She couldn’t have been more than ten feet away from them, the ravaged little girl with the dirty sneakers whose toes dug back into the porch to set the swing cricking. The wicked grin still split her face, and it wasn’t the wicked kind of grin that spoke of naughty but frivolous insouciance, it was the kind of wicked grin that said that wicked secrets were barely hidden behind it and if they jumped out and yelled boo you’d be far beyond startled.
Mara took an instinctive step forward while Rolly took one back. He grabbed for her arm and missed, grudgingly stepping forward with her. The closer they got, though, the wider the grin grew until it was a rictus of inhuman proportions and wicked transformed to grotesque. Mara shuddered, but took one more step. “Are you the one who was humming in our house?” she asked, almost demanded. “I heard you, just now.”
The girl’s mouth stretched ever wider and as the humming began again, her jaw unhinged, dropping almost to her chest while she tilted the top of her head up and back, creating a maw from which the sound emerged, faster and faster until it was one long incoherent buzzing. She stood, stick legs ramrod straight, arms stretching overhead, opening wide, encompassing their nightmare.
The buzzing set Rolly’s teeth on edge, rattled his brain in his skull, and frankly made him want to piss his pants. This was bad acid trip shit, this was not a random Thursday night dalliance less than an hour after he’d been peacefully sleeping after a rousing bout of love making. He felt a part of himself detach from the impossible reality in front of him and left the other part of him cowering in a corner, gibbering about demons and smelling of urine.
“Stop it!” he yelled, and boy did he mean it. If that unbearable sound continued for one more second he was going to lose his shit. Oddly enough, the girl stopped. A head still shaped like a badly peeled hard-boiled egg twisted around on her neck and those berserk eyes focused like lasers directly on his face. She croaked at them. “Welcome, Rolly. Welcome, Mara.”
The definition of the word and the circumstance in which it was delivered could not have been farther apart on the spectrum of meaning and intent. They were not welcome, this broken face said to them, they were interlopers of the highest regard. Here they were anyway, though, so she may as well play the game.
“Enough, I’ve had enough of this,” Mara stated. “You came to us, you came into our home, and you brought us out here. It was our bedtime, goddamn it! Now I’ve had ENOUGH of your SHIT!”
Crackling gravelly laughter rolled off a tongue that lolled out like a deflated balloon. Noise was still travelling differently; it reached the ears of the people meant to hear it, delivered directly and petering out to the sides, waves breaking against rocks. There was a lazy shimmer around the outline of the girl and, with no in-between, she stood before them, whole and unbent. Her body was that of an underfed 12 year old, and her head was cartoonish, perfectly round and too large for her neck. Giant, hollowed out black rimmed eyes took up half of her kitten shaped face and her mouth, when normal, was thin lipped and prone to sneering.
“My name is Marchessa. Marquisa? Francine. Francesca. Molly? I don’t know, I usually make one up on the spot, but I seem to be having difficulty settling at the moment.” The wicked grin flashed, snake in the grass fast. “What say you? What would you like to call me? No, not that, that’s not nice at all.”
Mara glanced at Rolly, who shrugged. “I thought Morticia Queen of the Damned was apt, sue me.”
“Kelly,” the girl decided. “For now, you may call me Kelly. Be warned, this may change at any moment and without prior notice or approval.” A pause. “No, Kelly’s stupid. I’ll be Rowan. Because it’s funny and ironic. Call me Rowan.” She held out a hand behind her and the front door opened, with a satisfying screech. “Would you like to come in?”
pssst…There be gargoyles in that there house…