The room around us is filled with the same light eating fog that surrounds the house, the floor so cold, I can feel it through my boots as I hurry to the dim outline of a door. I don’t wait long before squeezing through it and I don’t think about getting cought until I hear Rabbit’s horrified gasp.
“Sorry.” I whisper and my blush of embarassment is so warm, I’m sorta glad I goofed.
“Just be more careful!” She scolds me.
Being extra, super quiet, I follow the tug of the hidden candy around my neck. When I slip on the icy floor and catch myself, I find the walls sticky; groianing umder the press of my mitten. I look down at my two friends and we all share the same look of stomach rumbly nastiness.
The jewel leads me down the squishy hallway to a grey, dirty cersion of Marsalla’s warm and pretty kitchen. A pot boils on the stove, way too small to fit the three of us inside it. I would snoop to see what is in it but the jewel shivers around my neck and pulls me around the corner.
Frog hunkers down deep in my pocket. Rabbit squeeks and pressed against me. I don’t think I’m breathing. My eyes tear as I focus on everything the three of us thought we would fine in Masalla’s home because of how people talk. But it’s here. All of it. Jars of creatures, most not moving and others wishing they weren’t, bones littering the floor, some with meat still on them, and a black table with a mirrored top covered in tiny animal skulls and dripping candles. And the smell… How could it just be in this room? How did we not smell it from the hallway? It smells like something the dogs rolled in that made Auntie throw up.
When the jewel urges me inside, I can almost feel it apologize.
Downy feathers fly up, disturbed by my steps as I move and forcing me to look around. I see my poorly repacked bag and rescue it from the floor. With it on one shoulder and Rabbit on the other, I move to the table. I feel the jewel heat up when I look down into it, wax smeared and dribbled all over the edges and a wet, red handprint in the center. The glass shimmers with the frozen man’s face, the handprint making the blue features look wobbly.
“What should we do?” Says Frog in a shivering whisper.
Before I can guess, a low beep comes from the backpack. With Rabbit watching for the Bone Woman, I pull out a tiny cellphone toy. Blinking in confusion as it beeps again in my hand, I hopd the pastel plastic up to my ear.
“Boot?” Marsalla whispers through the toy.
I sputter a minute before answering. “Yes?”
“A real phone won’t work there. I bet whatever is sucking up the warmth is sucking up all kinds of energy so I rigged up this toy.” Marsalla fumbles with the phone on her end. “What do you see?”
“It’s a mirror with candles on it.” I lean forward and shiver. “I can see the Prince’s face but there’s a red hand on him.”
Marsalla gasps. “She’s sucking the life right out of him. Don’t touch the glass. Don’t touch anything, actually.” I hear glass bottles being moved through the ear piece of the toy. “What else did you see?”
“Not much. The walls are sticky and the Bone Lady had us in cages.”
“Ugly, hunched, skinny old bat.” Rabbit huffed. “I bet she would eat me.”
“Boot, be careful! That’s the Cold One!”
I hear skittering heading towards us from the hallway, like the dogs sound when they run around the kitchen, nails clocking on the tiles.
“Get out of there! Whateve ryou do, don’t let her touch your skin!”
“I don’t understan-”
She’s draining the life from the Prince through his blood on the mirror! If she touches you directly, you’ll die!”