Was talking to my favourite E-Less Lizzi about the different stories I’m working on — and yes, actually writing, not just brainstorming. I’ve got about four more novels in the brainstorming process, but it doesn’t count until you’ve written some prose.
This one may or may not have a Young Adult audience in mind. We’ll see if I can keep it PG. And I really should, because this is the story that me and my 7-year-old daughter are collaborating on. (That is, she brought the story to me and asked me to write it. Her version is about 250 words long, and, quite frankly, full of plot holes so big you could drive a truck through them. But she is only 7, so I’m going to cut her some slack.)
So, if you’re interested in what kind of twisted stories my wee spawn has crawling around in that adorable head of hers, here you go:
“It’s always raining!”
Alice sighed and slumped over the back of the couch, her face pressed flat against the cold, rain-splattered windowpane.
“It’s always raining!” her little sister Emily agreed, mimicking Alice’s sigh and melodramatic sprawl, but not cruelly. She loved her big sister. They were best friends.
It had rained every day since they moved in. That was three days ago, and the girls had complained the whole time. Their mother kept saying things like You’re driving me up the wall or You’re getting on my last nerve which Emily thought was pretty funny. She imagined putting her Mummy in her Barbie car and driving her up the walls of the old house, with all its creaks and old, grandmotherly smells. The move from Toronto to St. Martins hadn’t been a surprise – the girls knew from the beginning of the school year that they would be moving at the end of the year – but now that it had actually happened, there was still a lot to get used to. Toronto was big city life, all streetcars and skyscrapers, traffic sounds and smells, and people as far as the eye could see. The small New Brunswick town was like something out of an old story, where the people were friendly, and life was quiet. Alice and Emily’s mum and dad thought it was a little slice of heaven, even if it did rain all the time.
“It can’t rain all the time,” their mother said, and not for the first time. “It’s only June, and, well, I told you – summer takes a little while longer to get here on the east coast. And when summer comes, there will be trips to the beach and walks on the ocean floor when the tide is out, and Flowerpot Islands and whale watching and all sorts of wonderful things…
“But I swear to Dagon, if you two girls don’t find something constructive to do with your time rather than just complaining about the rain, you’ll spend your summer locked up in your room with nothing but the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe to keep you company. By the time you start school, the two of you will be pale, pasty and melancholy. I’ll have to start calling you Wednesday and Lydia. Now go! Go find a book! Go explore the house! This house is two hundred years old – there must be a thousand secrets to find, a million hiding places to discover.”
Their Mummy was always saying strange things like I swear to Dagon, or by Hastur’s yellow hood, or, and this was Alice’s personal favourite, because it required her Mum to make a growling sound in the back of her throat – What in R’yleh is going on here?
Neither Alice nor Emily had any idea what that meant, except that it had to do with the book their mother was writing about some guy named Lovecraft. Kaylee Pritchard – a nasty girl from her old school – told Alice that it sounded like her mother was writing something called a bodice ripper, and when Alice told her mum that, she’d laughed so hard it made Alice blush in embarrassment. Her mum had hugged her and kissed the top of her head, and called Kaylee Pritchard a name Alice couldn’t remember.
Trilobite? Troglodyte? Something like that.
Anyway, their mother had written lots of books, and when she was writing, she got into what she called The Zone, and when Mummy was in The Zone, Aiden and Emily knew not to bother her. Mummy wasn’t in The Zone at the moment, but she was unpacking her books – not the ones she’d written, but the ones she was studying. Old, smelly things the colour of old photographs, bound in thick leather or canvas book-cloth; nothing like Alice’s Harry Potter collection, with their colourful book jackets and bright white pages.
Alice began to whine – the one good thing about moving to New Brunswick was that they were going to be near the ocean. There had been promises of all sorts of adventures in order to convince them that moving was going to be a good thing for everybody, and now that same carrot had become the stick their parents used when she or Emily got bratty.
