Something sinister was scrabbling at the wainscoting between the ceiling and the roof. It was barely audible, but sounded like the panels were being scratched at with sharp claws.
Did a copycat come to get me?
I couldn’t move as if frozen by a curse.
Struggling to regain control, I slowly freed myself from the spell. I slipped out of bed and slid the door open silently. Moonlight spilled into the corridor from the windows. Although it was already spring, the floorboards beneath my bare feet were cold.
Just a little bit more, almost there. My parents’ bedroom was just around the corner. I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw light leaking out from under the door. As I reached out to open the door, I heard them talking. My mother’s voice, filled a concern I had never heard before. My hand stopped in midair.
“I’m worried. At this rate, she might…”
“If you keep worrying, I’ll only be a bad influence on Saki,” father said in a dejected voice.
“But if this continues…has the Board of Education started moving yet?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s hard to exert any influence on them from the library. But you have sanctioning privileges, so can’t you do something about it?”
“The board is independent. I don’t have the power to investigate them, much less from the position of Saki’s father.”
“I don’t want to lose another child!”
“You’re being too loud.”
“But she said she saw a tainted cat!”
“She probably just imagined it.”
“What if it’s real? What do we do?”
I took a step back. Although the contents of their conversation were beyond me, I understood clearly that I had overheard something I was never supposed to hear.
As quietly as I had come, I went back to my room. There was a pale blue emperor moth the size of my hand sitting on the window. It seemed like a messenger of ill omens sent from the underworld. Although I wasn’t cold, my body wouldn’t stop trembling.
For the first time in my life I felt vulnerable and alone, with no one to turn to.
What in the world is happening to me?
An unpleasant creaking sound was coming from the ceiling.
Something was approaching…
I sensed something as huge as fear itself, coming closer and closer.
Ah, it’s almost here.
The moth took off and vanished into the darkness
The next instant, the window frame started shaking and rattling, even though there was no wind. The shaking got stronger and stronger, like someone outside was trying to tear the window out of the frame.
The door slid open on its own and slammed closed again with a bang.
I gasped. It was hard to breathe. I tried to draw air deep into my lungs. But I couldn’t. It’s coming. Coming. Coming…
Suddenly, everything in the room started banging around violently. The chair and table started bucking like a wild horse, pens and pencils flew across the room and pierced through the door. The bed slowly floated toward the ceiling.
Sounds of hurried footsteps came down the hall. My parents were shouting my name. The door sprang open and they tumbled into the room.
“Saki, it’s okay now!” my mother wrapped me in a tight hug.
“What in the world is this?” I shouted.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. It’s a Spirit of Blessing! It finally came to you.”
The invisible monster wrecking my room had slowly calmed down after my parents arrived.
“This means you’re an adult now, Saki,” father said, relief showing in his smile.
“You graduate from Harmony School today. Tomorrow, you enter Sage Academy.”
The book that had been floating lazily in midair dropped lifelessly to the ground. My bed tilted and landed with a thud as if the thread holding it up had been cut.
Mother hugged me so tightly it hurt. “Thank goodness! There’s nothing to worry about anymore!”
As warm tears fell on the back of my neck, an overwhelming sense of relief washed over me and I closed my eyes.
But my mother’s pained cry of “I don’t want to lose another child!” echoed in the back of my mind.