The summoning, p.6
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       The Summoning, p.6

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
Page 6


  “But no one would say that makes you crazy. Just crazy about movies. Fascinated by them. Just like—” she took the matchbook from her pocket and waggled it “—me and fire. ”

  The door at the top of the stairs clicked.

  “Girls?” Mrs. Talbot called. “Are you still down there?”

  Her footsteps tapped down before we could answer. As her shadow rounded the corner, I snatched the matchbook from Rae's outstretched hand and hid it under the shirt I'd been folding.

  “Rae?” Mrs. Talbot said. “Your classes are starting. Chloe—”

  “I'll finish here, then come up. ”

  Mrs. Talbot left. I passed Rae back her matchbook and she mouthed her thanks, then followed the nurse up the stairs. And I was left alone in the basement.


  I TOSSED A PAIR OF pink underwear marked Liz into her pile, then stopped. Did we wash the guys' underwear, too? I really hoped not. I sifted through the pile, finding only ones for Rae, Liz, and Tori, and exhaled in relief.


  A man's voice over my head. I stiffened but forced myself to keep sorting. No one was here. Or, if someone was, he wasn't real. This was how I needed to handle it. Not jump like a scorched cat. Tough it out. Hear the voices, see the visions, and ignore them.

  “. . . come here…”

  The voice had moved across the room. I lifted a red lace thong marked Tori and thought of my little girl cotton undies.

  “. . . over here…”

  I tried to focus on how I could get better underwear before anyone else washed mine, but my hands started to tremble from the effort of ignoring the voice. Just one look. Just one—

  I glanced across the room. No one there. I sighed and returned to sorting.

  “. . . door… closed…”

  I looked at the closed door. The one I'd noticed earlier, which was proof that the voice was really just my overactive imagination.

  Why do you need proof? What else would it be?

  Great. Two voices to ignore.

  “Open the door… something… show you…”

  Ha! Now there was a classic movie scene: Just come look behind the closed door, little girl. I laughed, but the sound quavered, squeaking at the end.

  Get a grip. Toughen up or they'll never let you out.

  My gaze snuck to the door. It looked like an ordinary closet. If I really believed the voice was in my head, then what was stopping me from opening it?

  I strode to the door, forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other, knowing if I stopped, I'd lose my nerve.

  “Good… come . . . ”

  I grasped the doorknob, the metal cold under my fingers.

  “. . . open…”

  I turned the handle slowly. It went a quarter turn, then stopped. I jiggled it.

  “Locked. ” My voice echoed through the laundry room.

  I jangled it again, then twisted sharply. The door didn't budge.

  “Key . . . find . . . unlock…”

  I pressed my fingers to my temples. “The door is locked and I'm going upstairs," I answered.

  As I turned, I smacked into a wall of solid flesh and for the second time that day gave a girlie yelp. I looked up to see the same face that had made me shriek the last time.

  I stumbled back and would have fallen if the door wasn't right behind me. Derek made no move to catch me, just stood there, hands in his pockets as I recovered.

  “Who were you talking to?” he asked.

  “Myself. ”

  “Huh. ”

  “Now, if you'll excuse me…”

  When he didn't budge, I sidestepped to get around him. He moved into my path.

  “You saw a ghost, didn't you?” he said.

  To my relief, I managed to laugh. “Hate to break it to you, but there's no such thing as ghosts. ”

  “Huh. ”

  His gaze traveled around the laundry room, like a cop searching for an escaped convict. When he turned that piercing look on me, its intensity sucked the backbone out of me.

  “What do you see, Chloe?”

  “I—I—I don't s-?s-?s—”

  “Slow down. ” He snapped the words, impatient. “What do they look like? Do they talk to you?”

  “You really want to know?”

  “Yeah. ”

  I chewed my lip, then lifted onto my tiptoes. He bent to listen.

  “They wear white sheets with big eye holes. And they say 'Boo!' “ I glowered up at him. ”Now get out of my way. "

  I expected him to sneer. Cross his arms and say, Make me, little girl.