“Seriously, girls,” their mother said, rubbing her temples the way she did right before she got one of her migraines, “why don’t you go bug – I mean, help – your father. I don’t know what’s taking him so long to get unpacked. Go light a fire under Daddy’s bum!”
Emily laughed at the idea of her Daddy’s bum being on fire, and Alice, ever so much older and wiser, rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Oh, Em, you’re so liberal.”
“Literal, Alice,” her Mum corrected with a small laugh. “I think you mean literal. And no, don’t really light your daddy’s bum on fire. I’m quite fond of it.”
“Ewww!” Emily giggled, and grabbed her big sister’s hand and dragged her away from the window, where the rain showed no sign of stopping.
Alice begrudgingly followed her little sister to search for their father.
The girls’ father could always be found somewhere beautiful. He loved to sketch everything – even the rain – and so it wasn’t really surprising to find him outside on the covered porch, sketching the big maple tree in their front yard, capturing the grey on grey on grey of the sky, the rain, and the tree itself.
“What do you think, ladies?” he asked, and both Alice and Emily lit up like little fireworks. “I’m thinking I’m going to paint the leaves with water-colour; all red and green splash over the gloomy grey.”
“It’s beautiful, Daddy!” Emily said, running full-speed into her father and wrapping her arms around him.
“Yeah, Dad,” Alice allowed. “Pretty cool. This for work or for fun?”
Their dad was a comic book artist – which you’d think would be really excellent – but he didn’t draw anything that anybody knew. When Alice told her friends at school that her dad made comics, she was always answering the same questions.
No, he doesn’t draw Batman. Or Batgirl. Or Batwoman. No, he’s never drawn the X-Men. Ditto Superman, Wonder Woman or Hellboy.
Well, he did do a variant cover for The Avengers once, but that’s about as close as he’s gotten to the big-name comic books.
It didn’t matter to Alice that her dad wasn’t a famous artist, she thought that he was the coolest, and he could draw anything. She had a secret stash of birthday and Christmas cards that her daddy had made, each one cooler than the next, tucked away in an old Turtles box under her bed.
“Can’t it be both?” he asked, and pulled Alice in so he could give both girls a squeeze.
“I guess,” Alice shrugged.
“It’s for a new magazine cover,” her dad explained. “If they like it, maybe I’ll do the series for a while. That’d be pretty groovy, huh?”
“Yeah, Dad,” Alice said, rolling her eyes. “Totally groovy.”
“Groovy!” Emily agreed, giggling.
“So, what are you two up to, then? Getting in your mother’s hair?”
“No,” said Alice.
“Yes,” said Emily.
“Shut up!” said Alice.
“You shut up, Alice!”
“Hey!” said their father. “No more shut up; either of you. Listen, I’ll make you a deal. If the two of you can keep yourselves busy until dinnertime, we’ll go out for seafood – real seafood, so fresh it’ll bite you back.”
Emily made a snapping sound with her teeth and began dancing around her dad and big sister, pretending to be a shark.
“Chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp!” the little girl cried, laughing and waving her arms side to side like fins.
“Yes, yes,” their dad laughed. “Alice, why don’t you take Emily and go exploring upstairs. There are…”
“Yeah, I know. The house is 2000 years old and full of mysteries,” the older girl sighed. “Mum told us.”
“Well, 200 years old, but, yes,” her dad said patiently.
“We’ve been here three days, Dad,” Alice moaned. “And it’s rained the whole time. We’ve played hide-and-seek. We’ve played pirates and princesses. We’ve built a castle out of moving boxes. We’ve unpacked our toys and played with them. We’ve cleaned our rooms. We’ve gone exploring all over the house. We’ve been over every inch, hidden in every cupboard, peeked through every keyhole. And it’s still raining. We’re boooooooored.”
“Wow,” their dad said, and nodded his head, impressed. “Sounds like you’ve been busy. But you haven’t seen the attic, have you?”
“Mum says were not supposed to –”
“Shh,” Dad said, holding a finger in front of his lips. “If I show you how to get up there and down again safely, will you girls play nicely, and let me finish my drawing, and let your mother finish unpacking her books?”
Emily squealed and jumped up and down in excitement.
“Shh!” Alice said, putting her little sister in a headlock and covering her mouth with her hand.
“Okay then,” their dad said, putting his brush down. “Let’s do this then.”
“What about Mum?” Alice asked.
“Well, you’re right,” he said. “You go on ahead to the hallway, and I’ll square things with your Mum and meet you there.”
The house in St. Martins was practically a mansion – nearly three times the size of their townhouse in Toronto – and had an enormous yard. The covered porch wrapped around three sides of the house, and there was an honest-to-goodness tire swing hanging from the branch of an ancient maple tree. But that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was the attic, which was practically big enough to be another floor altogether, and for two little girls, it was like a house all unto themselves. When their mum and dad bought the house, it had been on the condition that the attic remain as they’d found it – filled with a fantastic menagerie of antiquities. It was like finding a bonus prize inside of a Kinder Egg, or finding out you’ve just inherited a fortune from some long-lost relative.
The previous owner of the house had been in the Import/Export business; had, in fact, been a sailor, travelling to faraway places in search of rare antiques, strange objects of art, and other oddities. His lovely wife Jane had run a shop in town – attached to a Bed & Breakfast that belonged to her sister and her husband – selling the treasures that her husband, Paul Riley, brought back from his travels, and picture postcards of the lovely village of St. Martins. They made enough money from the tourists in the summer, but the winter months were lean, and year by year it became harder to make ends meet. Jane tried to convince her husband to sell the house and move further inland, maybe set up shop in Moncton or Fredericton, where the city people were, but Riley wouldn’t hear of it. His great-great-grandfather had built the house for his new bride, and it had been handed down through the generations to him. He’d make something happen, he said. He had heard tell of a treasure on his last trip; something that would be the answer to their money problems for good. One more trip, he promised Jane – lovely, lonely Jane who would one day stir rat poison into her own tea – and they would never want for anything ever again.
Of course, Riley never returned. Some say he was lost at sea – a merchant lost at sea makes for a good story – but others say he just ran off on poor Jane. The world is a large place in which to lose oneself, and Riley had a fine, strong ship, a small, loyal crew, and the romantic nature of an old-time mariner. It’s a story told over and over in St. Martins, and each time, the story gets a little more fantastic and less believable. Some tell of Captain Riley sailing down the coast to the Caribbean, where he bought his own little island paradise with the spoils of his last adventure. They say he has a dozen servants and half as many wives, and he eats roasted pork and fresh pineapple every day, and washes it all down with strong island rum and fresh coconut milk.
Another version of the story has Captain Riley sailing down the Amazon and discovering a lost city of gold. There, he quickly set himself up as Emperor, and built a palace for himself and his two dozen wives, one hundred servants, and various palace staff, like the kitchen staff, who prepare vast banquets of exquisite and exotic fruits, and everything from roast monkey to grilled crocodile.
Another version has Captain Riley shipwrecked on an island with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model, and together, they have to re-populate the island and…
Most of these stories were, of course, told by the men in the village, late at night, around drinks at the pub. They laugh nervously, and check over their shoulders to make sure their own wives aren’t in earshot before they recount one or another version of the fantastical tale of Captain Riley’s debaucheries.
There is another story, though; a story the women tell, and it goes more like this: Captain Riley was a sailor, through and through, and travelled near and far, fathering bastards in every port from St. John to Boston. St. Martin was just another port in the storm for Captain Riley, and when things got tough, well, he just picked up and moved along to the next damn fool woman who thinks she’s the only one. There is a darker, vindictive version of the tale that has Captain Riley shot to death by his lover’s jealous husband, and an even more twisted version that has Captain Riley and that horrible home-wrecking floozy he hooked up with down in Bar Harbor shipwrecked on a jungle island, where they are immediately captured by cannibals and eaten for dinner, with some fried plantains and some sort of fruity island drink, like a Seabreeze, or maybe a Banana Daiquiri.
