Let me come in, won’t you? Won’t you?
Hosei strains against my grip, his neck craning for the window. I wrestle him towards the couch, but it’s not the most coordinated take-down. He’s got a few inches on me and what he lacks in strength he makes up for in sheer wiriness.
“Peter! Help me.” Sweat licks my skin as I try to force Hosei away from the light. Maybe if he can’t see that weird blue glow, he’ll go back to normal. Or normal for Hosei.
It’s not Peter, but Tori who rushes to my side. At first I try to block her. It must look like I’m manhandling her brother, which, granted, I guess I am. Tears run down her cheeks, but when she tugs at my arm, it isn’t in a way that feels like she’s fighting me. “His ears!” she says. “C-cover his ears…”
“Let me.” Tori throws herself onto Hosei’s legs, finally unseating him so he falls to the couch. She slams a pillow over his face and squishes the rest of him against the sofa. “HOSEI!” she screams. “CAN YOU HEAR ME?”
For a moment, this is the most psychotic thing I’ve ever seen. But whatever Tori’s doing, it works. Hosei’s eyes roll backwards and he sucks in a huge gasp of air, like he’s surfaced above water.
“Son of a – all right, I’m fine! Get off me, Tori.” He pushes her away and slaps his hands tight to his ears. “Good call. It’s a siren.”
“I – I thought so. You looked so weird walking towards…” Tori rubs her eyes to flick away the last of the tears.
“Sirens?” I repeat. Is that all the blue light is? A squad car? “You think it’s the cops?”
“No! Sirens.” Hosei has to shout everything. He jams his hands so hard against his ears that red edges form along his cheeks. “Best known from Greek mythology. You know? Bird women who lure sailors to their doom?”
“We don’t have time for your weird theories!” We’re all shouting now. So much for not drawing attention to our position.
“We’ll be fine if no one opens the door,” says Hosei. “Sirens can’t do anything unless you listen to them and since you and Tori are both girls, you’re safe.”
“Are you kidding me?” This is the most useless conversation of my life. I look around for a weapon and settle on one of the spare two-by-fours we never used for the float. Maybe I’m paranoid about the shadow outside the house, but I’ll be paranoid and prepared, damn it.
“No, he’s right. The sea was a very sexist place for many generations,” says Tori sagely. “The Fey never learned to enchant female sailors.”
This is insane. This is every crazy thing about Hosei I’ve tried to ignore over the years, slapping me full force. And worse, Tori’s absorbed more of his battiness than I realized.
Let me come in, won’t you? Won’t you?
The shadow by the window falls backward, the silvery voice fading. For a second, I think it’s given up on us. My grip around the two-by-four relaxes. But then I see it. Blue light, peaking beneath the front door. And standing with his hand on the door knob is my slack-jawed little brother. Hosei and Tori lunge towards the door, but like me, they’ve noticed too late.
The latch clicks as Peter heeds the call of the creatures outside the house. But it’s not some glorious siren that waits on the other side. A demon hovers in the air, haloed in unearthly blue light. But as my senses adjust to the shock, I see it walking towards us, propelled not by its human legs, but by an extra, spidery pair that protrude from its body. Tori and Hosei throw their weight against the open door, but the spider’s legs snake through before they can shut it. One of the legs snaps closed over Peter’s wrist. We both return to our senses. Peter screaming, me rushing to his side.
“Out of the way!” I push Peter against the wall and take aim. Three times I bring the two-by-four down on. The spider leg writhes and weeps blood, but holds on. Peter screams louder with each twist of the clawed foot against his skin. I smack it again, and the beast finally releases him, leg retracting. But instead of wriggling away, it digs its claws into the door frame and pushes hard against the Yoshida’s.
Wood splinters off the frame as the spider monster forces itself inside the house. The Yoshidas fly backward and the beast chases me into the living room. I whack it away from Peter, but the thing has more limbs than I can hope to manage. Black, bristle haired legs claw at me from every direction and I stumble into a floor lamp. One of the legs wraps around my two-by-four and tosses it across the room. Glass breaks as three of Mr. Yoshida’s birds fall from their perches on the wall.
