Adriana Priest had to look away as the scissors finished their bloody work on the rat-faced one, the leader. In her career thus far as a Shriexer, she had been witness to many terrible things: ghosts that looked like walking autopsies, bloody maws snapping hungrily in black crypts, a meat packing plant haunted by living animal carcasses. But she couldn’t watch this. This was too close. Too personal.
In time, the wet snipping ceased, and the pieces were sucked into the mansion. It sounded like a bag of pork cutlets being emptied onto the floor. The front door slammed shut.
When she was able to look again, she was alone on the front steps.
No, not alone. Something else was with her, something welling up rapidly. Panic. She hadn’t felt panic, actual panic since… not since she managed to process that first trauma. Her first encounter with the supernatural. Not since then.
The two men – the two dead men, dead, she reminded herself – they hadn’t cut her, or broken her bones, or gouged out her eyes. Her only wounds were two shallow cuts on her wrists from where she’d quickly sawed through the cinch-tie binding her hands, using a cake knife from Mimicking Millicent’s parlor table. But they had hurt her, deeply.
She couldn’t think about that now. Not now. Later. It would hit her hard later.
Right now, she had to make sure they were both dead. She had to be certain that the monsters were dead. She would never be able to look at herself in the mirror again if she thought she’d left some other poor girl to suffer at their hands.
The rat-faced leader, she knew he was gone. Intellectually, she knew it. He had been cut to pieces in front of her. But her eyes had been squeezed shut at the end, and now she had to see it for real.
Of the other one, the dumb one… while she recited her taunts to the Widow in the parlor, she could hear him screaming. Terrible, terrible screams…
He was going to make her scream like that. He…
Keep it together, she thought. Goddess, please help me keep it together.
Yes. She needed to keep her cool for just a while longer. The tears, the shaking, the vomiting would have to wait.
She opened the door and went back into the mansion. The rat-faced one, Cake, was gone. Not even a trace of blood on the marble. Good. That meant he was dead, dead, dead. The mansion had eaten him.
She walked down the hall and into the kitchen.
The dumb one was still there, but his gutted and emasculated remains were already sinking into the floor, bubbling and steaming at the edges like an egg in a frying pan. He was taking longer to be absorbed because he was relatively whole, unlike Cake, who had been carved into pieces.
Adrianna squatted nearby and watched the process until every part of him, Jaffe, every drop of blood, was gone.
It was over.
She survived. Somehow, she had made it through.
She looked at her feet; the scissors were there, hopping, almost to her toes.
She picked the scissors up and held them. “My hero. Aren’t you? Yes, you are.”
The scissors vibrated in her hand, stuttered like a bad reel of film, but did not attack.
“OK, scoot.” She tossed them gently and they landed, en pointe, on blade tips. Shuddering and twitching, they hopped away. Click, click, click.
Heading out, Adriana paused at Mimicking Millicent’s parlor. She opened the door. “Hey, Millicent. I, um. Listen, you’re a monster and a killer… but thanks. I guess.”
The ghost grinned as Adriana closed the door. After a moment, she heard her own voice from the air vent: “Hey, Millicent. I, um. Listen, you’re a monster and a killer… but thanks. I guess.”
Here was a perfect case study of why it was so vitally important to know your Haunt. If Cake and Jaffe had been familiar the stories of the murderous ventriloquist Mimicking Millicent, stalking her victims through the dark Michigan woods with her bloody scissors, mocking her prey with perfect imitations of their own screams… well, they might have figured out what Adriana was up to. Instead, they’d lingered in the kitchen, distracted by echoes from a dead woman’s lips, when they should have been running.
Outside, she dialed Claire. “It’s me.”
“Jesus Christ! Oh my god. Adriana, we’ve been looking everywhere. I’m so sorry, Steph freaked bad and we went after her—”
“It’s Okay.” She was approaching the van.
“We’ve been driving up and down the road for an hour and I’ve left you like fifty messages, where are you?”
“At the house.” She was walking past the van. The van, the van. She would have died in there. Died on the—
Don’t lose it, she thought. Not now. Later. When I’m alone. But when would that be? She was rooming with Claire. Maybe the hotel pool locker room. At night, no one—
“You know, maybe you should try leaving your ringer on.” Claire’s voice on the phone startled her, even though they were in mid-conversation. “Just a thought, yeah? We’ll be there in a few.”
Adriana hung up. Something thumped in the van behind her. She froze. Did she really hear that? Or was it her mind, starting to play tricks?
Just this one time, she wasn’t going to investigate the scary sound. Just this once.
The others were waiting in Claire’s SUV by the time she’d walked the length of the dirt drive. They’d left the front passenger side door open for her. Adriana climbed up and in, saying nothing, and sat staring ahead at the dark road.
From the back, Steph said, “I’m so sorry, Addy, I didn’t mean to run, but when that witch started to repeat everything I was saying I just—”
There was a heavy silence among the other women: Claire in the driver’s seat, Steph and Allison in the rear seats, and Gina in the far back with the gear. The could tell something very bad had happened.
Adriana wasn’t with them. She was thinking of the childhood story recounted to her by her Nan Rose, the story that had just saved her life: Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch.
She’d told Cake and Jaffe that Mimicking Millicent’s Scissor House was a Dark Ride, and that it was perfectly safe as long as you knew the trick, and she hadn’t lied.
She’d just left out the part about Mimicking Millicent killing men exclusively, her hatred focused solely that miserable gender because of one man, a married lover, who had held her down and forced an abortion on her to end an inconvenient pregnancy, using a long pair of scissors.
Millicent’s Haunt was perfectly safe so long as you were a woman. Men tended not to fare so well.
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