The Unspokenby Thomas Fahy
To escape their abusive childhood, a group of friends burned down the religious compound where they were raised—ignoring the prophecy that says their worst fears will consume them within five years of the fire. Now, almost five years have passed, and one by one, the teens are turning up dead. They are in a race against time—with their worst fears not
To escape their abusive childhood, a group of friends burned down the religious compound where they were raised—ignoring the prophecy that says their worst fears will consume them within five years of the fire. Now, almost five years have passed, and one by one, the teens are turning up dead. They are in a race against time—with their worst fears not far behind.
Teeth-clenchingly suspenseful at times and deliciously creepy at others, Fahy (Night Visions) delivers a classic horror story with his YA debut, about a religious cult destroyed by a fire and the six teens who escape. He pulls out all the necessary stops as he constructs the terrifying story of what comes to pass five years later as the surviving teens are being murdered one by one, according to the cult leader's prophecy. The author gives readers gory visual descriptions of the crime scenes, tension-building cliffhangers and the type of unexpected surprises that if translated to film would make moviegoers scream, and he nails each device beautifully. An element of genre-specific camp attaches to some of the scenes; for example, the main character, Allison, has epileptic seizures during which she envisions each murder before it happens; and in a pivotal sequence, Allison assumes the killer is dead, but readers know otherwise. Executed with panache, these familiar elements only add to the overall thrill. A page-turner that just might keep readers up at night-especially given the loosely resolved ending. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The people of Meridian, North Carolina, never thought that their town was special. They were quiet folk who kept to themselves. All of that changes when Jacob Crawley arrives. He promises the townspeople that Meridian is destined for greatness and that God has a plan for them. Allison's family willingly buys into Jacob's rhetoric and helps to further his cause. Then the torture begins; Jacob targets Allison and her five friends. They have no choice; Jacob must be stopped. The prophecy set out by the Divine Path is coming true. Allison and her friends must put a stop to it, but how does one fight a ghost? Literature professor Fahy has written several nonfiction works for adults. His second attempt at fiction feels a bit rushed, and there are several parts that need more attention to detail. Chapter transitions are weak, and some of the characters are not fully developed. Preteens and young adults who are fans of thriller fiction might want to give this novel a try, but there are better alternatives, including The Traitor's Gate by Avi (Atheneum/S & S, 2007/VOYA August 2007) and The Penalty by Mal Peet (Candlewick, 2006/VOYA December 2007). School and public librarians should not feel disappointed if they accidentally skip over this novel. Reviewer: Jonatha Masters
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
Gr 8 Up- For the last five years, Allison, 17, has struggled to forget the town of Meridian where she lived with her family in a torturous and apocalyptic cult. But after receiving a mysterious email message about the death of Harold, another of the five children who survived the fire that ended the Divine Path, Allison sneaks out of her foster home to attend his funeral. The cult leader's last prophecy warned the children of their own deaths in five years' time. Allison's epileptic seizures, accompanied by visions of her friends' deaths, seem to confirm his prophecies. One by one, three of the five are murdered, leaving Allison and her love interest, David, to solve the mystery and end the killing. Fahy creates a page-turning horror story that will attract fans of mystery and suspense. However, the characters' reactions to their terrifying circumstances are too trite and illogical to be believed. The ending is neat and tidy, but will not pass the scrutiny of more sophisticated readers. Recommend to teens looking for a quick, gruesome read.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
- Simon Pulse
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.22(w) x 7.04(h) x 0.67(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 - 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
The bright red blood on Allison's pillow reminds her of "Snow White" not the watered-down Disney version with magic kisses, dwarfs named Dopey, and singing animals. The older story with a hateful queen who wants to eat a young girl's lung and liver. The one that ends when the queen is tortured to death in red-hot iron slippers.
Now, that's a good story, Allison thinks with a sly smile. Better than the image that woke her a boy being swallowed by black green waters. Mouth open. Bubbles where a scream would be.
As she sits up, the sickly-sweet taste of blood fills her mouth, and she can feel the bumpy surface of her tongue. She must have bitten it in her sleep, she realizes. Her eyes are stinging bad, and her forehead pounds like the drum set that her pimply foster brother plays in the garage every afternoon.
