Silence filled Anna’s ears as she gradually felt life flow through her. She slowly opened her eyes, breathing in and out slowly too. While she tried to sit upright, her eyes blinked as they tried to adjust to the lighting of the small room. Once she was able to see, she noticed the whole room was red: red curtains covering the whole room; the bedlinen was red too; even the lighting in the room was red; and her body covered in a red nightdress and robe.
Anna looked around the room once more, wondering whether she was alive. Or was she still dead—possibly in another realm? She shook her head, dismissing the thought. She shifted on the bed to get down and find answers for herself.
As her feet touched the ground, she heard a door open. She swayed her head in the direction of the sound. She gasped and shifted back onto the bed once she sighted the woman who entered the room. As she got closer to the bed, Anna moved further away on the bed, hoping that if the woman got close enough she would jump off the bed and sprint out of the room, away from the deadly witch.
“I’m not going to hurt you, you know,” Sara said when she was half-way close to the bed from the door.
“How do I know that?”
“Well”—she came closer and Anna moved away—“I was able to get your soul back into the astral realm.”
“What do you mean?” asked a confused Anna.
“You were slipping away so I had to do something. Besides, it wouldn’t be good for Strangeville if you were dead.”
Anna furrowed her eyebrows at Sara, annoyed at her statement. She honestly didn’t want to have anything to do with the damned place, especially if Sara was supposed to get her through it. “I don’t understand.”
Sara sighed. She got to the bed and sat on it, facing Anna. “The curse wasn’t completely broken. You were perfect for the ritual, but your resistance at the final moments cost you your life.
“Now, you’re really lucky I found you after that accident. I was able to give you some of my life force, and luckily you also gained some more energy. Where that was from I have no idea. At least now you’re alive. It’s a necessity for Strangeville to be free.” Her facial expression changed to something more melancholic. “And for me to be relieved for a while,” she said, her eyes sullen.
Staring at Sara’s demeanor, Anna got aggrieved. She questioned herself as to why Sara would feel like she was the victim of the situation whereas she was the cause of it. If she were older and probably wasn’t scared that Sara could deal with her appropriately (since Sara was a witch) she would have slapped her and possibly hurt her in more ways.
She couldn’t hold in her spite as she spat, “Haven’t you been selfish enough? Strangeville being cursed was your fault in the first place.”
Sara stared at Anna with wide eyes. Anna expected Sara to be furious with her, but she wasn’t. She couldn’t tell what the woman felt because she kept a straight face right after her shocked face. She hoped that she hadn’t offended the witch. If she did, there was a sure chance she would never have a flesh.
“You call me selfish?” Sara huffed. “If there’s anything I’ve been for Strangeville was to be its protector. It isn’t my fault that anything I predict can’t be avoided, no matter how I try.”
Now, Anna was perplexed. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about how Beck could never be free from his wife, Annika until he killed her. And in the moment she dies, she does the very thing I’d been trying so hard to prevent most of my life.”
“Are you saying that you aren’t the one who cursed Strangeville?”
“Of course I’m not! I was the one who even predicted it. Unfortunately, it still happened, even years after my prediction.”
Anna shook her head rapidly as the information she got sank into her. Something wasn’t adding up: this was the third story she heard about the curse in Strangeville, and just like the others had no link to them.
“Hold on. I’m confused,” she said, voicing out her thoughts. “Beck said that Strangeville, especially the woods, was haunted by someone who was killed unjustly and luring people into this area. He didn’t say why the ghost did that though, just that the unfortunate always end up dead.
“Then during the ritual preparations, the attendants said you killed Annika because you were mad that Beck left you for her. Somehow, you cursed them, which unfortunately affected the town.
“Now, you’re telling me that it wasn’t you but her who did.”
Sara didn’t respond immediately as she eyed Anna, seeming vexed. “You don’t believe me?”
Anna thought of a comeback, but dismissed it as it wouldn’t be nice to offend . . . She didn’t know if calling Sara a witch was appropriate anymore. “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
“Then you’d have to hear from Beck because he clearly didn’t say the truth.”
Anna rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right—like that’s possible.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s obvious that I can’t talk to him since I’m this way.” She gestured to herself.
“Oh, that won’t be a problem. We just have to find your body. Then perform some rituals and you’ll be fine.”
