The summoning, p.15
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       The Summoning, p.15

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 15

 

  “That's… magic?” I said.

  The ball dropped into his hand. “You don't believe me, do you?”

  “No, I—”

  He cut me off with a laugh. “You think it's some kind of trick or a special effect. Well, movie girl, get your butt over here and test me. ”

  “I---”

  “Get over here. ” He pointed at the spot beside him. “See if you can find the strings. ”

  I slid closer. He said some words, louder now, so I could hear them. It wasn't English.

  When the ball didn't move, he cursed. “Did I mention I'm not Harry Potter? Let's try that again. ”

  He repeated the words, slower, his gaze glued to the ball. It rose two inches.

  “Now check for strings or wires or whatever you think is holding it up. ”

  I hesitated, but he prodded and teased me until I moved closer and poked a finger between the ball and his hand. When I didn't hit anything, I slid all my fingers through, then waggled them. Simon's fist closed, grabbing my hand and I yelped as the ball bounced off across the concrete pad.

  “Sorry,” he said, grinning, his fingers still holding mine. “I couldn't resist. ”

  “Yes—I'm skittish, as your brother has probably pointed out. So how did you . . . ” I looked at the ball, coming to rest on the grass. “Wow. ”

  His grin grew. “You believe me now?”

  As I stared at the ball, I struggled for other explanations. None came.

  “Can you teach me how to do that?” I said finally.

  “Nah. No more than you can teach me how to see ghosts. Either you have it or you—”

  “Playing basketball in the dark, Simon?” asked a voice across the yard. “You should have called me. You know I'm always up for a little—”

  Tori stopped short, seeing me now. Her gaze moved to my hand, still in his.

  “—one-?on-?one,” she finished.

  I yanked my fingers away. She kept staring.

  “Hey, Tori,” Simon said as he retrieved the ball. “What's up?”

  “I saw you playing and thought maybe you could use a partner. ” Her gaze swung my way, expression unreadable. “I guess not. ”

  “I should get inside,” I said. “Thanks for the pointers, Simon. ”

  “No, hold up. ” He took a step after me, then glanced at Tori. "Uh, right. You're welcome. And it is getting dark, isn't it? It must be snack time by now. ”

  He hurried into the house.

  * * *

  I lay in bed, unable to sleep again. This time, though, it wasn't bad dreams that kept me awake but thoughts pinging through my head, so shrill and insistent that by midnight, I was seriously considering a real kitchen raid—to grab the travel tube of Tylenol I'd seen there.

  I was a necromancer.

  Having a label should have come as a relief, but I wasn't sure this one was any better than schizophrenic. At least schizophrenia was a known and accepted condition. I could talk to people about it, get help coping with it, take my meds, and make the symptoms go away.

  Those same meds might cover the symptoms of necromancy, but as Simon said, it would be like coloring my hair—I'd still be the same underneath, my true nature waiting to pop up as soon as the medication wore off

  Necromancy.

  Where had it come from? My mother? If so, why didn't Aunt Lauren know about it? From my father? Maybe he hadn't worked up the nerve to warn me and that's why he'd seemed so guilty in the hospital, so eager to make me happy and comfortable. Or maybe neither of my parents or my aunt knew anything about it. It could be a recessive gene, one that skipped generations.

  Simon was lucky. His dad must have told him about the magic, showed him how to use it. My envy evaporated. Lucky? He was stuck in a group home. His magic didn't seem to be doing him any good here.

  Magic. The word came so casually, as if I'd already accepted it. Had I? Should I?

  I'd spent days denying that I saw ghosts, and now, suddenly, I had no problem believing in magic? I should be demanding more demonstrations. Coming up with alternate explanations. But I'd done that with myself, and now, having realized that I really did see the dead, there was almost a comfort in accepting that I wasn't the only one out there with weird powers.

  And what about Derek? Simon said Derek was unnaturally strong. Was that magical? I'd felt that strength. I'd read his file, and I knew even the authorities had been stumped for a cause.