For exactly four years, Jane waited, convinced Riley would return; that he was out there, hurt, maybe, but trying to make his way back to her nonetheless. It would be romantic if it weren’t so terribly sad. On the fourth anniversary of the day Riley left, Jane sad at her dining room table and poured herself her last cup of tea in this world.
The house – still in Riley’s name – would sit empty, its treasures untouched for three more years until he could be declared legally dead, and the house could go to auction. No record ever showed up of the man, dead or alive, and as he didn’t turn up for his wife’s funeral, the stories of Captain Riley’s fate, varying though they might be, ended the same: with the man’s untimely death.
Emily and Alice’s mum and dad couldn’t believe their luck when their on-line bid ended up being the winner, and within two months of signing all the paperwork, they were loading up a big U-Haul and making the long drive from Toronto to St. Martin’s. Unbeknownst to the new owners, the day they took possession of the house was actually the four-year anniversary of the widow Riley’s suicide. They knew of the poor woman’s death, and the tragic circumstances, of course – the real estate agent, a thoroughly Canadian woman named Karen who apologized the whole time she told the story, for the very fact of having to share the grim news at all, but it’s the law, she insisted, and so they knew what had happened, and agreed to discuss it with the girls in a delicate fashion, rather than hide it from them.
“The last thing we want is for you to hear stories from kids at school,” their mum explained.
“Yes,” their dad said. “There’s nothing scary about it, girls. People die every day. The lady who lived here died, and she’s gone now.”
“And there’s no such thing as ghosts,” Mum said, and Daddy asked Mummy why she even said the G word, but they really didn’t need to worry.
“I think it’s cool,” Alice said, “if there are ghosts. Really old ones, with lots of good stories about the people who used to live in the house a hundred thousand years ago. I bet you ghosts have the most amazing stories!”
“Well, I don’t want ghosts in my room,” Emily pouted, crossing her arms and furrowing her tiny brow. “You said when we move to the new house that I don’t have to share a room with Alice no more! I don’t want to share it with a ghost, either!”
Mummy and Daddy had laughed, and after that, there had been no more talk of Jane Riley, the poisoned widow of the possibly-unfaithful-or-possibly-lost-at-sea Captain Riley. Their parents were relieved, and congratulated themselves once they were alone on their excellent parenting skills, and agreed that they had put the topic to bed for good. So, when the girls met the dead woman, and heard her secret tale, they knew that their parents wouldn’t understand, and so agreed that it would be best if they kept their visits with the sad ghost to themselves.
The attic entrance was in the front hallway, just at the end, where you could either go left into the living room, or right into the kitchen. The living room had a real working fireplace, which Emily and Alice imagined would provide a constant supply of toasted marshmallows (it’ll be like camping out every night!), and the kitchen had been re-fitted with modern appliances, but was otherwise just how it had been built two hundred years earlier. The same wood used for the cabinets could be found all around the house, on door frames and staircases. The same wood was used for the ladder that folded from the attic entrance when you pulled it down.
“Now, be careful,” Daddy warned, demonstrating how to open the door into the attic. “Don’t tug on the chain too hard, or the ladder will flip out and knock you on your noggin.”
“Are you sure about this?” Mummy asked. “There are so many things up there they can hurt themselves on.”
“We won’t hurt ourselves, Mummy,” Emily said, crossing her heart with her little fingers. “I promise.”
“We’ll be fine, Mum,” Alice said. “Please please please can we? We just want to explore all the cool stuff up there.”
