In this brilliant debut collection, Ian Rogers explores the border-places between our world and the dark reaches of the supernatural. The landscape of death becomes the new frontier for scientific exploration. A honeymoon cabin with an unspeakable appetite finally meets its match. A suburban home is transformed into the hunting ground for a new breed of spider. A nightmarish jazz club at the crossroads of reality plays host to those who can break a deal with the devil . . . for a price. With remarkable deftness, Rogers draws together the disturbing and the diverting in twenty-two showcase stories that will guide you through terrain at once familiar and startlingly fresh.
In Every House Is Haunted (winner of the ReLit Award), Ian Rogers explores the border-places between our world and the dark reaches of the supernatural. He draws together the disturbing and the diverting in twenty-two showcase stories that will guide you through terrain at once familiar and startlingly fresh. Includes the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated "The House on Ashley Avenue." Introduction by Paul Tremblay. – Sandra Kasturi
Soelle got kicked out of school for killing one of her classmates.
They couldn't prove she actually did it, which was why she received an expulsion instead of a murder charge, but there was no doubt among the faculty that she was responsible.
Soelle told me she didn't care if they kicked her out or put her in jail. She just wanted her tarot cards back.
At dinner that night I asked her if she wanted to talk about it. Our parents should have been the ones dealing with this, but we hadn't seen them in four years.
"Talk about what?" Soelle snapped. "Tara Denton is such a baby. I read her cards wrong on purpose. She wasn't really going to die!"
"But she did die," I pointed out.
"Yeah, because she ran in front of a bus."
"So you did predict her death."
Soelle tilted her head to the side and gave me a long-suffering look, as if she was the older sibling and I was the younger. "We all predict our own deaths, Tobias."
"Nice. Where did you get that?"
She frowned. "Ghost Whisperer?"
"Why don't you tell me what actually happened."
Soelle blew a strand of her straggly blonde hair off her forehead and dropped her fork on the plate with a loud clink. She was going to be sixteen in August, but she still had the mannerisms of a young child. Most people grow up; Soelle was growing inward.
"It was Algebra and I was so bored I could die. I was feeling fidgety so I took out my tarot deck and started shuffling it, practising some of those fancy shuffles you taught me. I started snapping cards down on my desk—maybe a bit too loudly, I admit—and Tara, she was sitting beside me, started giving me these dirty looks. I shot one right back at her and asked if she wanted to play. Do you know what she said to me? She said, 'I don't gamble.' Like she had never seen a tarot deck before. What a zero. Anyway, Mrs. O'Reilly put some big complicated problem on the blackboard and said she had to step out for a few minutes. I heard she's a drunk, so I figured she was heading off to the boiler room to get juiced. Robbie Moore said he saw her in the parking lot one time and—"
"So the teacher left and I turned to Tara. She was kind of pissing me off at that point. I snapped down a few more cards, some of the trumps, and I said, 'Do these look like playing cards to you, sistah?' I was expecting Tara to say something smart, but she surprised me; she actually picked up the cards, one at a time, and looked at them. She asked me what they were, and I figured, what the hell, and I started explaining what tarot is. We weren't bonding or anything—I was still thinking she was a twit—but she seemed seriously interested. I could tell because she looked kind of scared. She probably heard some the rumours about me that are always floating around. . . ."
I nodded. "Go on."
"So I asked Tara if she wanted me to give her a reading. I told her she had to ask me to do it or else it wouldn't work. I don't think that's true—in fact I'm pretty sure it isn't—but it sounded kind of occult, sort of vampirish, and she seemed to eat it up. By then a few of the other kids had gathered around us, and Tara must've known it was too late to back out. So she started acting smarmy, telling me to play her cards and read her future, or am I too scared. I didn't like that. First she says 'play' her cards, right after I told her they weren't playing cards, and she says it in this joking tone, not for my benefit, or even hers, but because we had an audience. Then, to top it all off, she asks me if I'm scared, which I found doubly insulting since she was the one who was actually afraid. But then I figured out what the problem really was. What her problem was." Soelle paused for a moment, possibly to take a breath, more likely for effect. "I realized she wasn't scared enough."
"So that's what you did?" I said. "You scared her?"
"I don't care if people disrespect me. They can say whatever they want about me. They can write it on the bathroom walls—they could write it in neon on the front of the school, for all I care. But tarot isn't something to be laughed at. The cards don't like it. They told me so."
"Uh-huh. So what happened?"
"I dealt out her spread. Then I sat there for a while staring at her cards, looking like I was concentrating really hard on them. I knew the longer I took the more agitated Tara would get. So I started her reading—her joke reading, I might add. It wasn't real. I made it up. I just wanted to take her down a peg, and in front of all the jerks she was trying so hard to impress. I put on this serious expression and shook my head, telling her I didn't like what I saw. I began asking these medical questions, like if there was a history of heart problems in her family, is her father a smoker, stuff like that. Tara started getting freaked out. I had her cards laid out facedown, and I was flipping them over one at a time. The first card I turned over slowly and smoothly, barely making a sound, but each one after that I started snapping them louder and louder. When I flipped the last one—a card I slipped to the top of the deck on purpose without Tara noticing—it sounded like a gunshot, and Tara actually jumped in her seat. She was really scared, Toby. That last card was Death, which, as any self-respecting tarot reader will tell you, doesn't actually mean death but change."
"I would say death is a fairly big change."
Soelle's shoulders twitched in a small shrug. She was tall for her age and tended to slouch, which gave her the appearance of someone expressing perpetual indifference.
"Tara wanted to know if I was making it up. I told her I wouldn't do something like that. I told her that the cards would turn back on me if I read them incorrectly. I'm pretty sure that's bull, too, but it didn't matter much because Tara wasn't listening anyway. She stood up and started flapping her arms like she had to pee or something. She was breathing really fast and looking all around the room. She looked at me with these big saucer eyes and asked how she was going to die. Then I realized why she was looking all around like that. She was seeing death everywhere. I told her I didn't know how she was going to die, that the cards weren't that specific. Maybe she'd slip in the shower and break her neck. Or maybe she'd get kidnapped and chopped into little pieces."
"Or get hit by a bus," I added.
Soelle shrugged again. "Or that."
"Then what happened?"
"Some of the others were trying to calm her down. They tried to get her to sit back in her chair, but she pushed them away. She started saying something really fast. I didn't understand all of it, but I think she was worried that one of the chair legs was going to break and she was going to fall backwards and fracture her skull. She started moving down the aisle toward the door, turning around and around. She bumped into Jack Horton, who was just coming back from sharpening his pencil, and she started screaming at him, accusing him of trying to kill her. She was absolute loony tunes. She started spinning around pointing at the chalkboard, the globe, even Blinky the classroom iguana—screaming about death, death everywhere. Then she ran out of the room. Nobody followed her, but some of the others went over to the windows. A few moments later we saw her come running out of the school and into the street. The buses were just arriving and"—Soelle drove her fist into her palm—"el smacko."
"You sound real broken up about it."
"Tara Denton wasn't my friend. She was some twit I sat next to in Algebra who believed too much in tarot. I didn't like her, but I didn't kill her."
"And yet you got kicked out of school."
"They've been waiting to do that for a long time," Soelle said, with a noticeable lack of resentment. "Ever since the school mascot drowned himself."
"Right," I said. "Because he thought he was a real shark."
Soelle shrugged. "That's the rumour."
"Seems to be a lot of rumours at that high school," I mentioned. "Most of them about you. Would it kill you to make some friends?"
"I don't need friends. Just my brother."
She gave me her NutraSweet grin: full of artificial sweetness.