  As bizarre as it sounded, the explanation that made the most sense was the most far-?fetched one. There were people out there with powers found only in legends and movies. And we were part of that.

  I almost laughed. It was like something out of a comic book. Kids with supernatural powers, like superheroes. Superheroes? Right. Somehow, I didn't think seeing ghosts and levitating basketballs was going to help us save the world from evil anytime soon.

  If both Derek and Simon had powers, is that how they'd ended up together, as foster brothers? What had their dad told them? Did his disappearance have something to do with being magical? Was that why the guys had enrolled in school under fake names and kept moving around? Is that what our kind had to do? Hide?

  The questions crowded my brain, none of them willing to leave without answers… answers I couldn't get at two in the morning. They bounced around like Simon's basketball. After a while, I swore I could see them—orange balls bouncing through my head, back and forth, back and forth, until I fell asleep.

  * * *

  A voice sliced through the heavy blanket of sleep, and I bolted up, fighting my way to consciousness.

  I gulped air as I surveyed the room, ears and eyes straining. All was still and silent. I glanced over at Rae. She was sound asleep.

  A dream. I started lying back down.

  “Wake up. ”

  The whisper floated through the half-?open door. I lay down, resisting the urge to pull the covers higher.

  I thought you weren't going to cower anymore? That's the plan, right? Not to ignore the voices but get answers, take control.

  A deep breath. Then I slipped out of bed and walked to the door.

  The hall was empty. I could hear only the tick-?tick-?tick of the grandfather clock downstairs. As I turned, a pale shape flickered near a closed door down the hall. A closet, I'd presumed earlier. What was it with ghosts and closets in this house?

  I crept down the hall and eased the door open. Dark stairs led up.

  The attic.

  Uh-?uh, this was as bad as a basement, maybe even worse. I wasn't following some ghost up there.

  Good excuse.

  It's not an—

  You don't want to talk to them. Not really. You don't want to know the truth.

  Great. Not only did I have to deal with Derek's taunts and jibes but now even my inner voice was starting to sound like him.

  I took a deep breath and stepped inside.

  Twenty

  I SLID MY HAND ALONG the wall, searching for a light switch, then stopped. Was that a good idea? With my luck, Tori would head to the bathroom, see the attic light on, and investigate… only to find me up there talking to myself.

  I left the light off.

  One hand on the railing, the other gliding along the opposite wall, I climbed the stairs, ascending into blackness.

  My hand slipped off the end of the railing, and I pitched forward. I'd reached the top. A trickle of moonlight came from the tiny attic window, but even after I paused to let my eyes adjust, I could only make out vague shapes.

  I walked with my hands out, feeling my way. I smacked into something, and it sent up a cloud of dust. My hands flew over my nose to stifle a sneeze.

  “Girl . . . ”

  I stiffened. It was the ghost from the basement, the one who kept insisting I open the locked door. I took a deep breath. Whoever he was, he couldn't hurt me. Even that janitor, as hard as he tried, couldn't do
anything more than scare me.

  I had the power here. I was the necromancer.

  “Who are you?” I asked.

  “. . . contact . . . get through…”

  “I can't understand you. ”

  “. . . blocked…”

  Something was blocking him from making contact? Leftover meds in my system?

  “. . . basement… try…”

  “Try that door again? Forget it. No more basements. No more attics. If you want to talk to me, do it on the main level. Got it?”

  “. . . can't… block…”

  “Yes, you're blocked. I think it's something I was taking, but it should be better tomorrow. Talk to me in my room. When I'm alone. Okay?”

  Silence. I repeated it, but he didn't answer. I stood there, shivering, for at least five minutes before trying one last time. When he didn't respond, I turned toward the stairs.

  “Chloe?”

  I wheeled so fast I knocked into something at knee level, my bare legs scraping against wood, hands hitting the top with a thud, enveloping me in a cloud of dust. I sneezed.

  “Bless you. ” A giggle. “Do you know why we say that?”

  Blood pounded in my ears as I recognized the voice. I could make out Liz, a few feet away, dressed in her Minnie Mouse nightshirt.

