The flashing lights sprayed blue and red bruises around our living room. I huddled behind the couch in my nightgown. A man and woman in crisp blue uniforms hefted a black bag onto a stretcher, pushed levers, and lifted the bed like Mom did with her ironing board. Blood smeared the lady’s name tag, but I’d seen it when she came in. It said Glenda. The name of the good witch. The good witch come to clean up after the bad.
Two men in regular clothes stood in the kitchen doorway writing in little notebooks. One pointed to a dark stain on the recliner. His mouth moved, but I couldn’t hear what he said. The hoarse cackle still filled my head and drowned out everything.
A lady rushed in and scanned the room. She spotted me. Her jaw dropped before she caught herself and closed it. She started toward me, crouching down and holding out a hand while whispering hushing sounds—like when you’re trying to catch a scared animal. That’s how they always treated me. Like a scared, stupid animal.
She knelt and said some stuff I still couldn’t hear. Her hand took mine, and she tried to pull me up. My legs wouldn’t work. I tipped over. She wasn’t a big lady, but she scooped me up and carried me out to a car, still shushing.
I don’t remember much of the ride or being brought into the police station. They sat me in a gray little room with a table and a paper cup of apple juice. I felt a little better. Nothing could hide there.
One of the regular-clothes men came in and pulled a chair closer. He sat and bent down to catch my eye. The cackle had faded.
His voice was deep and soft. “Your name is Lizzie, right?”
“Can you tell me what happened, Lizzie?”
I swallowed. “The bad witch came again.”
His face turned mad, and he shook his head. “Lizzie, we don’t have time for games. You need to tell us what happened.”
“It’s not a game. She…she came again a-a-and killed my mom.”
The muscle in his jaw tensed. “Fine. I’ll play along. Who is the witch? How’d she kill her?”
“I-I don’t know who she is. She just comes…when I get mad. She has long talons on her hands. She,” I sniffled back a sob, “she stuck them in my mom’s neck.”
He sat back and sighed. “Lizzie, we know you did it. You’ll be in less trouble if you just tell the truth and explain what happened.”
Like it had before, my chest tightened as if someone gave me a big bear hug. I closed my eyes and tried to will it away, but my skin flushed hot. I told myself she wouldn’t come now—there was no way she could get in without everyone seeing. She only came when she couldn’t get caught.
Even the witch blames it all on me. After she killed Mom, I asked her why.
The witch cackled. “You wished she would die, didn’t you?”
I had…but I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t help being angry when Mom accused me of lying about what happened when Mrs. Jackson, my teacher, died. Mom said I had to quit making stuff up so they could catch the real killer. I told her I wasn’t making it up. Being mad just happens. I can’t help it.
The regular-clothes man slammed a hand on the table and made me jump.
“Listen, I have a lot of work to do. If you aren’t going to tell the truth, you’ll just go straight to jail.”
I wanted to yell but kept my voice quiet. “I’m not lying. Don’t call me a liar.”
“Don’t lie, and I won’t have to.”
My throat closed up. The anger went from calm to boiling. I shook my head and told it to go away…but it never listened anymore. Just like the witch.
The last thing I remember is her head rising behind the man, her hair covered in moss and green slime, wrinkled hands coming up, talons curling in toward his neck, slicing through the skin. The cackle had returned.
Now I sit in a cold room made of cushioned walls.
I shudder and scrunch my shoulders up over my ears as best I can with the jacket on, but the noise comes from inside me, and I can’t shut it out. How she makes me hear it when she’s not even around puzzles me—but then again, all of it does.
Dried blood covers my face and hair, and little pieces flake off when I move. I don’t know how so much blood got on me. I wasn’t close enough. Another puzzle.
More regular-clothes men had come into the little gray room. I huddled in the corner. The original regular-clothes man sprawled on the floor, a pool of red-black spreading under him. They had pointed guns at me and yelled and ran around acting crazy. A lady put a white jacket on me that wraps my arms around my back, and they led me down a bunch of hallways until we got to this room.
It’s not fair. They all keep calling me a liar.
The door opens, and a man in a white uniform starts in.
“Damn, I forgot the sedative.” He turns back, tells two men in white doctor coats he’ll return in a minute, and rushes off.
The white coats stand just outside the cushion room in a bare, gray hallway.
One of the white-coat men says to the other, “It’s a severe psychosis. She seems to really believe someone else is doing it. But all the evidence points to her.”
“Well,” the other says, “some kids are just great liars.”
The anger swells up faster every time. Now, it comes in an instant.
The thing with moss and green slime appears behind the white-coat men in the hallway. She slinks toward them.
I try to yell, to warn them, but only a hoarse cackle comes out.