The summoning, p.8
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       The Summoning, p.8

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 8

 

  “We couldn't risk taking a peek tonight anyway,” she said. “With what's going on with Liz, they'll be on high alert. I don't want to get kicked out for corrupting the new kid. ”

  “Maybe I'd get tossed out for corrupting you. ”

  She caught my grin and laughed. “Oh, yeah, you're trouble, girl. I can tell. ”

  She scooted me from the room and shut the door behind us.

  Nine

  I'M NOT KEEN ON ROMANTIC comedies. This may be like a guy admitting he doesn't like car chases, but Rae nodded off a few times, too, so I guessed this wouldn't have been her choice either.

  I stayed awake by deconstructing the screenplay, which was so predictable I'd bet my college fund the writer was a student of screenwriting guru Robert McKee.

  But as I watched the silly movie and munched popcorn, I finally relaxed. Talking to Rae had helped. She'd didn't think I was crazy. She didn't even think I was schizophrenic.

  For the first time since my breakdown, things didn't look so bad. Maybe life as I knew it hadn't really ended in that classroom. Maybe I was overreacting and going all drama queen.

  Did the kids at school know what had happened to me? A few saw me run down a hall. More saw me carried out on a stretcher, unconscious. Big deal. I could return in a few weeks and most probably wouldn't even notice I'd been gone.

  Tomorrow, I'd e-?mail Kari, tell her I was sick, and see what she said. That's probably exactly what she heard, that I had something like mono.

  I'd get through this. Whatever I thought of their diagnosis, now wasn't the time to argue. I'd take my meds, lie if I had to, get released from Lyle House, and get on with my life.

  “Chloe? Chloe?”

  Liz's voice echoed through the deep caves of dreamland, and it took me a few minutes to find the way out. When I opened my eyes, she was leaning over me, bathing me in toothpaste breath, her long hair tickling my cheek. The hand clutching my arm kept trembling even after she stopped shaking me.

  I pushed up on my elbows. “What's wrong?”

  “I've been lying here for hours, trying to think of some way to ask you, some way that won't sound weird. But I can't. I just can't. ”

  She backed away, her pale face glowing in the darkness, hands tugging at her nightshirt neckline, like it was choking her.

  I scrambled up. “Liz?”

  “They're going to send me away. Everyone knows they are, and that's why they're being so nice to me. I don't want to go, Chloe. They'll lock me up and—” She hiccupped deep breaths, hands cupped over her mouth. When she looked at me, her eyes were so wide the whites showed around her dark irises. “I know you haven't been here long, but I really need your help. ”

  “Okay. ”

  “Really?”

  I stifled a yawn as I sat up. “If there's anything I can do—”

  “There is. Thank you. Thank you. ” She dropped to her knees and pulled a bag from under her bed. “I don't know what all you need, but I did one at a sleepover last year, so I gathered up everything we used. There's a glass, some spices, a candle—” Her hand flew to her mouth. “Matches! Oh, no. We don't have any matches. They keep them locked up because of Rae. Can we do it without lighting the candle?”

  “Do what?” I rubbed my hands over my face. I hadn't taken a sleeping pill but still felt that weird fogginess, like I was swimming through a sea of cotton balls. “What exactly are we doing, Liz?”

  “A séance, of course. ”

  The sleep fog evaporated, and I wondered if this was a prank. But I could tell by her expression that it wasn't. I remembered Tori's words at lunch.

  “The… poltergeist?" I said carefully.

  Liz flew at me so fast I smacked backward into the wall, hands flying up toward her off. But she only pounced down beside me, eyes wild.

  “Yes!” she said. “I have a poltergeist. It's so obvious, but they won't see it. They keep saying it's me doing all this stuff. But how would I throw a pencil that hard? Did anyone see me throw it? No. I get mad at Ms. Wang and the pencil flies and hits her and everyone says 'Oh, Liz threw it,' but I didn't. I never do. ”

  “It's the… poltergeist. ”

  “Right! I think it's trying to protect me because every time I get mad, things start flying. I've tried to talk to it, to make it stop. But it can't hear me because I can't talk to ghosts. That's why I need you. ”

  I struggled to keep my expression neutral. I'd seen a documentary on poltergeist activity once. It usually did happen around girls like Liz—troubled teens desperate for attention. Some people thought the girls were playing pranks. Others believed the energy the girls gave off—hormones and rage—actually made things move.

