Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Ballad of Maude Clare: Part Two

IF THE MOLD HADN'T HINTED at otherworldliness, the buzzing sound that came from the shadow did. The sound reminded her of bees, electricity. She couldn't move...if she did, it would move also. And then it would touch her. Nausea burned cold in her stomach. She remained still. She closed her eyes. A wind smelling of clover and dark earth drifted over her. The buzzing became a whisper that sounded like a name, Azrae...
     She saw herself as if looking through another's eyes, her tawny hair clipped back with barrettes, her body skinny in jeans and the T-shirt her mother had bought for her, the one with the rose-crowned image of a blue-skinned god, dancing --
     Her eyes flew open.
     There was no shadow in rotting finery, only the rusting dollhouse that now looked like nothing more than a fancy birdcage.
     "Hey." The boy walking toward her didn't have a devil's smile. His skin was honey-tanned and he wore bellbottom jeans and a brown T-shirt. She scrambled up, stabbed both feet into the grass, and narrowed her eyes at him.

  "You okay?" With his coppery-red curls, he looked like an Aubrey Beardsley illustration of one of King Arthur's knights.
     "I'm okay." She didn't move. Her skin itched -- the air was prickly with electricity. What had she seen?
     He tilted his head. His eyes were the color of the ivy covering her aunt's house. "Your nose is bleeding."
     She flinched, dabbed at the blood with the back of one wrist. "It's nothing."
     He glanced at the black metal dollhouse, frowned. "You need to be shown the way back?"
     "I'm okay." But she wasn't. The empty horror of her parents' loss had returned. She dabbed at her nose again, tasted iron in the back of her throat.
     "This isn't a good place to be alone." He was watching her as if studying her. "I'm Jack."
     "Maude Clare." A breeze scented with clover almost made her convulse. She slid the crumpled photograph of the ballerina into her back pocket. "You live around here? Jack?"
     "I do."
     She began walking backwards, toward her bike. She wanted to leave the weird field, but felt compelled to stay because the boy reminded her of someone. He was watching her with a troubled concern that melted her icy dread. "I'll see you around."
     "You will, Maude Clare."
     She yanked up her bike, swung one leg over it, and pedaled away.
     It was only when she reached the street that she felt released from something ancient and alien.
    But she already wanted to go back, to see the boy with green eyes.

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