  His lips twitched and I steeled myself, then I realized he was smiling. Laughing at me.

  He stepped aside. I swept past him to the stairs.

  Dr. Gill was a small woman with a long rodent nose and bulging ratlike eyes that studied me as if I were the rat—one whose every twitch had to be scribbled into her notebook. I'd had therapists before. Two of them, both after my mom died. I'd hated the first one, an old man with bad breath who'd closed his eyes when I talked, like he was taking a nap. When I complained, I got the second one, Dr. Anna, a woman with bright red hair who'd joked with me and reminded me of my mom and helped me get on with my life. After ten minutes with Dr. Gill, I knew she fell somewhere in the middle. She seemed nice enough, and listened carefully, but she wasn't going to start cracking jokes anytime soon.

  We talked about how I'd slept; how I was eating; what I thought of the others; and, mostly, how I felt about being here. I lied about the last. I wasn't stupid. If I wanted to get out, I couldn't moan that I didn't belong or complain that someone made a horrible mistake.

  So I said that I knew my dad and aunt had done the right thing by putting me in Lyle House, and that I was determined to get better, whatever it took.

  Dr. Gill's rat face relaxed. “That's a very mature attitude. I'm glad to hear it. ”

  I nodded, and tried to look sincere.

  “Now, Chloe, have you ever heard of schizophrenia?”

  My heart stopped. “Sch-?schizophrenia?”

  “Yes. Do you know anything about it?”

  My mouth opened and closed, brain refusing to fill it with words.


  “Y-?you think I'm schizo?”

  Her mouth tightened. “We don't use that word, Chloe. In fact, we prefer not to use labels at all. But a diagnosis is a necessary part of the process. A patient must know her condition, understand and accept it before we can begin treatment. ”

  “B-?but I just got here. How c-?can you know already—”

  “Do you remember at the hospital? The doctors you spoke to? The tests they ran?”

  “They found schizophrenia?”

  She shook her head. “While scientists are working on a way to definitively diagnose schizophrenia, we don't have anything conclusive yet. Those tests, though, ruled out other possibilities, such as tumors or drug use. Taking those results and combining them with your symptoms, the most likely diagnosis is schizophrenia. ”

  I stared at the floor. “You think I have schizophrenia. ”

  “Do you know what it is?” She spoke slowly, like she was starting to question my intelligence.

  “I've seen A Beautiful Mind. ”

  More lip pursing. “That's Hollywood's version, Chloe. ”

  “But it's based on a true story, right?”

  “Based. ” Her voice softened. “I know from your file that you enjoy movies, and that's wonderful. But they aren't a good place to learn about mental illness. There are many forms and degrees of schizophrenia and yours isn't the same as that one. ”

  Wasn't it? I saw people who weren't there, just like the guy in the movie.

  Dr. Gill continued. “What you are experiencing is what we'd call undifferentiated schizophrenia, meaning you're displaying a limited number of the primary symptoms—in your c
ase, seeing visions and hearing voices. Visual and auditory hallucinations. ”

  “What about paranoia?”

  “We see no evidence of that. You show no signs of disorganized behavior or disorganized speech patterns—”

  “What about stuttering?”

  She shook her head. “That's unrelated. You display none of the other symptoms, Chloe. ”

  “Will I? Eventually?”

  “Not necessarily. We'll have to be vigilant, of course, but we've caught this early. Usually a diagnosis isn't made until a patient is in her late teens or twenties. It's like catching a disease in its early stages, when we have the best chance to minimize its progression. ”

  “And get rid of it. ”

  A moment of silence as she fingered a long corded necklace. “Schizophrenia . . . is not like the flu, Chloe. It is permanent. ”

  Blood thundered in my ears, drowning out her next words. She leaned forward, touching my knee.

  “Chloe, are you listening to me?”

  I nodded.

