The summoning, p.10
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       The Summoning, p.10

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 10

 

  I returned to Wikipedia, skimmed the rest of the definitions, and found only variations on the first. A necromancer foretells the future by talking to the dead.

  Curious now, I deleted define and searched on necromancer. The first couple of sites were religious ones. According to them, necromancy was the art of communicating with the spirit world. They called it evil, a practice of black magic and Satan worship.

  Did Derek think I was involved in black magic? Was he trying to save my soul? Or warn me that he was watching? I shivered.

  Aunt Lauren's women's health clinic had once mistakenly been the target of a militant prolife group. I knew firsthand how scary people could get when they thought you did something that crossed their beliefs.

  I flipped back to the list of search results and picked one that seemed more academic. It said that necromancy was another—older—name for mediums, spiritualists, and other people who could talk to ghosts. The meaning came from an ancient belief that if you could talk to the dead, they could predict the future because they could see everything—they'd know what your enemy was doing or where you could find buried treasure.

  I switched to the next site on the list, and a horrible painting filled my screen—a mob of dead people, rotting and hacked up, being led by a guy with glowing eyes and an evil grin. The title: The Army of the Dead.

  I scrolled down the page. It was filled with stuff like that, men surrounded by zombies.

  I quickly switched to another page. It described the “art of necromancy” as the raising of the dead. I shuddered and flipped to another. A religious site now, quoting some old book ranting about “foul necromancers” who committed crimes against nature, communicating with spirits and reanimating the dead.

  More sites. More old engravings and paintings. Grotesque pictures of grotesque men. Raising corpses. Raising spirits. Raising demons.

  Fingers trembling, I turned off the browser.

  Thirteen

  I STEPPED CAUTIOUSLY FROM the media room, expecting to find Derek lurking around the corner, waiting to pounce. The rumble of his voice made me jump, but it came from the dining room, where he was asking Mrs. Talbot when Dr. Gill would be ready to see him. I hurried into class. They weren't done with math yet, and Ms. Wang waved for me to take the seat next to the door.

  When the lesson finally ended, Derek lumbered in. I struggled to ignore him. Rae waved me to the desk beside hers. I bolted for it. Derek never even looked my way, just took his regular seat beside Simon, their heads and voices lowering as they talked.

  Simon laughed. I strained to hear what Derek was saying. Was he telling Simon about his “joke”? Or was I getting paranoid?

  * * *

  After English, school was done for the day. Derek disappeared with Simon, and I followed Rae to the dining room, where we did our homework.

  I could barely finish a page on sentence diagramming. It was like deciphering a foreign language.

  I was seeing ghosts. Real ghosts.

  Maybe it would be different for someone who already believed in ghosts. I didn't.

  My religious training was limited to sporadic church and Bible school visits with friends, and one brief stint at a private Christian school when my dad hadn't been able to get me into a public school. But I believed in God and in an afterlife the same way I believed in solar systems I'd never seen—that matter-?of-?fact acceptance that they existed even if I'd never thought much about the specifics.

  If ghosts existed, did that mean there was no heaven? Were we all doomed to walk the earth forever as shades, hoping to find someone who could see or hear us and… ?

  And what? What did the ghosts want from me?

  I thought of the voice in the basement. I knew what that one wanted—a door opened. So this spirit had been wandering for years, finally finds someone who can hear him and his earth-?shattering request is “Hey, could you open that door for me?”

  What about Liz? I must have dreamed that. Anything else . . . I couldn't wrap my head around it.

  But one thing was certain. I needed to know more, and if the pills were stopping me from seeing and hearing the ghosts clearly, then I had to stop taking them.

  * * *

  “It's not going to happen to you. ”

  I turned from the living room window as Rae walked in.

  “What happened to Liz, getting transferred, that won't happen with you. ” She sat on the couch. “That's what you're worried about, right? Why you haven't said ten words all day?"

  “Sorry. I'm just…”

  “Freaked out. ”

  I nodded. This was true, even if it wasn't about what she thought. I sat in one of the rocking chairs.

