T H E    N I G H T   V I S I T O R    
Novel by N.Larson

There is a two lane road leading out of Waynseboro, a modern well-kept roadway over which local politicians had fought in a long forgotten budget clash, surprisingly smooth, with a median even, and wide enough to accommodate a pair of semis heading in opposite directions with room to spare, following this past the casino shacks and strip bars and the brightly lit Exxon, the attached Dunkin Donuts, five miles beyond this what the ruins of a pulp mill though few would remember it as such, now just an unremarkable two story warehouse with a tall and partially collapsed brick chimney, windows busted out by weather and local kids – it’s just after the mill that the road constricts to a single lane, the transition abrupt and sudden, and the dense woods move in fast, the foliage pressing in close, concrete and tar growing increasingly pockmarked, the forest makes a brief retreat at the underpass beneath I-64, giving way to gravel, the trees rushing in again impatiently to tap and scratch against car windows, miles of this, cold to be this far South but the nights here are cold, and if your headlights  don’t hit the old-growth stump with a strip of white paint you won’t know to take the sharp right just beyond it, as if veering into the thicket, the gravel becoming tightly packed dirt, an unnamed trail really, wide enough to navigate a car but just barely, rutted out wheel tracks indicating long usage, occasional deposits of rainwater, this is the road that will seem endless, and in time become the driveway leading up to the house, up the short steps to the porch, in through the doorway, up a flight of bare wooden stairs, swing to the left at the landing, down the short hallway, through another door, and you have found the room, within which a small girl is pretending to sleep.

C H A P T E R   O N E

The sheet is drawn over her head like a shroud. She breathes against the fabric, soon wet with the water in her lungs, material that smells of moms cigarettes, and the cheeseburger she had for lunch, for she has failed to brush her teeth, an action she saw pointless given the lack of toothpaste.  The Girl knows many things, but among them are that she is almost eleven, smarter by far than most girls, than her own mother though she would never give this voice.  She knows, too, that spirits resonate on different frequencies, though she would not have the vocabulary available to phrase it like that.

Compatible frequencies are drawn together, and discordant are repelled. It’s not particularly complicated. Her lying here, knowing this in her stomach.  And her resonance is special. She’s known this forever. Higher in pitch, painful to some, attractive to others. Like a dog-whistle. But not exactly, she thinks, no.  Above all her frequency is exceedingly rare and of this she is very proud.

Except for tonight. Because the Girl knows that he is coming, quickly, and on foot. Sticking to the road except to avoid the rarity of the passing car.  Yes, from the south-east.

Just who he is, this is hazy. He resonates unhealthy and insane. He is unshaven, and there is a spot of blood near the breast pocket of his corduroy jeans jacket one would have to look closely to see.That he is drawn in by her frequency, and that his intentions are as blacker than the night outside her window, these things are clear.Oh she is not a fool and has always been aware that just as the puppies and other children and lovely birds are drawn to her, so too are the shadows, so too is that which crawls on its belly. Occupants of benighted corners. The less appealing entities.

Breath against fabric, cheap, partially synthetic. Not sleeping. Or rather: feigning death.

Her logic is like this – if he thinks I’m dead, he might not see the point in killing me.

 

C H A P T E R   T W O

Man enters the recently constructed Exxon at approximately 2:45 am.

An acne ridden kid named Dave is working the counter tonight, can’t exactly be sure of the time, except that it was expected that he rotate the sweaty hot dogs in their glass case every hour, and the last time he had done so was a quarter to 2.  Dave is anxious to not do a shitty job (he needs the cash to buy a nonworking Ducati motorcycle, which his older brother has promised to help him restore), and is highly focused on the act of shifting the sad dogs when the bells on the glass door jingle and a dark haired man slides in, immediately ducking down the first aisle and out of his line of sight.

Dave reckons this dude looks like an Arab, but having never seen an Arab except on the FBI’s most-wanted-fugitives-in-the-world website, and having not gotten a clear look at the guy, Dave, again, can’t be totally sure of this detail.

“Help you, sir?” calls Dave, his voice cracking mid-sentence.

He listens to the sound of the rotary hot dog machine. He listens to the hum of the freezers in back, the throb of the brand new refrigeration machines with which he is surrounded. He receives no response.  Ridiculously gripping a pair of tongs. Hairnet, a blue polo shirt with the Exxon logo above his left breast. Jeans, running shoes. He feels completely naked, and watches the flesh of his exposed arms bloom with goose bumps. Lowering the tongs, gingerly. Dave is trying to remember if there is a procedure for this type of situation, but he’s not positive what type of situation this is, only that he’s really scared. Doesn’t even know why. The guy should have answered him, right? He isn’t over-reacting, is he?

