The rough original plan for this was: Woman with mind reading abilities goes to a cemetery and accidentally reads the mind of a dead person. Goes insane as a result. In the end, I decided the idea just wasn’t good enough, and it sounded unoriginal. But by then the idea of a psychic reading the mind of a corpse was just too good not to write something about. This story was the tree that grew from that disturbing seed. Enjoy!
By Ben Pienaar
Rain spent a lot of time in cemeteries, because it was the only place she knew true silence. Anywhere else, unless she happened to be driving way out in the middle of nowhere for whatever reason, she’d get thoughts intrusively pushing their way into her mind. Obviously it was helpful in some ways, her thin talent allowing her to make a living as a live TV psychic, but more often than not it was just incredibly annoying. The problem being that ninety nine percent of the thoughts that were so determined to make themselves heard were completely useless and inane. The cemetery was blessed relief.
Until the day she heard a voice call out to her.
Voices had a direction, but it wasn’t the same as when someone called out to you on the street. It was more like having someone flick you on the back of the head in a crowded elevator. You had a pretty good idea who it was, but you weren’t certain unless you caught them in action. In this case, Rain was definitely not certain, because all of her instincts were telling her the voice was coming from underground.
She looked around, startled. She knew it wasn’t spoken – people’s inner voices always had emotions attached that you could pick up with them. But someone had to be around for her to hear them. The cemetery was less than fifteen minutes from closing and she couldn’t see a soul.
‘I couldn’t go… isn’t there anyone there? Please.’
She listened hard, and the direction was more definite now. She would bet her bank account it was coming from the grave she’d just passed a second ago, the one marked MARY MARIE LESTER 1901 – 1945. She took a couple of steps back and stood in front of it, and for a while there was nothing else besides the sound of yellow leaves blowing across the concrete in a gentle breeze.
It was a cold day, and Rain started shivering. She turned to leave and it came again, as if sensing the movement. ‘Can you hear me?’
She spun around and stared at the grave. It was made of black granite, the letters once golden, now faded almost into obscurity. ‘Yes,’ she said, and then, when there was no reply, ‘YES!’ In her mind, as loud as she could. She’d never tried telepathy before.
‘Really? You can hear me?’
‘I’m so lonely,’ the voice said. ‘I can’t go on, I don’t know why. I think if my body wasted away… but it’s taking so long. I’m afraid.’
‘God. You’re not alive?’ For some reason, she’d assumed the owner of the voice had to be alive still, some unfortunate soul buried in a false grave, maybe by the mob. The idea that she was talking to a real dead person made her want to scream and tear her hair out. Somehow, she held her ground.
‘No,’ the voice said. ‘They buried me too early though. Much too early. I’m so lonely. Won’t you… be my friend?’
‘I… yes of course I will. You poor woman.’
‘Will you take me out? Please, I’m suffocating in here. I just want to be out in the open, I want to see the world again. Won’t you dig me out? You’ve no idea how long I’ve waited…’
But she did, of course. If she’d died in 1944, then the woman talking to her right now had been buried for just on forty years. It was all madness. Usually the thoughts she picked up were meaningless half the time, snatches of songs or snippets of semi formed ideas or pictures – total gibberish. Yet here this dead woman was talking quite plainly to her as though they had bumped into each other on the street.
Rain was silent, her mind working as it always did, looking for some kind of opportunity. This dead woman was going to change the world, she was sure of it – she just didn’t know how yet.
‘Yes,’ she said, still thoughtful. ‘Don’t you worry any more, Mary. I’m going to take you home.’
Feeling like a child in a morbid game of hide and seek, she took her place behind an enormous crypt, huddling in a shadowy corner while the security drove the narrow roads, shutting and locking gates and checking for stragglers. She stayed there for another half hour after they left, just in case. When she finally stretched her legs and dusted herself off, the sun was well past the horizon and the air was several degrees colder.
She didn’t head back to the grave, but uphill to the back of the cemetery, where the maintenance shed stood in the shadows of overhanging oaks. It was locked, of course, but it was also shoddy and made of wood and a good sized rock took care of the rusty lock. It was the work of a few seconds to grab a hefty shovel and head back to the grave.
She hesitated for a moment in front of Mary Marie Lester’s grave. Am I mad? She thought. No, Margaret’s voice spoke in her mind. She wasn’t sure whether to be comforted or disturbed. In the end, she trusted her intuition as she always did, and began to dig.