  “Like I said last night, Chloe, there's a trick to getting out of here. ” She lowered her voice. “Whatever you think? About their labels? Just nod and smile. Say 'Yes, Dr. Gill. Whatever you say, Dr. Gill. I just want to get better, Dr. Gill. ' Do that, and you'll be following Peter out that front door any day now. We both will. Then I'll send you a bill for my advice. ”

  I struggled to smile. From what I'd seen so far, Rae was a model patient. So why was she still here?

  “How long is the average stay?” I asked.

  She reclined on the sofa. “A couple months, I think. ”

  “M-?months?”

  “Peter was here about that long. Tori a bit more. Derek and Simon, about three months. ”

  “Three months?”

  “I think so. But I could be wrong. Before you, Liz and I were the newbies. Three weeks for each of us, me a few days more than her. ”

  “I—I was told I'd only be in for two weeks. ”

  She shrugged. “I guess it's different for you then, lucky girl. ”

  “Or did they mean two weeks was the minimum?”

  She stretched her foot to nudge my knee. “Don't look so glum. The company's good, isn't it?”

  I managed a smile. “Some of it. ”

  “No kidding, huh? With Peter and Liz gone, we're stuck with Frankenstein and the divas. Speaking of which, Queen Victoria is up and about… relatively speaking. ”

  “Hmm?”

  She lowered her voice another notch. “She's stuffed full of meds and totally out of it. ” I must have looked alarmed because she hurried on. “Oh, that's not normal. They don't do that to anyone but Tori, and she wants it. She's the pill princess. If she doesn't get hers on time, she asks for them. Once, on the weekend, they ran out and had to page Dr. Gill for a refill and whoa boy—” She shook her head. “Tori ran to our room, locked the door, and wouldn't come out until someone brought her the medication. Then she tattled to her mom and there was this huge uproar. Her mom's connected to the people who run Lyle House. Anyway, she's totally doped up today, so she shouldn't give us any trouble. ”

  When Mrs. Talbot rounded us up for dinner, I realized I hadn't told Rae about taking her advice and looking up the dead janitor.

  * * *

  Tori joined us for dinner—in body, at least. She spent the meal practicing for a role in the next zombie movie, expressionless, methodically moving fork to mouth, sometimes even with food on it. I was torn between feeling sorry for her and just being creeped out.

  I wasn't the only one left uncertain. Rae tensed with every mouthful, as if waiting for “old Tori” to leap out and jab her about her eating. Simon gamely tried to carry on a conversation with me and tentatively slanted questions Tori's way, as if afraid she was just playing possum, looking for sympathy.

  After that endless meal, we all fled, gratefully, to our chores—Rae and I on dinner cleanup, the guys on garbage and recycling detail. Later Rae had a project to work on, and Ms. Wang had warned the nurses that she wanted Rae to do it without help.

  So after telling Miss Van Dop that I'd be right back, I headed up to my room for my iPod. When I opened the door, I found a folded note on the floor.

  Chloe,

&
nbsp; We need to talk. Meet me in the laundry room at 7:15.

  Simon

  I folded the note into quarters. Had Derek put Simon up to this when I didn't freak out over him calling me a necromancer? Did he hope I might give a more gratifying response to his brother?

  Or did Simon want to resume our discussion from the kitchen, when they'd asked about Liz? Maybe I wasn't the only one worried about her.

  * * *

  I went downstairs just past seven, and used the extra time to ghost hunt, prowling the laundry room, listening and looking. The one time I wanted to see or hear a ghost, I didn't.

  Could I contact it? Or was it a one-?way street, and did I have to wait until one chose to speak to me? I wanted to test that by calling out, but Derek had already caught me talking to myself. I wasn't taking that risk with Simon.

  So I just wandered, my mind automatically sliding behind a camera lens.

  “. . . here . . . ” a voice whispered, so soft and dry it sounded like the wind through long grass. “. . . talk to…”

  A shadow loomed over my shoulder. I braced myself to see a vision of horror as I looked up into… Derek's face.

  “You always this jumpy?” he said.

  “Wh-?where did you come from?”

