Freya showed up on her aunt’s front steps one evening out of the blue, as orphans are want to do. She carried with her a large backpack containing two changes of clothing, and her mother’s diary.
Moira was not surprised to see her young niece; her arrival had only been a matter of time. She opened the door to Freya, who walked in wordlessly. She wore jeans that were torn at the knees and a ragged brown thin hoody sweatshirt that had been her father’s, a textbook runaway ensemble. She looked rather the worse for wear. The hoody had not been warm enough to combat the chill fall ocean air, but Freya had refused to submit to the cold. She had taken a train, two buses, and a cab ride with a very reluctant taxi driver to arrive, and was exhausted.
Freya walked past her aunt into the kitchen and began to rifle through the refrigerator, looking for something to eat. Moira leaned against the doorway, her arms crossed.
“Where were you staying?” she asked.
Freya grabbed a carton of orange juice and took giant gulps from it. Moira walked to one of the cabinets and pulled out a glass, and handed it to Freya.
“They had me in a foster home. It was stupid. I’d rather be here.” Her foster father’s eyes had lingered on her too hungrily, and his wife had not taken long to notice.
“Do you plan to stay this time?” Moira asked, dropping into one of the chairs at her tiny kitchen table.
“Are you going to make me go to school?” Freya asked. She hopped up on the kitchen counter and grabbed a bag of pita chips which had been sitting on it. She began to eat them by the fistful.
“Do you even need to ask?” Moira said.
“Thought I’d give it a try,” said Freya with a smirk. “I guess it won’t be that bad. I was only there a day last time.”
“Yes, and that went so well,” said Moira, grimacing. “This time you could try calling a little less attention to yourself.” Freya shoved another handful of chips into her mouth and appeared to mull this over.
“I’ll try,” she finally said, swinging down off of the counter. She picked up her backpack and sat across from Moira. She rifled through the bag, pulling out another pair of jeans and a t-shirt and dropping them on the floor. Moira kicked the clothes back at her. Finally, Freya pulled out her mother’s diary and placed it carefully on the table between them. Moira picked it up and began to thumb through the pages.
“I don’t think Mom was crazy,” Freya said. “She had some issues, sure, but I don’t believe that she was crazy.” Moira placed the book back on the table.
“Okay,” she said. Freya stared at her, but her face was unreadable.
“Look, I knew my mom, okay? She wasn’t crazy. Something was really happening to her.” She pushed her chair back from the table roughly and stood up. Her cheeks had reddened and her fists were clenched. Moira could see that she had chewed her nails down to the quick.
Moira spoke cautiously. “So your mother’s diary, she sounds normal in it?” She flipped open to the first page, dated back over two years before. “Freya, she started this when her episodes began.” The scrawled writing on the page looked completely incoherent, full of strange symbols and scribbled half drawings. Any writing was illegible.
“Let’s talk about this in the morning, Freya. I’ll need to call Josefina.” Freya scoffed. “Moira, I’m from Boston, the social workers there can’t wait to unload people, especially kids like me. They won’t even care that I’m gone.”
“Either way, it’s the right thing to do.” Freya grimaced. Moira stood up and began to put away all of the food that Freya had displaced.
“I know you miss her,” Moira said, her back to Freya. “I do too.” She swung the refrigerator door shut. “We will talk about this tomorrow, after school.”
“You don’t really expect me to go to school already, do you? Shouldn’t I be getting used to my new surroundings? Settling in? I am very fragile and emotionally unstable right now,” she intoned, clearly parroting something she had heard from one of the social workers. “Besides, don’t they need my paperwork? Gotcha there, didn’t bring it with me.” She shrugged and smiled smugly.
“Freya, I’ve had you on file with the school since the last time you showed up.”
Freya frowned. “Well, isn’t it nice to be predictable.” She shoved her clothes back into her backpack.
“The bed’s made in the guest room,” Moira said, trying to suppress a smile. Freya left the room glowering. “An extra towel is hanging on the bathroom door for you,” Moira called after her.