In movies and shit there would be a shotgun or at the very least a baseball bat under the counter, right? But there was nothing like that, only neat stacks of several different styles of bag, two sizes of paper and one plastic. Random cleaning sprays, a couple magazines.  Also on shows like 24 there would be a phone number Dave could call, like what was it called…an anti-terrorism unit or whatever, but that’s still assuming the guy is an Arab or Al Qaida or whatever.   Stupidly he can’t stop imagining how this might play out in a re-enactment on America’s Most Wanted and this phrase “taking the law into his own hands” keeps bouncing around Dave’s skull, like it or not the phrase repeats over and over.

Then Dave remembers the cameras.

They’re in the back office so you can keep your eye on stuff when you’re…when you’re back in the back office, Dave supposes. There’s two cameras, one of which is mounted above the front door, giving a wide view of all the aisles and a side-on view of the counter in case you get robbed or whatever. The second sits in the far right hand corner of the shop, angled so one can look at the back row and the wall of freezers and fridges. Where they keep the ice cream and beer and vitamin water and all that, because actually people try to steal beer all the time.  Dave wonders if anybody is working the Dunkin Donuts, and if he should just try and bail, go get help, maybe even call the cops. These options he dismisses because a) he doesn’t want to look like a pussy, all that’s going on is a shady looking dude walked into the place and b) he’s holding a bag of weed he most definitely does not want to toss.

“Sir I just want you to know the cops are on their way.” Calls Dave towards the back of the store. It seems like the right move, again something you’d see on TV. He manages to not sound terrified. Again no response.

He moves as quietly as possible into the back office. The camera monitors are not even turned on. Shit, thinks Dave, shit. He hits the power button on one, stomach sinking, the thing hums to life but still nothing but black.  Shit, thinks Dave. He should have listened to his dad about always carrying a concealed handgun at a job like this, a shift like this, these fucked-up hours. Shit.  He could just cut and run. And be fired, boom. And risk looking like a complete loser. What if the guy is deaf or some shit? Or he can’t speak English since he’s an Arab? There’s gotta be a reasonable explanation for this whole thing, but even as the thought occurs Dave knows in his gut that no, something weird is happening. It’s like the way you feel before a thunderstorm, you can smell it, you know it.  Then he remembers the crowbar. Behind the office door. The freezer in the back was acting up, kept getting too cold, and the boss brought the thing in case they couldn’t get it open. Which seemed stupid to Dave, cos the freezer is glass and a crowbar would surely break it.

Anyhow sure enough, there it is just leaning against the doorjamb, so he grabs the thing. It’s painted yellow on both ends, and Dave wonders why you notice stupid shit like that when you’re terrified.  But its weight makes him feel braver. He would never actually hit anybody with it unless they tried to jump him first but it looks scary, and enables Dave to come around the counter and move towards the far aisle, hands trembling just a touch, thinking if this guy is an Arab terrorist and he can turn him over to the FBI or Homeland Security or whoever, there’s gotta be some money for him in there somewhere. Then he could quit this fucking job, hook up that Ducati. It’s a nice thought, as he turns the corner on the rear aisle.

 

C H A P T E R  T H R E E

The Girl isn’t pretty. Nobody had ever told her she was, and she knew it wasn’t so anyhow.

Still.

She understood she wielded some kind of unique power. And until this very evening, she had never had cause to wish she knew how to turn it off.But she would try. She would lie very still. In her bedroom, amongst her things. Under this sheet. Think about the path leading up to the house. It’s easy to miss. Long as all hell. Plus you could get lost making your way up to the driveway.  This was wishful thinking, magical thinking. If he was on his way he was sure to arrive soon enough. Very little anyone could do about that.  The Girl holds her breath, hoping that might…she holds her breath, always a good swimmer. Making her dizzy. But this too was useless. He was still on the main road. En route.