  “Upstairs. ”

  “I'm waiting for some—” I stopped and studied his expression. “It's you, isn't it? You had Simon send—”

  “Simon didn't send anything. I knew you wouldn't come for me. But Simon?” He glanced at his watch. “For Simon, you're early. So did you look it up?”

  So that's what this was about. “You mean that word? Nec—” I pursed my lips, testing it. “Necromancer? Is that how you say it?”

  He waved the pronunciation off. Unimportant. He leaned against the wall, trying for casual, uninterested maybe. His flexing fingers betrayed his eagerness to hear my answer. To see my reaction.

  “Did you look it up?” he asked again.

  “I did. And, well, I don't quite know what to say. ”

  He rubbed his hands against his jeans, as if drying them. “Okay. So, you searched for it and…”

  “It wasn't what I expected. ”

  He brushed his jeans again, then closed his hands. Crossed his arms. Uncrossed them. I looked around, drawing it out, making him rock forward, almost bouncing with impatience.

  “So…” he said.

  “Well, I have to admit . . . ” I took a deep breath. “I'm not really into computer games. ”

  His eyes closed to slits, face screwed up. “Computer games?”

  “Video games? RPGs? I've played some, but not the kind you're talking about. ”

  He looked at me, wary, as if suspecting I really did belong in a home for crazy kids.

  “But if you guys are into them?” I flashed a bright smile. “Then I'm certainly willing to give them a shot. ”

  “Them?”

  “The games. Role playing, right? But I don't think the necromancer is for me, though I do appreciate the suggestion. ”

  “Suggestion…” he said slowly.

  “That I play a necromancer? That's why you had me look it up, right?"

  His lips parted, eyes rounding as he understood. “No, I didn't mean—”

  “I suppose it could be cool, playing a character who can raise the dead, but it's just, you know, not really me. A little too dark. Too emo, you know? I'd rather play a magician. ”

  “I wasn't—”

  “So I don't have to be a necromancer? Thanks. I really do appreciate you taking the time to make me feel welcome. It's so sweet. ”

  As I fixed him with a sugary smile, he finally realized I was having him on. His face darkened. “I wasn't inviting you to a game, Chloe. ”

  “No?” I widened my eyes. “Then why would you send me to those sites about necromancers? Show me pictures of madmen raising armies of rotting zombies? Is that how you get your kicks, Derek? Scaring the new kids? Well, you've had your fun, and if you corner me again or lure me into the basement—”

  “Lure you? I was trying to talk to you. ”

  “No. ” I lifted my gaze to his. “You were trying to scare me. Do it again and I'll tell the nurses. ”

  When I scripted the lines in my head, they'd been strong and defiant—the new girl standing up to the bully. But when I said them, I sounded like a spoiled brat threatening to tattle.

  Derek's eyes hardened into shards of green glass and his face twisted into something not quite human, filling with a rage that made me stumble back out of its path and bolt for the stairs.

  He grabbed for me, fingers clamping around my forearm. He yanked so hard I yelped, shoulder wrenching as I sailed off my feet. He let go and I crashed to the floor.

  For a moment, I just lay there, crumpled in a heap, cradling my arm and blinking hard, unable to believe what had just happened. Then his shadow fell across me, and I scrambled to my feet.

  He reached for me. “Chloe, I—”

  I staggered back before he could touch me. He said something. I didn't hear it. Didn't look at him. Just ran for the stairs.

  I didn't stop until I was in my room. Then I sat cross-?legged on my bed, gulping oxygen. My shoulder burned. When I rolled up my sleeve, I saw a red mark for each of his lingers.

  I stared at them. No one had ever hurt me before. My parents had never struck me. Never spanked me or even threatened to. I wasn't the kind of girl who got into fistfights in catfights. Sure, I'd been pushed, jostled, elbowed… but grabbed and thrown across a room?

  I yanked down my sleeve. Was I surprised? Derek had made me nervous from that first encounter in the pantry. When I realized he'd sent the note, I should have gone upstairs. If he'd tried to stop me, I should have screamed. But no, I had to be cool. Be clever. Bait him.
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