Liz stood with her hands at her side. She wanted the comfort of sticking them in her pockets, but they were sewed shut. “If I had known I was going to be stuck in these pants forever I would have worn something more reasonable.” Liz said.
Evie looked up to Liz. “Pardon?”
Liz shook her head and held her hands in front of her. “Nothing.”
Evie nodded and looked back to the apartment building in front of them. “Are you ready?”
“I think so. I’m not sure which is hers though.”
“Close your eyes.”
Liz frowned and looked sidelong at Evie, then she faced forward and closed her eyes.
“Anything?” Evie said.
“I don’t know what I’m waiting for.”
“Say her name.”
Liz adjusted her stance and made a face like she was uncomfortable. “Gloria.”
“Her whole name.”
The darkness behind Liz’s eyelids changed and a pinpoint of light hovered up and to her right. She opened her eyes. “Third floor. One in from the corner.”
“Excellent.” Evie held out a hand. “Lead the way.”
Liz nodded her head and the light changed.
Liz and Evie stood facing a plain wooden door with tarnished brass numbers and two deadbolts. A strip of police tape was hanging from the door frame. The wall paper surrounding the door was plain and beige. The carpet was anything but. The multicolour pattern was so intricate that it hurt Liz’s eyes to look at.
“Should we knock?” Liz said.
Evie scrunched her face and pondered for a moment. “Why?”
“I don’t know. Maybe there’s rules I don’t know about. Plus, something feels… wrong.”
Evie nodded. “When you enter, you need to be careful.”
“What do you mean?”
“Protect yourself. You don’t want anything following you when you go.”
“How do I do that?”
“Imagine yourself in a giant bubble. Take three deep breaths and spin around seven times.” Evie tilted her head. “Oh, and don’t forget to say the magic words.”
Evie smiled. “No. Not really. Keep it all at arm’s length. You will feel it.”
Liz nodded. She gave Evie one last glance, then walked through the door.
The room was smaller than Liz had expected. It may have seemed small because it was full of antique furniture and had huge abstract canvases on every wall. The carpet was a light colour but had a large, blotchy stain in the middle of the living room. Liz scanned the room and settled her focus on the back corner of the main room. A woman was crouched down behind the large swiss-cheese leaves of a tropical plant in a wide, blue ceramic pot. She wore ivory, silk pyjamas and her hair was up in a bun. Her feet were flat on the ground but she was tucked in on herself, with her arms wrapped around her legs and her face down on her knees.
Liz stepped forward. “Gloria?”
The woman twitched but did not respond.
“Gloria. It’s me, Liz.”
The woman rocked forward on the balls of her feet and looked up just enough to see who was standing in front of her.
“Gloria, it’s okay, you can come out.”
Gloria lowered her eyes and spoke in a hushed voice. “No.”
Liz knelt down. “I promise.”
“No,” Gloria said, louder this time. “The dog will come back to get me.”
“He won’t, Gloria. I’m here… I’m here to protect you.”
Gloria made a small, whimpering sound.
“You mentioned the dog. Does that mean you remember? Do you remember what happened?”
Gloria talked into her knees. “He said I knew something, but I didn’t. I really didn’t.”
“Who’s ‘he’, Gloria? Was it Christopher?”
“I didn’t know anything, but he said I did, and he sent the dog.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
Gloria lifted her head. Her eyes were hard and tight. “This is your fault.”
Liz shook her head. “No, they blamed it on me, but I swear I had nothing to do with it. Just like you.”
Gloria unwrapped her hands and set them on the floor. Her neck was cut across her larynx. Blood soaked down the front of her shirt, it glistened in the dim light. “This is your fault!”
Liz felt pressure pushing against her and trying to wrap itself around her. She closed her eyes and pushed back.
Gloria screamed. “This is your fault!”
Liz opened her eyes to see Gloria crawling toward her. Her head had almost been severed. It was at an odd angle and resting off to one side. Liz stood and jumped back. “Jesus!”
Gloria screamed again, a piercing shriek that shook the walls. “This is your fault!”
Liz balled up her fists. Warmth built until it was almost unbearable. She looked down and they were glowing. She shouted and held them out toward Gloria. Pure light filled the room. When it faded, Gloria was back behind the leaves, glaring.
Liz took two steps back and then looked to the door from the corner of her eye. When she looked ahead, Gloria was gone.
Image by Kaleigh Kanary