Annis got up and went to the small drawer where she kept her few personal possessions. She took out an obviously old newspaper and handed it to Jess.
Jess took the paper in careful hands and read the story of that catastrophic night. She handed it back to Annis, who gave her another yellowed sheet. This was dated some six months later and concerned a memorial service for the dead. The report contained three photographs: the funfair at the height of its popularity; the burnt out wreck; and the cleared site after the wreckage had been demolished.
“So the fairground isn’t really here. But what about the thugs at the gate?”
“Were here before bulldozers came.”
“Okay. So I’m sitting in a cabin that doesn’t exist, in a fairground that doesn’t exist, being pursued by a vampire that I don’t believe in. Am I talking to a girl child that doesn’t exist?“
She watched Annis closely as she asked the question and saw something that could have been sadness briefly touch her face, then fade back into uncertainty. The girl gave a small shrug.
“I don’t know.”
Jess reached over and squeezed Annis’ hand.
“I never have a friend.”
“Well you do now.”
“May change your mind before this is over. The thing I think you must do is hard. Needs brave.”
“Then you probably have the wrong woman.Maybe I used to be brave. But now – well, now I’m just broken.”
Annis snorted. “Stop silliness. If you had no brave you would be curled in corner crying. Or under vampire’s will.”
Jess shrugged and Annis went so far as to give her a sharp little shake.
“Stop stupidness. You don’t have to even try. But if you can’t you are stuck here. With blonde bloodsucker for company. And you see, he not so pretty when he here.”
Jessica managed to smile at that.
“No he’s not. But you are here, aren’t you?”
“Me and cats. But I not make good company.”
There was a longish silence while the sounds from the fairground outside grew more and more hectic and less and less controlled. In the end Jessica lifted a shoulder resignedly.
“So what must I do?”
Annis stared into her face for a long moment, trying to weigh the chances that telling the truth would send her guest screaming into the night. But she couldn’t bring herself to lie. Not here. Not now. And not to the woman who had called her friend. She squared her slight shoulders and spoke with care.
“Underground there is a place. Belong to the oldest of the Old Ones. There is black basalt throne, and beside throne is Stone of Remembrance. Stone is green jade, striped red with the blood of sacrifice. If you would be free you must sit on the basalt throne, and give blood to the Stone. Must cut your own wrist with the Stone Knife. Blood given willingly will break circle….”
“And then what happens?”
“I know not.”
“But we have to try. Don’t we?”
Annis nodded and said no more, being unwilling to push, and having nothing to say that wouldn’t sound as if she was pushing. Jessica sighed.
“Will I even get to this throne?”
“Yes. Is not problem. I can get you there.”
“I was afraid that might be the case. But once I’m on the throne?”
“I can help no more.”
“I was afraid that might be the case too. Is there any way I can see what I’m getting myself into?”
“I have pictures. I draw.”
Annis fetched a thick sketch pad from her drawer and handed it shyly to Jess. The older woman opened it and her mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise. There were sketches of the cats, the fairground, and a whole group of pictures of a swarthy teenage boy whose arms were covered in tattoos. She opened her mouth to ask about him then saw the stark misery in Annis’ dark swirling eyes.
“Mine. I still hear him whistling.”
Jess put the book down and cradled the teenager in her arms.
“I’m so sorry.”
Annis sniffed unromantically.
“Not you fault. Next pages is what you need.”
Part 12 of Maybe will be here next week…