Mary Marie Lester took up space (she couldn’t really be said to be living, after all) in Rain’s basement. She claimed not to need any creature comforts or food or anything else for that matter. All she needed was a little company. That she had plenty of, because Rain spent hours every day talking to her, sometimes teetering on the line between conversation and interrogation.
As she’d predicted, it wasn’t long before she discovered her big opportunity. As usual, they were talking about Mary’s life, trying to work out why she should have such a strong psychic presence and why she hadn’t been allowed to ‘pass on.’
‘I lived through the great depression, and I always thought it must have been what made my parents so… strange.’ She sat in a tall wooden chair that Rain had dragged down into the basement, her body slumped back in it, her head rolled back and the whites of her eyes staring at the ceiling. Considering how long she’d been under, her state of preservation was amazing. Her skin was grey and clung to the bone, but her teeth were all still there, if a little yellow and cracked. Her nails were an inch long and her hair still clung to her head in grey strands. She looks like the crypt keeper, Rain thought, and stifled a laugh.
‘You’ll see a depression soon enough, and it’ll be just as bad. Perhaps you’ll understand then.’ She spoke only with her mental voice, but now and again her jaw would move up and down and sometimes her teeth would click. Distracted, it was a few moments before what she’d just said struck Rain.
‘Wait, did you just say we’d see a depression? Soon?’
‘How do you know?’
‘In death, there is no time. Everything exists at once.’
‘I… Do you mean to say,’ Rain spoke slowly, hardly daring to believe it was possible, ‘that you can see everything? The past and future of the whole world?’
‘Not of myself. My own future ended when I died, so I can’t see that. The world of death is lost to me. Only the affairs of the living are visible, and the past.’
‘But you know what’s going to happen? You know there’s going to be another depression.’
‘There is always another depression,’ Mary clicked.
‘What else do you know? I mean, in the next, say year or so, what will happen?’
‘Well. What year is it?’
‘Ah… I’m so glad to see Mr. Orwell was mistaken, and that there are no big brothers or great wars here.’
She began to talk, in that mind voice that was almost a whisper, and Rain grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled furiously for five minutes. When Mary stopped talking, she looked up. ‘That’s all this year? All that happens in the next six months, on those days?’
‘Yes,’ she sighed.
Rain looked down at the piece of paper on her lap. She had almost filled the page, a line of dates on the left side and corresponding events beside them. Many things were useless to her, only mildly interesting if they were true. But amidst the useless tidbits of information, she had the following:
- An East Rail train derails between Sheung Shui and Fanling stations, Hong Kong.
- A series of explosions at the Pemex Petroleum Storage Facility at San Juan Ixhuatepec, in Mexico City, ignites a major fire and kills about 500 people.
- San Diego: 41-year-old James Oliver Huberty sprays a McDonald’s restaurant with gunfire, killing 21 people before being shot and killed himself.
‘And you’re sure of all this?’
She forced herself to talk a little longer, but eventually her itching mind won out and she told Mary she had to ‘work’. Up in the kitchen, she flipped open her laptop and within minutes had signed up to wordpress and started her very first blog. It was entitled: The Psychic Predictions of Rain Carmen. She titled her first post: 1984, June – December, and carefully transcribed everything Mary had told her.
She clicked publish, but didn’t bother to check if anyone would follow. It would be a long process at first, but just because she was greedy didn’t mean she was impatient. Besides, there was a lot of work to do.
Over the following months, Rain began to make posts daily, extracting every bit of major future news from Mary along the way, enduring her life stories with patience in return. The followers were few and far between at first, but then her predictions began to come true. And they were true to the letter – Mary didn’t get a detail wrong. It was as if there was some phantom calendar filled with all the poignant events of history that she could read at will.
By the time Rain was writing about the tragic death of Princess Diana, she had thousands of followers and dozens of offers to appear on television and radio and give live predictions. By the time she predicted the fall of the twin towers, she was world famous.
All the while, Mary seemed oblivious, and even while she was discreetly transported (in a box labelled ‘equipment’) to Rain’s new Florida mansion, she took to the new basement like it was the same place. She rotted in her chair and whispered endless, repeating stories, while Rain prodded her all the while for events in the coming years.
Then the rotting became a problem.
