But I knew I’d also never see Ruby again. Except, perhaps, to identify her
She was halfway up the stairs. I pulled my hand away from the gash on
my side. It was long but not deep. That didn’t stop it from hurting like hell,
though. I struggled to tug my jacket off and pressed it to the cut then tied the
sleeves around my waist, cinching them as tight as I could stand so that I’d
have my hands free. I rolled to my knees and used the bannister to drag
myself to my feet.
I’d left the hallway phone on the table beside the stairs. I snatched it up
and dialled the emergency helpline. They always took too long to answer
calls to Marwick House—but too long was better than nothing. I pressed the
phone to my ear. All I heard was static.
Ruby had disappeared around the top of the stairs. All of my strength was
draining through the cut, but I ignored the burn the best I could and used the
bannisters to pull myself up the stairs.
The distorted watercolours watched my progress, their black dabs of
irises rotating to follow me. I wasn’t imagining it this time.
The stairs groaned. Just as I had during my first day at Marwick, I felt
half afraid that the wooden boards would collapse and plunge me through the
I reached the landing just as the door at the end of the hall groaned
closed. I could hear the rattling chains. Interspersed with them was the awfullullaby, hummed by a familiar voice. My legs didn’t want to carry my
weight. I forced them to, staggering down the hall, blood running from under
the makeshift compress and trickling down my leg. I tried dialling the
emergency helpline again. Once more, static answered me. The lullaby came
through the phone, too, hummed by a second voice but eerily, and perfectly,
in tune with Ruby’s song.
The door was cracked open just wide enough to give me a glimpse inside
the room. The window was fully open. The panes had been removed, creating
a tall slot in the side of the house. Grey curtains rolled in the force of a gale.
The sun hadn’t yet risen, but nautical dawn spread a pale, ethereal light
across the horizon.
I pushed open the door. Two women moved towards the window. The
taller one, black haired and wild eyed, wasn’t solid. Her form was more like a
whisper—or a shadow—barely visible but still intangible. She stepped
through the window to stand on the outside sill.
The second form was solid and familiar. Ruby lifted one foot to step on
the desk then extended the other through the window. She stood on the same
ledge as Shreya. Their bodies overlapped, Shreya’s blending into Ruby’s like a
“Ruby! Stop! ” I moved forward, my hand outstretched to grab her.
Ruby’s movements were perfect replicas of Shreya’s, only a second
delayed. The women stood on the ledge for a second, then Shreya turned to
face the room, followed by Ruby. They reached their hands out wide,
appearing to offer a hug. The wind buffeted them, thrashing their hair about
their faces and whipping the curtains out. Then Shreya keeled backwards .
“No! ” I shrieked and dove forward. Ruby tipped back, a perfect mimic of
the black-haired woman. Her blue eyes met mine, and a hint of recognition
flashed through the haze. Her lips lifted into a soft smile. But the awareness
came too late. She was already falling.
I REACHED FOR Ruby , throwing all of my strength into a lunge to grab her. My
fingertips grazed the loose edge of her cardigan. Then she was gone,
dropping away from me, disappearing into the dark abyss below.
My knees hit the desk, and I collapsed against it. I squeezed my eyes
closed in sick horror as I waited to hear the crack of her skull breaking open.
There was a heavy thud … followed by a gasp.