The human part of the monster reaches towards me. Large hands throw me up against the wall, closing over my throat. His face is dark like the rest of him, but white highlights cut down from his eyes across his cheeks. He grins at me with sharp pointed teeth.
“Eleni,” he says, leaning close and tracing a clawed leg along my cheek. “I’ve got the one we came for.”
“Like Hell you do.” I curl my legs up and kick him in the chest for all I’m worth. He topples backwards, legs flying everywhere. I want to take a moment to gag, but I know an opportunity when I see one. When you’ve got a spider belly up, you squish it.
I retrieve the two-by-four and smack him on the stomach over and over, dancing away from his legs best I can. “Peter! Someone, help me!” I don’t know where the Yoshida’s have gone. Maybe they’re passed out behind the door.
Peter’s face is so pale, he reflects the blue light, but he reaches for another spare beam. Shakily, he lands a thud on the demon’s face. The beast swears and I quickly bring another hit down on his stomach. The legs thrash about, but we’ve clearly found his weak spot. The human spot.
But the rush of success doesn’t last long. Another creature swoops through the door and a woman’s body throws me to the ground. Her hands go for my throat and mouth. Hands coated in… feathers? My head slams against the floor boards and my vision swims before I can make sense of it. Peter screams and I know the spider beast has him again, but this time, I can’t save him. This feathered witch knows better than to give me a chance to kick her away.
“She’s strong. Must have her mother’s blood,” the woman says. Her fingers tighten as I try to jerk out of her grip.
“What about the boy? Do we bring him?” It’s the spider’s voice. He sounds winded, which pleases me immensely.
“Why not?” she says. “Let’s get out of here before-”
“BACK TO THE SHADOWS, VILE FIEND!!!”
If I could speak, I would tell him to run. Whatever these things are, they’ve come for me, not the Yoshida’s. But wherever they disappeared to before, they’re back and they clearly didn’t bring anything resembling weapons. They stand over my head, Tori clutching two tubes of glitter glue and Hosei shaking a paper bag that sounds like it’s filled with cutlery.
“Our fight isn’t with you, children.” The siren’s voice is soft and beckoning. I mean, I think it’s a siren that’s pinned to the ground. Hosei’s eyes glaze over again as she speaks and I wish now that I’d believed him sooner, not that it would have done us much good. “Put your toys down.”
“Don’t you talk to him!” Tori squirts both tubes of glitter glue in tandem. Ribbons of sparkles fly through the air, landing half on my face, half on the siren’s hands. I want to cry, this is so nuts. Though it’s not half so crazy as the fact that it works.
The siren releases me, instantly fascinated with her bedazzled feathers. “Oh! It’s like the stars-”
“HIT HER WREN!!!” Tori fires another round of glitter at the spider.
I deck the woman in the face, then roll out of her stunned grip. This seems to be enough to rouse Hosei, who reaches for my elbow and pulls me to my feet. “Here! Use these.”
He shoves a handful of rusty nails towards me. Odd, but I’m done questioning his logic. I start by rounding on the siren, swiping the nails at her when she tries to tackle me. I hardly break skin, but the way she shrieks, you would think I’d dripped acid on her.
“Retreat!” She stumbles towards the door. “Luther, retreat!”
“Without the girl?” The spider asks. Tori shoots glitter at him, but it’s not working the same way it did the siren. He lifts Peter into the air, edging towards the door. But it’s one thing for these beasts to try capturing me. Another for them to take my brother.
I leap towards him and drive a nail through one of his spider legs, catching the tip between the floor boards so he’s pinned down. He strains against it, howling in pain. Peter flies from his grip. I grab another spider leg and pin it to the floorboards. I wish I had a hammer. Poor Mr. Yoshida. I do not envy him the mess he’s coming home to.
But this is working. The siren flees and Hosei is close at her heels. For a second I think he’s going to run away with her, under her spell once again, but instead, he slams the door and locks it. Shaking. he spreads a layer of nails across the threshold. “People used to use iron shavings to keep the Fey out but, I mean, whose got iron shavings laying around these days, right?” Hosei jumps to his feet and then heads for the window. He drops more nails there then dashes for the kitchen and I hear the clatter of him lining another sill.
