The dark elegance of Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR meets the lush parallel worlds of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series. Reeling after her best friend’s suicide, Ada Walker falls under the spell of the collective subconscious, the EVENING’S LAND, searching for Faye’s soul with a rakishly hypnotic ghost named Christopher.
Richly preternatural and spine-tinglingly erotic, EVENING’S LAND is an exploration of love, loss and loyalty that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.
“The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the tea-cup opens A lane to the land of the dead….” --W.H. Auden
Evening’s Land: A Gothic Fantasy
Chapter One Charleston, 2011.
Roy Northcutt had been drinking High Life ever since his uncle Bake slapped a cold one in his hand. It was the first and only morning Bake took him noodling for catfish, and his uncle was a big, barrel-chested autocross king, with a scrim of curly red hair that could have upholstered a sofa, and dancing ladies tattooed up both his arms- so when Bake winked and said, “Son, this here’s the champagne of beers, the breakfast of champions,” Roy drank it down. He was ten. The first gulp was like blood and nickels. The next came sweet and bready and light and suddenly it was going down like Missouri sunshine. The lakewater sparkled as Bake launched over the side and slapped the boat, wading them towards a nest of cattails. “Now this is what you call a very old technique, kiddo,” Bake said. Roy listened. He was looking out for cottonmouths because his mother had warned him that Bake sometimes got “fast and loose.” “Men been catching fish this way for damn near eons. When you grab hold of your first bad boy its like catching hold of where you came from, you understand me?” Bake said, grinning. His thin orange hair was damp in the sun, like wet chicken feathers. “Yes sir,” Roy said, although he didn’t understand. “Now, these stumps here, this’n’s where a lot of holes is, and the catfish, they like to belly on in and hole up, see? They feed at night and sleep during the day. So I’m gonna stick my hand in and feel around. If you don’t feel anything that feels like a catfish, son, you just bolt right the hell on back, all right, cause like as not it’s a snake or turtle. They all like the same holes.” And Roy felt a little scared, but he nodded. “You ready?” Bake said. Roy shook his head. His uncle guffawed. “That’s all right, this time you can just watch. Here, give me another.” Roy did, shyly taking another for himself, too. Bake opened one and then the other with his teeth, spitting the caps into the boat. Ping. Ping. “All right. Mother fucking yee-haw, right kid? You and me, we should do this more often. So I’m gonna reach down in there and haul me up a catfish. Trick is, you want him to take yore hand as bait and then you reach in and grab his gills, kind of hook your hand in, you know what I’m saying? And then you tug him out.” Bake whacked the boat again. “Here I go. See you soon, kid.” He slid under. For a moment Roy could still see him, his uncle’s broad curly-haired back luminescent beneath the silky green water. But Bake must have finger walked deeper, towards more interesting and lesser known holes, turning his back to the friendly shore. The water sealed above him, smooth as glass, and Bake disappeared. It must have looked for all the world as though Roy were out there alone on the lake, a kid high on his first beers. The afternoon buzzed. Somewhere a frog jumped in. It began, gradually, to seem as though Bake had been gone an awfully long time, although Roy didn’t know how long noodling should take, or how long Bake could hold his breath. He listened to water lap hungrily at the boat. (fast and loose, that’s what his mother had said) “Bake?” But Bake never came up again. Roy didn’t know how to start the engine, so he leapt off into the cold lake and flailed towards shore. Every slip of algae against his legs made the blood beat hard in his throat; any moment he expected a heavy, cold strand to close over his ankle, to pull him down into the dark. He plunged through the cattails, his toes sliding in the warm, bristly mud. He was screaming now, maybe he’d been screaming all along. “Bake! Uncle Bake!” But the lake was silent, staring accusingly back at him like a big green eye in the earth as Roy stood on the shore, his heart shrieking in his chest. He ran up to the road to flag down a truck. Then it was hours later, there was a crowd and flashing lights, he was still standing there shivering down by the lake in a policewoman’s blanket when they finally drug up poor old Bake’s body out of the miserable goddamn water and Bake was bloated and cold and incontestably dead. The