Hollow City / Page 53

Page 53

“Your eyes don’t mean nothing!” the girl said. “False lenses are the oldest trick in the book—and trust me, I know ’em all.”

The girl took a step toward us, into the light. Hate smoldered in her eyes. She was tomboyish, except for the dress, with short hair and a muscular jaw. She had the glassy look of someone who hadn’t slept in days; who was running now on instinct and adrenaline. Someone in that condition wouldn’t be kind to us, nor patient.

“We are peculiar, I swear!” Emma said. “Watch—I’ll show you!” She lifted one hand from her head and was about to make a flame when a sudden intuition made me grab her wrist.

“If there are hollows close by, they’ll sense it,” I said. “I think they can feel us kind of like I feel them—but it’s much easier for them when we use our powers. It’s like setting off an alarm.”

“But you’re using your power,” she said, irritated. “And she’s using hers!”

“Mine is passive,” I said. “I can’t turn it off, so it doesn’t leave much of a trail. As for her—maybe they already know she’s here. Maybe it’s not her they want.”

“How convenient!” the girl said to me. “And that’s supposed to be your power? Sensing shadow creatures?”

“He can see them, too,” said Emma. “And kill them.”

“You need to invent better lies,” the girl said. “No one with half a brain would buy that.”

Just as we were talking about it, a new Feeling blossomed painfully inside me. I was no longer sensing the left-behind residue of a hollow, but the active presence of one.

“There’s one nearby,” I said to Emma. “We need to get out of here.”

“Not without the bird,” she muttered.

The girl started across the room toward us. “Time to get on with it,” she said. “I’ve given you more than enough chances to prove yourselves. Anyway, I’m beginning to enjoy killing you things. After what you did to my friends, I just can’t seem to get enough of it!”

She stopped a few feet from us and raised her free hand—about to bring what was left of the roof down on our heads, maybe. If we were going to make a move, it had to be now.

I sprang from my crouched position, threw my arms in front of me, and collided with the girl, knocking her to the floor. She cried out in angry surprise. I rammed my fist into the palm of her free hand so she couldn’t snap her fingers again. She let the bird go, and Emma grabbed it.

Then Emma and I were up, rushing toward the open door. Horace was still on the floor in a daze. “Get up and run!” Emma shouted at him.

I was pulling Horace up by his arms when the door slammed in my face and a burned dresser lifted out of the corner and flew across the room. The edge of it connected with my head and I went sprawling, taking Emma down with me.

The girl was in a rage, screaming. I was certain we had only seconds to live. Then Horace stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs:

“Melina Manon!”

The girl froze. “What did you say?”

“Your name is Melina Manon,” he said. “You were born in Luxembourg in 1899. You came to live with Miss Thrush when you were sixteen years old, and have been here ever since.”

Horace had caught her off guard. She frowned, then made an arcing motion with her hand. The dresser that had nearly knocked me unconscious sailed through the air and then stopped, hovering, directly above Horace. If she let it drop, it would crush him. “You’ve done your homework,” said the girl, “but any wight could know my name and birthplace. Unfortunately for you, I no longer find your deceptions interesting.”

And yet, she didn’t quite seem ready to kill him.

“Your father was a bank clerk,” Horace said, speaking quickly.

“Your mother was very beautiful but smelled strongly of onions, a lifelong condition she could do nothing to cure.”

The dresser wobbled above Horace. The girl stared at him, her brows knit together, hand in the air.

“When you were seven, you badly wanted an Arabian horse,” Horace continued. “Your parents couldn’t afford such an extravagant animal, so they bought a donkey instead. You named him Habib, which means beloved. And loved him you did.”

The girl’s mouth fell open.

Horace went on.

“You were thirteen when you realized you could manipulate objects using only your mind. You started with small things, paper clips and coins, then larger and larger ones. But you could never pick up Habib with your mind, because your ability did not extend to living creatures. When your family moved houses, you thought it had gone away entirely, because you couldn’t move anything at all anymore. But it was simply that you hadn’t gotten to know the new house yet. Once you became familiar with it, mapped it in your mind, you could move objects within its walls.”

“How could you possibly know all this?” Melina said, gaping at him.

“Because I dreamed about you,” said Horace. “That’s what I can do.”

“My God,” said the girl, “you are peculiar.”

And the dresser drifted gently to the floor.

* * *

I wobbled to my feet, head throbbing where the dresser had hit me.

“You’re bleeding!” Emma said, jumping up to inspect my cut.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I said, dodging her. The Feeling was shifting inside me, and being touched while it was happening made it harder to interpret; interrupted its development somehow.

“Sorry about your head,” Melina Manon said. “I thought I was the only peculiar left!”

“There’s a whole gang of us down your well, in the catacomb tunnel,” Emma said.

“Really?” Melina’s face lit up. “Then there’s still hope!”

“There was,” said Horace. “But it just flew out the hole in your roof.”

“What—you mean Winnifred?” Melina put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. A moment later, the pigeon appeared, flying down through the hole to land on her shoulder.

“Marvelous!” said Horace, clapping his hands. “How’d you do that?”

“Winnie’s my chum,” Melina said. “Tame as a house cat.”

I wiped some blood from my forehead with the back of my hand, then chose to ignore the pain. There wasn’t time to be hurt. I said to the girl, “You mentioned that wights have been here, chasing pigeons.”

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