Table of Contents
For Erin Underwood, who keeps me from screaming. Most of the time.
The Screaming Season
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group
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Copyright © 2011 Nancy Holder
All rights reserved
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eISBN : 978-1-101-51342-2
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Silence is the most powerful scream.
BOOK ONE: CRIES AND WHISPERS
Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
my sanity? they think I’ve lost it. at least my loyal dormies keep reminding everyone about my fever. who knows how long I was wandering in that snowstorm?
all my stuff back in my dorm room:
my textbooks, mummy-wrapped in Marlwood book
six filled regulation Marlwood Academy notebooks
(my first semester’s work).
six 1/3-filled notebooks (my second semester).
the vast Marlwood logo-land of my school supplies:
highlighters, pens, pencils, etc., etc.—they must make a
fortune off all this stuff.
my clothes, including Memmy’s UCSD sweatshirt &
the socks I knitted my dad.
my ash-caked Cons. PROOF.
here with me in the loony bin:
the borrowed clothes I wore to the Valentine’s Day
my St. Christopher’s medal, which they will not let me
have (do they think I’ll try to strangle myself with it?).
my Tibetan prayer beads—wearing them down, but
no prayers have been answered.
the red string Miles Winters wrapped around my wrist
when he came to . . . to do what? did he come to see how I
was? or to make sure no one would listen to me?
Panda, Julie’s little corgi stuffed animal—proof that
I’m not alone.
with me always:
the ghost of Celia Reaves.
a hundred years of fury.
the screams of dead girls, dying over and over
is “possessed” a mood?
couture clothes, shoes, purses, all designed for them and featured in
and shown at Fashion Week. but it’s not enough. it’s never enough. it’s like they have a
family jewels: the wristwatch Picasso gave Great-grandmama, in lieu of marrying her. blood diamonds.
techie gear so advanced their fathers have to sign nondisclosure agreements to get them. bringing sexting and character assassination to new lows.
everything they want, on demand, without a single moment’s doubt that they’re entitled.
has Mandy ever told them that ghosts are living inside them? do they shed them as carelessly as their other possessions?
have hauntings become déclassé? have they moved on to something more interesting... like serial murder?
they don’t listen. they don’t have to.
they don’t have to feel anything they don’t want to.
Do I envy that? Or is that what insanity is?
“HEY, SWEETIE,” JULIE said, squeezing my hand. “Welcome back.”
I want to go home,
I thought, wobbling and weepy.
If I make a wish and tap my heels three times, all this will have been a dream. Three, two, one . . .
I opened my eyes.
And I saw
. . .
“Oh, my God!” Julie shouted, jumping to her feet and leaping away from my hospital bed. Her chair slammed on its side and she tripped over one of the legs, slamming hard against the wall. “Lindsay, stop! Stop, it’s all right!”
Tongues of orange flames whooshed up around the bed. Ebony smoke billowed toward the ceiling, fanning out and rolling across the light blue surface like rushing water. Searing heat slapped my face.
Dead blackbirds in the snow.
Splatters of blood.
Claw marks in the trees.
Shadows in the forest.
The lake house.
The Ouija board.
The white head.
The fog rising from Searle Lake, where the dead drifted, waiting for one of us to look into the water and see . . .
That horrible, horrible face, laughing at me, pushing me back against the bed, showing me the ice pick and the rubber mallet and whispering,
“Do as I say, and it’ll be all over.”
His words were a whisper that echoed around the burning room, ricocheting and bouncing off Julie’s sobbing and my screams. His
’s were hisses of steam, and everything I saw morphed into his bloodshot eyes and the gleaming tip of the ice pick. One jab, one thrust.
“Get him away!” I shrieked.
I wailed and shouted. I could hear myself, but I could also hear
, and I heard Julie whimpering. My focus snapped back and I saw her hugging herself as she pushed against the wall with her back, as if she couldn’t get far enough away from me.
“Calm now, Lindsay, calm down
,” Ms. Simonet ordered me. The middle-aged nurse sounded angry, scared, impatient. But of course I wasn’t going to calm down when
was going to shove an ice pick into my eye socket, twitch it back and forth like a cat’s tail, and split my brain apart. What sane person would?
He’s not there, he’s not
, I told myself—but he
. Just because they couldn’t see him didn’t mean that he existed only in my imagination.
I knew better.
At Marlwood, the enraged dead possessed the living and made them do horrible, unspeakable things. Made them torment, and torture, and kill. Spirits, ghosts, whatever you wanted to call them,
hurt you. He was really there, in the blazing infirmary; he wanted to shut me up. I knew the terrible secrets of Marlwood. I knew that dead girls roamed the halls and spied on us, and sent bothersome, nosy girls to drown in Lake Searle, or pushed them over the edge into insanity so no one would believe them, no one would—
I shrieked, trying to push the nurse away. And that was when I realized they had tied me down. There were leather cuffs lined with felt around my wrists, attached to my bed.
They think I’m crazy.
They know I’m crazy.
“Lindsay, I’m here too,”
said the ghost of Celia Reaves, the dead girl who had possessed me on my first day at Marlwood. I could hear her inside my head. Celia, who had died in the fire she had started in 1889. Celia was evil, and mad, and
hurt those birds and that cat? Had
pushed Kiyoko Yamato into the lake and watched her drown?
“Let me calm you. Let me help you
,” said the madman no one else could see. He was Dr. Abernathy, the handsome young doctor who promised to take Celia away from all this and meant it, but not in the way she had believed.
“You will never suffer again.”
So much fear, so helpless. I jerked my head; then I kicked my legs, realizing they hadn’t tied them down. I tried to raise my knees to my chest to push him away with the soles of my feet, but all he did was laugh.