She looks back at the red stain on the pillow, trying to remember if she took her medication yesterday. She has some kind of seizure every few weeks now. They're so common that they don't faze her much anymore. Sometimes she's surprised how much a person can get used to. How much pain and fear and heartbreak.
But that dream was different. She hasn't had one like that for years.
Since right before the fire.
Of course, she probably wouldn't be sick anymore if Jacob hadn't taken away her pills back then. He thought the medication would interfere with her dreams, so he kept it from her.
"Dying might interfere with them too," she always wanted to say, but Allison was too afraid of Jacob for that. Jacob had ways of punishing that stayed with you.
Mostly, Jacob thought the seizures made her dreams more vivid, more prophetic a word he used lots to explain away the things that folks didn't like about the Divine Path. Allison could never remember anything after a seizure anyway, but sometimes when she came to, an image would flash before her eyes, like the way a lightbulb flares up before it burns out forever. That's what happened when she was first diagnosed with epilepsy seven days before her sister's murder. She was sitting at the kitchen table, flicking milky Cheerios at Mel's face, when her body went cold and hard.
Later, Daddy told her how she suddenly fell to the floor and let out a cry. "Like someone was squeezing the air right out of you," he said. "Then you started shaking something fierce."
Allison doesn't remember any of those things. But she does remember Doc Hillerman coming over to see her. That made her nervous. Doctors never come to your house even in a small town where the nearest hospital is thirty miles away. Besides, she didn't want anyone around, let alone Doc Hillerman, who always smelled like olives, but it wasn't up for discussion, Ma said.
Doc Hillerman got there quick, and he didn't waste any time chitchatting, either. He walked right over to Daddy's leather chair in the living room, where Allison was sitting, and he asked her how she was doing. That made her nervous too because Doc Hillerman usually liked to play around first pretending that he couldn't remember her name or giving her candy for medicine. But instead of trying to make her laugh, he took out his stethoscope and leaned in close to listen to her heart. She could smell the olives on his body, and it made her stomach turn. Then he flashed a little white light in her eyes.
That's when it happened. In an instant she saw a picture of her sister lying in bed, black blood covering her throat like a scarf.
Allison screamed so loud that Doc Hillerman dropped his penlight.
She didn't care, though. She was convinced that something terrible had happened to Melanie. Struggling to get off the soft cushions that seemed to be swallowing her, Allison blurted out her sister's name "Mel!"
"Where's...," she started to say, still trying to push herself away from the chair, but before she could finish, her sister came running into the room with Ma.
She was just fine...for seven more days.
"Allison," her foster mother calls up the stairs. "You're going to be late for school. Hurry up."
The voice startles her, as if someone has just shaken her awake, and Allison looks at the clock on her bedside table: 7:14.
"Crap," she mutters. Math class is first period, and her precalculus teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, has the patience of a rabid pit bull. Allison won't just get detention for being tardy. That would be too easy. She is going to get another lecture on personal responsibility and God knows what else. "There are two types of people in the world, Miss Burke" Mrs. Jenkins always begins the same way, her narrow glasses perched at the tip of her nose and a silver pendant of the Virgin Mother dangling between her freckled breasts "those who show up and those who don't...."
Blah, blah, blah, Allison thinks as she gets out of bed and stumbles toward the bathroom. Her tongue throbs, and her head is still spinning from the seizure and from the memories of her sister. She needs her medication. She needs to not be thinking about Mel right now. Sometimes it feels like too much, Allison admits to herself. Melanie and Daddy. Ma. Jacob and the terrible things that happened back then. All of these memories feel like a weight that's too heavy for one person to carry.
In the bathroom the cold tile floor stings Allison's feet as she stands in front of the medicine cabinet and grabs the pills from the top shelf. Standing here, she also looks at her reflection in the mirror the brown, shoulder-length hair, the green eyes, and, of course, a new spot of acne above her upper lip.
"Double crap," she says, before popping the pill into her mouth and chasing it with a handful of water from the faucet.
Stepping back into the bedroom, she glances down at her slender body and long white legs. Some of the guys at school stare at her on the days she wears skirts and tight jeans, but they mostly seem to notice the strange mark across her neck. She hasn't gone out without necklaces or scarves in five years. But they don't always cover everything. Sure, she can tell when people at school are whispering about it. But she doesn't care what they think.
