Selina is awakened by a scream.
She sits bolt upright and looks around. She’s in her room. The sun is streaming in through the window, and the room is already too hot. It’s got to be at least 10:00 AM. For a moment, she feels utterly confused.
Did I sleep in?
Slowly, some of her memory returns. She’s not going to school today; it’s Sunday. She was out partying with her friends last night. They got pretty drunk. As though to confirm this, a throbbing headache takes root in her temples.
Was someone screaming just now? Or did I dream it?
Another scream answers her question. It comes from the garden. This time, she can tell it’s not a real scream, just a kid playing.
Selina lies back down with a heavy sigh.
Now it’s all coming back to her. It’s Louisa’s birthday. She’s having all the girls from her class over.
Perfect, Selina thinks, pulling the blanket over her face. Just what my hangover needed.
It soon gets too hot under the blanket. In fact, she’s already sweating. So, she gets up, squinting against the sunlight as she opens the window and lets the fresh, lukewarm air in. She leans against the windowpane and peers down into the garden. On the terrace are tables laid out with flags and balloons. Three girls are chasing each other around the lawn. They are the ones screaming.
Selina gazes out over the open fields. They stretch out endlessly under the blue dome of the summer sky. She’s still not really used to living out here. Just like she’s not used to Louisa or Ulla, either. Or rather, “Little Sister” and “Mom,” as Dad insists on her calling them. Like that’s ever going to happen.
Something catches her eye. It looks like a person is walking across one of the fields. It’s hard to tell for sure, though, with the sun blinding her, and the fact that she surprisingly remembered to take out her contact lenses before going to bed last night; it could simply be the wheat moving in the breeze.
A new wave of headache.
How did I even get home? That’s right, Jonas drove us. Oh, shit, did I kiss him? I think I did …
Selina lets out a moan and rubs her forehead. If she really did kiss Jonas goodbye, she might as well lie down and die right here and now. Krista is never going to stop teasing her as long as she lives, even if it was only a tiny peck on the lips as they said goodnight in the car.
Selina looks around for her cell. She can’t see her purse anywhere, so the phone is probably somewhere in her clothes, which are strewn about the floor. She starts going through it, careful as she bends down, so as to not provoke any further headache. She doesn’t find anything. She calls off the search for now and instead goes to the bathroom. She gulps down a couple of mouthfuls of water and removes the worst of the makeup. Then she sits down to pee, closing her eyes for a moment.
The window is open, and she can hear a car come rolling into the courtyard.
Probably more rug rats here for the party.
Two car doors opening and slamming. Steps in the gravel. The front door opening.
Her father’s voice: “Morning, Officers. What can I do for you?”
Selina freezes. Officers? What the fuck? The police are here!? She immediately feels guilty. Had Jonas been drinking when he drove them home last night? Were there any drugs in the car?
“Morning, sir,” a man’s voice says. “We’re from the local police.”
“I figured as much,” her dad says. “Is something wrong?”
Selina quickly finishes up and goes to the window. From up here, she can see her father and two uniformed police officers. One of them is older and has a grey beard. The other one is pretty young, maybe mid-twenties, and pretty handsome. The younger officer appears to be rather nervous, as he keeps darting glances around the courtyard.
“My name is Soren, and this is Allan,” the older officer says.
“Torben,” Selina’s dad says, shaking hands with the older officer. He also offers his hand to the younger officer, but he doesn’t notice it.
“Allan?” the older officer asks.
Allan turns his head, smiles apologetically and briefly shakes Dad’s hand, before going back to searching the surroundings with his eyes.
Why is he so paranoid?
“We’re looking for a young girl who went missing last night,” Soren explains, taking out a phone. “Her name is Jennie Nygaard. If I could ask you to take a look at her photo …”
Dad studies the screen for a moment, before shaking his head. “Sorry, I haven’t seen her. Is she from around here? My daughter and I just moved here last month, you see, so we don’t really know—”
He’s interrupted by a scream from the backyard. Soren raises his grey eyebrows, and Allan’s hand goes instinctively to his belt, even though Selina can’t see any gun there.
“We’re having a kid’s birthday party,” Dad explains. “That’s just the girls playing.”
“Could we have a word with you inside?” Soren asks.
“Sure, come on in. My wife is out shopping, but she’ll be back in ten minutes or so. Maybe she knows the girl.”
The officers follow Dad inside the house. Just before they disappear out of sight, Selina notices Allan throwing one last look over his shoulder. Then the front door closes.
Selina is so curious she has completely forgotten about her headache. She runs to her room, gets dressed and puts in new contacts. Just as she’s about to leave her room, see notices something outside the window.
It’s the figure in the field again. This time, she’s sure it really is a person, because they’re a lot closer. She can tell it’s a girl around Selina’s own age. She’s heading straight for the garden, where the kids are playing. Only a row of rosehips separates the lawn from the surrounding fields.
But something seems odd about the girl, Selina notices. She’s staggering along in a precarious fashion, almost like a sleepwalker. Her arms are outstretched in front of her, like she’s grabbing for something. Her hair is messy and covers most of her face.
Could that be the girl the police are looking for? I’d better tell the officers …
Selina runs downstairs. On her way, she’s met by a pack of girls laughing loudly.
