Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TRIBUTE: Part Four

THE fourth floor was illuminated only by the moonlight settling across three black doors and a satyr statue near a window. Finn moved forward, listening, and told herself there was nothing to be afraid of.
   Something glided past. She glimpsed it in her peripheral vision. She turned, backing up against a wall. Again,she found no one there.
   A door opened, revealing a lavish apartment with a chandelier scattering light over expensive furniture. She peered at what looked like a black line down the middle of the doorway.
   The line wavered and expanded and became a silhouette of a person, the mouth an O, the eyes slits.
   I'm done. Finn turned--
   --and found a wall where the stairs had been. Her mind blanked for a second, unable to deal.
   She heard a grinding noise behind her, like stone sliding against stone. There was a deliberate sound, as if something heavy had stepped forward. She pictured the satyr statue, moving.
   Don't be stupid. Turn. Just . . . She turned.
   The hall was as it had been.  All the doors were closed. The satyr statue remained a sentinel against the window, its shadow stretching across the floor.
   Someone grabbed her hand and she yelped.
   The blonde young man from the third floor stood on the stairway. The wall had disappeared.
   "I told you not to come up here," he whispered. "The ones up here have allied with them."
   "What--" Finn wrenched her hand away and told him: "The people I came with are up here."
   "No they're not." He looked terrified. " Get down from there."
   She wasn't listening--she was staring at the wall that had appeared behind him in the darkness.
   He twisted around and swore. As he backed up the stairs, she saw a tattoo of moth wings, gorgeous and luminous white, across his shoulders. He said, "We've got to go."
   She began to back away.
   He ran up the stairs to one of the apartment doors--the one with the shadow in it had closed. He pushed at the first door he came to. As it opened, he slipped in, and Finn--glancing at the impossible wall on the stairs, then at the satyr statue, made a decision--she dashed after him.
   The apartment was deserted. Moonlight streaked mildewed walls and warped hardwood. Torn papers drifted in the corners like pale leaves. She closed the door on whatever menace was in the hall.
   The tattooed young man was trying to shove one of the windows open. "There's a fire escape outside."
   The dream-like terror of the night was creeping over Finn like a drug. At first, she couldn't move. Then she ran across the room to help with the window.
   "I'm Finn," she said.
   He looked at her, his face halved by shadow. "Moth."
   "Moth. Can you please, please tell me what this place is?"
   "You've come to a between place and they hate flesh and blood."
   Finn did not like the sound of that. "Who's 'they?'"
   "The ones who are nothing and night." Moth stepped back from the window, his face bleak. "It's nailed shut."
   "That wall . . . what is it?"
   "It's a Mononoke. From a Japanese family. They like to pretend to be objects." Moth walked to another window and began to tug at it.
   Finn couldn't process any of this nonsense. She wanted to sag against a wall and put her hands over her face. Where was Christie?
   Something crashed against the door. She and Moth went very still, hunted creatures sensing the beast at the threshold.
   Finn swung around, seeking a weapon; a stone, a piece of wood . . . anything she could use--
   The door flew open.
   Jack walked in, blood-streaked, his eyes black. Like some male version of the biblical Salome Finn had learned about the one month she'd gone to Sunday school (and only because, bored, she'd read the juicier stories of the bible,) he held a head in his arms.
   As he stepped into the moonlight, Finn realized he was carrying the head of the satyr statue. What she'd mistaken for blood on his skin were only streaks of shadow that vanished as the moonlight blanched him. He rubbed his chin on the top of the satyr's head and said to Finn, "I thought I told you to stay?"
    Finn gritted out, "I did stay downstairs, but something happened. Moth--" She turned.
   Moth was gone. The room was deserted but for her and Jack. She felt an astonished fear and a twist of regret.
   Something glinted on the floor. Finn crouched down and picked up the moth key. She whispered, "He's gone."

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