Chapter Thirty-Six

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Doom Days

By the time I make it downstairs, our flat has transformed into a horror house. I catch Ellie by the staircase, fingers threaded in what I hope is fake spider's web as she entwines it through the wooden stair railing.

Standing idly behind her is Riley, whose hands are so full of fake insects that she's struggling to keep them all from falling. I grit my teeth and try to hide the surprise from my face – Riley smiles grimly at me, lips in a long line as she bends over and places another spider into Ellie's web.

Down the staircase, hundreds of little eight-legged creatures dangle in the white fabric, twisting in the breeze and creating an illusion that they're all alive, crawling into empty crevices.

For a second I'm speechless. Sure, Riley looks like she has an invisible gun held to her head, but the gleam in her dark eyes tells me that she's enjoying it – even if she'd never admit as such.

And Ellie doesn't even look like Ellie. With a black wig trailing down to the edge of her hips, crimson coloured contacts and lips dripping with wet blood, she looks far from the girl-next-door type that I've pegged her as. Hell, a part of me is pretty sure I've seen this face in my nightmares or in the midst of a horror movie.

Seeing the two of them together like this is reminiscent of driving past a car wreck on the side of the road: you can't help but slow down and stare.

'Blink twice if your life is in danger,' I say to Riley, biting back a grin.

'Very funny,' she deadpans. 'Not that you'd care, but Halloween is actually my favourite holiday. Not to mention that Eden's going AWOL downstairs – so any excuse to get away from that mess, right?'

I tilt my head and open my mouth to say something, but Ellie beats me to it. She shakes her head and turns to look at me.

'Eden isn't going AWOL,' she says pointedly, 'she just wants everything to be perfect. I can hardly blame her,' she slides a glare to Riley (which is much scarier now that she has red eyes), 'what with everything that's been happening.'

A heavy silence weighs in the air after this, but my mind is just as loud as ever. Archie, Mara and Josie's faces all crash into me at once. Archie's dorky face covered with spots and Evelyn's ghost-like skin, missing in colour since he passed. Mara and her beautiful hair, the smile that grew on her lips when she got what she wanted. And Josie – her dark eyes and pointed chin, how even though I've only seen her on my laptop, I feel more connected to her than ever.

Sure, they all had their faults. But that's what being human is about – just because some of their actions were questionable doesn't mean that they deserved to die.

After all, shouldn't we all get a chance to become a better version of ourselves? Who are we to stop that from happening? What makes Eden think that she has the right to play God? A shiver crawls down my spine at the thought.

'What time is everyone arriving?' I ask through gritted teeth, blinking their faces away.

'Twenty minutes,' Ellie says with a smile, totally oblivious as she turns back to her web. 'But some have arrived already.'

I nod rigidly. 'And am I expected to dress up?'

Riley snorts. 'I would pay to see you –'

'– I have a witch's hat in Eden's room if you want,' Ellie says, shooting Riley a glare. 'I was gonna wear it, but I think I look creepy enough as it is.'

'You got that right,' Riley replies with a glint in her eye.

I turn away just in time to see Ellie blush beneath her make-up. Maybe I'm reading too much into it and perhaps Riley is only helping because she wants to avoid Eden, but a part of me thinks that Ellie is the perfect person to melt Riley's icy front.

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