First time she felt him, outside school it was like somebody tapped her on the shoulder, she swiveled, saying “what, geez” like fake exasperated, expecting Annie or Rhonda, but there was no one, no one, and then her eyes were drawn towards the fence and there he was, just sort of swaying, and a wave of something or other came off him even at a hundred yards, the Girl almost lost her balance, then nearly gagged cos her mouth filled up with saliva so quickly she thought she was vomiting, a smell like sweat plus pee plus her deadbeat father’s aftershave, this one taking her by surprise as she hadn’t seen dad in two and a half years. Plus something earthy like rotten wood, old wet forest, and yes then there was the blood, iron like when she bit her tongue so bad playing soccer. As hard as she tried she couldn’t get a good look at the man’s face. It was like when you’ve stared at the sun too hard, you look away and only get those spots, just the area around his face were nothing but a cluster of splotchy lights like that, but she could see his pants, his jacket, and she knew now to run, this at the same time that she knew it would do no good to run, but run she did, across the asphalt and the wood chips that surround the swings, panicky because it seemed that without any transition whatsoever she was alone out there, all the time with that heat on her back the man had an extra long cattle brand he was shoving into her shoulder, sssss like those Sizzler ads on TV, her flesh, his sick radar.

Turns out she had been out there ten minutes into the next class period, so she was potentially in trouble. This didn’t seem possible, one moment she had a good quarter hour and the next…good thing it was phys Ed and though the Girl hated volleyball she liked Mr. Carter who she knew in her heart to be a truthful and honorable adult male, of which there exist very very few. Again this was simply something she knew, no big deal.

“There’s a man by the fence. Is. Was.” She said simply.

“What do you mean, hon?” said Mr. Carter. “What was he doing?”

“Nothing. Just staring and, you know. It was kinda weird.”

“Ok. Where?”

“Past the swings. Near the, what is it. Near the parking lot.”

“Ever seen him before?”

“I don’t think so…”

Mr. Carter pulled a super serious expression, asked one of the older boys to take over while he went to take a look. As he left the gym the other kids were looking at her weird but she didn’t care. They were supposed to be running a volleyball practice but most of them sat down on the floor and started whispering and laughing and bullshitting.  “Shut up, y’all! Whose serve is it?” hollered the older boy, gripping the red ball, psyched to be in charge.  It was sad but she also knew Mr. Carter wasn’t nearly as powerful as the man by the fence, and wouldn’t be able to help her. She reckoned it was sweet anyway.   Of course Mr. Carter was back ten minutes later, saying

“Well don’t fret cos seems like he must’ve left. But I’ll let the police know, ok missy? If you see him again obviously get running and yell for me or another grown-up, but I don’t think it’ll come to that.”

The Girl nodded, knowing he was wrong.

Mr. Carter tapped her lightly on the shoulder and returned to the business of being a elementary-school P.E. coach in a small Southern town in the United States of America in the second decade of the 21st century.

 

C H A P T E R   F O U R

At 3:02AM, Denise Rooney, who had run the Dunkin Donuts outside Waynseboro long before the gosh-darn Exxon was even a concept, observed a man walking quickly across the empty parking lot, ducking behind a pair of gas pumps, and moving headlong into the tall grass that surrounded the property. She knew the time on account of the clock situated above the front door, reading 3:02.

Now the gas stations affairs were the gas stations affairs, and for the most part she pointedly ignored it’s doings and it’s parade of teenage drop-out drug addict employees, what a high turnover the place had, not in the least a sign of a well-run business in Denise’s estimation.But there were two things about the man that got her attention. The Exxon exterior being as well lit as it is, she could see that he was absolutely drenched. She could look and see a trail of wet the man had left behind. There was that. And then there was this:

Denise was a people person. Everybody knew that. And people liked her. So what if she was a little bit on the heavyset side of things. You try working at a donut shop for fifteen years without putting on a few. You have to know your product. You have to know what you’re selling people, don’t you? And you just try dropping those extra pounds once you got to the north end of 40! And yeah she’d done it all: Jenny Craig, Weight-Watchers, whatever Oprah’s thing was called, she couldn’t rightly recall. She’d even considered swapping out the Dunkin Donuts for a Tasti-Delight shop, but she knew in her heart she’d lose all her business, most of it truckers, in a jiffy. Truckers weren’t real concerned with their waistlines, not as a general rule.

