If only my profoundly insightful and knowledgeable older brother believed me. “I think that might be a little too transparent,” I said, growing frustrated. “It’s a creative writing assignment, not a memoir.”
“Picky, picky,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Write the requisite Google scene, then.”
I could see it now: Searching for “kids with powers” would generate about a billion hits about X-Men and derivative novels and movies.
“She wouldn’t even know what to Google,” I said, and sank back against the couch. This wasn’t turning out the way I’d hoped.
Daniel rubbed his chin, squinting. “How about a significant and portentous dream?”
Sure, I’ll just snap my fingers. “That’s a little . . . passive?”
“That’s fair. Is not-Mara a vampire or a creature of some kind but just doesn’t know it yet?”
I seriously hope not. “I don’t think so . . . she has, like . . . a power.”
I don’t think so? I shook my head.
“No.” I didn’t want to tell him what she—what I did. “She doesn’t know the extent of it yet.”
“Have her test it out. Try different things.”
“It would be dangerous.”
“Hmm . . . like she shoots lasers out of her eyes?”
I smiled wryly. “Something like that.”
“So she could be a superhero or supervillain. Hmm.” He folded one leg beneath him. “Is it a Peter Parker or a Clark Kent situation?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, was your character born with this thing à la Superman or did she acquire it like Spider-Man?”
An excellent, excellent question—which I didn’t know how to answer.
“The weirdness started—”
When? When did it start? My seventeenth birthday wasn’t when this began—it was just when I remembered what I did.
What I did at the asylum.
So was the asylum the beginning? When Rachel died? When I killed her?
I heard her voice in my mind, then.
“How am I going to die?”
The hair rose on the back of my neck. “She played with a Ouija board.”
“BOOM!” Daniel fist-pumped. “Your character is possessed.”
My throat tightened. “What?”
“You should have told me earlier, the Ouija board changes everything.”
I rubbed my forehead. “I don’t understand.”
“Ouija boards are a conduit to the spirit world,” Daniel explained. “They are always, always bad news. If your protagonist played with one and then weird stuff started happening to her, she’s possessed. You’ve seen The Exorcist. You,” he said, pointing, “have a horror story on your hands.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think she’s possessed—”
“She’s possessed,” Daniel said knowingly. “I like it. She’ll get way worse before she gets better—if she gets better. Lots of conflict, and you can hit all the genre tropes. Good way to deal with the superhero-slash-supervillain issue too.” Headlights appeared in our driveway and Daniel stood up.
“What do you mean?” I asked quickly. I needed to hear this.
“If she’s a hero, she’ll use her powers for good and defeat it. If she’s a villain, she’ll give in to it. Become it. And whoever the hero is will probably defeat her.” He tucked his notebook under his arm. “But you should probably go for the hero angle—otherwise your therapists might worry about you—I mean, her.” He glanced out the window. “Looks like your hero has arrived,” he said with a smirk just as his phone rang. He held it up to his ear. “Hello?”
“It’s Sophie—I’ll help more later, okay?” Daniel turned to leave.
“The girlfriend before the sister?”
Daniel waved and winked, then disappeared into his room.
I stood there, paralyzed, still trying to process everything my brother said when his head popped out from the doorway.
“You should write it in first-person present tense, by the way—then no one will know whether she survives the possession, although that creates a problematic narratological space.” He vanished again.
“But she’s not possessed,” I said loudly.
“Then she’s a vampire,” my brother called out from his room.
“She’s not a vampire!”
“Or a werewolf, those are popular too!”
“SHE’S NOT A WEREWOLF!”
“LOVE YOU!” he shouted, then closed his door.
I watched Noah walk up to our house, his gait languorous despite the rain. I was at the front door before he could even knock, and the second I saw him, I pulled him inside.
He stood there in the foyer, with wet hair curling into his eyes and droplets of rain falling from his soaked T-shirt onto the glossy hardwood floor. “What happened?”
I didn’t answer him. I led him into my bedroom instead. Opened my messenger bag and handed him the picture of me, the one Jude took. And then I began to talk.
NOAH WENT TENSE AS HE LISTENED TO ME, HIS muscles visibly rigid beneath his soaked T-shirt. He ran his hand roughly through his wet hair, pushing it back and twisting it up as he studied it. I showed him the camera, too, and he scrolled through each photo. When Noah finally spoke, his voice had a dangerous edge. “Where did you find these?”
“At Horizons today. The camera was in my bag. The picture, too.”
“They’re from last night?” he asked, not looking up.
“Were the doors locked? Your windows?”
I nodded. “But he has a key.”
I looked at the floor. “There’s almost a whole day I don’t remember,” I said. “I had Daniel’s keys with me at the police station, but after that, I’m blank.” I was growing angry, now, but with myself. “He could’ve taken the house key there, on the way to the psych unit, at the psych unit . . . I don’t know.”
Noah looked down at the pictures. “This one was taken from the foot of your bed,” he said mechanically. His eyes rested on my closet. “He must have been standing there.”
I edged closer to Noah and stared as he studied the image, then scrolled to the next one. It was me in profile, my arm tossed above my head, my blanket down by my waist.