Daddy had gone through some of the things in the attic, worried about what might be up there, but when he’d come down from his initial foray into what he’d begun referring to as the Museum of Strange and Unusual Things, he’d given Mummy a thumbs-up, which Alice figured meant that there were no dirty magazines or rat traps or demon-possessed clown dolls or anything. Kaylee Pritchard (who her mother had called a Troglodyte – whatever that was – on more than one occasion) had told Alice about a movie where a clown doll was possessed by demons, and lived in a scary old house, and when the new owners moved in, the clown doll came to life and chopped the new owners into little pieces and buried them beneath the floorboards. The night after Kaylee told her about that movie, Alice had a nightmare, and when her mother asked her what the nightmare was about, she’d told her about the movie Kaylee Pritchard had seen. Mum said something not nice about Kaylee Pritchard’s parents, and said that they shouldn’t have let Kaylee watch something so scary at her age.
“Fine,” Mum sighed. “But I want you to take this with you, just in case.”
“Muuuuum,” Alice whined. “That’s Emily’s old baby monitor. That’s totally un-cool, Mum.”
“Take it,” her Mum insisted. “I’ll have the other half, so I’ll be able to hear you the whole time. If you get stuck, or… or need any help, you holler, and I’ll come running.”
Mum held out the monitor for Alice to take. It looked like half of a set of walkie talkies, except this set featured the face of Baby Big Bird on the part that the girls were going to carry, and Baby Snuffleupagus – Big Bird’s invisible Wooly Mammoth friend – on the part their mother was going to keep.
“I think this is going to be your best offer,” Daddy said, giving the girls two thumbs up. “I’d suggest you take it.”
“Fine,” Alice groaned, and snatched the monitor from her mother’s hand. A squawk of feedback passed between mother and daughter as Alice grabbed Baby Big Bird. “C’mon, Em. Let’s go, before they change their minds.”
The attic smelled all salty and green, as if all the treasures that found their final resting place there still wore the perfume of the sea, picked up in far-away places with exotic, unpronounceable names. It made Alice think of the fish market, but Emily had more romantic ideas.
“Mermaids, Alice!” the younger girl cried, and ran toward a wooden statue as big as she was and wrapped her arms around it.
“Wow!” her sister agreed, and followed to inspect the beautifully preserved mermaid statue that had once been the figurehead an ancient sailing ship.
“I’m gonna call her Lily!” Emily declared, and Alice rolled her eyes.
“Of course, you are,” she said. “You call everything Lily.”
“I do not,” Emily said. “You’re just jealous ‘cause I found her first.”
“Whatever,” Alice said, and turned to explore the rest of the attic.
The bare light bulbs cast an amber hue over the entire room, making everything look like an old-fashioned photo, and all the old furniture, some covered in sheets, some boxed up in wooden crates, completed the illusion. Alice peeked under sheets carefully – Who knows what little critters might have made their home up there? her mum had said – and sneezed as the clouds of dust exploded in her face. She found a collection of old wooden lobster traps, and a trunk full of old clothes and newspapers that were nearly rotten. When Alice was little – around the same age Emily was now – a raccoon had gotten caught inside the chimney of her Grandma’s house, and the stink had been the same. She slammed the lid of the box, grossed out by the thought of finding a dead animal buried among the old clothes and papers.
Alice sneezed again and waved her hands in front of her face, dissipating the cloud of dust. As she looked away, something shiny caught her eye. She pulled a sheet off of a set of dining room chairs that had been stacked on top of one another, and held her breath until the dust settled. Whatever had caught her eye must have been small, because she couldn’t find it. She got down on her hands and knees and turned her head to the side, and there it was – there was a glint of gold on the floor just underneath a chest of drawers with ornately carved legs that lifted the dresser off the floor just enough for Alice to get her hand under it. She got back up and started moving the chairs, which blocked her path to the dresser. They were heavier than she’d imagined, and dragging them across the attic floor made an awful groaning, scratching noise.
“Hey up there!” Mum called from downstairs.