skin on one of his uncle’s big freckled forearms was sawed through. “That was one great big catfish, yes it was,” one of the cops said. And that was uncle Bake. Murdered by a catfish in a sunlit pond. Just 28 years old. Bake had been just a kid too, but of course Roy had no way of knowing that then. Now, some thirty odd years later, older than Bake would ever be, whenever Roy Northcutt drank a beer, he drank High Life. He was on his third of the evening, enjoying the fine porch weather of early April in Charleston, South Carolina when the alarm in St. Philips, a gated colonial era church across the street, began to shrill. St. Phillips. Roy shot to his feet. Those big wrought iron gates were locked every weekday at four-thirty, on the dot. There was no way some tourist could bumble in to trip the thing off. Roy quickfooted it into the kitchen, snatching his 40 cal Glock from the drawer and his walkie talkie from the counter. He ran outside, calling dispatch as he dropped into the street. “Unit 1 to dispatch.” Trying not to pant. Those Millers had nailed him. A woman’s voice crackled. “Unit 1.” “This is the Chief. I’ll be responding to an audible alarm at 142 Church Street. The church.” “Copy, Chief,” she said. The gate was hanging open. Jesus. Roy lit up the stairs and kicked the door; it swung in on dark pews. “Unit 1 to dispatch, there is an open door.” “All units transmitting on Channel 1, standby.”A beep. He had his Glock out, crossing his right hand over the left, which held his walkie talkie. Smell of candle-wax and dust, Jesus Christ, why were all churches so fucking creepy? The statues of saints were the brightest points of lights in the place. Roy swept his gun from side to side, his body packed solid with adrenaline. There. Someone was kneeling at the altar, a youngish long-haired man in a black coat. What was he, praying? “Police! Put your hands in the air! Dispatch, there is someone in the church.” “Are you 04?” Dispatch said. The man turned slowly and smiled, his pale, hooded eyes seeming to deepen as they fixed on Roy Northcutt. “Hands in the air! Is there anyone else in here?” The man’s hair was the color of toasted malt. He tossed it back carelessly from his handsome face as he stood. “I repeat, is there anyone else in this church!” Roy said. “Oh, yes, of course. The Holy Spirit, officer.” Roy relaxed, trying not to laugh. Fantastic. A crazy man. He lowered his gun slightly. “Are you 04?” Dispatch said again. “Yeah, we’ve got a six-seven,” Roy said. A sound tufted behind him. He knew that sound; knew it instantaneously even as the bullet ripped through him. Shot. He was shot. He went down. Blood, carpet, it all went black. “Shot fired! Are you 04? 322 Edward, start en route to 142 Church Street. Requesting all additional officers en route to 142 Church Street. Officer, are you 04?” The blonde man stood at the altar, studying Roy’s body with interest. He glanced up as the shooter loped out from the back of the church and down the aisle, his long coat flying open behind him as he crossed through the pews, away from the blood, to the outer aisle of the church. “Officer, are you 04?” Dispatch said.
Sirens wailed from the dead man’s walkie talkie as additional officers signed on. “On response.” “On response.” The man in black turned, crashing over a statue of Mary with his gloved hand. Her carved head rolled onto the floor; he lobbed it through a stained glass window. The shooter rapped out the remaining glass in the pane with his gun and there was a crash of sound. Like an enormous wind chime interrupted by a man’s hand, the noise cut off abruptly as the glass fell together into the grass outside the church window. “After you, sir,” the shooter said.The walkie talkie still crackled on the wet red carpet. “Chief! Are you 04?” Oliver Roamery leapt free into the yard.
Chapter Two: There was a Girl, and there was a Ghost Three Years Later:June 7th, 2014.Ada
That summer my dreams smelled like fire. Paper lanterns drifting apart in the light of day, harmless as dust. But at night I was trapped inside them. My friend was there, too, faceless as a cloud, and doors that pulled me into my past. Into a room filled with blood, and her letters.
A man’s smile floating at the corner of my eye like an errant moon, and then he’d reach in to grab me, to pull us both back into the van. But I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t scream and I couldn’t wake up, and it hurt when I did. The lanterns would come apart and I’d slide free of my sheets, cold with sweat, and stare at the dust circling in the light from the street. Sleep waited for me like a man with a gun. That morning, wrapping myself in a towel, I could almost believe sleep waited behind the fog in my mirror, too.
