Resurrection Bay

Page 7


“Don’t be scared,” Rav said. “It’s important that you’re not scared.”
Then I began to get an awful feeling in my gut. The kind you get when the phone rings at two in the morning and you know in your heart of hearts, even before you pick it up, that it’s really, really bad news.
I reached for the light switch, but Rav firmly grabbed my wrist before I could.
“You know all that stuff you were saying? About how the glacier dug its way through the cemetery on purpose, like it knew what it was doing?”
“I never said that!”
“But I know it’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it?” And then he said, in a terrible whisper, “Well, you were right.”
He reached over and turned on the light.
There, in one of the farthest booths, sat a woman playing the guitar, but most of her face was still in shadows. Rav, still holding my wrist, pulled me toward the woman. Something was telling me I didn’t want to see this—that I didn’t want to be there at all. But my curiosity was more powerful than my instinct to run.
Her hair was dangling in front of her face and over the guitar strings as she played. The guitar was covered with frost; icy condensation spilled from its open hole like when you open a freezer door. Only then did I realize the entire room was very, very cold.
Rav said, “I brought someone to see you, Mom.”
She turned to me, her head moving in that same jarring, gritty way that the woman under the porch had moved. I instantly recoiled, backing right into Rav’s chest, but he stood there like a boulder, not letting me get away.
“It’s okay,” Rav said. I don’t know whether he was talking to me or to this . . . this thing in front of me.
“Don’t let this frighten you,” Rav said, but how could I not be frightened? I had gone to this woman’s funeral. She had been dead for two years. Even now her face bore the signs of death. Her lips were a little too thin, her eyes were set too deep in her face, her cheeks were too sunken.
Rav must have known what I was thinking because he whispered, “It was worse when she first came back, but each day she’s looking a little bit better. She’s not as confused as she was, either. Every day she remembers more and more. She’s becoming like she used to be.”
The dead woman held me in her gaze, her eyes a deep blue like the depths of a glacier crevasse. Then she forced her lips to form a smile. “Anika!” Her voice was both gentle and gruff. Inhuman. “How are you?”
Every ounce of me wanted to scream, but my throat felt frozen shut. I could only stare.
“Answer her,” Rav prodded. “Don’t be rude! She won’t like it if you’re rude.”
I cleared my throat and swallowed. “I . . . I’m fine. . . .”
“Look how you’ve grown. Just like my Rav,” said the woman who had once been Mrs. Carnegie. “Come closer, Anika.”
Afraid to disobey, I swallowed my terror and took a step closer.
“It’s good to see you,” she said. “I’m so happy to be back.”
But the more I looked at her, the more I came to realize that this wasn’t Rav’s mother at all. The truth was in her voice; it was in her eyes; it was in her breath—that flow of warm air drawing toward her, cold air flowing away.
“You’re not Mrs. Carnegie!”
Rav grabbed me, squeezing my arm to get me to shut up, but I just shook him off. “I don’t know what you are, but you’re NOT Rav’s mother!”
She slowly breathed in. . . . She slowly breathed out. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do!”
Then the smile left her face. She looked at me with cool calculation, and I thought at that moment she could either grab me and hug me or she could reach out and rip my heart out of my chest. For her it would make no difference. But she did neither of those things. Instead she said, “I have her body; I have her memories; I feel everything she felt: her frustrations, her fears, her hopes. And her love. I am her in every way that matters.”
“Except for one,” I told her.
“Stop it!” Rav shouted. I turned to him and shook him, trying to make him see.
“This is not your mother!”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Rav snapped. He looked at the woman sitting in the booth, then he looked back to me. “My mother’s soul is gone. I get that, okay? But now she’s got a new soul. It’s not evil, it’s just . . . different. It wants to be whatever we want it to be. She wants to be my mother.” There were tears in his eyes now. “Who are you to tell me that it’s wrong?”
When I looked back to Mrs. Carnegie, she was smiling at me, tilting her head. Then she said to me, just as that other woman beneath the porch had:
“I know you. . . .”
“Of course you do, Mom,” said Rav, “it’s Anika.”
“No,” Mrs. Carnegie said, still smiling. “That’s not what I mean.”
Then she reached toward me as if she wanted to grab me with those pale hands.
“No, Mom!” Rav said.
She stopped short. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I forgot.”
And when I looked at Rav’s right hand, I understood. He had touched her. How could he have kept himself from doing so? His fingertips, all the way down to the first knuckle, were white and dead. Frostbitten. The result of touching a spirit colder than a frigid arctic night.