Bo is the boy she has been seeing for about a month now. Six days ago he gave her a silk scarf. He called it a "just-because gift." That's the first time she really let him see her scar. He even ran his fingertips across it that night, while they were making out in the front seat of his father's Mercedes. His touch sent goose bumps down Allison's body.
She wonders what her neck felt like to him. Yeah, she has touched it a thousand times, but your own body never feels the same to someone else. That's what makes being touched so nice. Your flaws disappear, for a while at least, and your body tingles not just from the feeling, but from knowing that someone else wants to touch you.
"Allison?" her foster mother calls out again.
"Okay," she hollers back. "I'm coming."
Allison doesn't want to say anything about her seizure. She doesn't want to involve her foster parents at all. This illness is part of her and her past the part she wants to control and forget. She can handle it on her own.
In truth, she doesn't really mind her foster parents much. They're nice enough though they won't win an award for Parents of the Year anytime soon. Like the day Mrs. Packer set fire to the kitchen while trying to kill a cockroach with hair spray. She was screaming and spraying the roach as it scurried across the gas stove, where she was boiling water. Allison isn't sure if Mrs. Packer killed the roach that day, but half the stove and the wall behind it are still black with scorch marks from the flaming hair spray. Or the time Mr. Packer ran the lawn mower over his own foot. He only lost his small left toe, but before going to the emergency room, he insisted on finishing the lawn. "Heck, there was only one more row to cut," he enjoys saying when he retells the story. "And nobody wants to see an unkempt lawn."
"Especially with human toes in it," Allison always wants to add, but she knows better.
Mr. Packer takes lawn maintenance very seriously.
Yeah, they're nice enough, but crazy things happen in the Packer house about once a week. This doesn't bother Allison much. It's kind of entertaining, actually, and most of the time Mr. and Mrs. Packer are too busy managing their own chaotic lives to give much notice to Allison. Which is fine with her. Now, if she could just get eleven-year-old Brutus Packer Jr. to stop practicing the drums...
Allison plops down in front of her desk and turns on the computer. Her day doesn't begin until she's checked e-mail. Like coffee or a cold shower, it's the thing that kick-starts every morning.
The connection is molasses slow as usual, but Allison doesn't mind so much today. She feels better sitting down the dizziness stops, and her head doesn't pound so hard. She looks at the rest of her desk, which is an absolute disaster. Random stacks of CDs. Her cell phone. School textbooks and folders that look like they were just poured out of a bucket. And a can of Diet Coke that's at least five days old.
A dreamcatcher hangs above it all from the desk lamp, and she touches it with her fingers. The circle of yellow and orange cloth reminds Allison of a bright summer day and the orangehaired boy who gave it to her just over five years ago Ike Dempsey. He had a crush on her, and though Allison liked him, she didn't like him like that. She wanted quiet David Holloway, the boy who always lowered his eyes when he smiled, to notice her. She almost kissed David one night in the old tree house but as Brutus Packer Jr. is fond of saying, "almost" only counts with hand grenades and nuclear war.
The Internet connection finally goes through. Only one message is waiting in her in-box, but she doesn't recognize the e-mail address. The subject line reads: "A Voice from the Past." Allison opens the message and finds a forwarded newspaper article with today's date.
Mystery Surrounds the Drowning
of a Teenage Boy
by Marcum Shale
The bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Harold Crawley, a seventeen-year-old boy found in a tobacco field off Route 78, has local authorities baffled.
According to Sheriff Cooper of the Meridian Police Department, an anonymous phone call alerted him to the body two days ago. The cause of death was not immediately apparent, but the county coroner's preliminary findings suggest that Harold Crawley drowned even though he was found more than thirty miles from the nearest body of water, Lake Haverton.
"Five liters of fluid were found in his lungs," Sheriff Cooper told reporters this morning. "But that doesn't prove anything. This may or may not be a homicide. Right now we have no crime scene and no concrete evidence of foul play."
Sheriff Cooper refused to comment on Harold Crawley's link to the infamous cult the Divine Path, which was founded in Meridian, North Carolina, about seven years ago. Harold was the only son of the cult's leader, Jacob Crawley, and in the summer of 2002 he was one of six children who survived the fire that claimed the lives of Jacob and the other adult members of the Divine Path.
