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Some Quiet Place

by

Kelsey Sutton

For Wayne and Aneesa

Acknowledgments

First thanks must go to Beth Miller, my incredible agent, for rescuing me from the slush pile (twice!), for reading every single thing I send and being so enthusiastic about it all, and especially for sending me those pictures of Damon Salvatore on special days and days that I might not have survived otherwise. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Thank you to the fabulous team at Flux. Brian Farrey-Latz, for loving this story as much as I do. Courtney Colton and Mallory Hayes, for getting others excited about it. Sandy Sullivan, for catching all those little things I missed. Ellen Lawson, for such an amazing cover. And to everyone else who was involved in this process. I can’t wait to work with you all again!

Of course thanks to all my critique partners and cheerleaders: Gabrielle Carolina, Tanya Loiselle, Bailey Hammond, Ella Press, Stefanie Gaither, Skyanne Fisher, Holly West-Hedeen, Ruth Walters, Cindy Cowan, Ashley Levens, and Sarah Dalton. Not to mention all the early readers a few years back on YWS. And if I somehow missed anyone in that list, a blanket thanks to all of you.

Lastly, thanks to my family, for all your love and support. I am truly blessed.

One

Fear is coming.

As the day ends and I milk the cows, I wait for another meeting with my old friend. He comes swiftly, speeding over the plains as only one of his kind can do.

Every second that he draws nearer, the cows become more agitated, eyes rolling, hooves stomping the floor. I know his only purpose for making the journey to Wisconsin is to taunt me again. Test my boundaries. See if he can break through the unbreakable barrier. I’m the only human being he can’t torment, the only one who can look him in the face and not flinch. To Fear, I’ve always been a mystery.

“It’s late, and I need to go to bed,” I call out, making sure to be gentle with Mora’s udder. None of our other cows mind the milking, no matter how rough I am, but this one always raises a fuss. I try to make it easier for her, standing to croon nonsensical phrases in her flicking ear. There’s no sympathy, no affection, only the understanding that the animal will be more willing if I do this for her.

“Too tired even for a visit from me, Elizabeth?”

He leans against the doorway, cool and beautiful. He’s timeless, he’s seen everything and nothing in this world, and he doesn’t grow old or wise. Without glancing at him, I can picture his white-blond hair, envision his black, flowing clothes, feel the intensity of his hot-cold blue gaze.

I don’t raise my eyes to meet his, as I know he wants me to. His power, ever-present, ever-changing, sweeps over me. I see a young boy cowering in a dank alley, a woman shivering in a barren room, an old man clutching a gun with his back pressed to a wall. White eyes, trembling lips, utter isolation.

It doesn’t affect me.

For a moment, there’s only the sound of the milk squirting into the pail. Fear makes a guttural note in his throat, and suddenly there are spiders swarming all over me. Mora shuffles in annoyance when she feels some of them crawling up her hind leg. I study the onslaught crawling down my arms, my front, my feet. They’re small and black and their legs look like a writhing tangle of living string.

“You’re eager tonight,” I observe.

Fear sighs and waves his pale hand through the air. The spiders vanish. “And you haven’t changed.”

I begin milking again. My hold on Mora is steady and sure. “No.”

“Not even a little?” Fear steps closer, and I sense his essence flex and shimmer again as it wraps around me. Nothing. Fear sighs a second time. “What does your terror taste like, Elizabeth?” he asks, breathless now. “What would it feel like to see your eyes cloud over at my touch? To know you tremble at my will?”

I continue my task and don’t answer.

Fear is in a talkative mood tonight. He tells me stories, stories I have heard before, stories about the humans he has driven insane with his mere breath. People all around the world at every second of every day know who Fear is, and he relishes it. I listen to every word, feeling my nothingness dig deeper inside of me.

“Why are you the only one who can’t let go?” I finally ask Fear when he quiets and simply watches the movement of my hands. Dry now, Mora turns with expectancy in her large brown eyes. I stand again, scooting the stool back, but Fear moves to block me. I tilt my head to meet his gaze, adding, “All the other Emotions gave up a long time ago.”

The barn is utterly silent and my voice echoes a little. Fear has to hear the detachment in it, the proof that I’m unreachable. He still doesn’t move, but this time when I shift he allows me to brush past him. I untie the rope that holds Mora to the stall and lead her into it for the night.

“Hate,” I continue, “Surprise, Disappointment … they’ve all stopped coming.”

“They don’t have my stamina,” Fear says with a smirk. He looks satisfied at my words, as if it mollifies him that he’s not the only one who can’t influence me. He’s smiling that sardonic, sly smile he does so well. He may be the Emotion that causes people to cower or scream or run, but he is much, much more. “Don’t you want to know the truth?” he asks, and now he sounds genuinely interested, even though he already knows the answer.

I pick up the full pail. The others I’ve already put through the hand-cranked milk separator, poured into bottles, and placed in the cooler. Fear waits for me to respond, and I give the answer to him yet again because maybe if he hears it enough times, it’ll penetrate. My shoulder rotates with the motions of the milk separator. “No.” It’s not denial, only truth. The hard, cold, simple truth.

After throwing away the heavy cream and pouring the milk into a bottle, I walk out. Fear saunters beside me with his hands shoved in his pockets. It’s still dusk, the sun ducking down in the sky behind wisps of clouds. The fields are dark. The tall corn stalks sway gently, rustling.

“I watch you sometimes, you know,” Fear tells me abruptly, taking my attention away from the horizon. We’re at the front door of the house. He opens the door for me and stands aside. Entering loudly so I don’t startle Mom, I set the bottle down on the counter along with the separator. The milk sloshes within the glass. She looks up from her place in front of the sink.

“Did you close up the barn?” she asks, and as always she’s blind to Fear’s presence. It’s me that causes the shadows in her eyes, her wary tone. She’s been looking at me this way ever since I can remember; I frighten her. I heard her tell Dad once that I act unnatural. She wishes I were normal, like every other teenager in Edson. My efforts seem to be futile so far.

I shake my head no. Mom takes both the bottle and the separator. One for the fridge, one for the sink. I catch the faintest sound of a sigh as she turns away. She opens the fridge door. “Tim will get mad if he notices. Better go do it.”

Fear watches the two of us with mild fascination. He’s seen it all before, but he never seems to tire of examining me and my life. “She really just wants you to get out of the house,” he says. Not cruelly. It’s a blatant observation.

I let the screen door slam shut behind me. “I know.”

The Emotion follows again, his hair gleaming in the weak light. This time he stares ahead with a thoughtful, almost frustrated expression. A crow swoops overhead. Caw. Caw.

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