I cut the fog clear with the edge of my hand but the mirror’s surface only clouded again, swallowing the reflection of my earrings like golden fish sinking into a pond. They were long earrings, bronze like my eyes. I didn’t look at my eyes, though. I dressed in my room beside the fireplace, looking out the leaded glass windows into the street. It was summertime and the narrow brick street down below was flooded with bicyclists and tourists, the occasional carriage tour welded into the gridlock beside them. A couple years ago my parents were doing the same thing. Then he bought this place for her on a lark. That’s what they called it, my dad’s final, last-exit attempt to save their marriage. They moved down, started fixing up the house while I enrolled in my first semester at ASU’s metals program back home in Tucson. Then everything went sideways. They brought me here to keep an eye on me. Just outside my bedroom was a door that opened onto the second-story porch. Veiled by magnolia trees, you were hidden from the street, like you were up in a treehouse. Leaf-filtered sunlight, the scent of wisteria sweet around you. Soft, creaky floorboards all covered with golden pollen and warm from the sun. Faye would have loved it. I kept seeing it again, my last memory of her. A hard wash of light like a camera’s flash. Faye’s post-it note wilting down from the steamy bathroom door, the paper covered with her familiar scratchy handwriting: Ada don’t come in. Our dorm room carpet slushy with bathwater as I tore open the door. Blood in the water and partially dissolved pain pills coming apart like yellow pom poms all around her. She would have gotten a minor kick out of that, those pom poms. I kept wondering about those men in the car. I wondered what it was about us that made them choose us out of the crowd that night. After what happened to us in Nogales, the whole world felt different to Faye. The air seemed solid with it, the violence of men. Impossible to breathe. Even daylight went black in her eyes. That’s what she said. So we retreated into our dorm room like the drying tide and she made me promise her we’d wait it out together. Just a little while longer, that was our plan. Just a little longer, a few days more, before we reported what had happened. Because what could anybody do, anyway? The men were gone. “I don’t want people looking at me like I’m something broken,” Faye said. In the end, I had to tell her parents the truth alone. I remember her mom, Mrs. Taillefer, standing in the dorm hallway, her face puffy and tight as a balloon on the end of its string. By then our hallway was a crime scene and Mrs. Taillefer kept repeating everything I said as if she were trying to use the words to climb out of something. The unimaginable darkness swallowing us both. “She wanted to tell you, she was just afraid that you wouldn’t-” How did you tell a grieving mother her child had been afraid to become less in her eyes? I reached past the police woman taking notes between us and tried to take Faye’s mother’s hand. “I should have called you.” “Faye didn’t,” Mrs. Taillefer’s words kept breaking off, sinking between us. “She never said.” She jerked back, covered her face. More than anything, I wish I could stop seeing that. Mrs. Taillefer covering her face, trying not to see.
As I sat on my porch rolling a cigarette, drowsy sunlight coming through the trees, it still seemed impossible that Faye was dead, that I would never see her again. If it wasn’t for me, for a trick of my biology, we both would have died that night in Nogales. “Maybe things didn’t happen the way they were supposed to, Ada. Maybe you weren’t supposed to wake up. Maybe we’re both supposed to be dead.” I’d failed her. The right word, ten more minutes. Would it have made a difference? I’d never know, and now nothing made sense except the simplest things. Warmth, cigarettes. “So long as you can keep your wantin’ pants on, you’re still in the game,” Mom always said. Anyway, that’s what she used to say, before everything happened and she and dad started treating me like some terminal case. Like suicide was contagious. I kept Mom’s words in mind anyway. I kept wanting another cigarette. And by those lights I was still in the game. I leaned over, feeling the grit of pollen under my skin, and tugged out a sheet of rolling paper. I drizzled threads of tobacco into its crease, rolling and compacting the grains carefully into a ridge. The tobacco smelled like wood shavings; the crackle of the papers was as pleasant as the turning of a page. I finished the roll, licking it closed from end to end, and started to file it into the old silver makeup compact I used for a cigarette case, but then I lit up instead and sat there listening to fire eat away at my tobacco the way daylight singes the edges of a dream. I was rolling a second when the paper went soft in my hands. The air turned to rain, went clicking through the trees, echoing off the bricked street. Tourists shouted, running to their cars. In Tucson, the summer downbursts never covered the city at the same time. You’d see a storm on the horizon and could follow it in the distance with your finger, furrowing across the city. You smelled the creosote bushes on the wetted air, the temperature dropped briefly, and then, after an hour or so, everything went dry again. But here in Charleston, it rained hard for days, sometimes weeks. The air never dried out, not completely. Sometimes you even felt condensation gathering between your fingers. When it rained, the streets swelled with warm, lazy rainwater, floating up cars like they were lily-pads, and the college kids went paddling down the streets on surfboards and kayaks while hundred-year stumps leaned sideways in the ground. I went in and opened my windows. I had to prise hard to get the panes up. They were old, and the property had stood empty a few years before my parents bought it. Something to do with an unlucky death, the realtor told them. Sometimes I had the feeling the house was remembering its secrets. Turning them over like prayer beads: and when I was alone in it, rain tapping down outside the windows, I could almost believe something like Faye’s darkness was growing behind the walls. That the shadows around me had come unfixed, the magnolias were clawing to be let in, out of the rain; the falling towers and balconies of unending rain that fall on summertime South Carolina. In watery sunlight I lay in bed reading the shadows. Memory and sleep stood waiting on either side of me, each with their knife. I tried to make my mind a perfect, catchless blank.