Harold's legal guardian, Ms. Janet Wilton, reported him missing several days ago from their home in Atlanta, Georgia. According to the director of Cicely's Funeral Home, Ms. Wilton has decided to bury Harold in Meridian, where Mr. Crawley purchased a plot for his son a few months before the fire.
A brief memorial service will be held tomorrow at five in the afternoon.
Allison pushes away from her desk with a jolt. Goose bumps run down her spine, and she can feel her stomach dropping away.
"Oh, my God," she mutters.
Allison scans the message again, then studies the user name of the sender: lazarus6. "Lazarus," she says to herself. Like the guy in the Bible that Jesus raised from the dead?
Allison tries to figure out who would send this article. Someone from school? Not likely. She has worked hard to keep her past a secret. When she first moved in with the Packers, her teachers were told that Allison's real parents had died in a car accident, and that story has been around long enough to pass for truth. But if no one from school sent it, who did? Someone from Meridian? Someone who knew about the Divine Path back then? The possibilities make her uneasy. She can tell that the message has been forwarded to several undisclosed recipients. And she wonders if the rest of her old friends have gotten it too. If Ike and David might be reading it right now. If Jade Rowan and Emma Caulder have seen it. If all of them are remembering Jacob's promise.
Allison pictures Harold's face on the night of the fire his cheeks flushed bright red from the heat. Then she remembers something she hasn't thought of in years. Trees. Harold loved to climb trees. He could scramble up the tallest trunk in the blink of an eye and without ever getting a scratch on his body. Some of the other kids called him Monkey Boy, but that didn't seem to bother him. Allison always thought that he liked being able to get away from time to time. To go where Jacob couldn't find him.
But something is missing from this article. Something that a reporter and the police would never know: Harold couldn't swim. In fact, he was terrified of the water.
A wave of dizziness makes the room shift out of focus, and Allison has to close her eyes to feel steady again. When she opens them, everything is back in focus. She can see the glowing computer screen. The chaotic mess on her desk. The Diet Coke. And the dreamcatcher, which sways slightly from her lamp. She takes it in her hand.
That's what Jacob tried to do to catch their dreams. Not to keep them safe or to protect them from nightmares. He wanted them to see ugly, horrible things and, more than that, to be afraid. It was fear that fueled his prophecies about the end of the world, about his promise that they would all die from their worst fears.
She wonders if the drowning is just a coincidence, if the thing that Harold was most afraid of killed him. Then Allison recalls the sound of Jacob's voice when he told her that she would die in five years.
"Your greatest fear will consume you. It will rob you of your last breath," he said with a kind of cold pleasure, each word harsh, like metal scraping against cement. The memory makes her shiver.
"Let's get a move on up there," Mrs. Packer says loudly, and Allison looks at the clock again: 7:26.
She is going to be way late for school now, but she doesn't care. She has more important things on her mind. She gets up from the chair slowly, and her entire body feels unsteady and off balance.
What if it's true? Allison asks herself. She glances around her room, unsure of what to do next. She tries to stay calm, to clear her head, but Jacob's promise keeps pressing in around her. She wants to go back to Meridian but is afraid afraid that Jacob could be right and that all of them are about to die.
But she has to go, she thinks. She needs to see her old friends again. They are the only ones who understand what's about to happen.
Copyright © 2008 by Thomas Fahy
Allison wakes up the next morning with a craving for key lime pie. Sure, she has always had a sweet tooth the size of the Mississippi Delta which, as any map will tell you, is pretty big but she usually wants chocolate. Ding Dongs. Double chocolate chip cookies. Hot chocolate. Chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. Chocolate fudge brownies. In a pinch she'll even eat a Hershey's Bar which, as any chocolate lover will tell you, is second-rate stuff. But recently Allison has been thinking more about key lime pies than chocolate, and she isn't sure why.
Key lime pie was her ma's favorite treat, and she always let Allison and Melanie help with making desserts. "There are two things you need to know about a good key lime pie," her ma would never forget to remind them. "You gotta have real key limes from Florida. And you need just the right amount of juice." That last part might sound obvious, but balance is everything. You need enough tartness to make your mouth pucker up and enough sweetness to make you want another mouthful.
Balance. Ma, Daddy, Mel, and Allison. Together the four of them were like ingredients. Each one made up an essential part of their family, but when Melanie was gone, nothing tasted right anymore. Ma got real quiet. Daddy stopped laughing. And Allison became invisible, at least to her folks.
Most days when Allison got home from school, her ma would be sitting in front of the television, staring. That may not sound strange at first, but the television was completely broken. You couldn't see anything but your own reflection on the black screen. A few weeks earlier Daddy had plugged one too many things into the same electrical socket, and something inside the TV made a loud popping sound. He liked to joke that Ma's favorite shows were so bad that the TV finally exploded in protest.
But after Mel died, nothing seemed funny anymore. In fact, nothing seemed to work in the Burke house after that broken towel racks, burned out lightbulbs, leaky faucets. It was as if the entire house was falling apart too.
Three months later her ma wasn't sitting in front of the television, or anywhere else in the house, for that matter. She disappeared on a Saturday afternoon, along with her clothes and jewelry and her favorite cookbook for desserts.
It was the weekend of the state fair, and ma didn't want to go. No amount of persuading would change her mind, either, so Allison and Daddy went without her. It was good to be away, Allison remembers thinking outside and in the warm sunlight. At the fairgrounds they ate funnel cake and fed the largest pig in the world. They even got tickets for one of those spinning rides whose only purpose is making people dizzy. By the time they got home, Allison's stomach ached from all the spinning and eating especially the chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies Treats and the rainbow lollipops.
She and Daddy called out when they walked through the door, but no one answered. All the rooms were half empty, and Ma wasn't anywhere to be found. Allison wanted to call the police.
"No," her daddy said, staring at his shoes and speaking in a whisper. "Sometimes people need to disappear for a while...she'll come back for you."
Allison figured those words must have hurt a ton thinking that Ma would return for her daughter but not for her husband. No matter. It turns out he was wrong anyway.
Ma never came back for either one of them.
Before that day Allison had always assumed that disappearing would be hard that only magicians, CIA agents, and serial killers could do it. But in the Burke house eight years ago Allison learned that disappearing was about as hard as making key lime pie.
And that's not hard at all.
Allison gets out of bed, relieved that there isn't any blood on her pillow. She feels mostly back to normal this morning, though her tongue is sore and swollen, and her head throbs as if Brutus Packer Jr. has been using it for a drum solo. Her duffel bag is ready and sitting by the bedroom door. The gas tank in her car the ancient car that Mr. Packer gave her when she turned seventeen is full. And she has left out plenty of crunchy food for John Donne, the Packers' enormously puffy cat.
Now she just needs to get dressed and check e-mail before hitting the road. She hopes Bo has sent his usual good-morning-I'm-thinking-of-you e-mail. For the last month he has written her something every night so she has it first thing. But today her in-box is empty. She's not that surprised, though. Yesterday when Bo asked her why she needed to leave town all of a sudden, Allison couldn't answer.
"It's just something I gotta do," she said.
He got real quiet after that.
How could she tell him or anyone about the terrible things that happened back then? About her fear that she might die soon? And if she couldn't explain it to Bo, there was no way Mrs. Packer would understand. So Allison did the only thing she could think of.
"I really need to stay at Heather's place this weekend," she said yesterday after school.
"Heather Montgomery?" Mrs. Packer asked, as if Allison knew so many Heathers that it was hard to keep track.
"Yes, Heather Montgomery." The only Heather I've known my whole life, she wanted to say. My only real friend at school. Instead Allison added, "We have a big history test on Monday."
Allison hates lying. It reminds her of Jacob Crawley and the lies that brought Daddy and her to the Divine Path. The lies that led up to the night of the fire. But Allison doesn't have any other choice right now. She needs to go to Harold's funeral, and there's no way that her foster parents would allow it. As Mrs. Packer would say, "N-period-O-period." So Allison has told two lies. She figures it's better than disappearing like her ma did. She'll never do that to anybody. Ever.
It hurts way too much.
Besides, Heather will cover for her. That's what best friends do. Heather has long blond hair, sky blue eyes, and cheerleader good looks, but she doesn't act like it. She reads books and plays the cello. She's also the only other girl in school who thinks Bill Stringfield, the quarterback of the football team, is the biggest loser in the world. Which he is and not just because he thinks he's God's gift to women and one time in English class he spelled "potato" with an e on the end.
Heather is the only one whom Allison has told about the Divine Path. Well, little bits here and there. But Heather has heard enough to know that Allison has to go back to Meridian. Pronto.
Like Allison, Heather also has a scar, but hers resembles jagged glass and runs from the palm of her hand to the bend in her elbow. She got it in a car accident several years ago when her stepfather-no-more, Tony, drank too many beers at a neighborhood barbecue and insisted on driving Mrs. Montgomery and Heather home. He crashed into an oak tree less than two blocks from their house, giving his wife three broken ribs and cutting up Heather's arm real bad.
And Tony...well, he didn't have a scratch on him.
Heather says she doesn't mind the scar so much anymore, but then again, she mostly wears long-sleeved shirts. Allison doesn't mention this. She understands that Heather hates having a permanent reminder of Tony on her body especially since he left her mother and her about a year after the accident.
Allison knows all about wanting to forget the past.
She knows all about scars, too....
The Confessional was about six and a half minutes from the campsite far enough away to be out of earshot but close enough to remind you that it was always there. It was the place where Jacob gave penance to those who sinned. At least, that's what Jacob liked to call it "giving penance."
Allison walked that six and a half minutes enough times to do it blindfolded and backward. She can still picture every step where the fallen tree blocked most of the stream, where the strange black rocks formed an X on the side of the hill, where you could first see the Confessional under a canopy of thick branches and leaves.
From the outside the Confessional looked like a dilapidated shed with wood as dark as the night sky and walls tilted unnaturally far to one side. It seemed as if a gust of wind could knock the whole thing over. If only. But the inside appeared both bigger and smaller at the same time. Mirrors of different shapes and sizes covered each wall, and even the ceiling was made up of reflective glass. It was like everything was looking back on itself.
A deep, circular pit took up most of the space where the floor should have been. For a long time no one not Allison or Harold or any of the other kids got close enough to see inside. They had all sorts of theories about what was there, though. Sharks. Bats. Killer bees. Monsters. Even terrorists.
Once Allison thought she heard a gasping sound like someone choking. Harold heard things too. But he was convinced that something was gurgling, like it was trying to come up for air. No matter. They all had different theories until the day Allison got caught stealing. Until the day she sneaked into Jacob's room to find the box with David's asthma medication.
Jacob's bedroom was more boring than she had expected. A bloodred candle glowed in the far corner, its light flickering across the desktop, and the shelves overflowing with books and yellowing papers. A rectangular rug with faded patterns covered most of the floor, and thick purple drapes hung from the windows. Jacob's bed was against the opposite wall.
Allison hurried across the room to look underneath the bed. The golden box was there just like Harold had said. She dragged it onto the rug, and its surface held a distorted reflection of everything in the room, like a dirty fun-house mirror. There was no lock or latch on the box. No lid or visible opening. But it wasn't solid wood, either.
Allison tapped on the surface, and she could hear its hollowness. Nothing but four smooth sides. She ran her hands over the entire box again but couldn't figure out how to open it.
It has to be in here, Allison remembers thinking.
Jacob had mentioned the box many times. It was the place where he kept their past tokens from their lives before the Divine Path, tokens he held on to as if they had some magic power over them. She started to pound the box against the floor, but nothing happened. Not even a dent. She stood up with it in her arms, planning to run outside for a rock or something heavy to smash it open.
That's when Jacob walked through the door.
Her heart stopped beating.
"Good evening, Allison." Jacob smiled, and a slow, easy expression crossed his face. She knew what that meant another trip to the Confessional.
Less than fifteen minutes later the Doctor brought Allison to the shed. In fact, the Doctor always took "penitent" children to the Confessional. No one had seen him before Jacob moved his followers to the campsite. The Doctor came after that. He just appeared one morning at services, when Jacob brought him up to the podium and introduced him as "the Doctor." Since no one knew what else to call him, the name stuck. He mostly handled basic medical stuff at the camp bandaging cuts and sprains and that kind of thing. Jacob didn't allow the use of any medicine. He said that God took care of the sick, and that was that.
No one was sure how the Doctor felt about this. He didn't say too much. Besides, his drooping face, unshining black eyes, and grayish skin didn't make you want to strike up a conversation with him. Still, the Doctor always looked worried when someone started coughing or running a fever. He wore that same worried expression every time he escorted Allison to the Confessional. He'd tell her that everything would be fine, that Jacob was doing this for her own good. But she could see that he didn't believe a word of it.
Adults can be the worst liars.
This visit to the Confessional was different from the start. The Doctor walked Allison to the edge of the pit and told her to look inside. She thought it was some kind of trick. Jacob had never said you couldn't look inside, but he'd never said it was okay, either. It was as if he just wanted you to wonder, to worry about what was down there. But the Doctor waited...waited until she leaned over the uneven edge of the pit and peered down.
Nothing. Empty. A big black zero, Allison thought with relief. After all that time she'd spent imagining the terrible things down there, it was only in her head. Either that or the hole was too deep to see anything. She turned back to the Doctor, but he was gone. Instead Jacob stood in the corner of the room, his body reflected in the dozens of mirrors around him.
"What do you want with the box, Allison?"
She didn't answer. In truth, she was sick to death of talking to Jacob.
"I said, what do you want with the box?" Jacob stepped forward, and so did the dozens of Jacobs in the mirrors. His white linen suit and silver hair made his entire body shine.
"I..." She hesitated. "Nothing."
Jacob nodded. In an instant he grabbed her shoulders and held her at the ledge.
"Look into the pit again, Allison," Jacob said. "This time I want you to open your eyes. I want you to see what's really down there."
Allison had no choice because Jacob was holding her over the opening now. It wasn't the idea of falling that scared her. It was the realization, maybe for the first time since Daddy and she had become part of the Divine Path, that Jacob would really hurt her. And even worse, that he wanted to hurt her. Bad.
"Think about the thing that you're most afraid of, Allison. Concentrate."
Jacob's grip squeezed tighter, and that's when she saw something moving in the darkness below. Allison stared into the pit, trying to see more clearly. The shadows shifted again. Then she could hear a scraping sound, like someone sharpening metal. It got louder and louder, moving closer to the surface. Allison struggled to pull away from the opening, but Jacob held her firmly in place.
"Why do you want to bite the hand that feeds you, Allison?"
Beneath her, something started to glow in the darkness. Red and hot and burning. Then she heard more scratching. Her eyes started to sting and tear. Smoke was suddenly coming up from the pit. It was filling the entire room and scorching the inside of her throat.
"Please," Allison begged. "I can't breathe."
That's when Jacob released her, and Allison fell into the darkness.
"What are you doing?" Brutus Packer Jr. practically shouts across her room, and Allison almost drops the scarf in her hand.
"How many times do I have to tell you to knock, Brutus Packer Jr.?"
He hates the fact that Allison always uses his full name, and his face turns pinkish red. He then glances at the duffel bag by the door and taps it with his foot.
"You're leaving?" his voice cracks somewhat.
Allison suddenly realizes that her neck is not covered, and she wraps the scarf around it, hiding her scar the scar Jacob put there that day at the Confessional.
"I'm spending the weekend with a friend," she says, and for the first time since she has lived here, Brutus Packer Jr. seems disappointed, almost sad. "I'll be back soon," she adds, and his face brightens briefly.
"Whatever, stinky-pants," Brutus Packer Jr. blurts out before hurrying out of her room.
Allison smiles as she grabs her bag and walks downstairs. It is still early in the morning, and she can sneak out before Mr. and Mrs. Packer get up. Allison considers waiting around to say good-bye, but she's too anxious for that. It's going to be a long drive, she reminds herself. It's going to be a long trip back to a place she doesn't want to go, to a place that could be dangerous.
She thinks again about Harold and Daddy and Mel and the other kids she used to know. She thinks about key lime pie and how the little things in life make you ache the most for home. And as she starts the engine of her car, she even thinks about Brutus Packer Jr. her new family, her new life...a life she hopes she'll live long enough to come back to.
Copyright © 2008 by Thomas Fahy
Meet the Author
Thomas Fahy teaches literature at Long Island University and lives in Sea Cliff, New York. He is the author of Night Visions. The Unspoken is his first young adult novel. Visit him at www.ThomasFahy.com.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >