illuminated by the strips of moonlight. She was wearing the pastel dress she’d worn the previous Easter when we went egg hunting at the county fair. Her hair was done up in curls and her feet were bare. She smiled down at me as I stood in the center of the barn.

“Theresa,” I said her name. “Don’t do it. Please?” The rope was already wrapped around her throat and she wore it like a heavy chain. I could see where it hung from the rafter above her head. She wasn’t tall enough to reach it, but she ran her hand along the rope, up as high as she could above her head. “You promised,” I reminded her.

“I’m sorry, Bax, I have to,” she said in her melodic voice. And then she stuck a pale foot out into the silvery moonbeam and dropped.

I screamed as her body was jerked back by the rope. I ran to her but there was nothing I could do from the ground. The ladder to the loft was missing, so I stood helplessly below her swinging body. Her laughter was high and jovial as she spun in circles like a dancer through the moonbeams. Then she began to spasm. Her body shook violently and roughly and I could only watch helplessly from the ground.

Finally, she turned full circle until she was facing me again. Black tar was leaking from her face. Her eyes were solid black and she set them directly on me.

“Isn’t this what you wanted, Bax?” she choked through the tar that was leaking from her mouth and dribbled down her chin like blood. “You wanted this. You did this,” she said in a colder, unfriendly voice. “This is your curse.”

I woke screaming as the sound of thunder shook the old house.

“Ava?” I heard from the hallway. Then I heard a knock on the door. I pulled the blankets over my head and sat up. The sun had risen, but the sky was dark and stormy. My bedroom door opened and my aunt peeked her head into the room. “Ava, sweetie.” She sat down on my bed and cupped my face in her warm hands. “Honey, are you okay?” I shook my head.

“No,” I admitted. “Theresa. Please tell me it was just a dream?” Her eyebrows creased and she gave me a look that said all I needed to know.

“I’m so sorry, honey. Mark called me last night to tell me why you weren’t coming in for your shift. Are you going to be okay?” She dropped her hands onto her lap.

“No. I don’t know,” I admitted. She reached out to take my hand as thunder rolled through the clouds above. I had seen the storm coming in when I left Theresa’s barn, but I didn’t hear the rain start. I didn’t even know how long it had been raining.

“I’m so sorry, baby.” I just nodded.

“I’ll be okay. I just want to go back to sleep.”

“You should, at least, get something to eat. Why don’t you get cleaned up and I’ll make you some oatmeal? The kind you used to like when you were a kid?” I gave her a forced smile even though I didn’t want to eat either. But she had seen me grieve enough to know how I acted when I was in mourning. She knew I wouldn’t eat or bathe or get out of bed for days. And it seemed she wasn’t going to let me do that this time.

She gave me another pat and then left me alone in my darkened room. I waited for the sound of her feet on the stairs, and then I reached for my lamp and turned it on. My feet felt sticky and heavy beneath my blankets. So I lifted them and looked down under the covers. My feet were caked in dried mud and dirt. I was sleepwalking again.

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