I was lying on a couch in a room I didn't recognize with somebody cloaked in red stood over me, holding a mass of black beads which held a swinging silver cross. I didn't know what to make of the new scene confronting me. I still felt outside of myself, watching, hoping Cray wouldn't re-appear, especially not the Cray he had become.
I realized my hands were tied behind my back and my feet were bound. A new wave of panic gripped me, and I tried to scream, but couldn't. The room spun. I kept slipping in and out of consciousness.
The person cloaked in red chose that moment to sing with a coarse male voice as I almost vomited. Thunder clapped and rain attacked the windows like steel pellets. The room became misty and dark, with just tall candles glowing on russet tapestry and ivory walls. Everything that was once white was now an omnipresent purple. Everything that was weightless and atmospheric was now abnormal and overcast with leering shadows.
The man in the red cloak seemed to be the only person in the room. His hood slipped back a little, and I saw puffy cheeks and a pink-dotted nose. He kept repeating the same hymn, calling for something to enter me and heal my grudging soul. Except it didn't sound like he was asking for anything cleansing. Deep down from some kind of inner awareness, I knew he was chanting, reciting what wasn't biblical at all.
He held me down and I squirmed and tried to scream again. It was useless. Someone appeared beside him, robed in red, too, concealed with their hood.
The man began to pour lukewarm liquid on my face. I kept my mouth closed. I didn't want it entering me. I could tell by its horrid stench I shouldn't even inhale it. Yet somehow it managed to find its way into me, seep into a part open without my knowledge: the diamond-shaped birthmark between my breasts. It felt sucked inwards, slicing me down the middle.
A scream finally tore from my lungs. The man just sang louder.
Others dressed in the same red cloaks gathered as the rope around my arms and legs disappeared. The pulverizing pain in my chest quickly vanished, and the roof fragmented into dust, allowing me to I float upwards as my arms dissolved into wings in the starry night sky.
Lightning jolted through me and stopped my heart, yet somehow I kept breathing, hovering in an ashen sky, my hair billowing with streaks of yellow and violet.
It was peaceful in the sky, until a female voice shrieked and my wings were stripped away and torn as if made from lint.
As I fell through smoke, something like burning liniment oils dripped onto my skin. I melted, bleeding all the way down to my bone white feet.
When I landed, it was in a churning black sea, women and children reached out for me, whining, calling my name as they ripped out chunks of what was left of my flesh with sharp, jagged teeth.
I felt a tugging on my arms.
"Stop," demanded a voice. "Quit struggling."
"No," I screamed. "No, please. Leave me alone. Don't eat me!"
I was held me down harder, fingers dug into the tops of my arms.
"Please don't. Don't hurt me!!"
The grip tightened around my arms tightened.
"Help me! Somebody help!"
My hands clawed at what was attacking me.
"Oh, my!" a voice shrilled.
Another scream erupted from me. I opened my eyes just as a white light beamed on my face. I was still clawing at someone.
"What on earth is going on?" yelled a voice that sounded like Isobel.
A face came into focus: male and with deep brown, frowning eyes.
He was shirtless. I instantly became alert and nervous, trying to tear my gaze away from his to take in the rest of my surroundings.
I was back in my room at the manor.
Cray let go, and I curled into a ball; shocked, afraid, and most of all, embarrassed.
I couldn't stop panting if I tried.
"Cray, your eye." Isobel gasped.
"Let's take a look at you," Syd offered.
Syd. For some reason, I breathed easier knowing she was there.
I peered between my fingers and saw Cray shrug away from Syd before storming out of the room. Isobel looked to the doorway and then at me, unsure whom to tend to first. Understandably, she chose Cray.
Syd hurried to my bed, re-tying her housecoat. "I'm here now, Crystal. No need to worry."
Grabbing my hand, she rubbed away the cold that had seeped into my bones.
ALSO BY MIRIAM KHAN
With her father and his new wife busy with their career, seventeen-year old Lara Voight has no choice but to accept her trip to Spring Mills, Pennsylvania. Her host, Gracen, is as cold and devious as her granddaughter, and Lara continues to experience a burning sensation. The only thing to soothe the horrid pain is the phantom scent that is familiar but hard to recall. When a local girl befriends Lara, she informs her of a girl named Penelope Le Rose who was murdered at the mansion. It turns out it was once known as Montague house.
Lara explores the story further. Gracen is even willing to help, going as far as to reveal a portrait of Penelope who looks just like Lara. Searching for further clues, Lara finds Penelope’s diary and becomes haunted by visions of a ghostly boy who seems angered at her growing affection for Sheba's brother, Will.
The more Lara reads the diary, the more she begins to realize that certain people resemble those described. One of whom could be Penelope’s killer; back to finish her look-alike.