Rain first noticed it only in Mary’s manner. She began to talk in slow, meandering sentences that made less and less sense, as though she were drifting in and out of sleep. At last, when an unnerving silence fell between them, Rain asked her about it.
‘Oh, dear. I think I’m finally beginning to rest. It’s you, Rain, you’ve been such a good friend. You’re putting this old girl to rest at last.’
‘What do you mean?’ she said softly, trying to keep the alarm out of her voice.
‘I’m not lonely anymore… I’ve been feeling so warm and comfortable lately. I feel I’m going. I can’ thank you enough, Rain, I really can’t. You gave me what I never had in life – friendship. And now you’re going to give me peace, and I can never repay you. I’m sorry.’
You better be sorry you bitch! I’m not even close to done with you. I need predictions good for the next hundred years. I’ll be treated like a Queen all my life and remembered for ever as the one true psychic, and you won’t take it away from me. I won’t let you. Somehow, Rain managed to drown this thought in a flood of others, masking it from the corpse’s ever sensitive mind. Even so, the rotten head lolled on her shoulders and the white eyes rolled in their sockets.
‘Rain? Is it all right?’
‘Of course, yes I’m sorry about that, it was all so shocking, you know? I thought I’d have you forever, Mary.’
The black lips twisted at the corners into the smallest of smiles. Mary’s body hadn’t changed in the first months, but that had come along with her change in behaviour. The earthy, almost floral smell had darkened to something more resembling a stench and more black flaps of skin were hanging from the yellowing bone by the day. It was bad.
Rain had no choice but to turn to her only recourse, the only hope she’d ever had when it came to things of the spiritual realm. Her bible, a thick dusty tome entitled: The Natural Supernatural. To her knowledge it was the only book that wasn’t full of rubbish. It had helped her learn about her own innate psychic powers, and it had told her all about what kind of Ghoul Mary was. In retrospect, she should have seen it coming. If the business of a troubled undead came to a close, the undead became dead. Rest in Peace, end of story. If there was any way to stop it, it was in the book.
She found it alright, flipping fast through the pages and scanning the words in a fever, knowing that every second the old bird and her dead vision was getting away from her. When she found out what she had to do, she dropped the thing like it had turned white hot. The pages flicked over and the book closed by itself, and the pair of empty eyes engraved in the leather cover stared back at her. Not before she had one sentence fixed in her mind, however – branded there and likely to scar: Only an infusion of the most youthful blood will prolong the life of the resting undead.
She brought the first glass of it to Mary less than a week later, her hand shaking slightly. ‘It’s a tomato juice,’ she said brightly, tipping it down Mary’s tilted open mouth. She half expected it to pour out of a hundred holes in the deteriorating corpse, but somehow it didn’t. ‘I thought it might liven you up a little. It always does the trick for me, after all.’
And it did, oh, it livened her up alright. For the next three months, Rain brought Mary a tomato juice every day and it was like watching a snuff film in reverse. At first it was only subtle changes: her limbs a little more mobile and less stiff; her eyes moving and focusing rather than rolling; her skin a bit fuller. Then one day Rain descended into the basement to deliver the daily juice and receive the daily news for her television show – Looking Ahead with Rain – and saw Mary standing up.
Rain almost dropped the glass when she saw the empty chair, and then she heard a shuffle and caught sight of the crooked upright form in the corner. ‘My God! You gave me a fright, Mary! I thought you were… gone.’
She came close to dropping the glass again when, instead of hearing Mary’s voice in her head, the old bat open her mouth and spoke. Her once black teeth were now mostly yellow. ‘What is it? What is in the glass?’ She had the voice of a lifelong smoker. Or someone with rotted vocal chords, Rain supposed. She put the glass down on the table.
‘Just tomato juice, dear. Don’t you like it?’
‘Rubbish. There’s something in it. Look at me, just look at me.’
The once sagging flaps of skin on her chest seemed almost to be filling out. Her hair was still grey and ragged, but it was thicker on her scalp. She’s coming back! Rain’s mind screamed madly in her head, and for once she forgot to mask the thoughts from the other woman. She’s going to come all the way back!
‘I… You look good.’
‘Rain, I owe you my… I suppose I owe you my death, rather than my life, but God, that’s just as important to me. But whatever you’re doing… it can’t be right. It’s not natural. It has to stop.’
‘You don’t mean that. It’s like you said, look at yourself. Just think, Mary, you could have it all back again, a real life! It’s your right, after all, isn’t it? To take back what was taken from you?’