“Heey!” one of them shouts. “Are you Louisa’s big sister?”
Selina doesn’t bother to answer, but rushes past them. She finds her dad with the officers in the kitchen.
Allan turns immediately as she steps into the room. His eyes are surprisingly dark and handsome, but also nervous, almost scared.
“Do you suspect something happened to the girl?” Dad asks. He’s pouring coffee and hasn’t noticed her.
“We can’t discuss the case,” Soren says, taking the mug with a grateful nod. “But you’ll hear about it in the media before the day is over, I can pretty much guarantee it.”
Selina suddenly feels awkward. Allan is still the only one to have noticed her presence, and he’s doing nothing but silently staring at her, which is making her uncomfortable. She clears her throat.
Dad turns around. “Good morning, missy. How’s the head?”
“It’s fine,” Selina mutters.
“This is my daughter, Selina.”
“Morning,” Soren mumbles through a sip of coffee as he eyes her thoughtfully. “How old are you, Selina?”
“Uhm … sixteen.”
“Do you happen to know Jennie Nygaard? She’s a year older than you.”
“I don’t know her, but I think—”
She’s interrupted as three girls come barging into the kitchen. Louisa is one of them. “Torben! Can I open my presents now? Hey, who’re these guys?”
“These are officers from the police,” Dad explains.
“Wow!” Louisa gasps, eyeing the men. “Are you like real policemen?”
“We sure are,” Soren says, smiling. “And how old are you, my girl?”
“Seven!” Louisa exclaims proudly, holding up the same number of fingers.
“Louisa!” One of the other girls pulls her sleeve. “Where’s your dog?”
“Yeah, you said we could see it,” the third girl chimes in.
Louisa’s expression turns sad. “It’s gone.”
“Louisa’s dog unfortunately ran away a few days ago,” Dad explains. “But we put up posters, and I’m sure someone will find it. Go show your friends your room, Louisa.”
The girls leave the kitchen and run upstairs.
“Please, sit down,” Dad says to the officers. “My wife will be here any minute.”
Soren sits down, but Allan walks past the table and instead stands in front of the window to the back garden, where the kids are still running around playing.
Selina takes a breath. “I think I might have seen the girl you’re looking for.”
Everyone’s attention turns to her at once. Even Allan turns away from the window to stare at her.
“I see,” Soren says evenly. “And when was that?”
“Right now. Just a minute ago. I saw—” At that moment, Selina sees something through the window.
The girl from the field comes crashing through the rosehips. The thorns are tugging at her clothes and leaving bloody scratches on her arms, yet the girl doesn’t seem to pay notice. She just stumbles out onto the lawn with stiff, staggering steps.
The face of the girl leaves Selina speechless. Her messy hair can’t hide the greenish hue dominating the skin nor the milky white eyes which belong to a dead fish rather than a teenage girl. The gaze is fixed on one of the girls who is standing with her back to the rosehips only a few yards away.
“Selina?” Dad asks, pulling her back. “What’s wrong?”
Selina lifts her arm and points.
Allan has already turned his head to look. “Shit!” he exclaims, spinning on his heel and running to the hallway.
“Allan!” Soren exclaims, getting up from the table. “What are you doing?”
But Allan doesn’t answer, and a second later the front door slams.
Selina is still pointing and staring at the window, unable to move or speak, trapped as though in a nightmare, everything suddenly moving painfully slow. She sees the girl who’s got to be Jennie Nygaard descend upon the girl; it looks most of all like a clumsy embrace, causing both of them to fall to the grass. For a few seconds, they scramble around.
Then the girl screams. This time, it’s a genuine scream. A scream of pain and fear.
“What the heck?” Dad says. “What’s she doing? Is that the girl you guys are—”
“Stay in here,” Soren commands, running through the living room and opening the terrace door.
Dad follows him.
Selina still can’t move. Events seem to speed up again, reaching an unnatural pace. She sees and hears everything from the window, which is ajar.
Jennie Nygaard is sitting astride the girl who is still screaming, now in very shrill, batlike tones. Jennie Nygaard throws back her head, and Selina sees the bloody chunk between her teeth. It disappears quickly out of sight, as the teenager gulps it down and promptly bends down for another bite.
What the fuck? She’s … she’s … biting her!
“Hey, you!” Soren calls as he comes running across the lawn. “Stop that right now!”
Jennie Nygaard doesn’t react the slightest to his call, but keeps doing what’s she doing.
“Hey!” Soren yells, grabbing her by the shoulder. “I told you to—”
Selina sees the officer freeze in place, his expression turning to utter horror. “What the hell are you doing? Stop! … Stop that!”
He shoves Jennie Nygaard aside, giving Selina a clear view of the girl on the grass. The sight makes her gasp. There’s a giant bloody crater in the neck of the girl. She’s no longer screaming.
“Allan!” Soren roars, kneeling down by the girl. “Allan, goddamnit! Where are you?”
Jennie Nygaard is laboriously making her way back to her feet, and the officer seems for a second to have forgotten about her completely. The lower part of her face is covered in blood. She makes a sound halfway between a gurgle and a growl, then turns towards Soren.
Suddenly, miraculously, Selina’s voice returns. “Watch out! Watch out behind you!”
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