Plus it’s like her man-friend Ray told her: just more of her to love. That’s what it was. She had a lot of love to go around and she didn’t mind who knew it and she’d heard every fat joke in the book and none of it could touch her cos she just loved people and people loved her right back, once they got to know her. So what if Ray was married. He and that woman were separated for goodness sake, had been for a good long time. And like the Bible said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  All of which is to say that Denise was good with faces. Never forgot a face. And she was disturbed by the fact that try as she might she couldn’t get a clear gander at this man’s face, though he seemed to be looking straight at her through the glass. At first she thought she’d screwed up her vision momentarily going through the receipts as she’d just been doing. But that wasn’t it. It was as if…well this sounded silly, but it was as if the man was wearing a lamp on his head, a miner’s helmet or something, cos all she could see was light coming back at her. It was like he had no face at all.

Denise shivered. What a ridiculous thought! The garbage that pops into one’s head, goodness. What nonsense.

She took another look at the asphalt near the pump, the trail of water the man had left behind, bootprints in there pretty clear.

Well. Denise hadn’t seen anything like a customer in over three hours. And gosh darn it, she was a curious one. Always had been.

Some new kid pulling a shift next door, she saw him come slinking in round 10:30. Probably smelling of marijuana like all the rest of them. Of course she didn’t know his name. Why should she? Well if any of them stuck around for any amount of time maybe she’d take an interest as you would a stray kitten. But why make that emotional investment when they’re only going to disappear on you? She’s known marijuana addicts before, and it was always the same story. A lot of lies and a lot of sleeping. Though she had a couple steady customers she was pretty sure were smoking Mary Jane, and they certainly bought a lot of donuts and kept to themselves, so what’s to complain about there. And don’t ever get Denise started on crystal-meth, goodness knows she saw enough truckers to know about that evil stuff. That just made you plain mean. Why was it almost a year that Mexican man had tried to rob her? Wasn’t he a Mexican?

Any old hoo what with this strange fellow with lights for a face walking around she reckoned it couldn’t hurt to check in next door and see what was what. Just to be neighborly, show a little human kindness, not that she expected any in return.  Better safe than sorry reckons Denise. She lifts the 8 gage Remington shotgun out from under her counter, cracks it to make sure she was all loaded up, snapps the weapon shut, and racks the thing. It is a scary sound, she knows that, and she doesn’t want to set anybody on edge unless she had to. But she hadn’t been raised in this part of the world and not learned a thing or two about guns.

Rule number one is always point them down unless you meant to shoot. Rule number two was you wanted to be the person holding one, rather than not.  Exiting the shop into the nippy air, she notices something else. Straight away to her left she has a direct line of sight into the Exxon’s shop, and there is no attendant, nobody at the till. Typical marijuana behavior, figures Denise. Probably out back doing bags of the stuff or whatever you called it.

“Yoohoo!” she calls, feeling stupid. Plus she doesn’t want the creepy man coming back. She moves towards the shop.

Nearing the trail of water/ bootprint she had seen earlier something strange occurred. She had sworn she had seen a bootprint. Hadn’t she? And she had sworn it looked like water coming off the fellow. As she nears the streak of liquid she had taken for the man’s trail, she sees that it’s merely a slash of gasoline, like many others scattered near the other pumps. Not water at all, and certainly, now that she sees it up close, indistinguishable from the other splotches of gasoline. Nothing special about it, and certainly no bootprint.  Well she doesn’t like that one bit. Because it means she was extra tired or something else. She blames her daughter Pam for keeping her up with that gosh-darn music all day, how many times did she have to come out of the bedroom and ask her to turn it down, and when was she going to find work anyway, and what was it going to take to get it through her thick skull that her momma worked nights and needed all the sleep she could get.

Still, looking now at the trail of gasoline she could have sworn…

Wasn’t fair to lay blame on Pam, now, who had taken it so hard when Frank had left the two of them why it seemed she’d never recover, not really. Depression is what it was, not that they talked about such things, which of course required a special doctor nobody she knew could afford. Ashamed when she thought Pam hadn’t even so much as seen a dentist in upwards of five years running. Who could afford it? She was darned if she knew.  Anyhoo, she gets a better grip on that old shotgun and heads over to the shop, humming a tune to herself, now what was it, how annoying when you get a tune in your head! It was one of Pam’s record albums, one of the songs on one of her record albums. Like babytalk. Ga-ga-goo-goo-ga-ga, ga-ga-goo-goo-ga-ga. And the singer was a strange looking gal with a babytalk name, like goo-goo or ga-ga. Probably from Los Angeles or New York City or some such place where all the gays were. So silly, what gays would listen to!

Pushing open the glass door, the bells tinkle.

“Hello there…” she ventures, again feeling a little stupid.

