Last week we announced that Paula Lynn Johnson’s THE GRAVE ARTIST is our new Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category: over 250 free titles, over 500 quality 99-centers, and hundreds more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer a free Kids Corner excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded this one already, you’re in for a treat!
by Paula Lynn Johnson
“Clare, a teenager reeling from her parents’ divorce, investigates her strange new artistic obsession in Johnson’s young-adult paranormal mystery.
Sixteen-year-old Clare’s life has been recently upended: After her parents’ divorce, she moved with her mom to a downscale school and neighborhood. Now she’s seeing a shrink after some binge drinking over the summer, and she can’t stop compulsively drawing skulls with wings. Her shrink believes it’s delayed grief over her father leaving the family, but Clare isn’t so sure—especially when she finds the exact same skull image on an old gravestone for a girl named Samantha. Eerie parallels exist between Clare and Samantha, who died at 16 under mysterious circumstances in 1798. Worse, Clare seems to be re-experiencing that death in vivid, frightening dreams and visions. Does Samantha want something, and what? With the help of art-class friend Neil, whose talent, gentle ways and dark coloring appeal to her, Clare investigates what really happened in 1798. At the same time, she works on repairing her fractured sense of self in the wake of the divorce, forging new understandings with her family and finding a real friend—and more—in Neil. Johnson presents a believable, multilayered heroine whose narration is lively and insightful. Clare can be sarcastic and dramatic like most teenagers, but she’s also thoughtful and observant. Reflecting on her drunken head injury last summer, Clare considers Samantha’s death: “A girl my age, on the cusp of the unknown. A girl who deserved more than to shatter on a bed of rocks, before her life stood a fighting chance of getting started.” Throughout the novel, Clare advances in empathetic understanding while remaining very much a teenager. Clare and Neil’s sweet, low-key romance is skillfully integrated into the investigation, and it even possesses interesting parallels to events in 1798. Even minor characters, like Vince, the burnout house painter, come alive. Characters speak in natural sounding dialogue, as when Vince, looking at some mysterious symbols, says: “That looks like a bad trip I had once in an Arby’s.” The action is brisk, with a surprising but believable twist near the end.
Never stilted or clumsy, this debut novel reads like the work of a far more experienced writer.” – Kirkus Review
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
The Grave Artist
Excerpted from a letter by Mr. Samuel Cummings of Millstone to his wife, Eliza, dated November 30th, 1798:
. . . according to the gossip, Caleb Forsythe visited the tavern and drank his fill. He then mounted his horse and proceeded to Scratch Hill so inebriated, it was a wonder he did not fall off the steed. As he rode along the bank of Stony Creek, it is reported, his horse reared and protested much, forcing Caleb to dismount. It was then that he peered below and discovered his daughter strewn upon the rocks, her arms outspread like a fallen angel, the current streaming over her as if she were a mere stone in the creek bed. In a frenzy, Caleb found a path to the water and descended to retrieve the girl. And when he lifted her wet corpse from the stream, her face was cast blue and so swollen as to render her almost unrecognizable. Now, they further say that the side of the girl’s head was bloodied and sunken inwards, indicating that she fell from the bank, bludgeoning her skull upon the rocks.
My dear Eliza! Such unspeakable tragedy, and on our own Hill! Of course, there are those that speculate the child’s death was no accident …
Chapter One: Wednesday, November 12th
Dr. Quint is my first real shrink, a bona fide M.D. I don’t count the hippie social worker my parents sent me to right after Dad moved out, the one with a thing for quilted jackets and chunky tribal jewelry. Helen, I think her name was. What a colossal waste of time.
I told her my father was leaving us for his paralegal: a moon-faced blonde with a tight little bod, just shy of thirty. I told her how Dad had explained to me that the better part of his life had amounted to a series of mistakes. Then I told her how – on a logical level, on an emotional level, on any level you want – I couldn’t help but regard myself as one of those errors. A human blunder, live and in the flesh.
And all Helen could do was nod and sigh and spout some New-Age crap about negative energy and listening to my spirit. “Oh, Clare,” she cooed. “Healing is a journey.” Looking at her face, pinched with false sympathy, made my stomach turn.
So no more Helen. No more therapy for a while, in fact: I’m sixteen, nearly seventeen now, and it’s been months since my last crack at it. Yet here I am, sitting across from Dr. Quint as he pages through sheet after sheet of my drawings – some penciled on notebook paper, some doodled on the backs of magazine covers, some sketched in charcoal for my Advanced Art class.
They all depict the same thing: a skull-head with gaping, eyeless sockets. Bald on top, with scaled angel-wings spilling from the sides like locks of hair. A laughing skull with a darting, heart-shaped tongue. By now, I’ve drawn so many of these winged creatures that I think of them as friends. I call them “Sammies.”
Dr. Quint adjusts his glasses and scratches his cheek. He has a pleasantly worn, lived-in face. I think I like him. I’m not sure he can say the same of me.
“Are you freaked?” I ask him, shifting uncomfortably in my seat.
He levels his eyes with mine. “Wouldn’t you be?”
I have to laugh. Dr. Quint is that rare adult with a sense of humor.
“So how did your Mom react when she saw these?” he asks.
“Oh, she loves my Sammies. That’s why she sent me here.”
He gives me a wry smile. “Why don’t you cut the sarcasm and answer my question?”
“Right, okay.” I take a breath. “Mom was pretty flipped out. I mean, my art’s always been a little too edgy for her. If I made pretty florals, maybe she’d like it more. But I’m more into abstracts, minimalist colors, that sort of thing. Not exactly her cup of tea.”
Dr. Quint raises a scrap of paper with a Sammy on it, shooting death-rays from its eye sockets. “And this?”
“Definitely not her cup of tea. She told me the Sammies were disturbing and to quit drawing them. Then she found my latest stash in the back seat of my car. I think she called you right after that.”
“Has she talked to you any more about them lately?”
“Nope. That’s what you’re for, isn’t it?” Dr. Quint raises his eyebrows. “Look, Mom doesn’t get into it with me. She’s been trying to keep a positive outlook since the divorce. I think I’m kind of a buzz kill.” I wait a beat. “Anyway. What do you think of my Sammies?”
“Actually, Clare, the skulls themselves don’t faze me at all. They’re popular now, aren’t they? Every other kid that walks into my office has one on their shirt, or dangling from an earring. It’s the fact that you’re drawing so many of them, so often, that bothers me.”
“Me, too. It’s like I’m on autopilot.” Or like I’m mental, I want to add, but I’m sure that possibility has already occurred to him.
“So let’s backtrack. When was the first time you made one of these . . .”
“Nice name. Does calling them that make them any less scary?”
I shrug. In all honesty, I don’t know why or how I settled on ‘Sammy.’ It just came from that pre-verbal place that supplies me with everything from still life subjects to online passwords.
“I think I drew my first back in September. During this workshop I took at the junior college.”
Dr. Quint leans back in his chair – burgundy leather, scuffed at the arms. The prototypical shrink-slash-intellectual chair; it could have been set-designed. I sit in a smaller, twin version. “Okay. What kind of a workshop?”
So I tell him how Dad paid to enroll me in this night class I was interested in – Secrets of the Modernist Masters – at Millstone U. Maybe he did it out of post-divorce guilt. Then again, maybe not – Dad’s always liked my art and been supportive about it.
“All right,” Dr. Quint says. “Remember that workshop. What happened when you drew that first skull?”
I pause, frowning. “I have no idea.”
“What inspired you? What was your thought process?”
“There was no thought process.” I look down, embarrassed. I’m wearing plum colored leggings under a herringbone skirt, and I spy the beginnings of a hole in one of the knees. “Dr. Quint, I don’t plan on drawing these things. I never have – they just happen. Like I start doodling during lectures, then I find them all over the margins of my books. Or I take a phone message, hang up, look down at the notepad. And instead of the message, there’s another Sammy, staring back at me. It’s not a conscious thing.”
He shakes his head at the skulls littered across his desk, some large and menacing, some dainty and no larger than a dime. So many wings, poised to take flight. “At some point, you made a decision to draw these. Let’s get to that point.” He drums his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Think back to that workshop.”
I sigh. “What makes you think I haven’t been through this dozens of times in my head?”
“Then it should be easy. C’mon, Clare. Try.”
I lean my head back against the tufted leather and close my eyes.
“Nice hair, Clare.”
Those are the first words I hear when I take my seat in the Art Studio, and they’re from Gollum. It’s a blustery Connecticut evening and the wind has whipped my hair into a crazy, electrified halo. Of course, Gollum has to notice: he has an eye for all things witchy. At school, he’s my tablemate in Advanced Art and one of the few people I’ve met at Millstone High who seems even remotely promising. And he’s the only person I know in this night class.
“God,” I say. I dip my hand into the jar of water meant for the brushes and smooth down my head. “Stupid static.”
“No, I didn’t mean that,” Gollum says, taking the seat beside me. “I meant the color. It’s new, right?”
It is: jet-black, blunt-cut, Betty Page bangs. I think the color is dramatic; Mom thinks it’s severe. Whatever it is, it’s a change. If I have to start my junior year in a new town, then I might as well update my look. Just a couple months earlier, my house was a stucco McMansion, complete with the requisite pool, cathedral ceilings and three-car garage. My Hartridge yearbook picture shows me exactly as I was: honey-haired, wearing a sunny, brainless smile. Blithely ignorant of the indignities of forgoing vacations or watching those cell phone minutes.
Now, I’m living in a Millstone split level with a lot of “character”. Translated, that’s scratched Formica countertops and only one shower between me and Mom. I’ve transferred to a “diverse” high school, which means a better racial mix than Hartridge, but no salad bar in the cafeteria or senior class trips to Italy – just potholes in the school parking lot. And so I dyed my hair to appear “arty” and “bohemian”, which is really my way of doing poor with some shred of dignity.
“So,” Gollum says, wiggling a charcoal pencil in the air. “You ready to learn the ‘Secrets of the Modernist Masters’?”
“I can hardly wait,” I say, with deadpan enthusiasm.
Gollum gives me a reliable laugh. He always rallies for my snarky jokes. With a nickname like Gollum, you’d figure he’d be pale and troll-like, but he’s actually tawny-skinned, with these vaguely Asian eyes that you can get totally lost in. Maybe he’s half-black? Half-something. I want to ask, but I don’t know how to bring it up without sounding like an idiot.
People call him Gollum because he’s obsessed with Lord of the Rings, not to mention all things wizard-y and mythical. His specialty is ceramics: primitive, otherworldly creatures that he molds from clay. Female forms with fan-shaped dinosaur spines. Sinewy, horned dogs. Feathered serpents consuming each other, mouth-to-tail. His stuff is good, actually, really well-executed. But it disturbs me a little.
I take a quick inventory of the room. About half-full, an assortment of college-age kids looking for easy credits and older people looking to get in touch with their creativity – assuming it hadn’t died a slow and tortuous death already. “So which one’s the instructor?”
“Susan? Beats me, I’ve never taken a course from her before.” Gollum nods towards the gaggle of menopausal moms seated the table over. Pert haircuts, blonde highlights. Stretch jeans that forgive the flesh. They look a lot like my Mom. “If she turns out to be one of them, I’m blowing my brains out.” He points his index finger, sticks it in his mouth, and mimes pulling the trigger.
That’s when a short, stocky woman enters the studio and draws her arms wide, as if announcing a prophecy.
“There is a man cut in two by the window!”
Silence. The woman stares at us wild-eyed. Silver hair, cropped close. No makeup. No jewelry, either, save a thick silver collar necklace – it looks Mexican, and old. Linen blazer, Oxford shirt, sensible shoes. Your basic Lesbian academic, I think, with a pang of guilt.
“There is a man. Cut in two. By the window!” she exclaims again.
The moms giggle nervously, craning their heads towards the wall of windows on the left side of the studio. Gollum and I exchange slow, uncertain smiles.
“Susan, I presume?” I whisper.
Susan crosses to the studio blackboard and scrawls in uppercase: ANDRE BRETON.
“Anyone familiar with Mr. Breton?” she asks, without turning around. More silence. She continues writing, chalk meeting the board in efficient clicks. Then she steps away to reveal a single word: SURREALISM.
“It’s the early Twentieth Century, and our Frenchman, Mr. Breton, is feeling sleepy.” Susan begins to pace the room. “Just before he drifts off, a phrase emerges from his mind’s ether: ‘There is a man cut in two by the window’. Quite an arresting image, no? So Andre Breton spaces out. He relinquishes his hold on rational thought and lets his subconscious bubble and percolate. And then he experiences an entire tsunami of pictures and phrases. All of them weird and fantastical and distressing. So much so, that Andre writes, and I quote –” Susan clears her throat for effect. “’The control I had then exercised over myself seemed to be illusory. All I could think of was to put an end to the interminable quarrel raging within me’.”
You could hear a pin drop. And then Susan claps her hands together. The hard crack of palm against palm makes us jump.
“Bang,” she says. “The Surrealist Movement is born.”
I glance at Gollum. He’s wearing an entranced grin, clearly enjoying himself.
“Mr. Breton was a writer, of course,” Susan says. “But Surrealism quickly caught on with visual artists, too. It’s been described as pure psychic automatism. The expression of primal thought, uncensored by logical standards, or artistic standards, or even moral standards.”
She dims the lights and walks to a laptop computer hooked to a projector. A bit of adjusting, then she pulls a white screen down over the blackboard. The first image appears: pocket watches wilting over seashells and bare branches, like so much rotting fruit.
“I’m sure you’re familiar with Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory,” Susan says. “That’s the money shot, as they say. But Dali painted dozens of other surrealist images.” The screen switches to a portrait of a crone’s head, balanced on a disembodied, skeletal leg. The next image is an obscene tangle of claws and limbs and wet protrusions.
“Gross,” I say, recoiling.
“Cool,” Gollum says.
The pictures continue like a grotesque freak-show parade. Hulking forms with arms like elephant trunks, groping at headless female nudes. A photograph of a guitar neck superimposed over a woman’s bare back, her spine transformed into a set of vibrating strings. Colorful amoebas swimming around a chaotic petri dish of a canvas. Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miro.
“This one’s my favorite,” Susan says. She gestures towards a portrait of a marble bust sporting sunglasses. “Here’s the ostensible subject of this painting: Orpheus, the blind poet. But the true subject is here.” She points to a shadowed figure lurking in the background. “That’s a real person, named Guilliame Apollinaire. See the white circle on his left temple? It’s a target – the original name of the piece, in fact, is Man as Target. Painted in 1914. And in 1916, Guilliame Apollinaire was hit in the left temple by shrapnel during the First World War. A strange coincidence, one that prompted some Surrealists to claim their technique tapped into visionary, psychic forces.”
I reach up to the left side of my head, behind my ear.
“Creeped out?” Gollum asks.
I ignore him and let my fingers wander through the roots of my hair, searching for the scar. It’s small and flat, nearly undetectable. The only giveaway is that the surrounding hair is shorter where they had to shave it for the stitches.
Susan flicks the lights back on and surveys us. “So what do you think?”
One of the moms wrinkles her nose. “Ewww.”
“Ewww,” repeats Susan. “How incisive. Could it be that you’re viewing the art through a conventional bourgeois lens? Superimposing your own white, upper-middle-class values?”
The mom blinks at her.
“Never mind.” Susan scans the room and squints as she sights me in her crosshairs. “What about you?” she says. “Miss -?”
“Davis. I’m – Clare Davis.”
“Okay, then, Miss Davis. What’s your response?”
I tense as all heads turn towards me. Giving my two cents in public isn’t my thing. I take a breath. “I think . . . the Surrealists had a problem with women.”
Susan’s laugh is more of a cackle. “Really! Care to explain yourself? Not that I necessarily disagree.”
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” I hate the nervous thinness of my voice. “All those hacked-up torsos with breasts? Man Ray turning the female body into an instrument to be played?”
“Maybe he was being complimentary,” Gollum says.
“Maybe he was being a complete misogynist.”
Gollum’s eyebrows shoot up. I didn’t mean to snap. But looking at those images – the faceless, naked women, the leering dream-creatures – dredges up the moment I first saw Kristen. She’s the one Dad left us for, apparently worth every cent of the alimony. One night before the divorce, before I even knew Dad was having an affair, I stopped by his law firm to drop off some cookies I’d baked. Childish, I know, but I used to do stuff like that when I knew he was working late on a big case. Well, Kristen came striding from his office in this tight shift dress, her ass rocking with each step. Then Dad exited with Mr. Cutler, one of his partners. They traded these sly, appreciative smiles, like they were in on the same dirty joke. In that moment, I had my first hazy awareness that things were wrong, and about to get worse.
“I’m with her,” says one of the moms, nodding in my direction. “The Surrealists were sexist pigs. Hardly any of them were women, were they?”
“I think you’re being unfair,” Gollum says. “Surrealism is about tapping into the subconscious. And the subconscious is full of sexual impulses.”
“Is it, now!” exclaims the mom.
