Following his mother through a secret trapdoor, Brian finds himself in a cold storage area of the house that he’s never seen before. He and his mother collect ingredients needed for the spell.
“Where do you want these things?” He indicated the larger crate.
“It will need to go back downstairs. For now, let’s leave it over there.” She pointed to the far corner of the kitchen.
Brian lifted the crate and set it on the counter. Seconds later, it was gone. He smirked. “I love how you do that. Will you teach me?”
“When you’re of age.”
“Dad said the same thing. Why not now?”
She didn’t answer him.
“What other stuff is hidden around here?”
“Ever found any of your Christmas presents ahead of time?” She smiled sweetly.
“That’s just plain mean. It’s a rite of passage for a kid to shake his Christmas presents.”
She beckoned him to follow her. They went back to the safe and she opened the door once more. Taking out the book, she left the map alone and closed the door.
“We need to go over this incantation,” she said.
“We need to show it to Marissa.”
Brian pointed to the part about singing. “She has perfect pitch. I can carry a tune, but don’t let Dad near this one unless you want epic failure.”
Maribelle laughed. Miles had a tin ear. “Good point. Can Jordan sing? I have a feeling this needs more than one voice.”
“No idea. I guess we start polling members.”
“I’ll ask your father to find out. Meanwhile, what now?”
“Meanwhile, we head to Chase’s house. His grandparents will be here to get the girls. Mom will be here any second. We’re going first, then your dad and the others will follow.”
Maribelle pressed her lips together. “Because it has to be us. I don’t know why. Just trust me on this, son.”
He carried the crate of ingredients to his car. They said goodbye to his father and the Meru family before heading to Chase’s home. The damage to the place looked even worse today. Not only had the trees been smashed, they were blacked with fire. The shed was obliterated. It amazed Brian that there had been anything left of Cliff Finley.
“That can stay in the car,” his mother said. “We’re walking the perimeter. I want to see how far this extends.” She carried a can of orange fluorescent spray paint and a surveyor’s rolling measure. She fit the can into the measure and walked to the clearing. “You’re my barometer,” she told Brian. “If you feel anything, even a twitch in your nose, you tell me. With your heightened senses, this may be—uncomfortable.”
He nodded. “How uncomfortable?”
“Remember when you were gored by Mr. D. and buried alive?”
Brian shivered, feeling fear trickle up his spine. He remembered well. It was the single most painful thing he’d ever endured.
“Not that bad,” she replied. “I’ll be right here.” She stood behind him.
Brian started walking around the clearing. He felt a tingle on the back of his neck and pointed to his right heel. Maribelle painted a mark and noted the measurement with the memo app on her phone. They continued walking. Brian grew increasingly uneasy. Strongly averse to continuing, he stopped.
He shook his head, not trusting his voice. “Something—horrible.”
Maribelle put her hand on his shoulder, pushing gently. “We’re almost done. You can do this, son. I have faith.”
Gulping, Brian stepped over the spot and heard Maribelle mark it. A few feet further, he stopped again. This time, fear gripped his stomach and pain shot through his back from his neck to his feet. He felt something tighten around his throat. Looking up, he saw a gnarled, thick branch. He remembered that Cliff used to refer to this as the hanging tree. At the time, he’d shrugged it off, thinking it was a joke. Every other tree in the backwoods was called the hanging tree. Clearly, this one was aptly named. There had been more than one death on this spot.
“Mom?” His voice caught in his throat.
“It’s okay, Bri-Guy. I’m here.” She touched him again.
Calm reassurance filled him. Taking another step, he halted as if he’d come up against a wall. Closing his eyes, he put out his hands and pushed, meeting with resistance.
“There’s something here.” He spread his arms, trying to find the edges. His full wing span, over six feet, and he still didn’t find the corners. “It’s big.” He reached up, finding the top easily. It was far longer than it was tall. The top of it wasn’t even above his head, but came to his shoulders.
Maribelle took a step around him, to his right, on the outside of the circle they’d painted. Touching the wall, she moved away from Brian. When she finally found a corner, she was nearly three feet from him.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes