The dead wants company. Hers.
BY VICTORIA LEY
Standing atop the large stone steps, she surveyed her surroundings. The town was cold, quiet, and alien, and the longer Christina stared at it, the more uncomfortable she became.
Walking down the stairway and onto the street, she wondered how long it had been since its population abandoned it. By the state of the road, it’d been months, maybe years, since it had witnessed the passing of any traffic, and through the haze that hung in the air, Christina could see that the buildings were dirty, unused, forgotten. Pulling her shirt closer to her body, she stepped out onto the track.
The streets were poorly lighted by lampposts. Christina moved between them, and as she passed each one, the bulb popped, showering her with shadows. She picked up speed, trying desperately to keep ahead of the darkness until she was sprinting along the road. Looking over her shoulder, she could see that her point of origin had disappeared, swallowed whole by obscurity, and she knew then that there would be no turning back. Head down, she pounded on.
It was almost half a minute later that she reached the end of the road and found her exit blocked by a huge, wrought iron gate. She grabbed at the bars with both hands, an action born of frustration as she had already known that it would be locked. Stepping back, she ran a hand through her loose hair and shook her head vaguely.
“You sure you want to get out?”
The voice came from her right, and she turned to see a young man sitting on the curb.
“There’s more here to be seen, you know.”
His voice had a soft Australian accent, and he stared at the floor as he spoke. Christina could see a tattoo poking out from under the hair at the nape of his neck. She took a step toward him.
“I’m understanding that. Do you know why I’m here?”
He gestured slightly. “I do. And you will.”
Her attention was drawn to something he was holding, and she realised that he hadn’t been looking at the floor, he’d been reading. In his hand was a very familiar book, and Christina’s stomach rolled as he glanced up and made eye contact.
He was maybe twenty, and had a mop of mousy-brown hair that he pushed back out of his face. Looking Christina up and down with hazel eyes, he gave a small smile and held the object out to her. “It’s in black and white, but not always obviously so. If you want the full story, you’ll have to open up, look inside, and read what isn’t there.”
Bending toward him, Christina claimed the book from his hand and opened it randomly.
The pages were large, much larger than inside the volume she owned, and as she stared, they seemed to expand to the size of a small TV. She began to read the black lettering from the top and saw that it was some kind of poetry. As she neared the bottom of the page, the words began to distort. Blinking heavily, she looked away from the text and then back, but still the inscription blurred. She shook her head at him over the top of the page.
“I can’t read this.”
He stood up, and Christina took a step back. He smiled gently, seemingly amused by her cowed movement, and slowed his actions as he reached over and tapped the hardcover.
“You can,” he said, “once you know how. It’s obscured, but the text is vital. You have to be able to read it, and soon. The key is that it isn’t automatic.”
She closed it and handed it back, suddenly feeling annoyed. “Am I supposed to understand what you’re on about?” she said. “I don’t. I’m going.”
Turning around, she made her way back to the gate.
“Please don’t ignore this, Christina.”
“If they didn’t think that there was anything you could do, I wouldn’t be here.”
A part of her knew that he must be right, but there was something in his tone, a resignation, that disturbed her, and she hung her head as she whispered, “I’m not going to leave here, am I?”He nodded. “You will,” he said. “But if you want to get out for good, you’ll have to survive Tuesday.”