  She moved back. “Schizophrenia is not a life sentence. But it is a lifelong condition. Like having asthma. With lifestyle changes and medication, it can be controlled and you can lead an otherwise normal life, to the point where no one will realize you have it unless you choose to tell them. ” She leaned back, meeting my gaze. “Earlier you said you were determined to do whatever it took to get through this. I know you were hoping for a quick fix, but this is going to require that same level of maturity and determination. Are you still prepared to do that, Chloe?”

  I had more questions. Did it usually happen this fast, with no warning? One day you're walking around, totally normal, and the next you're hallucinating and running screaming through the halls? Then, bang, you get told you have schizophrenia, case closed?

  It all seemed too sudden. But when I looked at Dr. Gill, watching me expectantly, waiting to get on to the next phase, I was afraid if I said anything, it would sound like I was still in denial; and if I did that, I'd never get out of Lyle House.

  So I nodded. “I just want to get better. ”

  “Good. Then we'll begin. ”

  Dr. Gill explained about the medication. It was supposed to stop my hallucinations. Once they had the dose adjusted, there shouldn't be any significant side effects, but at first I might experience partial hallucinations, depression, and paranoia. Great. Sounded like the cure was as bad as the disease.

  Dr. Gill assured me that by the time I left the group home, taking the pills would be no different than taking daily asthma medicine. “That's how you need to think of schizophrenia, Chloe. As a medical condition. You did nothing to cause it. "

  And could do nothing to cure it.

  “You'll go through a period of depression, anger, and even denial. That's natural, and we'll deal with that in our sessions. You'll meet with me for an hour a day. ”

  “Are there group sessions, too?” I asked.

  “No. Someday you may decide you want to explore the dynamics of group therapy and we can discuss that later, but at Lyle House, we believe that privacy is critical. You need to fully accept your condition before you'll be comfortable sharing it with others. ”

  She laid her notebook on the desk and crossed her hands on her knee. “And that leads to our final topic for today. Privacy. As I'm sure you've guessed, all the residents here are coping with mental issues. But that is all anyone needs to know. We will not share details of your condition, your symptoms, or your treatment with anyone here. If anyone pressures you for details, you are to come to us right away. ”

  “They already know,” I murmured.


  The outrage blazing from her eyes told me I should have kept my mouth shut. I knew from past therapy that it was important to share anything that was bothering me, but I didn't need to start my stay at Lyle House by tattling.

  “N-?not about the schizophrenia. Just. . . someone knew about me seeing things. Ghosts. Which I never said. To anyone. ”

  “Who was it?”

  “I—I'd rather not say. It was no big deal. ”

  She unfolded her hands. “Yes, it is a big deal, Chloe. But I also appreciate that you don't want to get anyone into trouble. I have a good idea who it was. She must have been eavesdropping when we were discussing your hallucinations and jumped to her own conclusions about . . . ” A dismissive wave of her hands. “Ghosts. I'm sorry this happened, but I promise it will be handled discreetly. ”


  “She won't know you told us anything, but it must be dealt with. ” She eased back into her seat. “I'm sorry this happened on your first day. Young people are, by nature, curious, and as hard as we strive to provide privacy, it isn't always possible in such tight living quarters. ”

  “It's okay. No one made a big deal of it. ”

  She nodded. “We have a very good group of young people here. In general, they are very respectful and accepting. That's important at Lyle House. You have a difficult road ahead and we're all here to make that journey as smooth as possible. ”


  It didn't matter how many times Dr. Gill compared it to a disease or physical disability, it wasn't the same thing. It just wasn't. I had schizophrenia.

  If I saw two guys on the sidewalk, one in a wheelchair and one talking to himself, which one would I rush to open a door for? And which would I cross the road to avoid?

  Dr. Gill said it was just a matter of taking my meds and learning to cope. If it was that easy, why were there people wandering the streets talking to themselves? Crazy-?eyed homeless people shouting at thin air?

  Seeing people who weren't there. Hearing voices that didn't exist.
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