I called my dad to ask about dinner. “Dinner…” he said. “Mom said to make sure you ate,” I said. Hollow and strange-sounding even to myself. “Have you eaten? I’ll bring home something,” Dad said. “She made us a roast in the crock pot.” I heard him adjust his phone. “Did you finish that report for your class?” Dad kept a notebook of things to ask people about. I knew this because he’d left it in the car recently when he had to run inside to pay for gas. Straightaway I flipped to my name. ‘Ada,’ it said. ‘Silverwork, college apps, online class.’ After Faye died and I wanted to take off the semester off, my parents made me promise to do an online class. “Just to keep your hand in,” they said. The one I signed up for is just a class on meditation, though. “Almost,” I lied. At nine o’clock, Dad came through the door to lay his newest flavor of IceAir on the kitchen counter. He still liked to invent things, mostly out of habit. He’s been retired for years. I took a bite. “It’s fizzy, salty... caramel, or something. Not quite caramel. More than caramel.” “Do you love it?” he said, lightly. But the skin around his eyes looked boiled and pale. Worried. I’d learned it was a less work to pretend to be happy than to try to explain why you aren’t. I smiled. I made the smile reach my eyes. “Relax, dad. Suicide isn’t contagious.” “Ada…” “Hey, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. Just relax, you know? You’re making me nervous.” I kissed his rumpled forehead. “I do love it.” Dad sat at the scarred kitchen table we’d had since I was a kid, crossing his long grasshopper legs. He’d forgotten to wear socks; his ankles were marbled like expensive cheese. He tilted back in his chair. “So what should we call it?” I slopped the roast into our bowls, carrying them to the table. “The candy? Um… Caramel Fizzy Lifting.” “That’s good, cherie. I’ll run that by Mike tomorrow.” He began to eat, fork clicking up his meat and vegetables briskly. “So tell me about your report.” “It’s kind of a weird class. It’s about lots of things. Meditation techniques, mostly.” I pulled off my rings, arranging them on the table. "They want us to analyze our habitual ways of thinking, to think about new habits of mind. I’m going to incorporate this thing I read about Muhammad Ali. He has this mind-trick he used to maintain focus during a fight. He says he’d go into this room, this little room he keeps in his mind." I picked up the arrowhead ring, tracing its edge over the lines of my palm. It was the first piece I’d ever made, still my favorite. Funny how sometimes you get things right the first time. You can spend the rest of your life just trying to get back to the start. "Hm." Dad took the ring from me gently, testing its edge on the palm of his hand. "He goes into this room and there's a mask on the wall. A warrior’s mask. He takes it down and puts it on before his fights." I looked at him steadily. "Becoming the mask," Dad said. "I wonder what sort of masks you and I should keep in mind, mm?" "You could have one with crazy Einstein hair." He touched his hair absently. “Are you sure this ring is safe to wear?” "To help you be smart,” I said. “And divorce mom.” “Jesus, Ada. Yours would be a mask with some tact, I hope." I shrugged. “If you guys aren’t happy, I mean.” “Listen, what if we find you some kind of group, huh? I don’t like you having to spend all this time alone." “I am busy. I’m studying. You said you wouldn’t fuss.” “I know, sweetheart. I’m trying. I am.” He tried to smile. “I’m just a fussy kind of guy. I worry about you. Mike says hi, by the way.” I curdled like a salted snail. Yeesh. “That’s nice.” “Mike is nice.” “Just what I always wanted. A guy who picks his nose with his pinkie. Nicely.”He laughed. “You could do worse, homeschool.” “Have you found an assistant here yet?” Dad shook his head, spinning my ring on the slatted wood. “People do things at a different pace here. It’s hard to work with, takes time getting used to...” Mom’s Land Rover purred into the drive. He looked up. Our windows were foggy with the rain, and outside