Publication date: February 2nd 2017
Genres: Gothic, Young Adult
An isolated convent, a supernatural presence, a dark secret…
17-year-old Paloma only wanted to hold a séance to contact her dead father. She never thought she would be kicked out of school and end up in an isolated convent. Now, all she wants is to be left alone. But slowly, she develops a bond with a group of girls: kind-hearted Maria, insolent Silvy, pathological liar Adelita, and their charismatic leader Rubia.
When, yet again, Paloma holds a séance in the hope of contacting her father, she awakens an entity that has been dormant for years. And then, the body count begins. Someone doesn’t want the secret out… Are the ghost and Paloma’s suspicions real—or only part of her growing paranoia and delusions?
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The foliage swallowed me. Sodden leaves gave under my shoes. Twisted limbs and giant ferns reached out to scratch my arms, my legs. “Adelita!” I called, hastening my pace.
Flash of white ahead.
“Adelita!” No response. “Damn it. It’s getting freaking dark!”
Voices? I halted, panting.
Then broke into a run again. The mist, carried by the waterfall, clung to my lashes, my cheeks, my lips. I tasted its bitterness on my tongue.
“I’m here!” Adelita called.
I slowed my pace. Toward the end of the path, fibrous vines hung from branches like a curtain of snakes. I pushed them aside and staggered forward. Slowly, I looked up.
Against the blackening sky, the monster roared, cradled by twisted, stunted trunks and wisps of fog, looming over me in all its brutal magnificence. Its crystalline waters gushed ferociously, cascading into a murky, swirling pool that spiraled into a descending rock-studded stream gurgling with white iridescent foam.
A cloud of spray enveloped me, cold and impersonal like the wings of some giant bat. Had it not been for one of the vines, I would have fallen to my knees.
Cold water, sucking me down, searing my throat, my eyes. Can’t see, can’t breathe; his hands grab me; blackness, like tar, steals its way down my lungs, spreading its web and filling every corner, every crevice; utter agony before oblivion settles— The sight of Adelita, standing at the edge of the pool, shook me out of my trance. She was very still, her skirt puffing from the thundering falls.
“Step back!” I shouted.
Slowly, Adelita lifted her arm and pointed to the center of the waterfall. “She’s in there.”
“Who?” When she didn’t answer, I answered for her. “The ghost? Your invisible friend?”
Adelita lowered her arm. She seemed to have fallen into one of her sudden spells.
“Is that who you were speaking to?” I said urgently.
She was silent.
“Adelita,” I coaxed. She was about ten yards from me. I took one step toward her, my toes curling. “Please… step back.”
“She wants to speak to us,” Adelita said, moving closer to the edge.
“What’s wrong with you? Stop!”
She turned her head to look at me. When she smiled, her teeth looked unnaturally white, as if the iridescence of the foamy water reflected on them.
I edged a little closer and extended my hand. “Please.” I clenched my teeth. “I can’t come any closer,” I said, stressing each word. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing reality to go away, willing it all to be a nightmare. But when I opened my eyes, Adelita’s toes stood just over the edge. For an instant, as if suspended, she seemed to sway, before she opened her wings like an angel about to take flight.
“No!” I sprang forward and seized her arm. She twisted, lost her balance and clutched at my gold chain—“No!”—The gold snapped. I grabbed her shirt and jerked her toward me. We staggered in a drunken embrace before stumbling to the ground. My hand groped wildly around my neck, but my pendant, the most precious object I possessed, was gone. I searched for it on my hands and knees, my flesh sinking into the cold, wet earth.
Then I stood and stared hard at her.
Smudged with dirt, she sagged against a moss-covered boulder. “It’s in there,” she said, her gaze lowered, pointing to the water.
“How do you know?”
“I saw it fall,” she said.
A jolt of nausea hit me and I held my stomach. “That can’t be.”
I stared at the swirling pool and thought I saw it twinkling in the depths. I squeezed my eyes shut—for an eternity, it seemed—before I spun and grabbed Adelita and shook her violently. “You’re lying! That’s what you do. You lie.” I kept shaking her. I wanted to hurt her, hurt her. That was the only way to ease my pain.
She started whimpering, in a manner not unlike my sister Sara. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she kept saying.
I shoved her away and reeled backwards. I felt breathless, delirious.
I glanced one more time at the swirling pool, before I grasped her muddy hand and we headed back. She didn’t resist, an obedient, repentant little child.
By the time we got back to the graveyard, it was already dark. The lamp post cast an iridescent glow on the white roses and tombstones.
To my dismay, Madre Estela had just stepped out of the garden gate and was marching in our direction. With the light behind her, her face was a black mask. But her chin was high and her stride purposeful.
As if out of habit, she went for Adelita first. “What are you doing here? You haven’t done any of your chores.”
I stepped forward and shielded Adelita with my arm. “This isn’t her fault,” I said quickly. “I told her to come and help me.”
She bared her teeth. “Help do what?” she said, her eyes sweeping over our dirt-covered hair and clothes.
“We heard voices coming from there,” I said, gesturing. “We thought one of the girls had gotten lost, so we decided to take a look.”
This made her pause, but only for an instant—before her hand came down, hard and brutal. I staggered backwards, more from shock than pain. No one had ever slapped me before. I touched my burning cheek and just stared at her.
“Voices here, voices there,” she said, disgusted, as if she couldn’t stand to hear more of it. “There are no voices, do you understand? No voices,” she repeated, as if she were trying to convince herself of the fact. “You should know better than listen to Adelita’s lies.”
Adelita didn’t even flinch when Madre Estela twisted her ear. I thought she was going to wrench it off her head right in front of my eyes.
“Pick up the things and go change immediately, both of you,” she ordered, “before you catch pneumonia.”
Before we went inside, I glanced back at Madre Estela. The vegetation rose up behind her, dark and menacing. Her eyes seemed strangely unfocused. She was clutching her wooden cross and murmuring a prayer. A gust of wind rattled the branches.
About Zoe Kalo
A certified bookworm and ailurophile, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery. She lives amongst cats and books in Belgium, and is the author of the Cult of the Cat young adult fantasy series and the Retribution novella series for adults.
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