The lights flicker on and I draw a breath in. The power outage seems so long ago, but I guess it was part of whatever we just survived. What did Hosei call them? Fey? I can’t wrap my head around it. The kids begin to get to their feet. Peter’s arm weeps blood and I can see tears edging down his face. Tori is at his side instantly, asking him if he needs a bandage. Worried as I am for Peter, the others need me to keep my eyes on the monster trapped here with us.
Across from me, the spider beast thrashes, but it can’t pull its legs from the nails. Its breathing labors and it drops to its knees – or, well, two of them. The human ones.
“You’re killing me.” He wheezes. “Is this how you welcome your own kind? With murder?”
“Hosei?” I hold a fistful of nails up to it, but I have to admit, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Hosei’s littering the whole house with nails, so does he want the spider to die here? And if he does, how is he planning on hauling the body out?
“Press a nail against its neck,” says Hosei as he dashes between windows. He grins at me like we’re at Disneyland, like he’s been waiting his whole life for some kind of near-death experience with the supernatural. Actually, he probably has. So this is what Hosei looks like happy. “You’ll need to tape it down. Then you can pull the nails out of his legs.”
“So we are killing it?” Stone cold, Hosei. Stone cold.
“No. But I’d like a prisoner who’s a little easier to handle.”
The creature can hardly resist when I press the nail against the back of his neck. He lets out another yelp as I take some of the masking tape and fix it to him. Thank goodness we had art supplies lying around when they attacked us. Then I leap back and whip the nails out of the spider legs.
I brace myself, half expecting the beast to lunge, but instead, the legs fall limp and he twitches against the ground. Then something strange happens. His limbs shrink towards his body, until he’s left with nothing but normal, human body. The black bristles retreat into his skin. Even his eyes shrink to a more natural size. I catch my breath as I find myself staring not at a monster, but at a boy. He can’t be that far off of my age.
“See?” Hosei’s voice bounces with delight. “He’s shifted back. All Fey have at least two forms. One beast, one human.”
I nod, eyes fixed on our prisoner. I keep searching him for signs of the spider beast before, but aside from the iron nail sticking above the edge of his collar, he looks normal. His clothes are oddly dated, but unless you associate spiders with the late Seventies, I can’t see the connection. He’s dressed in a muddy colored turtleneck and his long hair curls in a way that reminds me of old photos of Michael Jackson. He reaches gingerly for his neck, but his hand flinches away when he touches the nail.
“You’re monsters, you know,” he says, taking a sharp breath.
“We are?” I say.
“I call it like I see it,” he says with a smile that could only be called charming. Damn him, it’s very charming. “You know more than we were led to believe. Went and found yourself someone who enjoys torturing Fey to help you out, I see.”
“Goes to show you shouldn’t make assumptions,” I say to hide the fact that I don’t know what he’s talking about. I jab the nails towards him again. “Don’t move.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it.” He lifts his hands in a mocking surrender. “After all, those nails your friend dropped around the house will clearly keep me in and clearly keep all my friends out.”
“Hosei?” I say.
Hosei’s jubilant expression sobers a touch. “Actually, he’s right. We should take him somewhere for questioning.”
“You mean the police?”
“No!” says Hosei. “Are the police always your solution? You are such a cop’s daughter. I meant someone who knows something.”
Someone who knows something.
Maybe I wouldn’t have thought of it if Hosei hadn’t mentioned Dad. But an icy weight fills my legs. These creatures came for me and Peter, less than a month after Mom disappeared. Our prisoner’s earlier words come back to me as I understand them for the first time.
Is this how you welcome your own kind?
The Fey have arrived and they don't seem very friendly. Oh dear oh dear. Wren and Hosei clearly need to move their prisoner, and they need advice. Do they seek the help of...
a) A contact of Hosei's, who is an expert on Fey
b) Wren's father, who is an expert on Wren
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