“Sorry, Mum!” Alice called, and changed her tactics for moving the chairs, rocking them from leg to leg rather than dragging them.
Once she cleared away the chairs, she lay down flat in front of the dresser and reached her hand under it, feeling for the shiny object. Her hand brushed through dusty cobwebs as she patted back and forth until her fingers landed on a ring. She closed her hand around it, and tried to pull it out, but her hand got stuck, so she had to drop the ring, pull her hand out, and then fish it out with her fingers.
It was a gold ring – Alice thought it must be a thousand years old – with a large green stone as big as Alice’s thumbnail set in it. There were letters of some kind engraved all around the band, but she didn’t know what language it was. Alice figured it must have been a man’s ring, because it was big and bulky, not at all delicate, like the ring her Mummy wore. It was too big for any of her fingers, and so she stuffed it in her pocket until she could decide what to do with it. She couldn’t tell Emily, of course, because then Emily would tell their parents, and they would take it from her – she just knew they would – and that was not fair. It was hers. She discovered it, and it was her treasure.
She rubbed her hands on her pants, and looked up to check on Emily. She was the big sister, Dad always said, and it was her job to look out for Em. Sometimes she hated having to babysit, because if Emily got hurt or got into trouble, Alice got in even more trouble than her sister.
“Em?” she called. The little girl had grown bored with Lily, the wooden mermaid, and had disappeared. “If you’re playing hide-and-seek, just say so.”
Alice tip-toed around the boxes and furniture, determined to catch her sister and give her a scare. It would serve her right for playing games. Alice held her breath and crept up on a sheet that hung over a shape that she thought looked little sister sized.
“Boo!” she said, and pulled the sheet off to reveal a big wooden Nutcracker, whose painted face had faded and peeled so badly that nothing but a big toothy grin remained. The effect was sinister, and Alice gasped at the sight of it at first, then burst into a fit of coughing. As she coughed, she heard Emily giggling, and the patter of her feet as she relocated.
“Emily, this is not funny!” Alice said, pouting. “It’s not safe to play hide-and-seek yet. We have to make sure there’s nothing up here that can hurt us.”
“Emily, listen to your sister,” came Mum’s voice from downstairs, but it held no real tone of authority.
Alice peeked under sheets, and each time she didn’t find Emily, she pulled the sheet off, revealing bookshelves full of old books; a broken rocking chair; a wicker statue in the shape of a man; a wooden carving of a very pregnant lady; and a stuffed and mounted swordfish – she’d almost pricked her hand on the dead fish’s pointy nose.
“I’m taking away your hiding places, Emily!” she laughed. “Soon you’ll have nowhere to hide.”
In the corner of the room, Alice saw a piece of furniture that was easily as tall as her daddy. A sheet had been draped over it, and it hung almost – but not quite all the way – to the floor. Alice saw the flowered print of her little sister’s pants peeking out from under the sheet.
“I’ve got you now,” she whispered to herself, and crept up behind Emily, who was sitting on the floor with her back turned toward Alice, the rest of her body concealed by the sheet. As she got closer, she could hear Emily muttering, but she couldn’t hear what she was saying. She stopped and stood behind her sister, and listened.
“Yes,” Emily said. “Of course, I’ll be your friend. But where are you hiding?
“Uh uh. I never heard of it.
“I’m five. I’m going to kinnergarden in September.
“You are not!
“That’s impossible, you fibber.”
Alice stepped forward and pulled the sheet off, all thoughts of scaring her little sister forgotten. Under the blanket stood a full-length mirror, a huge rectangular thing that must have taken four people to carry, Alice thought. The frame had strange shapes carved into it, and on each corner, weird faces frozen in what Alice thought were screams. They were like gargoyles, with horns coming out of the tops of their heads, and their faces looked more like animals than people, with huge fangs and forked tongues which poked out obscenely from wide mouths.
