Home > A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(2)

A Twist of Fate (A Stitch in Time #2)(2)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

My wedding band is exactly where I left it, tucked behind a canister of flour. I’m putting it on when a scream sounds overhead, and I jump, my riding boots sliding on the kitchen floor.

Eyes wide, I press myself into the shadows as something thumps on the floor above. I hold my breath and measure the distance between myself and the door. Another thump, and I turn instead to a hanging meat cleaver.

I ought to run. That is the sensible thing to do. Yet I keep imagining that scream. A high-pitched screech like that of a terrified woman.

William is away, and most of High Thornesbury will know it. How many also know about that broken kitchen door? For a man with William’s dangerous reputation, one would think he’d be far less trusting. Or perhaps he expects his reputation will keep invaders at bay.

There is another possibility. Not burglary, but a man luring a woman to this empty house.

I touch the handle of the cleaver before thinking better of such a sharp and unwieldy weapon. I take a poker from the hearth instead. Then I creep, sure-footed, to the stairs.

I’m halfway up before a sound comes again, and it stops me in my tracks, my mind struggling to identify what I’m hearing. It’s hollow and haunting, half yowl and half keening, raising the hairs on my neck.

I climb slower now, poker gripped in both hands, gaze straining to see in near darkness.

I reach the top, and the sound comes softer, hauntingly desolate. I swallow and continue until I reach an open door. Moonlight floods the small room. A child’s room, yet I’ve stayed in this house often enough to know it’s William’s. His childhood bedchamber, which he inexplicably insists on retaining.

The sound comes again, but there is no sign of anyone within. The noise seems to emanate from the vicinity of the bed. Could someone be prostrate and injured on the floor behind it? I grip the poker tighter and take two steps before my ears follow the noise instead to the box at the end of William’s bed. A storage chest.

Am I hearing a trapped child?

One hand still wielding the poker, I heave up the heavy lid of the box to see a calico kitten trapped within and yowling piteously.

“Who put you in there?” I whisper, and I’m about to throw the lid completely open when—

The box disappears. One second, I’m gripping the half-open lid, staring at a kitten, and the next, the lid disappears, leaving me staggering. I stumble forward and catch myself on the foot of the bed.

I push up sharply, shaking my head as I hold the foot of . . .

The foot of a bed that is not William’s.

 

 

2

 

 

The bed is but an empty steel frame, listing to one side, in a room that stinks of disuse. The moon shines through a curtainless window.

I look around. It is structurally the same room, yet entirely different in its furnishings. There’s a narrow bed frame and an odd white-painted chest of drawers. A vanity sits to one side, its top scattered with jars, all of them coated in a quarter-inch of dust.

I walk to the vanity and lift one bottle. It looks like red glass, but the material is like nothing I’ve seen before, lightweight and covered with glossy printed paper that has faded with age. Big letters proclaim “Sun In,” and the picture . . . Is that a photograph of a young woman?

I turn the bottle into the light and nearly drop it. The photograph depicts a naked woman. I blink and stare. No, she’s not entirely unclothed, but she might as well be, dressed only in scraps of blue fabric over her breasts and nether regions. She’s at a beach, holding some sort of ball-like sphere, and I can only stare in horror and fascination.

I gingerly set down the bottle and pick up a tiny tube made of the same strange material. It bears the words Dr Pepper. Some kind of remedy, then? I open the cap to find a waxy sweet-smelling stick. A third container is white with a bright pink lid. The glossy paper is covered in lips and hearts, and the typeface screams “Teen Spirit” and proclaims it to be something called deodorant. A deodorizer? I have heard of such a thing to cover the scent of manure. As for “teen spirit,” I know what spirits are—either alcohol or ghosts—but whatever is a teen?

Clearly I am sleeping. I only dreamed that I awoke and rode to Thorne Manor. I’ve never been an imaginative sort—my sister is the writer—but some latent talent has arisen in this fantastical dream.

I set down the “deodorant” and walk from the room. It does look like Thorne Manor. Pictures line the hallway, but it’s too dim for me to see them, and I don’t pause to look closer. Downstairs, a clock strikes the hour, and it is unmistakably the same clock.

I reach the front door, and that, too, is the same, or so it seems until metal glints, and I notice an odd locking contraption above the knob. When I turn the handle, a metal bolt slides back. The doorknob itself has also changed, but after a few tries, it opens with a click.

I pull the heavy wood door to look out at a front lawn so wild and overgrown it would give Mr. Shaw heart failure. I walk down steps to a laneway that now runs to the stables instead of circling past the house.

There’s no sign of my horse, but by now, I don’t expect to see him. This is clearly a dream, and I am exploring it out of curiosity. When I wake, it’ll be a delightful story to tell August.

Should I share it? What if he wonders why I am dreaming of Thorne Manor? My heart thuds. Is this how it will be forever now? I cannot even share my dreams with my husband for fear he’ll read something untoward in them?

No, we will overcome this obstacle. It may take time, but he will see he has no cause for jealousy.

I cross the lawn to find a wider road than I remember. At the foot of the hill, High Thornesbury glows with an eerie light, a dome of it cast over the village.

Entranced, I hike my skirts and make my way down the hill. It is not a short walk. Not an interesting one, either. Everything seems exactly as I recall until I round a corner to find a metal signpost. It seems to be warning of a sharp curve, which makes me laugh. Any fool can see the curve. It’s not as if a horse will come careening around and miss the turn entirely.

A sheep bleats in the distance, and a cow answers. I smile. That, at least, has not changed. Nor have the brambles along the roadside, already thick with red berries that will turn black and sweet in another month. The air smells of heather, the scent of the moors. There’s something else, an acrid scent I don’t recognize, but the heather is stronger, along with the less pleasant odor of sheep droppings.

I’m nearly to the bottom of the hill when thunder rumbles. I peer up, but the night sky is clear, moon and stars shining bright. The sound grows closer and becomes like the growl of some wild beast. I stagger backward as lights appear from nowhere, two blindingly bright orbs bearing down on me faster than a horse at full gallop.

It is, of course, my imagination. A new fancy from my dream. After that initial moment of terror, I fix my feet in place, determined to see what my mind has conjured. I am curious. Yes, that is an odd reaction to a creature barreling toward me, growling and shrieking as it rounds the corner. But I want to see it. I want a tale to tell August and a tale to tell my sister Miranda, one that might inspire a fresh tale from her pen.

At the last moment, my resolve cracks. This creature—a low-slung carriage-sized shadow—is charging me at demonic speed, its eyes blinding my own, and a tiny voice whispers, “What if it is not a dream?” I throw myself to the side, diving through a tangle of hedge and bramble as the beast screams to a stop.

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