Well not getting an answer she walks right on in.

Goodness that freezer was loud. That didn’t sound right, for a freezer to be that loud. Sounds a lot like a busted compressor. Oh she knows freezers. Where was that coming from?

Far left aisle, way in the back.

Denise, with that gosh-darn babytalk song bouncing around her head, figures she’ll have a peek.

 

C H A P T E R   F I V E

The Girl is still waiting, and it’s been at least an hour now since she has moved a muscle, scarcely.

It’s nice under the sheet, but the area near her mouth is so saturated with the condensation from her breath. Upon her exhale the material envelopes her face, wet and cold. This is unpleasant.

Not that she was used to luxury. Not by a long shot. Since her dad left the house has started to unravel from the inside, the plumbing, the electrical stuff, the things you don’t see. That was really the only thing he was good for, keeping the hidden things going. But as long as she can remember, their house has been cold, damp, and hostile, tainted by the poisonous energy that made up her mother and father’s union.

An only child, because her mom liked to reminder her every time the subject came up and sometimes just out of the blue that the Girl had torn up her mother’s womb and destroyed it for any future use, which meant she would always be alone. If you didn’t have a brother or a sister you faced an unfriendly world alone, that was the deal.

Once when she was about eight she had a puppy but it wandered off and died. Her father said probably hit by a truck, then he made a smooshing sound and ground his nicotine stained hands together, smiling at her ugly. She knew like she always knew her dad knew exactly what happened to the dog. The two days she had that puppy it smelled so good and slept with her in her bed. After that there was nothing else really, nothing that felt comfortable or intoxicating or good. Not really.

The Girl has done a lot of waiting in her short life. She knows how to wait. You have to wait as if the thing you’re waiting for isn’t going to happen, that’s the trick. You have to wait like you’re not actually waiting.

 

C H A P T E R   S I X

At 3:47am a white male crosses diagonally from one side of Route 13 just at the juncture of 64, almost causing the driver of an 18 wheel Peterbilt, headed south towards Waynesboro, to lose control of the vehicle.

Good thing Robert Livingston had about twelve years of driving experience to fall back on or he would have gone off the road easy. In the silence following the cacophony of brakes and rubber against asphalt Robert listens to his engine idle and tick, his headlights showing dense underbrush right up against his grill, thinking that was maybe the closest call he’d ever had, even counting the two times he’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Fucking people, man. Have a couple of drinks and wander out into the road without a thought in their fool fucking heads.

Robert had driven for Fed Ex for ten years, he was not long on this Walmart job. He knows they frequently asked you to drive over max cap, which is about forty tons, and thus far he’d managed to demure and beg off his supervisor. But he was right there on the very edge in terms of cargo weight, and it was this that made these trips so goddamn nerve-wracking. It was dangerous, not to mention illegal as hell, and he sure did not want to have that be the factor that caused him to wreck himself. Much less get saddled with a summons, though the company always covered those costs. Still. Points on the license, worst case.

Throwing on the parking brakes with a hiss, Robert says to himself, goddamnit all, this is one time I will not let one of these drunk bastards stumble away and cause an accident elsewhere. It wasn’t right. No consideration for nobody else, to Robert’s mind it was just as bad as getting liquored, and getting behind the wheel.

Kills the engine, leaving the electrics on, the lights and such. Robert is still a big guy, even if some of it’s starting to show around his waist. He works out and watches what he eats, not like the slobs you’d see showering at the Flying J. Rob had been a linebacker in high school, and landed himself a scholarship to Louisiana State, which might have put him front and center in the Tigers, a hell of a college team as anybody who knows sports will tell you, and a fast track to the NFL. But life has a funny way of working itself out, and his mom went and passed away right about the time Robert had to make a decision, so he stayed behind in Stone Mountain to look after his grandpa and his twin sisters. But hell it didn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice and looking back on it, Rob reckons he spared himself a lot of stress. He wasn’t the pain-inflicting type and doubted if he had the killer instinct to really take out the opposing teams key player. He was more of a strategist, more the quarterback type, and even in this day in age you didn’t see a huge number of black qbs. Which is amazing to Robert, fundamentally a mild man.  But at the moment he is extremely pissed off. Fully intends to find that dude and let him fucking have it, whatever that means. Let this be the last time he endangers anybody like that.

 

Robert swings out of the cabin, holding a Club steering wheel lock. Well, it’s something. Gonna find this boy and have a fucking word.