Emily sat in front of the mirror and had her ear to the glass, as if listening. Alice wanted to scold her; to give her trouble for not answering when she was called. But the look on Emily’s face scared her. It was blank, as if the girl wasn’t there at all. Her lips were moving, and she was talking, but her face was expressionless. Even when she giggled, the sound seemed to come from somewhere far away, and her mouth only moved around the sounds, but didn’t break into the huge grin Emily wore when she laughed.
“Emily?” Alice asked, waving a hand in front of her sister’s blank eyes and getting no reaction. Emily’s eyes rolled back in her head, showing nothing but the whites. Alice knew a girl in her old school who sometimes had seizures, and she started to whimper.
“Em, come on! No more fooling around!” She grabbed her sister by the shoulder, and immediately, Emily looked up at her and grinned.
“Look what I found, Alice! Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Beautiful?” Alice sneered, looking at the hideous faces staring out from the corners of the mirror frame. “Yuck! No wonder it was covered up. Come on, Emily, you’re filthy. Let’s cover this ugly thing back up and go see if Daddy’s ready to go for dinner.”
“No!” Emily said, and stood up, placing herself between Alice and the mirror. “Don’t cover her up again. She doesn’t like the dark.”
“She? Is this one named Lily, too?”
“No,” Emily said, “Her name’s Jez, uh, Jezzub… Her name’s Jessie.”
“Jessie?” Alice asked. “Where’d that name come from?”
“She told me, silly.”
“Uh huh,” Alice said. “Well, she’s ugly. And I think we should cover her up again.”
“No!” Emily yelled, and began to scream a high-pitched cry that brought their mum running.
“Emily!” Alice shouted. “Stop it, you little brat! Mum! Emily’s being a little brat!”
“That’s it!” Mum called from downstairs. “You girls get down here right now!”
Alice punched her little sister in the arm, which she realized was a mistake as soon as she did it, because Emily only started wailing louder, and crying that Alice punched her.
“If I have to come up there, I swear I’ll feed you both to Yog-Sothoth.”
“There’s no such thing!” Alice yelled, tears welling in her eyes. Emily had done it again, and now she was going to get in trouble, and they wouldn’t be allowed to play in the attic anymore.
“I will go down to the fish market myself, then, and get me a nice fresh Shoggoth and bake it into a pie. And then I know two little girls who will be eating nothing but nasty Shoggoth pie for the rest of the week.”
“Shoggoths aren’t real, either, Mum!” Alice cried. Sometimes her mum thought she was being funny, but she wasn’t. All she wanted was for her mum to listen to her when she told her how much of a brat Emily was being, but she never believed her. She always took Emily’s side.
“Just get down here,” their mother sighed. “And get washed up for dinner.”
“But Mum! Emily…”
“I honestly don’t care right now,” Mum said. “The two of you have been at each other like cats and dogs for the last three days, and I’m done fooling around. Get down here right now. I’m going to count to ten, and then I’m going to shut the attic door and lock it. If you are on the other side of that door, well…”
Alice glanced at the mirror’s gargoyle faces, and imagined having to spend the night with them. Grabbing her sister’s hand, she pulled her away from the mirror kicking and screaming toward the attic hatch.
“Coming, Mum,” she said, and lowered Emily down into their mother’s arms. Alice followed, climbing down the ladder one step at a time, and then she folded the ladder up and her mum pushed it the rest of the way up, closing the hatch and latching the hook lock.
Alice stared at the hatch, puzzled. She thought she’d heard something, just before the hatch closed. She’d heard a woman’s voice – just a whisper, and she couldn’t be sure if she’d heard it at all. It might have just been the wind, or a creak of the wood as the ladder folded. But she thought that she’d heard a woman’s voice, and that night as she lay in bed trying desperately to get to sleep, she heard it over and over again in her mind.
Come back, the voice said. Come back.
So? Which of the two stories should I focus on and finish…. first?