After the girl left, Moira stood in the kitchen for a long time, contemplating what to do next. Finally she decided to go to her room. She was about to turn off the kitchen light when her gaze fell once again on the diary on the table. She hesitated, then grabbed it, tucking it under her arm and heading to her bedroom. She already knew what she was going to find in the book, but she did not know what to tell Freya just yet. She had known Freya’s mother Caitlyn since the day she was born. She had been there to hold Caitlyn’s mother’s hand and stroke her hair and she brought the mewling babe into the world. Although, with Moira’s pure black hair and unlined cinnamon colored skin, it hardly seemed possible that she had been an adult at Caitlyn’s birth.
The moon shone down through her bedroom window so brightly that she had to shield her eyes when she walked in, as if it was there to remind her to keep her promise. She drew the curtains, blocking it out and leaving the room dark. She climbed into bed, shoving her fat cat Rummy out of the way. Rummy gave her a defiant look, then settled back into her spot, curling up as close to Moira’s side as she could. A cool breeze blew through the window, ruffling the curtains. She always left it open a crack so that she could hear the waves crashing on the nearby beach. “I guess I’ve had a nice quiet life for long enough,” Moira said to Rummy, who twitched her tail in response. She placed the book in her lap and ran her fingers along the cover. Caitlyn had been an excellent woman, she had gone too soon. She opened the book and began to read the strange set of symbols that Caitlyn had painstakingly inscribed. Her sharp eyes could make out every word, even in the dark. She read until she got to a detailed sketch of a great black beast, like a wolf the size of a bear. “And so it comes again,” she whispered.
Freya had curled up on the top of the bed in her clothes. She had rarely slept over the past year, as she had bounced around from place to place. And she had been able to sleep, she found herself haunted by dreams of her parents: her charming charismatic father and her quietly luminescent mother. She missed them both so fiercely that it made her throat sore. Moira was a hard-ass, but at least she was a known factor. She was sick of bouncing around while some stranger decided what was best for her. She regretted leaving Moira’s the first time, right after her parents had died. Back then she’d been so stricken with grief that she’d lashed out at everything. She’d arrived in July, and by the time school had started she was a wreck. Her first day, she’d gotten into a screaming match with a teacher, and that had been that. She’d taken off that night, winding up living on the streets of Boston for a few weeks before she was picked up and assigned to a case-worker. It didn’t matter anyway, it would only be one more year before she could be out on her own without anyone intervening. She rolled over on the bed and tucked her arm under the pillow bringing it closer to her head. Outside, the moon shone over the house, bathing it in a blue glow.
And so they both passed their first night together in Moira’s little house. And when they finally slept, they dreamed. Freya dreamt that she was floating. She was being gently rocked back and forth as if she was on a boat. She opened her eyes, expecting to find warm bright sunshine and found instead that she had sunk deep in a pool of brackish gray green water. Panicked, she began to claw her way to the surface, which never seemed to come.
Moira dreamt that her hair had grown so long that she could not stand under the weight of it and her fingernails so long that she could not close her hands. She could feel maggots crawling in and out of her skull. She tried to scream, but her voice flew up and was lost in the sounds of an endless storm. She awoke in the middle of the night to find the light from the moon streaming through her bedroom window, the curtains had blown back again. Her heart felt tight, and she had to sit up, arching her back and shaking her hands. She placed her hand against her heart, trying to calm it. It was beating like a small bird in flight. Her breathing was ragged. She sat that way for nearly an hour, squeezing her fists open and closed, breathing shallowly, pushing the adrenaline out of her body. Finally, she was able to lie back down and close her eyes, eventually falling back into a dreamless sleep. Sometime after she had fallen back asleep, a large dark shape passed between the moon and the window, blocking out the light. It stayed there watching over her for hours before disappearing again just as the sun began to rise.
Half the world away, a slumbering beast stirred, shaking the ground that surrounded him. Something was calling for him to awaken.