the wet air turned smoky in her headlights. We could see her still sitting there with the truck still on, radio going at full blast. She was leaning forwards, touching up her lipstick. Chic as nails in Burberry tans, even with the plastic Harris Teeter grocery bags braceleted tightly over one arm. My mom, waving at us as she breezed round the side of the house, coming inside. Tipsy. “You’ve hardly touched your dinner,” Dad said, still watching her. “I’m not hungry.” He moved to let Mom inside, but she was too fast. Already inside, kicking the door closed behind her. “Hi, sweetheart,” he said, backing up, following her to the counter. Mom shook groceries out: lentils, spices; slabs of fish in butcher’s envelopes. “Sorry I’m late. I went out with the boys, the station interns. Ada, the fish you can get out here, its just incredible. It doesn’t even smell like fish.” She held one up to my dad’s nose. “Here, smell.” Dad shuffled back, annoyed. “Boys?” he said. “It doesn’t smell like a thing, right?” She was opening cupboards, putting away groceries. “Yeah, they’re doing a story on dive bars in Charleston. It was fun. How are you, Ada honey? How’s the roast?” “I’m okay.” I tilted my bowl, watching the broth run down from the meat. “I thought we said we’d take a break from the station. Make a fresh start,” Dad said. Mom froze in the light from the refrigerator. “You mean you said that I should take a break,” she said, brightly. “Tobias, you want me to sit in the corner and think about my mistakes? Like a toddler?” “We moved cross country to do this again?” he said. “Christ, I shouldn’t have come here,” I said. “It’s not like this place is home, anyway,” “Sweetheart.” But Mom’s eyes slid past me. “I can’t watch you guys do this anymore. It makes me insane.” “It’s fine, we’re fine. Ada, honey, sit down,” Dad said. “We’re done, it’s fine, I promise.” I went upstairs. I washed my face and took off my rings, making a midden of them on my desk, and then went rooting through my duffell, thinking maybe I’d doodle jewelry designs until I fell asleep. I’ve never been a great sleeper. I used to go for barefoot strolls through the dorm when I couldn’t sleep. It was like looking out at the world from the inside of a fish tank. I could stand to be a fish, I think. But I was exhausted. My head hit the pillow and bang, I was standing in a field. I recognized the place: it was where my nightmares lived. Only this time, something felt different. “Faye?” I said. There was a shoe on the ground, a man’s Adidas sandal, and as I reached to pick it up, the sky tilted sideways. My hands tingled hot where they touched the sandal and a filmstrip slid into play in my mind. I saw a woman’s face, a child in her arms, a beach in the background. The sandal was part of someone else’s dream. I dropped it and instantly the field stitched together again around me. “Faye?” I said, again. This was going to be a bad one. I walked, scratching at my arms to try to wake up. The grass was tall and green. Somewhere something was burning. AdadontcomeinAdadontcomeinAdadontcomeinAdadontcomein A thing brushed my shoulder. I whipped around, startled, to see a boy not much older than me. Standing there watching me. He was silver-blonde, his smile curling away slowly, like a thread of white smoke. He didn’t seem to register how scared I must have looked. “How are you here?” His voice low and smooth and full of wonder. “I’m just looking for someone,” I said, turning away. He fell into step beside me. “It’s not safe for you here. You should leave.” “My friend’s here. I have to find her.” “Find her? There’s no one here except-” he paused. I could feel him still looking at the side of my face with pity, or something like it. I walked faster. “Don’t say it.” “No one’s saying anything except you. So where are we going?” “You,” I whirled on him. “Do you know where she is?” “Hey, look, I don’t-” he glanced up at something behind us. “Oh no. Get down. Quick! Get down.” He lunged, knocking me into the grass and then I was falling through it, falling through the dark, I was in my