“Devan, it’s—it’s not your mother. Your mother is dead. This is just wrong.”
“I won’t leave her!” He hugged the body of his mother, burying his face in her putrid chest.
Lacey gagged, but she had to help her friend. She inched forward. “She is gone. But you have new family now, the people in Pine Ridge. Ms. Tona, who took you in and gave you a home. The hunters, who made you one of them.”
“None of them wanted me, just like my brothers didn’t want me after she died. Everyone hates me—you hate me.”
Lacey slowly reached out toward him. She stopped cold as the corpse’s eyes flew open--pink-rimmed, perfect white eyeballs, staring up with gold-flecked green irises and dilated pupils, in the middle of the black flesh of her face. The disgusting undead body had been bad enough, but the eyes were aware and intelligent.
“Mama?” Devan said. “Mama, it’s me. I brought you back.” He tried to lift her up to a sitting position and Lacey looked away, too late to avoid seeing pieces of the corpse fall away as he did.
The corpse reached her decaying fingers up to trace the tear tracks on her son’s cheeks.
“Th-the guhrl ish right, my bayhhby,” his corpse mother slurred. Pieces of her cheeks flapped as she spoke.
“I won’t leave you again, Mama. I never should have left your side, that day in the mine. I should have listened to you. I wish I had died with you!” Tears flowed freely down his face. “I don’t want to be alone.”
The unnatural eyes looked at Lacey, begging her to do something. She had no idea Devan had been suffering so much. How could she talk sense into him? She could lie. But he would see right through it. Truth was the best choice.
“Devan, you’re right. A lot of people didn’t know how to deal with you, and kept passing you along to be the next person’s problem. But you didn’t make it easy!” Lacey said. The corpse-mother groaned, and Lacey continued on in a rush. “You didn’t let anyone know you. You pushed everyone away and tried your hardest to make us reject you. These last few weeks, you were too sick to be your normal jerk self, and I got see the real you. I think we became friends, didn’t we?”
Devan looked up, sniffling. “I—I guess.”
“So your not alone.”
Devan held his mother tighter.
“Gho. I doh noht behlongh wif you ahnymrrr.” The corpse-mother said, making feeble attempts to push his arms away.
“I won’t come unless you help me carry her,” he said, and then pointed at Blayd, like he was making an accusation. “Is he my friend? Will he help me carry her?”
Blayd shook his head violently, a shiver running through his whole body.
Lacey glared at him. “Of course he is your friend, Devan. But the dead need to stay buried. You have to come with us, and leave the past behind.”
She placed her hands on his shoulders, trying not to brush against the reanimated flesh in his arms, and pulled him gently.
“No,” he shrieked and swung at Lacey to knock her away. As he did so, he wrenched his mother’s arm, ripping it from her socket. It fell to the ground and Lacey stared from it, to the dead woman’s eyes, round at the horror of it, though she seemed to feel no pain.
Lacey turned away before she really did throw up. Devan blubbered, begging his mother for forgiveness, and placing the arm in her lap. So much for people listening to her. Maybe she wasn't even half Founder. Maybe Ezerelle had made a mistake.
Beside them, the well squatted--a silent lump of stones around a dark hole in the earth.
Lacey screamed in rage. “Why do you do this to us? What did we ever do to you?” She kicked the stones. Pain shot through her foot, and the stones remained unmoved. Kicking didn’t do anything, but putting the capstone back in place might.
“Blayd, come here. Help me.” She needed his strength.
Blayd took a hesitant step forward.
Lacey bent down to get a grip on the capstone, but as she did she lost her balance and her bare hand shot out to steady her balance, grabbing the stone she had just kicked. The well screamed in her head, and her heart, and her whole body. Demanding what it wanted.
Lacey stumbled back, hands clutching her ears. Blayd ran to her, catching her as her knees buckled.
The well seethed with desire and need; it’s one simple call clear and insistent in her head. It was no longer just a whisper or a song pulling her. It was a voice in her head that commanded: “Wish!”
“I will not!” Lacey howled. Blayd howled with her, dragging her away from the well and Devan. She tried to resist him—though she wasn’t certain if she was resisting because she needed to help Devan, or to make a wish.
Blayd wrapped his arms around her body, not letting her go.
“Well, well,” a sly voice came from the edge of the clearing. Lacey snapped back to herself at the sound of it. Goeden stood at the edge of the fog and trees, dragging a struggling sack behind him. “No pun intended.” He chuckled, as he drew his knife and slashed open the sack.
Ella’s golden head popped up and Goeden hauled her out by the scruff. Ella kicked and bashed the air with her little fists. Then she saw her sister and shouted, “Lacey! Run away, he is a bad bad mousey!”
Goeden growled and dragged Ella over to the well, “I am not a mouse you little cretin. I am a man. I am your Founder and I command you to wish.”
YOU ARE READING
Lacey is a bat girl. Seven years ago, her mother wished at the well in the heart of the Wish Wood, transforming a young bat-ling into a human girl--mostly human. But Lacey is growing up, Mama has a real daughter now, the kids in town tug on her poin...