The corpse – Rain was still having trouble thinking of her as anything but a corpse, though she had a feeling that would change soon – just looked at her. It was unnerving. Eventually she let out what sounded almost like a sigh and returned to the table to sit down. When Rain gave her the juice, she dutifully drank it down. Rain made a mental note to start experimenting with the mixture. If Mary’s tastebuds started to come back…
‘Alright,’ Mary said, her black tongue flicking out to lick her lips. ‘What do you want to know?’
A week later, Mary’s progress seemed to slow and then stop. When she started noticing signs of reversal, Rain started giving her three glasses of ‘tomato juice’, now also mixed with liberal amounts of actual tomato juice, a day. The reversal stopped, and a month later Mary was frighteningly alive, sometimes pacing as she answered questions, her hands clasped behind her back or in her lap, her back straight instead of bent, streaks of black now visible in the grey hair. At her request, Rain brought her a black dress of hers – she was beginning to feel self conscious in her nakedness.
And all the while the predictions went on. Rain’s live television show continued, and each day she made predictions about the following day, all taken from an exercise book she kept full of notable events and dates, several for every day starting in June 1984 and currently up to December 2035. Some people critiqued the show, pointing out that many of her predictions never came true. This was in fact the case, but it was only because the events were always tragedies, and by now the police were taking her seriously enough to prepare for them.
In November 1987, Jeffrey Dahmer’s hotel room was suddenly infiltrated by a SWAT team just as he was standing over the unconscious body of Steve Tuomi with a hammer raised over his head.
In April, 1988, Kuwait airways flight 422 suffered an attempted hijacking, which was thwarted by six undercover policemen who happened to be on the flight.
In December, 1989, the residents of Newcastle, Sydney prepare for an earthquake despite there being no warnings from meteorologists. No one dies when it hits.
These things all happen, but many things also go wrong: massacres and murders, death and destruction, some of which Rain predicts – the people involved either don’t believe her, don’t care, or in the case of mass revolutions and riots, have no control over or don’t want to change. Some she doesn’t predict, and she admits humbly that much of the future is dark to her. It is an immense effort just to see the things she does.
Some things don’t happen at all: in August 1991, Wade Frankum watches Rain’s show predicting the Strathfield massacre. The following day passes uneventfully, and a week later he dies from an overdose of sleeping pills.
‘What you are doing is amazing,’ Mary said one day, thoughtfully sipping her tomato juice. Her voice was only a little scratchy now; her skin still rotted and black but now fully covering her body. ‘Every day I look into the future I see something different to what was there before. The world is getting brighter, thanks to you. You will have to change many things I’ve told you – they won’t happen any more. People are listening closely to what you say.’
‘Thanks to you, Mary.’ Inwardly, she was cursing. Mary might be on the moon, but she didn’t realise what it meant for them. If her future predictions were becoming inaccurate because of what people were doing now, she’d never be free of this corpse – She’d be dependent on her for the rest of her life. And Mary was already getting restless, beginning to walk around the house despite Rain’s caution that she might be seen. What would happen if she decided to leave, take credit for everything? If she kept getting better people might even mistake her for a living person, and then what? Maybe she’d reveal Rain for a fraud and take over. Maybe she’d find out about the tomato juice and make it for herself. Maybe Rain would fill the grave that Mary was made for. What then?
After that, Rain started mixing more and more tomato juice into the cocktail, now adding a little vodka and a stick of celery, that at Mary’s request. ‘I always liked bloody Mary’s, she said with a smile. ‘You know, because of my name. They’re good, too. I think I’m starting to taste again. I think I’m starting to feel alive.’ Rain didn’t like the way her eyes shone when she said that, not at all.
She stopped her show and kept to her website instead, and now she only predicted one event a day, claiming that the future was becoming dark to her and she could only see some things. People were surprisingly understanding, many even claiming it was a good thing, and that the future was something no one should know anyway. There was hate mail, as always, and people claiming God was taking away her witch powers and would exterminate her soon. There were death threats, but weren’t there always? If anyone was serious, Mary would tell her well ahead of time.
‘Are they changing? Are people really changing?’ Mary asked her once. ‘Sometimes the future looks so peaceful, and then… I see something else, more evil. You’ll stop it, won’t you, if I keep telling you?’
‘Of course, Mary! That’s the whole point, isn’t it? I mean, we can’t bring world peace, but there is so much we have the power to change. So much. Now drink up.’
