“Well. I guess if we look on the bright side, nothing else can go wrong,” Kimmy Bass spoke up from her seat on the bus. “We’ve pretty much run the gamut.”
Corky Corcoran fixed her with a warning glance, replying, “Please don’t say that. Something always goes wrong. Something always goes horribly wrong.”
The bus had stopped off to the side of the highway, and all they could see in front of them were red flashing lights. An accident up ahead, Corky wondered, or maybe it was something to do with the storm everyone said was going to rip through Shadyside.
But in Shadyside, how often was a storm really a storm?
There was always something lurking beneath it… Why didn’t they move? Corky wondered. After Bobbi had died, why hadn’t the Corcorans gotten away from it all and never looked back? There had to be somewhere on Earth that this thing, whatever it really was, couldn’t follow them.
Here she was, a year later, and nothing had changed. But everything had changed.
“Corky?” Kimmy spoke up. “You in there? Earth to Corky…”
She could remember when Kimmy had hated her, when her and Ronnie had made rude comments behind her and Bobbi’s backs. In some ways, she wished she could go back to those days, as much as she loved having Kimmy as a friend…
But that wasn’t a decision she wanted to think about, a friend for a sister.
Corky needed to get her head out of places like that – feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to help if there was something they needed to do, now.
And as much as she wished it really was just a storm, she also knew better by now.
Corky looked over at Kimmy and saw the other girl look downward.
Corky plopped down in the bleachers and set her paper plate on her lap.
“Ten minutes. Do you think I can eat this thing in ten minutes?” she asked Kimmy.
“Yeah, maybe. You’re probably going to end up with cheese all over yourself, though. I wasn’t that dedicated. I’ll eat when I get home.”
Debra sighed, sitting next to Kimmy.
“Do you ever feel like we’re… hamsters or something?”
“What do you mean?” Corky asked.
“That we’re running in a wheel and we’re just stuck doing the same thing over and over again?”
“I don’t think it’s like that… I think… I think we’re going to win one day. It’s just a matter of time.” She pulled off a piece of cheese and let it burn her fingers. It was funny how even the things she loved tried to burn her now.
That night, Corky dreamt of Bobbi again. But what was she trying to tell her this time? Not that the Evil was back within her… But maybe that it was gone for good? Could they be so lucky?
Sometimes she was so tired, fighting all the time.
Sometimes she just wished… But she wouldn’t think like that.
In her dream, everything was like it was now, except that Bobbi was there. She acted like nothing was wrong, even as Corky tried to grab her arm to warn her about it all.
Warn her that it wasn’t safe to go out there; in fact, it might never be safe again and she didn’t want to lose her again…
But she never listened. She just skipped by, happy and content.
And deaf, perhaps.
Deaf to the warning bells that were always screaming in Corky’s head.
“What should we do? We’ve got to get ready, just in case…”
Corky had set to work. She had to come up with a plan. She couldn’t risk losing one of her friends.
But what kind of plan guarded against an evil spirit that could inhabit the people closest to you? Something you could only sense, not smell or feel or see?
Colorless and odorless…
“Have you slept? At all?” Kimmy peered up from her couch, concern flooding her face.
Corky was annoyed – who could think of sleep at a time like this? If she was sleeping, the evil could be anywhere… She would keep her eyes open. She had the will.
“You’re not going to be able to help any of us if you can’t be bothered to take care of yourself.”
Corky knew she meant well, but she closed her hands over her ears. Voices, all the voices, pulling her every which way.
What she would give to turn back the clock and be normal again.
But maybe… maybe she had never been normal at all.
“Bobbi. Won’t you help me?”
Corky was lying in bed, her blanket wrapped around her. Maybe it could keep her safe; maybe it could keep the nightmares out.
Or maybe nothing could.
“Won’t you help me figure out what to do? How to defeat it for good?”
But maybe it wasn’t back at all; maybe it was all in Corky’s head. How could she fight it if it turned out to only be something she had conjured up on her own?
She shut her eyes and found herself at the top of a pyramid, ready to jump off.
Except the floor wasn’t there, and she was hurtling into space.
Go team, she thought. Win, win, win.
The storm, it came and went. A drainpipe burst and there was a leak that spread through Bobbi’s old room.
Kimmy came over to help Corky clean it up.
She wondered if the smell of rotten wood would ever get out of her nose.
“Corky.” Kimmy was looking at her, staring at her even.
“I’m not going crazy,” Corky snapped.
“I never said you were.” Kimmy’s voice was softer than normal. Corky could remember how bitter she had been when she hadn’t made captain, the way she could simmer and snap. This felt like a different girl. “Or maybe we’re all a little crazy. But…maybe in the days ahead… maybe that’s what we’re going to need.”
She reached out and took Corky’s hand.
They were at the top of a pyramid, and they were ready to jump to whatever was underneath them.