Paranormal, Occult & Supernatural

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The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.

Chapter Four

“Frankie?” Mr. Kurtis stared down at me. “You okay?” The bell had gone for next period, but I hadn’t moved.

I took a breath. “Yeah. Just thinking about something.” Between my long skirt, my clunky black boots, and Max’s weird behaviour, I wobbled a little getting to my feet.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah. Hey, uh, that kid, the new one who came to class with me. Do you know anything about him?”

Mr. Kurtis frowned at me. “New kid?”

If he told me there wasn’t a new kid, I was going to pass out. What if Kris was right and all the crap I’d gone through as a kid had come back to haunt me? Maybe I was having a psychotic break or something. Panic rose in me as I waited for Mr. Kurtis to respond. “He sat beside me in class,” I said, to jog his memory.

“Oh, yeah. What about him?”

I gave a relieved exhalation. “He looked familiar. Do you know what school he used to go to?”

Mr. Kurtis shook his head. “I didn’t even know I was getting a new student.”

Except for a few stragglers, the hallway was empty.

“You’d better get to class.” He wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me with a grin. “Say it’s my fault you’re late.”

I looked for Max for the rest of the week. Scoured the cafeteria, the halls, the library, the stoner hangout doors — anywhere I thought he might go. Every kid wearing a hoodie got a second glance, but I never found him.

If he was a foster kid, it was possible he’d been placed with a new family. Sometimes there was no warning. The social worker just showed up, and as soon as you were packed up, you left. Maybe that was what had happened to Max.

But his disappearance had left me with questions. How had he known my real name? And why did we both dream about the same person? Max had said the man’s name was Monsieur Duval, but how did he know that? The whole thing irked me.

All week, the dream kept coming, but small things changed each night. Sometimes I woke up with an extra detail still clear in my head. I got in the habit of leaving my sketchbook on my nightstand. With the image fresh in my mind, I’d reach for my sketchbook and draw whatever I’d seen in my dream. This morning, Monsieur Duval, as I’d come to think of him, had held his arms up in the air, as if to draw the audience’s attention. He’d had an Egyptian ankh tattooed on his wrist. It seemed like a strange choice for a man like him.

I caught myself. I was thinking about him as if he were real, filling in his personality where there was none. I didn’t know anything about him. Why would I know what kind of tattoo he would get?

“It’s just a dream,” I mumbled to myself. “It’s not real.”


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The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass


Eli popped an extra-strength Advil and downed it with a mouthful of lukewarm coffee. She hoped that would stop the ache in her chest, although it would do nothing for the rattling cough that kept her awake at night. Bronchioles turning to thorns and spiderwebs were hell on a body. Eventually she would turn back into the parts the witch had used to make her — a girl stitched together out of beetle shells and hawthorn berries and a witch’s greed.

Eli took another sip of coffee and flicked her eyes to a corner of the café. The ghost had taken the form of a middle-aged man in Clark Kent glasses — he must have been watching old films to think those were still in style — and was fumbling with a MacBook. He hadn’t touched his coffee, which was a dead giveaway. Caffeine short-circuited a ghost’s nervous system.

She drew a dagger of glass, enchanted to be invisible to human eyes. Pasted on a nervous smile, the one she saw often on teenagers in the human world. Then she stood up.

It was time.

Eli wasn’t just a teenage girl with heavy bangs falling over round glasses, fighting with her mother and writing bad poetry in her journal (although she did some of that, too). Eli was an assassin.

She bumped into Clark Kent’s table as she walked past, spilling his coffee.

“Shit!” He grabbed his computer and jumped up, but not before some of the liquid had spilled onto his crisp tan pants. He hissed in pain.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” Eli did her best squeal. “I’ll get you some napkins!” She lightly pressed the flat of the blade against the back of his neck, reflecting the magic inward. Trapping the ghost inside.

Eli ran back to the counter to grab some napkins. “I’m sooo clumsy,” she told the barista, who smiled sympathetically.

The blade had rendered the man docile. The body looked sick and confused. She’d never seen one so weak. Unless it was a trick.

Coffee dripped onto the floor — a lulling, rhythmic soundtrack to everyday murder.

Eli picked up the laptop, wiped down the table, and then carefully placed it down again. She eyed him warily, looking for evidence of the ghost. Sometimes they came out of the ears like steam and tried to escape, even when she used the glass knife. Hunting down a cloud of steam was a pain in the ass. This one seemed safely neutralized.

“You should go wash up,” she told him. He nodded slowly. The man stood up, unsteadily, and walked to the bathroom at the back of the café. She followed him.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated, trying to remind herself to walk noisily, clumsily, like a human would. Her blades swung in a gentle, familiar rhythm at her hips.

Through the door, into a room with flickering fluorescent lights and dirty linoleum. The glaring afternoon sun pouring in through a window. A mirror reflecting their images back at them: a girl and a man. Hunter and prey.

Usually the ghosts resisted, and the trick was to keep them in the human body by magic and force. But this one seemed tired and ready to die. Eli wondered for a moment if she found that thought comforting — that she was helping him find peace. Exorcising the demon. Putting the body to rest. Then she shook her head.

She was made to kill.

She was created to derive pleasure in a job well done. And she was close to completing another assignment. She pulled out a different knife, cloudy, its color shifting and changing between greys, blacks, and pearl-toned whites. The man’s eyes widened. “What — “”

Eli drove it into his skull. It went through easily, and she rooted around inside for a few moments trying to catch the sleeping ghost. Trying to drag the magic out of its human shell.


Blood poured from the shattered skull, shimmering across her face like a red galaxy as she pressed deeper into his brain. The body collapsed on the floor in a heavy, meaty pile.

Eli stepped back, heart racing. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Once she knifed a ghost, its body transformed back into what it was made from — a dog bone or an old biscuit.

This body remained stubbornly human. Eli heard footsteps outside the bathroom door and she was standing in blood, in the blood of the man she had just murdered — a human — and if someone saw her they would call the cops, they would track her down. Human bullets would hurt her as surely as they puncture holes in trees, and she would bleed, too. Even if she survived, her handlers would come for her and finish the job.

A thought jarred her out of panic: this man was the mark. She wasn’t mistaken. Which meant someone else had fucked up and put her here.

Fear and fury burned through Eli’s body, making her cough violently as stone turned to ash in her lungs. (She had been warned about strong emotions.) Her hand tightened on the knife and she made the split-second decision to live. She was, after all, made to possess strong survival instincts.

As for the anger? That was entirely her own.

As the bathroom door opened, Eli threw herself at the window, cracking it with her elbow. She fell into the back alley behind the café. Taking a breath, she checked that her glamour was still in place — brown eyes, blonde hair, mouth heavy with lipstick — and that her blades were still shielded from human eyes. Then she forced herself to walk slowly into the bustling downtown, into the heart of the City of Ghosts.

Above the city, invisible to the human eye, darkening to a deep blue speckled with stars, hung the monstrous and magical City of Eyes.


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