‘Good, good.’ But Mary wasn’t so good lately. Rain watched with satisfaction as she began to deteriorate little by little. The pacing stopped and she was restricted to the chair more often than not, her skin drying out and turning from light green back to black. A couple of teeth fell back out and her eyes returned to their dim milky white.
After almost six months of trial and error, Rain had arrived at the perfect mixture for the bloody Marys, and Mary stopped changing altogether. She was alive enough to be useful, and just dead enough not to be trouble.
‘Do you think I’m going? Do you think I’m finally dying?’ she asked Rain.
‘Maybe. I’m not sure. I haven’t changed the mixture.’
‘God. What’s in it, Rain? Why won’t you tell me?’ Her head rolled on her shoulders and her teeth clicked. Rain felt those cold fingers picking at her mind, but she kept the truth of the Bloody Marys locked in a dark box in the back of her mind, and Mary would never find it.
‘Please don’t do that, Mary. I’m sorry, it’s just, you really don’t want to know. You told me once you were never adventurous with your food. How would you like it if I told you there were crushed spiders or pureed fish eyes or something?’
‘There isn’t, is there?’
‘Not any of those, but think about it, how tasty could the ingredients of a drink be that does such unnatural things? You know what kind of things go in a witch’s brew.’
She let out a sigh. ‘I suppose you’re right. It doesn’t seem to work well any more. I won’t have to drink it for much longer, anyway.’
Rain was out of the house most of the time, but in her current state Mary was in no position to explore the way she used to. She was so tired, lately. So bone tired – dead tired. They’d done all they could, surely? She’d told her so much, the future was changed for good, couldn’t she die now? Rain wouldn’t begrudge her that, would she?
But first, she had to know.
Mary was plenty worse off than she had been at the height of her revival, but she wasn’t quite as helpless as Rain thought she was. The truth was, her taste buds had come back for long enough for her to know that Rain was changing the mixture, lessening it, degrading her on purpose. And why? Mary thought she knew – she’d also seen more of Rain’s mind than the selfish girl would have her believe. It made her uneasy, that. A woman that could turn the lives of others so easily to their own purposes without remorse could only mean trouble.
So one day, when Rain was out somewhere, (who knew where? Fame had made her a popular woman indeed) she stretched her arms and legs, wincing at the cracks her old bones made, and stood up. Rain would have been shocked to see it, and it wasn’t easy, but… she had to know.
Mary opened the basement door and headed up the stone steps. She’d seen plenty of the house when she’d been more lively, but she hadn’t really looked, then. She’d only wandered around, thinking and looking out of the windows, wondering if she’d ever really see the world again. The thought had given her such hope, then. Her consciousness always at war with herself, half saying she needed it, she deserved it, the other saying there was something too wrong about it, something unnatural and false. But she couldn’t make the decision until she knew the truth. She began the search.
It did not take long to find it. After all, there were only three places one would really keep potential ingredients for a bloody Mary, and they were all in the kitchen. There was the vodka on the marble counter, two empty bottles and one half full with a shot glass for measuring. She opened the fridge and saw the celery and the carton of tomato juice. The pantry showed her the Tobasco. So where else could she look?
Rain had a freezer, its big metal door the same size as the fridge, and when Mary tried to open it she saw a heavy padlock. She didn’t have blood to run cold, or a heart to beat faster, but she felt the fear all the same. Why on earth would someone lock a freezer? There were no servants maintaining the mansion, which was unusual in itself: there was only Mary and Rain.
She searched the kitchen briefly, without much hope. Of course Rain kept the key on her – it was the only logical thing. And if she had a spare, wouldn’t she have stashed it carefully away, especially when Mary had been up and about?
But I’m not like that, anymore, Mary told herself. And she makes me a Bloody Mary every morning. Every morning, she has to pull out the ingredients and put them back again. She might have kept the key far away at first, but for how long before she got lazy?
Hardly daring to hope, Mary reached up and felt along the top of the freezer, standing on tiptoes. She brushed something, grabbed it, and brought it down. The key.
She pushed it into the padlock and heard the satisfying click as it came unlocked. The freezer door opened a crack and icy air spilled out into the kitchen.
Mary hesitated. I don’t want to see anymore, she thought. I don’t care. I won’t drink anymore anyway – she can’t make me. Then we’ll see how good she really is, how selfless and caring. What can she do, anyway, kill me?
