Anna’s body lied still on the bed she once rested before the ritual. Her breath was faint, almost as if it wasn’t there. She still was dressed in the attire she was in for the ritual. Her body was just as normal as she was, as if she wasn’t in a fire the previous night.
As Beck watched her, sitting at her feet, he wondered how he’d explain to Ava that her baby sister was alive despite that she had seen her ghost. She would never believe him. Heck! He couldn’t believe it, himself, as it was unusual—even for the abnormal things that went on in and around Strangeville.
His mind ran into deep confusion as he recalled everything from the previous night to this late afternoon:
1. Anna’s ghost was at the cabin the previous night, whereas her living body lied before him now, looking perfect unlike other failed sacrifices, whose bodies always reflected signs of the four deaths.
2. When he and Ava went to prepare her car for travel—per her insistence—the car started, the G.P.S. was working, and a few vehicles passed by them. All these never happened with the other victims—that is when they usually were more than one in a vehicle or motorcycle. The second, third, and rest could never leave unless they were dead. Their dead bodies were usually brought to their means of transport, after which they immediately disappear to who knows where.
3. On his way to Strangeville to ‘search for Anna’s dead body’ while Ava waited for him at her car, he sighted some people unknown to him in the town and guessed them to be poachers.
4. Everyone in Strangeville didn’t look as dead as they used to before. Also, they were as jovial as in the days before the tragedy that scarred them.
An opening door got him off his train of thoughts of the possibilities that the ritual might have worked. He glanced towards the door to see Sara advancing towards the bed with a smile on her face, resembling the first time he ever saw her smile. She sat on the bed beside Anna where her head was.
“How is this possible?” Beck asked Sara, referring to Anna being alive. He shifted his gaze to Anna’s young face as he awaited an answer.
She sighed and took her hand to Anna’s hair. “It shouldn’t be,” she said as she stroked it. “But her sacrifice was worth it.”
Beck looked at Sara, his face scrunched up. “What do you mean?”
Sara caressed Anna’s face. “The curse’s been broken. Strangeville is free now.” She looked at him. “You’re free.”
“But she’s alive this way.” Anna was meant to be alive, according to how Sara had explained the ritual to the townspeople if it were successful. Nevertheless, she wasn’t also supposed to look as if she was very close to death. If the ritual had worked, Beck thought, then something had to be wrong somewhere as Anna demanded her freedom at the dying minute of the ritual, which meant that she was supposed to be a failure.
“Would you rather she was dead?” The scowl on her face was enough to know that if he said any more foolish words, Sara wouldn’t hesitate to curse him, even if it was going to destroy her.
“I thought as much,” she said as his silence had clearly spelt that it was better this way than the other.
As Ava flashed in his head, he glanced at Anna. “What will I tell her sister?” He looked at Sara again. “She already saw her ghost.”
Sara looked at Anna. “Well, it seems she’s in a coma since she hasn’t woken in about eighteen hours now and hasn’t responded to anyone trying to wake her. Her sister would know what to do.” She stood up. “Everything can go back to normal.” She walked away from the bed, heading towards the door.
“What are you going to do?”
Sara stopped abruptly. She stood still for a while before turning to face him. “The same thing I’ve always done: protect Strangeville from supernatural threats.” She turned away from him and quickly went out the room.
Beck stood to pick up Anna. Once he did in a bridal style, he said, “Let’s get you to your sister.”
In the last hour or thereabout, Anna and her parents gossiped about the happenings in their little town after they had died. She filled them on how she and Bruce fared at school and also how Ava had become more of a workaholic than she was already was. It was for that reason Ava suggested that once Anna went on spring break, they go to their summerhouse at Charlotte.
Once Anna was done narrating how she and Ava ended up staying with Beck and how she ended up being with her parents, both her parents looked at each other as if they knew something she didn’t.
“Mom, Dad, what’s wrong?” she said to them as she looked from one person to the other. They both sat across each other in the living room of a house similar to the one where she was groomed before the last stage of the ritual.
They stared at each other for long, and it seemed as though they communicated through their eyes and the way they shook their heads and nodded at each other. Anna knew acting so curious usually got her mother upset but she couldn’t help yelling, “Seriously, guys, what’s going on?” at them.
“Darling,” her dad said, “we don’t think you’re actually dead.”
That was what her mom had said before they came to the house in search of her dad. “Why don’t you think so?”
