Ariana walked towards me.
The knife that was held before her and the blood that had dried against the cruel edges where the girl had thrust the knife through Eminem.
The memory of how we had found Zayne in the kitchen and him strung up like a butchered animal above the chopping board. How his tongue had been skewered against the metal spike. Eminem standing as guilty as hell at the base of the table and the blood that had been splattered against his overalls. The dumb look of guilt against his face. And what had he uttered before Ariana had thrust the kitchen knife through his back.
It’s her. He had said. It was her.
Ariana walking towards me with the blade that was lifted before her and the cruel edges where the blood had dried. A look of darkness that flashed against her eyes I had never seen before. And now that we were here, and found ourselves at the top of this tower, it was possible to believe anything might be true. And who knew what evil might reside within the grounds of Deadwood Hospital? And who knew what evil had been drawn towards the centre of its dark heart? And that was why I backed away a little from Ariana as she placed a step towards me and the knife that was held before her. A curious expression that coloured her features and the shadows that seemed to hang close against the creases of her face. She placed another step towards me and the knife that was held before her.
“No,” I said, “Not you.” The memory of how I had discovered Ariana asleep in her bed earlier tonight. And the terrible vision I had seen against her sweet features. Her face that had been burned away so that the fat was glistening and sticky against the flesh.
Ariana shook her head and fixed a steady gaze upon me as she placed another step forward. And only my body that remained standing between Ariana and Sister Dixon. And the memory of what Ariana had told me back there in the hospital, her desperate words of fear, of how Sister Dixon had brought her back to Deadwood Manor. The cruel pain that she had endured within the tower.
“I’m sorry Mandy.” Ariana said, as she placed another step towards me and the floorboards that creaked beneath her foot. And I knew that I shouldn’t fear the girl, but all the same, I found that I moved to my side and edged away towards the wall and away from Ariana.
“What have you done?” I found myself saying, and I did not have the slighted clue where the accusation had come from, but a part of me that had listened and understood the truth that Sister Dixon had uttered.
“The devil walks amongst us!” Sister Dixon hissed, turning to me and her copper hair all aglow with currents of electricity that were passing through the silver disc where she remained standing. The silver disc that remained positioned above her head. “You know it Mandy, as well as I do.”
“No.” I said, shaking my head from left to right and my gaze that returned to Ariana and the pigtails that she wore against the sides of her head that bounced with each step that she placed towards Sister Dixon. A look of wild mischief that creased against Sister Dixon’s face as she turned towards Ariana. Sister Dixon’s eyes that were wide and ablaze with a preternatural neon light. Her face that was covered in demonic tattoos so that it appeared as though she was rippling with scales. And the sense that I had fallen towards the darkest of nightmares.
And that was when Sister Dixon lifted her arms towards Ariana and opened her hands towards the child. And a look of wild ecstasy that coloured Sister Dixon’s features and transformed her beautiful face into something horrid and grotesque.
“Take me.” She said, her arms lifted out towards Ariana and her hands that were opened wide. The copper strands of hair that had animated themselves to life somehow and her eyes that were aglow with some cruel energy. “Take me Lord.” She said.
And I knew that Sister Dixon had lost it completely then. That the woman was a fruitcake and had been banged up with the loonies for too long. I watched as Sister Dixon brought her hands towards the centre of her cotton dress and hooked her fingernails across the creases and pulled open the seams in an act of sudden violence. Her shirt flew open at the centre to reveal her skin beneath.
And I closed my eyes at the terror that had been revealed. The skin that was red and raw and appearing as though she had been lashed a thousand times with a barbed whip. The blood that had leached against the terrible wounds and dried against her skin and appearing as though her skin was melting and dripping along the edges. An image that had been branded against her tummy. A terrible scar against her stomach in the shape of a pentangle. And the nonsense words that flowed across her tongue that I could not begin to understand.
“I’ve been waiting for you.” She said, her eyes that were wide and wild and her arms that had been lifted once more towards Ariana. The woman’s fingers that were straining towards Ariana. “I have done everything that you asked of me. I brought them here, all of them. Home. To Deadwood. And I prayed that you would return. Each night and every morning. And I knew that you would. I knew that you would my lord. And for a while I had been deceived and was sure that you might be found somewhere else, in someone else.” She said, turning to me and then returning her gaze once more towards Ariana. “But I was wrong, and I can see that now, and it could only have been you. And I am yours my Lord. I am yours. And you can take me now. And I wish you too and wish for nothing more.”
And all the while, I remained shaking with fear against the wall.
Bursts of lightening that slashed against the darkness beyond the windows and the lands that were revealed out there. The rolling hills. The endless banks of trees that carried like waves for as far as the eye could see. And the sense that we had been cast adrift upon wild seas. Had been caught at the centre of the maelstrom.
“Shut up!” Ariana cried, placing another step towards Sister Dixon. The cruel knife that was held before the girl. And I was starting to think that Sister Dixon might not be a real Sister after all, as I watched with growing horror as the woman dropped to her knees and started retching and lifting her face upwards and her chin and howling like a demented dog. And if she was a real sister, then I was done with church I reckoned, I was completely done with church after this.
“I was wrong Lord to have suspected anyone but you.” Sister Dixon said, her face that was lifted towards Ariana. Ariana almost upon the sister now. The cruel blade that remained lifted before her.
“Shut up!” Ariana cried, “Shut up!”
But Sister Dixon was not for being silenced it seemed.
“There could only ever be one.” She said.
Another flash of lightening.
The steel rods that flickered and flashed in a repeating circle again and again above our heads. A crackling sound against the air. Sister Dixon who remained positioned at the centre of the room upon the metal disc beneath her feet and above her head. Her face that turned to mine and the anger and rage that contorted against her features. The demented woman yelped and snarled and growled and barked her madness towards me.
And Ariana that stood before Sister Dixon now and the kitchen knife that was lifted towards the woman’s chest. Ariana’s hand that was shaking with so much anger and fear. But still, Sister Dixon continued to call out her madness.
“There could only ever be one daughter of Deadwood.” Sister Dixon cried.
“Shut up.” Ariana hissed, leaning into Sister Dixon with the knife, “Shut up, shut up, shut up.”
“There could only ever be one sister that was born to darkness!”
A crash of lightening.
The steel rods that charged in an instant.
Ariana blown backwards and away from Sister Dixon and the two silver discs in a maelstrom of fire and flames. The world transformed into a piercing white light for a moment and the world rubbed away. The screams of pain as Ariana’s slight body was consumed by fire and blown backwards.
A ringing in my ears.
And then darkness.
Until slowly the world came once more into vision.
I opened my eyes and could barely begin to understand what my eyes revealed before me. The horror. The terror.
Ariana still standing and her skin that had been scorched away by flames so that the flesh was revealed beneath and was throbbing with embers and streaks of fire. Her face that had melted away and the flesh that was sticky. Her eyes that were wide and her gaze that was fixed upon mine. Her eyes that were ablaze with flames somehow.
“She shouldn’t have said that.” Ariana said. No. Not Ariana. Something quite different. The shimmering scales that had been revealed beneath the flaming skin. The pink flesh that hung in strips where it had burned away. The rippling grey scales that had been revealed beneath. Ariana’s hands that were lifted out towards me. The cruel talons that were beginning to extend from the tips of each of her knobbled fingers.
“The bitch should have kept her filthy mouth shut!” The creature said.