Chapter 9: New Lodgings

Anna, surprisingly, put up very little fuss about the move. She kept her silence and her distance as they followed Alexander into the village, but was otherwise compliant. When they reached a certain house, they were met by a man who John recognized.

“This is Tom,” Alexander said. “He’s got a spare room you can use.”

“That’s right,” Tom nodded. “And it’ll sure be warmer than that mansion.” He waved them inside. “The wife’ll show you where to put your things.”

Alexander remained outside. “I’ve got some stuff I need to check on, but I’ll stop by again in the morning.” With that he trotted off.

As soon as Alexander was gone, Tom’s wife latched on to John’s arm. “What did you see in the mansion? Please, tell me. Was it a boy?”

“What is she talking about?” demanded Anna.

“I have no idea,” John answered, wriggling free of the woman’s grasp. “I didn’t see anything.”

“A voice then? A touch on your neck? Please, I have to know.”

“That’s enough, Donna,” Tom interceded. “Let ’em be.” Turning to John, he said, “The truck comes tomorrow mornin’. Don’t know what you want to do ’bout your car, but you can worry ’bout that later. Most important thing is that you’re on that truck when it leaves. Now, Donna’ll show you to your room.”

Donna turned and led them through the house. It was small and old-fashioned, dirty and crumbling just like the rest of the village. “Here you are,” Donna said. She ushered them into something more akin to a closet than a bedroom. The bed—the only piece of furniture—was bare and only big enough for one person. A single window lit the space.

“It used to be Kyle’s,” Donna rambled. “He…well I shouldn’t bother you with that.” She left them, and as soon as she was a safe distance away John sighed.

“What a nightmare this has been,” he whispered.

“It’ll be over tomorrow,” Anna consoled.

They went to bed early that night, largely to avoid interacting with their hosts. John let Anna use the bed while he settled on the wooden floor. As he teetered on the edge of sleep, he felt Anna’s cool fingers on his cheek.

“Promise me,” she breathed. “Promise you won’t leave me here tomorrow.”

John nodded, his eyes shut. He felt himself floating up out of his body as sleep came, and darkness rushed in.

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