  “You don't believe me,” she said.

  “No, I didn't say—”

  “You don't believe me!” She rose to her knees, eyes blazing. “Nobody believes me!”

  “Liz, I—”

  Behind her, the hair gel bottles rocked. Empty hangers in the closet chattered. I dug my fingers into the mattress.

  “O-?o-?okay, Liz. I s-?s-?see—”

  “No, you don't!”

  She slammed her hands down. The bottles jetted into the air, smashing against the ceiling with such force the plastic exploded. Hair gel rained down.

  “Do you see?”

  “Y-?y-?yes. ”

  Her hands flew up again, like a conductor hitting the crescendo. A picture leaped from the wall. It smashed onto the hardwood floor, glass spraying. Another fell. Then a third. A sliver of glass shot into my knee. A button of blood welled up and streamed down my leg.

  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the picture above my bed quaver. It sprang from its moorings.

  “No!” Liz cried.

  I dove. Liz hit my side, shoving me out of the picture's path. It struck her shoulder. She twisted. We both rolled from the bed, hitting the floor hard.

  I lay on my side, catching my breath.

  “I'm so sorry,” she gasped. “I didn't mean—Do you see what happens? I can't control it. I get mad and everything…”

  “You think it's a poltergeist. ”

  She nodded, her lip quivering.

  I had no idea what was going on. Not a poltergeist though—that was nuts—but if she thought it was, then maybe if she thought I'd told it to stop, it really would stop.

  “Okay,” I said. “Get the candle and we'll—”

  The door shot open. Mrs. Talbot's bathrobed form stood silhouetted in the doorway. She flipped on the light. I drew back, blinking.

  “Oh my God,” she breathed, barely above a whisper. “Elizabeth. What have you done?”

  I jumped to my feet. “It wasn't her. I—I—I—”

  For once, I wasn't stammering. I just couldn't think of more words. Her gaze swept across the room, taking in the glass littering the floor, the hair gel dripping from the ceiling, the exploded makeup painting the wall, and I knew there was no reasonable explanation.

  Her gaze fell to my leg and she let out a squeak. “It's okay,” I said, drawing my leg up and swiping the blood. “It's nothing. I cut myself. Shaving. Earlier. ”

  She picked her way past me, eyes fixed on the glass-?carpeted floor.

  “No,” Liz whispered. “Please no. I didn't mean it. ”

  “It's okay, hon. We're going to get you help. ”

  Miss Van Dop strode in, carrying a needle. She sedated Liz as Mrs. Talbot tried to calm her, telling her they were only transferring her to a better hospital, one more suitable, one that could help her get well faster.

  When Liz was unconscious, they shooed me from the room. As I backed into the hall, a hand walloped me in the back, slamming me into the wall. I turned to see Tori looming over me.

  “What did you do to her?” she snarled.

  “Nothing. ” To my shock, the word came out clear, defiant even. I pulled myself up straight. “I'm not the one who told her I could he
lp. ”

  “Help?”

  “By contacting her poltergeist. ”

  Her eyes went wide, with that same horrified expression as when Simon told her to stop acting like a bitch. She turned away and stumbled into her room.

  Ten

  THE PARAMEDICS CAME FOR LIZ. I watched her go, asleep on the stretcher, just like I'd been taken from school. Deluxe transportation for crazy kids.

  Miss Van Dop insisted I take half a sleeping pill. I gave In, but when she tried to follow it with an extra dose of my antihallucination medicine, I hid that pill under my tongue.

  I hadn't seen or heard anything since lunchtime. While that might have been the meds kicking in, I couldn't help hoping Rae's wild theory was right—that my “break with reality” was only a temporary mental vacation, brought on by stress and hormones. With any luck, I was already making the return trip to sanity.

  I had to test that theory. So I'd save the pill and, if I saw anything, I'd take it.

  I offered to help clean the room, but Mrs. Talbot took me downstairs for a glass of milk, then settled me on the sofa. I drifted off, waking when she came to trundle me back to bed, and was asleep again before I could pull up the covers.

