“Right next to you.”

Even though I knew it was my mind playing tricks on me, I still felt a presence beside me. It was the same way you could tell someone was sneaking up behind you. A disturbance in the air gave them away. I longed to look at my side, but I feared doing so would make Maggie think I believed her.

So, I didn’t look, even when I felt—or thought I felt—someone brush my hand. Instead, I glanced across the room to Hannah, hoping her reaction would tell me if something was there. But Hannah’s eyes were shut tight as she continued to slide backward into the corner where Maggie said Miss Pennyface was standing.

She wasn’t, of course. There was no Miss Pennyface. But when Hannah reached the corner, she began to shout.

“Something touched me! Something touched me!”

In between her screams, I again heard the noise under the bed.

A muffled skittering.

Like a giant spider.

Without thinking, I dropped to my knees.

Above me, Maggie had resumed shrieking, matching Hannah in volume. More noise started up from the doorway. Jess asking me what the hell I was doing.

I ignored her.

I ignored everything.

I was focused solely on the bed. I needed to see what was under there.

With trembling hands, I touched the bed skirt, brushing it aside.

Then I peered into the dark under Maggie’s bed.

Nothing was there.

Then the bedsprings sank—a jarring sight that made me yelp and jump away from the bed. I looked up and saw it was Hannah, out of her sleeping bag and now standing on the bed. She tugged at Maggie’s arms, trying to snap her out of whatever spell she was under.

“Make it stop, Maggie!” she yelled. “Make it stop!”

Maggie stopped screaming.

Her head snapped in Hannah’s direction.

Then she punched her.

Blood sprayed from Hannah’s nose, flying across Maggie, the bed, the floor.

A stunned look crossed Hannah’s face as she tilted backward and dropped off the edge of the bed. She hit the floor hard, wailing the moment she landed. Jess and Petra ran to her.

I stayed where I was.

Also on the floor.

Staring up at my daughter, who seemed not to have realized what she’d just done. Instead, she looked to the corner by the closet. The door was now shut, although I had no idea how or when that could have happened.

It was the same with the armoire. Both doors were completely closed.

Maggie looked to me and, in a voice thick with relief, said, “They’re gone.”


I close my father’s copy of the Book, having just read the chapter about the sleepover. As I stare at the aerial view of Baneberry Hall on the cover, what Hannah said about that night plays on repeat in my head.

It’s all true.

But it isn’t. It can’t be. Because if the part about the sleepover is true, then so is the rest of the Book. And I refuse to believe that. The Book is bullshit.


I shake my head, disappointed by my own uncertainty. Of course it’s bullshit. I’ve known that since I was nine.

Then why am I still here at the dining room table with the Book in front of me? Why did I feel compelled to sit down and read the chapter about the sleepover in the first place? Why am I on the verge of reading it a second time?

I want to think it’s because doing a deep dive into House of Horrors is easier than facing the idea that my father might have killed Petra. It’s a much-needed distraction. Nothing more.

But I know better. I’ve seen too many similarities between real life and the Book to dismiss it outright, and I can’t shake the feeling that something eerie is happening. Something strange enough to make my hands tremble as I open the Book.

Then close it.

Then open it again.

Then throw it across the dining room, where it hits the wall in an angry flutter of pages.

I grab my phone, checking to see if my mother returned my call while I was reading. She hasn’t. I call again. When it goes straight to her voicemail, I hang up without leaving a message. What am I going to say? Hi, Mom, did you know about the body in the ceiling, and did Dad do it, and did I really see ghosts as a child?

I drop the phone onto the table and reach for my dinner—a bag of tortilla chips and a can of mixed nuts. Although there’s enough food in the house for several meals, cooking isn’t in the cards. After what happened in the kitchen, I want to spend as little time there as possible. So I stuff some chips into my mouth and wash them down with a beer. That’s followed by some nuts, which I chomp while eyeing the Book, now splayed on the floor. I’m tempted to pick it up. Instead, I grab the Polaroids I found in my father’s study.

The first one is the picture of my mother and me entering the woods. On the far side of the frame is that dark shape I thought might have been a person but is clearly a tree in shadow.

Next is the one from the sleepover, with me and Hannah as minor players in the Petra Show. I study her pose—the hand on her hip, the bent leg, the lips parted in a flirty smile. I can’t help but think she was putting herself on display for my father.

Petra had a boyfriend, Hannah had said. Or something.

Could that have been my father? Was he capable of betraying my mother like that? Even though he once told me my mother was the only woman he’d ever loved, sometimes love has nothing to do with it.