bed, but the feeling of hurtling through space and time didn’t slow. I opened my eyes, lay there staring up at the cracked ceiling, the seeming drift of the air; my bedroom circling around me. (it was just a dream, a horrible dream) But the colors of my bedroom were wrong. My quilt was a negative of itself, my windows were wet black paint. I realized, too late, that something else was in my room. It lurched onto the bed, the size and shape of a wolf. Snuffling at my neck with a nose as soft and wet as a cut strawberry. I shrank back, my mind racing, my pulse running hard in my throat. Hit it with a candle? A book? Or maybe if I could somehow slide away- but I couldn’t even scream, and the thing was heavy— with long, oily teeth— Shadows poured into the air. The boy from my dream grabbed the animal’s neck and threw it to the floor. “Ada, stay back!” he said. The wolfthing writhed flat with rage. “It starts,” the thing said, but it spoke in a man’s voice, one side of its mouth lifting into a crooked, snaky smile. Just as the boy grabbed it by the ruff of its hulking neck, the monster faded apart. Nothing but dust turned in the empty air. “What... was that? Is it gone?” I said. “Did it hurt you?” The boy’s touch floating out of the darkness. Light as a feather, cold as bone. “You stay back,” I said, jerking away. “What the fuck are you? How did you follow me here?” “You called me here. Didn’t you want me to come?” Car lights rolled over my room, and he drifted away from the light. “I don’t know, I don’t know— what are you?” I said. “You pulled me here. Out of the dark.”The lights swept back out. The night seemed to thicken. “What was that thing?” “It’s a Fetch. A kind of emissary demon. But they don’t exist on this side, it shouldn’t have been able to come through. Neither should I.” The boy looked at his hands, smiling, shaking his head. “It said something to me. What starts?” “The bridging of the worlds, I guess. Of life and death. I mean, how else could you have…?” He looked around the room, his handsome face slack with wonder. Outside women were calling to each other, their heels clattering over the bricks as passing cars shed music into the street. This is real. This is really happening. “Life and death, does that mean you’re dead? That field we were in, that was the other side?” “I made a mistake.” The boy looked down. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes.” I paused. “But you still exist. Maybe Faye does, too.” “That’s your friend? Maybe.” He laughed uneasily. “Come into the light so I can see you.” The boy shook his head, moving further into the shadows. “I don’t know what you’ll see.” “Your eyes, they’re different. They were black in my dream,” I said, slipping from bed, holding onto one of its posts. The boy’s gaze flickered down the old henley I was wearing for a sleep shirt. I moved behind the quilt’s overhang on the bed. “What color are they now?” he said. “They’re blue.” His smile was lean and hard as a myrtle branch. “Don’t come any closer,” he said. “I really don’t know what you’ll see.” “You saved me.” “I’ll do it again, if I can.” He started to blur, as if I were watching him through a rainy window. “But Ada. Stay away from the Land. It isn’t what it seems. Don’t go back. Don’t look for me, don’t look for your friend.” “Wait. Please. Don’t go.” I said. “I can’t stay. It’s pulling me back, I’m not supposed to be here.” “Tell me how to keep you here.” I touched him in spite of myself, half expecting my hand to pass right through, but it didn’t. The fabric of his shirt was soft and cool, and beneath it I felt the warmth of skin. Then the boy did something that surprised me. He closed his eyes and moved his hand over mine, clenching my fingers tightly. “You’re real.” “Of course I’m real,” I said, softly. “Who do you think is dreaming who?” “This isn’t a dream.” “It’s okay,” I said. “Stay here, with me.” But his face went wild and horrified, as if something were pulling him through a rent in the air. “Ada-!” A sickening coolness filled the room. And only I remained, holding nothing at all.
