Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mermaid House: Part Eight

LEANDER WONDERED WHY he hadn't noticed the silvering of her eyes before. He had to steel himself to keep from leaping up and running away from her. In the twilit gloom, with the hole in the ground before him and a creature beside him his instincts were telling him wasn't human, he felt as cold as the moon.
    "Let's put this back, shall we?" She reached for the board and, without his help, dragged it over the gaping hole in the ground. Then she rose. "Owen told me where you lived."
    "Owen Thyme?" he whispered.
    "The one you met on a moonlit road."
    He didn't want to look at her. He wanted her to go away and childishly wished she would.
    "Ignoring me won't make me go away."
    She was a stray something. He began to shiver. Then he thought of his father lying in that hospital bed. He realized the idea of Violet was far less terrifying than the reality of his father dying.
    "Okay." He rose and faced her, making an effort not to flinch from the otherworldly silver of her eyes. "Why don't you come in and watch a movie? Do you eat?" He walked past her, towards his house. He half hoped she wouldn't follow.
    She followed him. "I don't eat."
    His hand shook as he turned the doorknob. As she passed over the threshold, the house seemed to become degrees colder. He walked past his neglected dinner in the microwave, into the dark parlor. He switched on the TV, glanced at the clock. He'd meant to watch a movie tonight, a black and white classic on cable.
    She sat beside him on the sofa and he attempted to think of her as normal. She watched the movie without saying a word. When it was over, she said, "I think I saw that once."
    "It was called The Haunting."
    "The old witch scared me the first time."
    "I suppose that sort of thing doesn't scare you anymore."
    "Not really, no." She tilted her head. She wore a red T-shirt with Chinese symbols on it and tartan leggings, with boots and an aviator's jacket. She still smelled like flowers.
    "What happened to Owen Thyme?" He was pleased at how steady his voice was. "Did someone push him into that well?"
    "Keep away from that well. Especially at night."
    He wanted to throw a grenade into the well. "I went to your house. It was a wreck."
    "Maybe that's because it was built from shipwrecks."
    "A dead boy spoke to me. What are you?"
    "That's a rude question."
    "You're not going to answer it, are you?"
    She rose with quicksilver grace. "Someday I will."
    She left and he remained on the sofa, not quite sure if he had seen her leave. Her voice drifted back to him: "Don't come to my house after dark."

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