“We’re about to find out,” Susan says, grinning. “Enough talk – this is a workshop class, after all. And tonight, we’re going to try our hands at a technique called Automatic Drawing.”
I turn to Gollum. “I think I can guess what this one’s about.”
Susan’s explanation is exactly what I predicted Automatic Drawing to be. In a nutshell: zone out and draw. Although the way Susan puts it sounds just a tad more sophisticated.
“We’re trying to achieve a hypnagogic state, here.” With that, she hauls a portable stereo from the corner and places it on her desk. “First, some mood music. These are sacred chants, recorded by the Holy Men of the Shoshone Nation.”
She presses play. A trembling elderly voice begins singing the same eight words, over and over, to the beat of a muffled drum. I try to clamp down my laughter, but it rears up, shaking my shoulders. It’s so stereotypically spiritual, like something Mom would listen to. All of a sudden she’s big on chakras, feng sui – anything non-Western and mystical. As if our happiness was as simple as arranging the living room furniture in the right pattern.
“You find the Shoshone funny?” Susan stares at me, her mouth a grim line.
“No. Not at all.” I dig my fingernails into my wrist and focus on the discomfort.
“Relax,” continues Susan. “Close your eyes if you want. Observe your breath rise and fall. Think of a bright, encompassing light. Or don’t think of anything at all. Let your mind float. Then, when you’ve gone blank, pick up your pencils and start to sketch. You don’t have to look at the page – you can just allow your hand to wander. Or, if you prefer, look. But don’t plan. Don’t try. And certainly don’t judge. Just draw.”
Susan takes a seat at her desk and thumbs through a book. The Shoshone Holy Man still chants, although now a reedy flute accompanies the drum. I glance around. Some people look at the ceiling. Some close their eyes and let their chins slope forward. The older guy on the opposite side of the room gazes intently ahead at nothing at all. Next to me, Gollum regards his hands, splayed flat against the table.
I regard them, too. The Holy Man’s voice is a dry husk. After a minute, maybe more, Gollum’s hands aren’t hands any more, but abstractions. I notice how the tendons fan out from his wrists, how the skin between his fingers is thin and slightly webbed, how his fingers rise from his palms like bamboo shoots, swelling at the knuckles. And at some point, I find myself staring at two beautiful and exotic stems of sea-coral.
Gollum picks up his pencil and begins to draw. I look away. Throughout the room, over the recording, I detect the hushed scrape of charcoal on paper. I focus on the table in front of me, the grain of the wood weaving and striping like cat’s fur. Years of use have pitted and grooved its surface into an entire landscape. I blur my eyes and imagine descending into one of the gouges, like a valley. And then I start to draw, too.
I know I’m drawing a skull-head. Even as I trace its rounded dome, even as I shade in the sockets, I understand that much. But like Susan told me, I don’t judge. I don’t so much as blink. I just finish the serpentine angel-wings and add the split, heart-shaped tongue, perched in the dark mouth like a perverse cherry. It’s as if I’m sitting by, watching someone else sketch this winsome corpse. And thinking: oh, yes. How interesting.
It isn’t until Gollum nudges me with his elbow that I realize the session is up, that we are now sharing our creations. I rub my head and look around the studio. Everything is recognizable, but only in a blurry, submerged way.
“I let my hand wander, just like you said,” one of the moms tells Susan. She holds up a sketchpad covered in ephemeral squiggles. “I think it looks like a Miro, don’t you?”
Susan raises a single disdainful eyebrow. “And how did you make out?” she asks the adjacent mom.
The tips of the woman’s ears glow scarlet. “Oh, not so good. I – just couldn’t get into it.”
“Well, let’s see what you’ve got and go from there,” Susan says.
The mom hugs her sketchpad to her chest. “I’d rather not.”
“Come on, Leslie!” Her girlfriend gives her a playful punch in the arm. “Be brave.”
Leslie gives a mangled smile and turns her sketchpad out. Smack dab in the middle of the paper, something weirdly resembling a penis rears its oversized head. Uncomfortable laughter works through the room.
“Nice,” Susan says, to more laughter. “No, I mean it. Phalluses are very common in this type of exercise. It means you’re dredging your subconscious for those latent impulses.”
Leslie looks close to crying. Gollum, on the other hand, looks delighted.
“Can you say ‘sexually frustrated’?” he whispers.