  “It's because when we sneeze, our soul flies out our nose and if no one says 'bless you,' the devil can snatch it. ” Another giggle. “Or so my nana always said. Funny, huh?”

  I opened my mouth but couldn't force words out.

  She looked around, nose wrinkling. “Is this the attic? What are we doing up here?”

  “I—I—I—I—”

  “Take a deep breath. That always helps my brother. “ Another look around. ”How did we get up here? Oh, right. The séance. We were going to do a séance. "

  “Séance?” I hesitated. “Don't you remember?”

  “Remember what?” She frowned. “Are you okay, Chloe?”

  No, I was pretty sure I wasn't. “You… never mind. I—I was just talking to a man. Can you see him? Is he here?”

  “Um, no. It's just us. ” Her eyes went round. “Are you seeing ghosts?”

  “Gh-?ghosts?”

  “Chloe?”

  This voice was sharp and I spun to see Mrs. Talbot feeling her way over to me. I turned back to Liz. No one was there.

  “Chloe, what are you doing up here?”

  “I—I—I—I thought I heard . . . a mouse. Or a rat. Something was moving around up here. ”

  “And you were talking to it?” Tori stepped through the attic doorway.

  “N-?no, I—I—”

  “Oh, I'm pretty sure I heard you say ghost. And you were definitely talking to someone. It seems you aren't quite as cured as you said you were. ”

  * * *

  Mrs. Talbot brought me a sleeping pill and waited while I took it. The whole time, she didn't say a word to me, but as I heard her feet tapping double time down the stairs, I knew there would be a lot of words for Dr. Gill and Dr. Davidoff.

  I'd blown it.

  Tears burned my eyes. I swiped them back.

  “You really can see ghosts, can't you?” Rae whispered.

  I said nothing.

  “I heard what happened. You aren't even going to admit it to me now, are you?”

  “I want to get out of here. ”

  “News flash. We all do. ” An edge crept into her voice. “It's fine to lie to them. But I thought you were seeing ghosts even before you did. Who gave you the idea of looking up that guy you saw at your school? You looked him up, didn't you? You just didn't bother to tell me. ”

  “That's not—"

  She rolled over, her back to me. I knew I should say something, but I wasn't sure what.

  When I closed my eyes, I saw Liz again and my stomach clenched.

  Had I really seen her? Talked to her? I struggled for some other explanation. She couldn't be a ghost because I'd seen and heard her clearly—not like the ghost who'd called me up there. And she couldn't be dead. The nurses had promised we could talk to her.

  When could we talk to her?

  I struggled to get up, suddenly needing to know now. But I was so tired that I couldn't think straight and hovered there, propped up on my elbows, as the sleeping pill kicked in.

  Something about Liz. I wanted to check. …

  My head fell back to the pillow.

  Twenty-one

  THE NEXT MORNING WHEN I was called into a meeting with the doctors, I did my best damage control. I claimed I really had gotten past the I-?see-?dead-?people stage and accepted my condition, but had woken up hearing a voice in the night, calling me to the attic. I'd been confused, sleep drunk, dreaming of seeing ghosts, not really seeing them.

  Dr. Gill and Dr. Davidoff didn't fully appreciate the distinction.

  Then Aunt Lauren arrived. It was like when I'd been eleven, caught peeking at test scores, egged on by the new classmates I'd been eager to impress. Being hauled to the principal's office had been bad enough. But the disappointment on Aunt Lauren's face had hurt worse than any punishment.

  That day, I saw the same disappointment, and it didn't hurt any less.

  In the end, I managed to persuade them all that I'd had a minor setback, but it was like the little boy crying wolf. The next time I said I was improving, they'd be a lot slower to believe me. No quick track to release now.

  “We're going to need you to provide urine samples for the next week,” Dr. Gill said.

  “Oh, that's ridiculous,” Aunt Lauren said. “How do we know she wasn't sleepwalking and dreaming? She can't control her dreams. ”

  “Dreams are the windows to the soul,” Dr. Gill said.

  “That's the eyes," my aunt snapped.
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