Authors: Madeleine Roux
Tags: #Horror, #Young Adult, #Fantasy, #Mystery
For Andrew & Kate
“In the province of the mind,
what one believes to be true either is true
or becomes true.”
“Men are not prisoners of fate,
but only prisoners of their own minds.”
hese were the rules as they were first put down:
First, that the Artist should choose an Object dear to the deceased.
Second, that the Artist feel neither guilt nor remorse in the taking.
Third, and most important, that the Object would not hold power until blooded. And that the more innocent the blood for the blooding, the more powerful the result.
the idea of a cross-country road trip had been hard to stomach. If sleeping in a tent wasn’t horrible enough, Dan had felt anxious, almost sick, at the prospect of being away from his computer, his books, his
for two whole weeks. But that was the deal Jordan offered when he wrote to them with the big news: he was moving to New Orleans to live with his uncle.
, his email had said,
to have some time together
You two nerds can help me move down there, and we’ll get a last hurrah before we all traipse off to college.
Dan couldn’t argue with that, or with any reason to spend more time with Abby. She’d visited him in Pittsburgh once a few months ago, and they’d been talking online more or less every week. But two weeks away from parents and chaperones . . . He didn’t want to get ahead of himself, but maybe their relationship could finally flourish, or at least survive, with some much-needed quality time together.
The Great Senior Exodus, Jordan had called it. And now, a day after leaving Jordan’s miserable parents behind in Virginia, the trip was finally starting to live up to that name.
“These are incredible,” Jordan was saying, flicking through the pictures Abby had taken and then uploaded onto his laptop
for safekeeping. “Dan, you should really check these out.”
“I know it’s kind of cliché, photographing Americana in black and white, but lately I’ve been obsessing over Diane Arbus and Ansel Adams. They were the focus of my senior project, and Mr. Blaise really loved it.”
Dan leaned forward between the seats to look at the photographs with Jordan. “They’re definitely worth the stops,” he said. They really were something. Open landscapes and deserted buildings—through Abby’s eyes, they were desolate, but also beautiful. “So Blaise finally gave you an A, then?”
“Yup. No more stupid A minuses for me.” She beamed. Jordan offered up a high five, which Abby managed without taking her eyes off the road. “He actually grew up in Alabama. He’s the one who gave me ideas for sites to photograph.”
They had already stopped a few—well,
—times to allow Abby to take photos, but Dan didn’t mind the extra time on the road. He could ride forever in this car with his friends, even if his turns driving got a little tedious.
“I know it’s lame to take us so far out of the way, but you’re not in too much of a hurry to get there, are you, Jordan?”
“You’ve already apologized about a million times. Don’t worry about it. I’d say something if it was annoying.”
“Yes,” she said with a laugh. “I’m sure you would.”
If he was honest, Dan wasn’t in too much of a hurry to get there, either.
It had been nine months since they’d watched the Brookline asylum burn to the ground. The three of them had barely escaped with their lives, and they’d managed that much only with the help of a boy named Micah, who had died trying to buy
them time to escape their pursuers. Micah had had a rough, short life, and he’d grown up in Louisiana—a fact Dan had never told Abby or Jordan. Now, just when it seemed like the ghosts of the past were finally content to leave Dan and his friends alone, the three of them were headed to the most haunted city in America. It felt like they were tempting fate, to say the least.
“You okay back there?” Abby asked, cruising smoothly down Highway 59.
“Yeah, I’m good, Abs,” Dan said. He wasn’t sure if that was a lie. But before Abby could call him on it, Jordan’s phone dinged—or rather, a clip of Beyoncé fired off loud enough to make all three of them jump.
Dan knew what that meant. “You’re still talking to Cal?”
“On and off,” Jordan said, quickly reading the text message. “The on part is why Mom won’t pay for school. Not sure what I’d do without Uncle Steve.”
“You could stop talking to Cal,” Dan suggested.
“And let my parents
? Not likely.” He peered around the center console at Dan, his bare feet propped up on the dashboard. Late afternoon sunlight glinted off the shiny new black lip piercing Jordan had insisted on getting in Louisville. “He says physical therapy is a real shit show sometimes, but his life feels like paradise after New Hampshire College. Hey! I just realized that at Uncle Steve’s, I’ll be able to Skype with him without my mother the drama queen bursting into tears.”
Dan shifted again, even antsier now at the mention of New Hampshire College. If he let his mind wander or dwell, he would feel the heat of the flames that had engulfed Brookline and everything in it. He wanted to believe that Brookline’s
effect on him had ended that day—that the evil had died with Warden Crawford and Professor Reyes—but his last moments at the college had given him cause to doubt.