“Sweetie,” her mom said, “from what you told us the ritual was going alright until you had doubts. In fact, it’s possible that the curse would have been lifted if you didn’t feel doubtful at the dying minute of the ritual.”
She shifted her eyes from her mom to her dad. “Why do I feel like you guys know something that I don’t?”
Her parents looked at each other once more, communicating silently.
After lots of nodding and shaking of their heads, her mom glanced at her. “Whatever you heard right from the time you were taken to Strangeville and while you were being prepared for the ritual is true.”
“Beck,” said her father, “simply lied to you. That’s what he does: he keeps the victims on their toes, anxious to leave the woods, only to end up in the arms of someone that would lead them to their, most likely yet usually, death.”
“No one has ever survived the ritual,” her mom put in, “so it’s really strange seeing that you”—she waved her hand—“partially did.”
Anna stood up, raising her hands to her head. She massaged her temple as she roved about the living room.
She knew it! Beck had lied to her and Ava. Her parents said that was his job, but why? Why did he have to do that? Desperation was the answer that came to her. That would make sense, but it still was not fair.
Just then a thought flashed in her mind, causing her to face her parents. “Hold on a second,” she said, slightly raising her hands to them. “How do you all these things? You’ve never been to those woods.” She folded her arms on her chest and rested her weight on one leg as she stared at them suspiciously. “Does it mean that being a ghost makes you know everything?”
They did it again: stare at each other and communicate silently. Anna rolled her eyes. Why did they have to do that before telling her something she needed to know?
“It’s how we died, Anna,” said her mom.
Anna chuckled. “That’s very funny, Mom. You both died in a fire accident. No one even knew how it happened ’cause the car still looked perfect and was found a few miles outside of Knightdale.”
When silence enveloped the atmosphere for about a minute, Anna glanced at her dad. “Mom is kidding, right?”
He shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving hers.
She slumped onto chair, shocked at what her parents had just said. Was it the fate of her family to die in a bid to fix something they had no clue about?
The awkwardness that would have lingered between them didn’t occur as someone shouted, “You’ll never believe what just happened, Lucy!”
Anna turned on the sofa to glance behind her. A black-haired lady, who looked just about as old as Ava, rushed to sit beside Anna’s mom. She grabbed her hands and said excitedly, “The barrier’s been open! The curse’s been lifted! We’re free, Lucy!” She glanced at Anna’s dad. “Chris, can you believe it?” She glanced back at her mom. “You finally get to see your kids again!” Her voice came down a bit as she said, “That is, you know, if you don’t want to cross over immediately.”
When her mom didn’t reciprocate the young woman’s glee, her enthusiasm died slowly. “Lucy, didn’t you hear what I said?”
“I did. Just that I think there’s a major problem if you think the curse’s been lifted.”
Her mom nodded towards Anna though her eyes were still on the lady.
When the lady glanced in her direction, her eyes went wide. “It’s you!” she said, her cheerful face appearing again.
Anna tilted her head to the side, wondering just who this woman thought Anna might be.
She jumped off the sofa and rushed to Anna’s side, sitting down and grabbing her hands. “It’s you! It’s you! It’s you!”
“Um . . .” Anna said, staring warily and uncomfortably at the brunette. “Who am I exactly?”
“You’re Anna; you broke the curse.” She grinned like a little school girl.
Anna removed her hands from Annika’s grip that was becoming tight and shifted away from her. She narrowed her brown eyes at the brunette’s blue ones, wondering why she felt off with the woman’s presence. She didn’t like the feeling. If Ava was here she possibly would have confirmed it as her gut most of the time detected something abnormal.
“Annika,” Anna’s mom said, distracting Anna from trying to find out the thing wrong with the mentioned woman, “I don’t think the curse is actually broken.”
Annika paid no nevermind to what her mom had said as she put her arms around Anna, saying, “Thank you! Thank you so much for giving me the chance to be with my beloved.” She let go of Anna and stood, facing her parents. “I have to go now. Thanks for being the parents I wish I had.” She quickly rushed to the door and went out.
In the beginning of the chapter it was noted that the failures were taken to the spot where their means of transport was. Then theyʼd disappear together with their means of transport. Meanwhile, in chapter 4, Beck told Ava that their bodies were burned; obviously that was a lie. You should all know by now most of the things he said were lies and the only truth was revealed in his thoughts. I hope if you had any dispute concerning this it has been resolved.
Feel free to tell me what you think though. Peace!