Someone–something–was dripping over her. Cold fingers brush her shoulder. Gently as a feather, gently as he–
She twitched, she couldn’t help it, but kept her eyes closed as a husky voice breathed on her. “Why…child…why…An-uh-bell?”
That wasn’t–couldn’t be Petr. That was a wicked creature’s voice trying to remember a forgotten tongue. Forget that wonderful stupid fairytale Water Pony dream. Petr is dead. Cold logic told you that. He is underwater dead. Five minutes underwater, maybe more. You don’t walk away from that. So who was this cold drippy thing hulking over her, some creepy Indian?
Annabel made razorblade eyes and saw wet blue pantaloons and legs long enough to be Petr’s strong legs. And strong arms, a carved face, dark amber eyes and hair the color of whiskey in sunlight, as Papa liked to say. But that skin was lobster red. Petr got sunburned underwater? His face was wrong, too. It had meteor streaks like something exploded in his face.
The Thing said, “Why did you…follow me…Annabel?” She winced as it stroked her hair, brushing it from her face just as Petr would have done. Thankfully, Big Jack had told her all about such vile creatures. This was something called a haunt, a walking dead thing.
She scuttled back, kicking off the boots and bringing up her fists. “Keep away from me, you creepy haunt.” Tears burned down her cheeks, and couldn’t be helped. “You’re not Petr. I had a brother once, but I don’t anymore. He drowned in yonder lake.”
The Thing seemed calm and patient, just as Petr would have been.
Smiling tiredly, sitting on a rock, it pulled on the boots, then the red shirt. It didn’t put on the spectacles which was the tip-off. Petr always wore his specks everywhere he went. The haunt’s amber eyes blazed unnaturally bright and lively. Feverbright. Now it searched the shoreline and found a black knife she hadn’t noticed before. He stuck it in his belt. But then he seemed agitated.
“Annabel–the watch, did you take it? Tell me…what time is it?”
Annabel backed away and clamped her breast pocket. “You can’t have it. It’s all I have left. It was his–now it’s mine–till the day I die.” Wishing she hadn’t added that last part.
The Thing smiled slyly. “Just tell me the time. We won’t mention this to Papa or Mama–about the watch, or the lake.” Smiling sadly, he said, “All right, little monkey-bump?”
Without agreeing to anything, Annabel read the time: “Five thirty-six.”
That jolted him, head snapping back, he swallowed hard, “God, an hour–under there.”
There was something beside him she had been too terrified to notice before, something so amazing it couldn’t be real; something impossible from the dream, shiny and wet.
A gold moon the size of a pie. Real solid gold.