Lands awkwardly on the road. Readjusts his grip on the Club, red metal.

Hearing something nearby, in the brush, beyond the scope of his headlights. Furtive, spastic movement. More like an animal. Fuck, a big animal.

Rob is not easily intimidated, but there again, he’s not exactly a country boy. Not real knowledgeable about shit out here.

Says, good and loud, “Come out of there, motherfucker.”

 

No response. Rob starts to feel uneasy. Glances around.  He’s just near the underpass. There’s a crossroads up ahead, the road running perpendicular to the larger track he’s been follow looks small and impassable.He listens…very occasionally a big rig ripping by on the Interstate above. And something shifts in the quality of the sound near the side of the road. Sounds like nothing so much as a man weeping. It’s the goddamndest thing. Robert takes a couple steps towards the source of the sound. Now he’s not sure where it’s coming from.  By the time he hears the movement behind him, he realizes where he fucked up, thinking goddamit it all, and by then it’s much too late.

 

C H A P T E R   S E V E N 

The Girl is half asleep when she becomes aware that He is right near the house. She goes rigid. Still under the sheet. Scolding herself for having nearly passed out like that. Wide awake now. Listening. There’s nothing. Too much nothing. What’s missing…and then she hits on it, she’s not even hearing the crickets. The front door closes, very carefully and quietly.  The Girl sits bolt upright. Still under the sheet. She can’t look. Her radar misfiring. There’s a long pause as if whoever is downstairs is giving it a moment to get the vibe of the house. This goes on. And on.

The Girl thinks she may have been mistaken, maybe there’s no-one…

Then she hears movement towards the stairs. There’s no question about it.  It’s not that she frightened but her body behaves otherwise. She feels herself urinate, a pleasant warmth quickly becoming a cold spot, spreading across her thighs.

What she doesn’t like at all: there’s a dead spot where her sense of vibration would be. Like when you stare at the sun but in her brain. She can’t explain it and it makes her feel naked, totally exposed. Defenseless. Like she’s trying to send a Facebook message but the person has her blocked. That happened once and she cried for ages but that doesn’t matter now, not anymore.

Someone in her room.

No. Not possible. She would have heard them on the landing. Squeaky boards. It’s not possible.  And yet now she hears light angry footfalls on those hallway floorboards, Jesus, and it’s a heartbeat and there’s someone in her room, for sure this time, moving fast towards her bed, not attempting to be quiet. And yet, and yet relief floods her stomach because she knows that movement… As her mother tears the sheet off the Girl’s head she’s already talking, face contorted and obscured by darkness.

“..my fucking carton of KOOLS. Where’dya put em this time. Wanna smoke, it’s my own fucking house.”

A few flecks of spit land on The Girl’s cheeks. She tries to speak and fails, then:

“I threw them out.”

The silence that follows is strange. Her mom grinds her jaw. She feels that this is all part of something preordained. It feels staged. The Girl scans her room, unable to see beyond three feet, unable to see the Hannah Montana poster above her dresser. The jangle of keys. Her mom gets up.

“Going to the fuckin Exxon. This is my house, little lady, and I’ll smoke when I want where I want.”

The Girl knows mom is in one of those moods and it’s futile but feels compelled to say,

“Mom. Don’t leave. Please don’t leave.”

And her mother is down the stairs, the front door slamming shut. Gravel and a moment later the car engine, wheels kicking up dirt.The car recedes. The Girl counts to forty and listens until the nothing returns. Nothing, not even a distant truck.  She can’t feel him. Perhaps she was wrong.  Her room feels familiar again. Her magazines, her desk. It’s all there, it’s all normal. Can’t see her, but she pictures Miley Cyrus smiling down at her in that blonde wig, microphone in hand, a guardian angel. Miley saying: Nobody will touch you, you’re way too strong. Girl power. Miley’s got a dad who loves her. Wonders what she’s gonna do about her peed-on sheets. Her mother will have a fit. Maybe she can get them changed and into the washing machine before her mom gets back. Yeah that’s what she’s gonna do, she has to try at least…

Before this thought can dissipate her attention is jerked to the right hand corner of her room.  Where the Man has been waiting, and as he steps out of the black she sees his eyes, knows she’s been right all along. The air is sucked out of the room and her nostrils are filled with the odor of dirt and blood.

With his hand over her mouth, she thinks: at least I have that. I was right. I was right all along.