She laughed, winced at the sickening crackle of it, and turned from the freezer. She didn’t move.
She had to know.
The freezer was a walk in, as it turned out. There were no shelves inside – the door simply opened into a long room with the dimensions of a generous bathroom. The floor and walls were concrete, and when she opened the door a tiny fluorescent light came on, illuminating everything in pale white.
She was looking down at first, not really wanting to see it all at first, and she knew then that she must have suspected it, deep down. So she saw the trails of blood first. Dots and lines leading to large puddles of frozen black blood. Then she looked up and saw that the puddles were centered under hanging bodies – six of them – hanging from metal hooks.
They were children. She stood at the entrance to the freezer in a state of shock, feeling empty. Her emotions were sucked from her the same way a tsunami sucks the water from the beach before it comes thundering in. There was a boy here, ten years old maybe, and opposite him a girl who’d yet to see her fifth birthday. And dear lord, that one looked like it was barely old enough to walk.
Parts of them were sawn off, and the saw that did the job was hanging on a hook to her right. Just little bits. Fingers and toes and little chunks of flesh. Bite sized morsels.
Mary thought of the tomato juice in a glass: the thickness of it and the way it clung to the sides. She thought of the horrible sour taste she’d begun to detect as her tastebuds regenerated. She pictured Rain fixing her a tall Bloody Mary every morning, microwave humming in the background as it heated and softened a severed heap of flesh, letting the blood leak out and simmer in a bowl. Oh. Oh God.
Somewhere in another world, she heard a car crunching up the gravel driveway.
Rain knew there was something wrong the moment she closed the front door behind her, but it was several moments before she could put her finger on it. There was that smell, for one thing, that sickening, familiar smell of microwaved human meat. And the air was too cold inside. Hadn’t she put the heater on before she left?
When she realised what happened, she could only stare at the kitchen door, keys dangling from one hand, dumbfounded. Surely not, she thought, surely not. If Mary had really found her… stash, the last thing the sweet and innocent girl would have done would be to go ahead and mix herself a fresh cocktail. Rain was a good judge of people – after a lifetime of mind reading how could she not be? And Mary Lester was the kind of girl who would lose her mind, go absolutely mad at the sight of the bodies in the freezer. She must have been desperate.
She let out the breath she’d been holding, prepared herself for a confrontation, and pushed open the kitchen door. The smell hit her a little stronger in here and she wrinkled her nose.
There was no one there. The freezer door was wide open, just as she suspected. The microwave door was also open, and the inside was splattered with red. ‘Oh my God, she actually did it.’ The sound of her own voice in the silence was unnerving.
‘Mary?’ she said, stepping closer to the freezer but not quite daring to look inside just yet. She darted back to the counter and grabbed a knife out of the cutlery drawer, just in case. She wasn’t sure if it would do anything to a dead woman, but it was better than nothing. There was no reply, and she approached the freezer door again, more confident now.
She was tempted to lunge for the door and swing it shut, but then she’d have the old corpse locked in there, and she’d either have to risk letting her out or freeze her completely. ‘Shit. Listen to me, Mary, please. I know it looks bad… I mean it is bad, it’s horrible and evil I know, but before you make any decisions you might regret just think about all the lives we’ve saved, you and I. Believe me when I tell you it’s in the thousands. Thousands of lives we’ve saved, and we’ll save thousands more, and all at the cost of only six.’
She had a prickling on her neck and looked around the room. It was possible Mary wasn’t in the freezer. She should check the rest of the house first. No – room by room was safest. She went back again and shut the kitchen door tightly. The door to the basement stairs was already closed, so if Mary came in behind her she’d hear her in time.
‘Tell me that’s not worth it,’ she said, approaching the freezer. ‘Tell me thousands of lives aren’t worth six and I know you’re lying.’
She stepped into the threshold and stared down the length of the freezer. It was empty. Of course it’s empty! Why would she leave it to make herself a bowl of blood and then hide in there? She’d be expecting me to…
She whirled around in time to see the cupboard underneath the sink explode outwards with a deafening crash. Mary charged, her face snarling and covered in blood. She moved with frightening speed, but there were several steps to cross and Rain had the knife up with plenty of time to spare. She sunk the blade straight into Mary’s heart as they collided.
