“Holly, please look at me, honey.”
No. Not happening. Never, never, never ever. Nevermore. Edgar Poe’s crow. No. The Othre spectre would try to hurt her if she looked away. It knew.
“Dammit, Holly, look at me!”
Holly tore her gaze away from the filmy spectre in the corner of the room and glanced at her mother. Don’t look her in the eye. She’ll see the OthreMist.
“Holly, I just don’t know what I have to do to get you to-to-”
“Live?” Shit. Why did she speak? Her voice was so dead, so full of Othre. A givaway, like her eyes.
“Yes!” her mother said. She couldn’t hear it. Of course she couldn’t. She was blind and stupid and alive. She had no concept of Othre, no knowledge of its existance. She did not know of its infections. “I don’t know why you can’t just live! Two weeks ago, you were my beautiful, bright, alive daughter. Now you’re like a ghost!”
Two weeks ago, Holly was alive and stupid, too.
That was before that boy, the one who took her hand, the one who she’d suddenly trusted with her life
Before they went to the old marble masoleum in the deepest, parts of the Hollowpine Woods.
Before the Othre infected Holly.
“HOLLY! Are you even listening?!”
Holly blinked and nodded.
“You’re still not looking at me, Holly. Dammit, look at me.”
Holly stood, still not meeting her mother’s eyes. “I’m going to be late.”
In the corner, the spectre faded into the old Victorian wallpaper.
“Hol, are you sure you’re alright?”
Holly slammed her locker closed and waved away her best friend’s concern. “I’m fine, Lauren. Really.”
“What’s up with your eyes? They look weird. Did you go blind or something?”
Lauren always talked to much, asked to many questions. Holly didn’t know how she’d put up with it for the past ten years. “No, I did not go blind. My irises are just being weird, is all.”
“Your irises are being weird. Okay, then. That’s totally normal. You should see your eye doc or something, it might be serious. You may not be blind, but you could go blind if you-”
“Please shush. And stop drinking so much sweetened coffee.”
“But I love my caramel-pumpkin mochas!”
“Learn to hate them.”
Lauren pouted. “Did you get your period early or something? You’re so crabby today!”
“Well, then what’s wrong? You haven’t been acting like yourself.”
Holly looked at her best friend. Lauren’s russet-colored locks were tumbling around her face in their usual perfect waves, and her bright green eyes sparkled with genuine concern.
She wished she could tell her, but the Othre was something that she could never, ever expose her best friend to. Lauren would not be infected.
Someone else would be, though.
Holly sighed, looking away. “I’m fine. I’m just stressed about exams and stuff. Come on, we’ll be late to class.”
Holly looked back. Alex was standing behind her. A concerned pair of mahogany eyes sat over top of his wide smile. Holly turned and fell into her boyfriend’s open arms. “Hey,”
She wanted to kiss him.
She looked up, looked into those eyes. They flicked down towards her lips, and she tilted her head to the side. He met the kiss eagerly.
She wanted to kiss him, to touch him.
She wanted to take his hand and lead him into the woods; she wanted to bring him to the masoleum, open the door, and-
She jerked away, breaking the kiss with a gasp. No, no, no, no. She could not infect Alex, not Alex, no.
“Holly? What’s wrong?”
She looked at him. Oh, those eyes, those beautiful eyes, so warm. She could imagine them misting over, imagine them growing cold-
Holly turned away. “Nothing. I just...got a chill all of a sudden.”
She felt his hands rubbing vigorously up and down her arms. “Here, I’ll keep you warm.” She still didn’t turn to face him again.
Alex would not be infected. Not if she could help it.
Inside her, the Othre stirred hungrily, in need of another soul to infect.
A little longer. Just wait a little longer.
Then I can get rid of you.