Isat on the edge of the bathtub, its coolness rising through me like snow as I pulled up my shirt until I could see the tops of my thighs, etched over with their frostwork of scars. I was thinking about Faye, about the ghost and the Fetch, holding the razor in my left hand and pressing the blade into my skin until the old quiet began to pool in me. The clarity of pain, sharp and itchy-sweet, stilling me like a drug. I looked up, avoiding my eyes in the mirror. You promised yourself you wouldn’t do this anymore. The face I saw reflected was pale as soap. My hands were waxy from shock. Oddly distant, almost sheathlike. I looked at them as if they didn’t belong to me, disorientingly aware of them as protuberances, offshoots of myself. Until their long, bloodless gleam began to look like thick splinters of bone, and I had to look away. I opened the medicine cabinet and reached for the box I’d brought from Tucson. My heart beat faster even before I’d opened the lid. The contents shining like snake teeth, like gears in a nightmare’s jewelry box. Tiny saws ripped from tape dispensers, kitchen knives and metal picks, vegetable graters. A roll of cloth tape. And rubbing alcohol, to disinfect my damage. Ripping off a length of tape, I paused to look at my cuts. My blood was the color of chocolate under the moon, welling up like a tiny interior tide. My body astonished, betrayed by its keeper. It started when I was a kid, a way to escape Mom and Dad’s screaming. Me with my blades, and the relief was exquisite, I was unfindable. Crumpling paper, the deepest of wells. I sank free and from the bottom I looked up, I could see it all, and the world was mine for the taking, a wide and silent sea. I was the pilot, I held the knife. I was its equal. And so long as you know what you want, Mom said. I wanted everything, the exquisite hurts and immortal highs. The bad men. Complicated pleasures always seemed more true. But now a rush of shame slid over me. My trick felt like some kid running off to hide in the creek, nothing more. I didn’t deserve to be here, to be the one who made it, who was still alive. I could hear Faye’s voice whispering metallic in my ear. “Maybe we’re both supposed to be dead right now, you know?” That would be easier, a thousand times easier. I shook my head, trying to crumple away the thoughts as if they were paper boats I could sink down a well. The boy said I’d pulled him through. If I could find Faye, maybe I could pull her through, too. I could bring her back, I could make sure she was okay. If I could just find the Land again, the Field; but that was where the wolf-thing, the Fetch, had come from. And if the Fetch was a demon, what was the boy? Then the porch door slapped in its socket and I jumped, knocking my box to the floor. “Ada?” Mom said. “What’s going on in there?” She was standing between my room and the library across the hall. I heard the floorboards creak as she rested her foot on the stairway that led up to my bathroom. “Don’t come up.” I dropped my shirt down over my hips. Blood instantly blistered through the cloth. “Jesus fuck!” I leaned over the sink, running cold water over it, scraping at the mark with my fingers. I loved that shirt. It had been my dad’s in college. “Ada, what on earth?” Mom said. “Nothing, I just-” “What’s wrong?” “It’s fine. I couldn’t sleep and then I bumped into something. Why are you awake?” Hurriedly, I dropped a towel over the mess and shoved it behind the tub. “No, the question is, why are you still awake? It’s three in the morning,” she said. I opened the door and stood sideways in it so she wouldn’t see the blood on my shirt. Neither of us was quite looking at the other. “So you were on the phone?” “I’m unpacking a few things.” Her face was bloodless without makeup, shiny and pale. Her headband damp with night cream. “We’ve been so busy lately.” Mom swept her hand around vaguely. “I was thinking I’d hang some of Mother’s old dishes. I saw this picture in Garden & Gun where they hung dishes outside, on the porch walls. It was lovely. Why are you wet?” “Never mind.” I scooted down the stairs past her and darted into my room. She oscillated after me. “Don’t you dare speak to me that way. I’m your mother.” “Oh yeah? Did someone remind you?” I closed the door. I could hear her breathing on the other side. “You want to wake your father at this hour? Ada, Jesus.” She paused. “Aren’t I allowed to have just one tiny thing for myself?” “You already did. Remember? And I had to see it, your tiny thing. What was his name again, Ricardo?” “Ada.” I could hear the flush in her voice. “Let’s have a fresh start. Please.” She tried my doorknob, but I’d locked it. “Life’s too short. You know that.” I held my breath, seething, waiting for her to leave. “Ada, honey,” Mom said. “Sorry.” I lay down on the bed quietly, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of knowing where I was in the room, and looked out at the moon. It was drifting above the trees like a balloon on a cut string. I hugged my knees, swaying. I could bring Faye back.