I snort into my hand. Susan’s head swivels our way.
“Okay, jokers,” she says. “Let’s see what you came up with.”
Gollum makes a choking noise in his throat – the same awkward one he makes during our art class at school, whenever he has to share his work. He holds up his sketchpad and looks the other way, as if it were too grisly to contemplate.
“Spectacular,” breathes Susan.
It’s a female profile. Or a machine. Or really, a machine with parts and gears assembled in the shape of a female profile, but subtly so. A tiny genderless figure cowers in the corner.
“This is what it’s about,” Susan says, nodding. “The marriage of two unrelated and disparate ideas into a new form. Of course, man-as-machine has been done. But still. Outstanding job.”
Gollum leans back, pleased. I shoot him dagger eyes.
“Suck-up,” I growl.
“All right,” Susan says to me. “Let’s have it.”
I stare down at my sketchbook and immediately, pain flares in my scar – a dull but persistent throb. There’s Sammy: crudely drawn, the angel-wings barely suggested by a series of stray lines. Still, I find him shocking, a rough urge that managed to scuttle out from some dim corridor of my mind. What’s the secret behind that gaunt, dirty smile? What’s my secret?
I hold my sketchbook out to the room. Silence.
“I don’t like skulls,” one of the moms says, curling her lip.
“Neither do I,” Susan says. “They’re trite.” She briskly crosses the room and takes my sketchbook from my hands. “This is your classic medieval Death’s Head. Visit any cemetery in Connecticut, and you’ll find it on countless tombstones. The skull, obviously, means Death. The wings represent the soul’s flight from this world to the next.” She makes a tutting sound. “Skulls are everywhere these days, aren’t they?”
“But – I haven’t seen this particular skull before.” I feel blood swarming to my face, but it’s true. I’ve never encountered those black sockets, so perfectly round; those scaly, almost reptilian wings; that weird, heart-shaped tongue.
Susan’s mouth twists. “If you live on the Eastern Seaboard, it’s impossible not to have seen one of these Death’s Heads, at some point. The Puritans loved them.”
I set my jaw. “Look, it’s not as if I spend my spare time hanging out in cemeteries. I swear, I never saw this skull before I drew it.” It’s not so much that I care about being humiliated in front of the class. I just don’t want to be humiliated in front of Gollum.
“This is very common with novices, okay?” Susan tilts her head with infuriating pity. “Somewhere, somehow, you see an image. You bury it. And then it reappears in your work, smacking of originality.”
“What matters isn’t that you use a tired old image,” Susan says. Now she’s addressing the rest of the class. “What matters is that you use a tired old image in a startling new way. Wed the image to another that rises up from your sub-conscious. Improvise, like free-form jazz.”
“Who cares what she thinks?” Gollum leans across and whispers. “She’s too academic for her own good, anyway. What do you think?”
“I’m thinking she’s right. It’s stupid. I hate it.”
“I don’t,” Gollum says. He slides his hand across so that it briefly touches my own.
Susan turns and hands the sketchbook back to me. Sammy stares up with his blind, ghoulish smile, mocking me. “You’re trying too hard,” she tells me.
“But I didn’t try at all.” The ache in my scar intensifies, stinging like a fresh wound.
“Really. I didn’t try at all.”
I’m searching Dr. Quint’s eyes for some, for any, acknowledgement. Behind him, dull light seeps through the vertical blinds, casting shadowy bars on the floor.
“Even if I had seen the same Death’s Head before, it’s not as if I made this rational effort to recreate it. It just appeared there on the page, like it was summoned.” My throat grows tight with suppressed feeling. “And now I can’t stop drawing them. I want to, but I can’t. Seriously, it’s like I’m possessed.”
Dr. Quint exhales a long, tired sigh.
“Do you believe me, Dr. Quint?”
There’s a spike of panic in my chest. Please say yes.
“Of course I believe you, Clare,” he says. “How can I not?”
He lowers his eyes at my right hand. My drawing hand. I’m clenching a ball-point pen – the same type Dr. Quint keeps in a jar on his desk.
“You don’t remember?” asks Dr. Quint. “You were telling me about the workshop. And then you grabbed a pen and started drawing on your palm.”
Slowly, I uncurl the fingers of my left hand. There he is, my familiar friend. Eyes two black holes, wings outspread to enfold me.
And then the fear overtakes me and I sob into my hands.