Rain went flying back into the freezer, sliding over the slick floor until her head knocked the back wall. She stared at Mary, dumbfounded, and watched as the old corpse pulled the six inch blade out of her chest as though it were a splinter. A single stream of thick black ooze spilled from the wound.
‘No, wait!’ Rain struggled to her feet, but it was too late. Mary stepped back and slammed the freezer door shut on her. The key clicked in the lock.
Oh God no, this can’t be happening, this cannot be happening. She stood in the dark. Mary’s voice came to her from the other side of the door after a minute of terrifying silence.
‘Did you kill them?’
It took her another minute to realise what she was asking. Of course I killed them, you crazy bat! But when she did relief flooded in. ‘No!’ she almost shouted, already shivering badly in the cold. ‘I got them – stole them from a morgue. It was wrong, I know, it was wrong, but the book said only youthful blood would work! I’ll return them, I promise.’
‘I will see.’
For the next half hour, there was nothing but silence from outside, and Rain huddled in a ball at the back of the freezer, rubbing her arms furiously. Her fingers and toes were going numb, even though she’d put on long pants and a jacket before going out. It was impossibly cold.
‘You lied!’ She jumped hard enough to knock her head on the wall when Mary screamed through the door at her.
‘I used your computer, I checked! I recognized the boy and girl! They were reported missing years ago!’
‘You what? How?’
‘I’m not stupid. Just because I died before you were born doesn’t mean I can’t learn what you do with that black box after watching you every day. I know how the world works. I was going to sleep and you didn’t want me to, did you?’
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just saw all the good we could do! And we did do good, Mary! We did so much good! Please let me out, I’m freezing to death in here.’
‘Mary, Please! I swear I’ll confess to everything, I’ll do whatever you want! No one else has to die! I already worked it out – those six bodies will last a hundred years!’ That wasn’t true – they’d last more like ten, but Mary wouldn’t know that.
‘You’ll do anything I want?’ If she hadn’t been pressed up against the freezer door, Rain wouldn’t have heard the words, spoken so softly. Hope rushed through her.
‘Yes, God yes, anything at all.’
‘Mary? Please. We can change the world.’
The list of missing persons in Rain’s area dropped from six to one in a single day. The one was of course Rain herself, and after seeing the contents of her freezer no one was surprised on that front. The media went mad. Rain’s fame as a philanthropist had risen her to such heights it might as well have been Mother Theresa revealed as a cannibal killer – of children, no less.
How could someone who had done so much good be so evil? Yet even the doubters had to admit that the presence of the corpses in her home and the blood stained microwave, coupled with her subsequent disappearance, was incriminating.
Less than six months later, the website for Looking Ahead with Rain published. And it was no paltry day or two of events either, but a list of every major event and catastrophe that was to come for over a hundred years, along with a short but detailed description for each. People who had yet to be born were accused of mass murder, terrorists and war criminals named, and disasters that no one expected to happen ever, let alone within the next century, were sited. The list stopped at the year 2100, but not before predicting that, as a result of the list, many would believe the year 2100 to be the apocalypse, but that this was in fact, not the case.
The website was never updated again, and Rain was never found. During the course of their investigations police found human tissue in Rain’s basement that matched that of Mary Lester. Her absence had gone unnoticed, the grave neatly filled, but when investigators dug the well turned earth they discovered that her body, it seemed, had also disappeared. Some speculated that Rain had been murdered by a vigilante – there had been so shortage of death threats sent her way since her very first prediction – and the police finally admitted the theory held a lot of water. Rain’s hefty bank account went to her only next of kin – a brother who hadn’t spoken to her in years and who’d lived in Australia for all of them – while the safe in her bedroom had been opened and emptied on the day of her disappearance.
Far, far away, on a crystal beach in the middle of the pacific, a beautiful woman reclines on a polished wooden deck chair. She closes the laptop she had open in front of her and lays it on the sand beside her, marvelling at the progress of technology. In her day only the most powerful governments even knew what a computer was; now every other person has one of their own.
It is a fascinating world indeed, and the more she thinks of it, the more Mary decides Rain had a point after all – it wouldn’t be right for her to go to sleep just yet. She had so much to catch up on.
Smiling at the prospect, she leans back and watches the warm Mediterranean sea sparkle and shift before her, the sunlight glancing off the water like a million brilliant stars. She takes a long sip of the Bloody Mary she brought down with her, closes her eyes, and thinks of the future.