  I awoke to the fruity smell of Liz's hair gel. I floated there, dreaming I was trapped in a vat of cotton candy, the sweet smell making my stomach churn as I fought through the sticky strands. Finally I broke free, eyes flying open, gulping air.

  “Chloe?”

  I blinked. It sounded like Liz's voice, timid and wavering.

  “Are you awake, Chloe?”

  I rolled onto my side. Liz sat on the edge of her bed, wearing her Minnie Mouse nightshirt and gray socks covered with purple and orange giraffes.

  She wiggled her toes. “Funky, huh? My little brother got them for me last Christmas. ”

  I pushed up, blinking harder. The cotton candy from the sleeping pill still encircled my brain, sticky and thick, and I couldn't seem to focus. Sunlight streamed through the Venetian blind, making the giraffes on Liz's socks dance as she waggled her toes.

  “I had the weirdest dream last night,” she said, gaze fixed on her feet.

  You and me both, I thought.

  “I dreamed they took me away and I woke up in this hospital. Only I wasn't in a bed but on a table. A cold, metal table. And there was this woman there, like a nurse, wearing one of those masks. She was bending over me. When I opened my eyes, she jumped. ”

  Her gaze shot my way, and she managed a tiny smile. “Kinda like you do sometimes. Like I startled her. She calls this guy over, and I ask where I am, but they just keep talking. They're mad because I wasn't supposed to wake up and now they don't know what to do. I try to sit, but I'm tied down. ”

  Liz bunched her nightshirt in her hands, kneading it. “All of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move, couldn't yell, and then…” She shuddered, arms wrapping around herself. “I woke up here. ”

  I sat up. “I'm going to help you, Liz. Okay?”

  She scuttled back on the bed, pulling her knees up. She opened her mouth, but she was shaking too badly to form words. I stood, the wood floor icy beneath my feet, and crossed over to sit beside her.

  “Do you want me to try talking to your poltergeist?”

  She nodded, chin drumming against her chest. “Tell it to stop. Tell it I don't need its help. I can look after myself. ”

  I reached out to lay my hand on her arm. I saw my fingers make contact, but they kept moving. Kept going. Through her arm.

  As I stared in horror, Liz looked down. She saw my hand pass through her. And she started to scream.

  Eleven

  I TUMBLED OFF HER BED, hitting the floor so hard pain jolted through my spine. When I scrambled up, Liz's bed was empty, the comforter wrinkled only where I'd been sitting.

  I took a slow look around the bedroom. Liz was gone.

  Gone? She'd never been here. They'd taken her away last night. I hadn't dreamed that part—hair gel still freckled the ceiling.

  I pressed my palms to my eyes and backed up until I hit my bed, sitting down on it and inhaling deeply. After a moment, I opened my eyes. Sticky strands of sleep were still woven around my brain.

  I'd been dreaming.

  No, not dreaming. Not imagining things. Hallucinating.

  Dr. Gill was right. I had schizophrenia.

  But what if it wasn't? What if Rae was right, and I was seeing ghosts?

  I shook my head sharply. No, that was crazy talk. That would mean Liz was dead. That was nuts. I was hallucinating, and I had to accept it.

  I reached under my mattress, pulled out the pill I'd stuffed there the night before, and swallowed it dry, gagging in protest.

  I had to take my meds. Take them and get better or I'd be shipped off to a real mental hospital, like Liz.

  Only Rae joined me for breakfast. Tori was still in her room, and the nurses seemed content to leave her there.

  I picked at my cereal, scooping one Cheerio at a time so it looked like I was eating. I kept thinking of how scared Liz had been. Terrified of being sent away. Then talking about her dream of being tied down, unable to breathe…

  A hallucination. In real life, things like that don't happen.

  And in real life, teenage girls can't make bottles explode and pictures fly off the walls. …

  “Miss Van Dop?” I said when she came in to lay the breakfast table for the boys. “About Liz…”

  “She's fine, Chloe. She's gone to a better place. ”

  Those words sent a shiver through me, my spoon clattering against the bowl.

  “I'd like to talk to her if I could,” I said. “I didn't get a chance to say good-?bye. Or thank her for helping me my first day. ”
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