A frown appeared on Anna’s face. If it wasn’t that she wanted to be with Ava and probably help out Strangeville, she’d rather stay the way she was than go through another series of ritual.
“It won’t be as tedious as the other,” Sara said probably because she had noticed Anna didn’t fancy the idea. “It’ll be quick actually.”
“I hope so,” she muttered, turning her head away from Sara.
“All you need to do is find your sister and Beck. Wherever those people I saw at the accident scene took them, you’ll be there too.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” she said, knowing it was only the paramedic that could grace the scene and take them away. “They are at a hospital, hopefully the one Ava works at.”
She stood. “Okay, I should get going then.” She turned away, headed for the door. However, she stopped when Anna spoke.
“I thought no one could leave Strangeville.”
Sara glanced Anna’s way.
“I mean, my parents couldn’t.”
Sara raised an eyebrow at Anna, seeming quizzical about her statement.
“They’re part of those who underwent the rituals and weren’t successful.” She shrugged and squeezed her mouth.
“Oh!” she said, understanding what Anna meant. “I noticed that when I was inspecting the effect of the ritual in the astral realm. Even though I haven’t tried to leave in the flesh, I have to. The way things are is worse than ever.”
She climbed down. “Then I’ll come with you. I know where they’ll be, and you don’t.”
She shook her head. “I want you safe.”
She stepped closer to Sara, feeling like she was about to beg Ava for something. “I can help, really.” She pressed her lips together, her eyes dancing from left to right as she stared at Anna unsure of what she would tell her.
“Please,” Anna said softly while forcefully creating a sad face. This was the method she usually used on Ava. Sometimes, it worked. She hoped this would be one of those times though the woman before her wasn’t her sister.
“Okay, fine,” she sighed. “You’re lucky I can still hear and see you the way you are.”
“But don’t do anything stupid. Just watch. I’ll tell you if I need anything.”
“No problem,” she said, grinning while saluting.
Anna followed Sara out of the red room into another one. This one was much smaller and in the middle, Sara’s body was still on the floor, in a meditation position. Sara went to sit in front of her body in the same position. Soon, she disappeared, which was followed by Sara’s eyes to open. She stood off the floor and gestured to Anna to follow her.
After quickly getting out of Strangeville, avoiding people’s gazes and getting a free ride at the main road, leading to Knightdale, Sara made it in no time to the hospital Anna had told her Ava and Beck might be in. All the while, Anna trailed behind Sara, not ignoring the way the people of the town looked at Sara like she was an outcast. It made her wonder if Sara really told the truth. But when she remembered that she had told Anna to ask Beck if it were, she knew that she most likely wasn’t lying. With that thought, Anna plotted within herself that once she was up again in the flesh, she would make Beck confess in front of her, Ava—so Ava would know the kind of man she was falling for—and Sara—so he wouldn’t come up with another lie to hide or deny the truth.
When they got to the hospital, Sara wasn’t allowed to see any of them, even Beck. At first, the nurse she spoke to told her that there wasn’t any Beck Wilder in their system. But when she explained that he was brought in with Ava Clarke, she made the mistake of saying she was a friend of Beck. If she had said she was his wife or even girlfriend, she would have been allowed to see him.
While Sara was still pleading with the nurse that she was the only person that could come in for him, Anna shivered. Out of her will, she removed her eyes from the drama between Sara and the nurse and glanced around. Once she did, she sighted Annika walking towards the restricted visitors’ area in direction of the ICU.
Her feet took her in the same direction as the fear of whatever Annika would possibly do hurt Ava enveloped her. Although Sara hadn’t told Anna why Beck was trying to be free from Annika, she thought that it had to do with her being possessive as she recalled Annika’s words before going after them. She couldn’t imagine that what happened on the road wouldn’t happen again, so she had to prevent it.
And just like she thought, as soon as Anna entered the same ward Annika had stopped—as she had been hovering around the ICU, frantic and furious—she saw Annika waver her hands in Ava’s abdomen. Ava’s piercing wail made Anna on impulse to pull Annika away from Ava. They both fell, passing through the floor and entering the parking lot of the hospital. All the while, Anna thinking that she had to deal with Annika in the best way possible.