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’d been in that barn numerous times during the daylight hours. Sometimes when Theresa spent the weekend at my house, we’d walk down the mile-long lane to the house she used to live in before a car accident killed her parents.

The fields had overgrown now. The county seized the property when her grandparents failed to pay it off. No one wanted to buy the place. No one tended to it. So it was left abandoned at the end of a long dirt road. The house had been boarded up, still with some of their things inside. We tried to break in every now and then, but always failed, and ultimately decided to leave it be.

For the barn, they’d simply chained the doors together and left it at that. But when we pulled them apart it left a wide enough space for us to slip through. The animals were sold off to pay the debts, and there was nothing inside but stacks of stale hay and an old rusty wheelbarrow.

I’d never met Theresa’s parents, but she talked about them a lot. She made them out to be great people, and sometimes when she was feeling low, we’d 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 house to show her where I lived.

Theresa loved that barn. She said she used to play in it as a kid. She would pretend to be a princess, waiting for a prince to rescue her from the loft. One time she even spent the night up there, scaring her parents half to death when they couldn’t find her. I imagined that the stench of animals and rotting wood was stronger then, but she said it never bothered her. The barn was her sanctuary, and she was mine.

The barn was different at night. During the day, sunlight would shine through the slats of wood in golden beams. They flickered like fairy dust when Theresa danced through them. At night, the golden rays 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 barn from above. I could only see the parts of her that were illuminated by strips of moonlight. She was wearing the dress she’d worn last Easter when we went egg hunting at the fair. Her hair was down, and her feet were bare. She smiled at me as I walked to the center of the barn.

“Theresa,” I said. “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 hands along the rope, up as far as she could over her head. “You promised,” I reminded her.

“I have to, Bax,” she said in her melodic voice. “It’s the only way I can set you free.” She stuck a pale foot out into a silvery moonbeam and dropped.

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

Finally, she turned full circle until she was facing me again. Black liquid began to leak from her face. Her eyes were solid black, but I could tell she was looking at me.

“I did this for you, Bax,” she choked through the tar leaking from her mouth, dribbling down her chin like blood. “You wanted this. You did this,” she said, colder than before. “This is your curse.”

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

“Ava?” I heard from the hallway. Then there was a knock on the door. I pulled the blankets off of my head and sat up. The sun had already come up, 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 eyes 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?”

“No. I don’t know.” She took my hand as thunder rolled through the clouds above. I’d seen the storm coming 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 fine. 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? With the dinosaurs in it?” I gave her a forced smile, though I didn’t want to eat either. She’d seen me grieve enough to know how I acted. She knew I wouldn’t eat or bathe or get out of bed unless I was forced to. She wasn’t going to let me dig myself into a hole this time.

She gave me another pat and then left me alone in my darkened room. I waited to hear her feet on the stairs and then reached for my lamp to turn it on. My feet felt sticky and heavy beneath the blankets. So I lifted them and looked down under the covers. My feet were caked with mud and dirt. I’d been sleepwalking again.

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