Cat Scratch Cleaver by Addison Moore

Chapter 1





Eleven Years Earlier





It’s cold, dark, and by the looks of those purple welts in the sky, it’s going to pour at any moment.

“I don’t get why we had to come all the way out to the shore at midnight.” I pull my sweatshirt on as Hezzy, Roxy, and I huddle in a circle on the sand. “It’s the middle of summer, but it feels like winter. ‘Midnight knows no season,’ my father always says.”

Hezzy scoffs. “New rule. No one brings up their parents, especially not you, Leeny. This is serious. And if you’re not going to take it that way, we can just go back.”

The whites of Roxy’s eyes glint in the night. “Who goes first?” Her voice quivers.

Roxy always pretends she’s brave for Hezzy. I’m so sick of it.

Hezzy looks my way and bleeds a dark smile.

“No way.” The words sputter from me.

“Yes.” Hezzy’s voice is tight as the wind blows her hair into the sky. “We’re all taking turns tonight, so it doesn’t even matter.” A thick silence crops up. “Fine, you big crybaby. I’ll go first.”

“I’ll do it,” I hear myself say. I guess I like to pretend I’m brave for Hezzy, too. And the last thing I want is for her to call me a crybaby for the next two years. Besides, I can lie about what I see. I can make up anything. I can scare the pants off both Hezzy and Roxy from ever wanting to try something like this again. And yet a part of me is curious as to what lies on the other side as well. I wouldn’t be on the sand at this late hour if I weren’t. After all, it was my fascination with the afterlife that got the ball rolling.

“Lie down,” Roxy instructs as she helps me onto one of the beach towels we dragged out with us. “Close your eyes,” she says, and before I do, I see Hezzy placing her own towel over my face.

“Hey.” I push her off. “What are you doing? I’m going to hold my breath, remember?”

Hezzy rolls her eyes. “People don’t die by holding their breath. You’ll pass out at best. Once you pass out, I’ll hold this over you for a few extra seconds. Long enough for you to get a glimpse.” Her lips curve as she looks to Roxy. “And then we’ll wake you right up.”

Roxy nods. “I swear, I will stomp on your chest if I have to. You’re not staying on the other side. You’re just going for a little visit.”

“Fine. But don’t press that thing against me so tight,” I say, flicking the towel in Hezzy’s hand. “It freaks me out.”

“Whatever.”

I close my eyes and hold my breath as Hezzy lands the towel gently over my face. My life blinks before my eyes. Not in the way they say. But I can’t help thinking of my parents, my sister. Thank God this isn’t real. But I can’t shake this dark feeling.

I hold my breath until my lungs feel as if they’re about to burst and I take a quick, hot gasp of air from the towel. I try to push it from my face and it’s pressed down over my nose and mouth even harder.

“Not yet,” I hear one of them say.

“Knock it off,” I mumble as I struggle to free myself from it, but one of them pins down my hands over my head.

I scream. I fight.

My entire body writhes as I try to get out from under their stronghold.

Can’t breathe.

Help me.

I don’t want to die.

My entire life plays out like a movie, quick and in snatches.

Please stop!

My hands break free and they pin them down again. The towel presses so hard over my face it feels like fire.

My mind fades in and out until I succumb to utter darkness.

And then I’m floating, rising above the scene. I see Roxy holding me down. Hezzy with both hands pressed over my face, her body right over mine as she bears all her weight into the effort.

I rise higher into the night.

My poor body, I muse as I soar into the black sky as it turns navy, then purple as the stars brighten all around me. A white light sits up ahead and I’m flying now, soaring.

This is unstoppable.

Inevitable.

It’s really happening now. But I want to go back. I’d give anything to go back.

I didn’t do this. I didn’t want this.

Hezzy and Roxy did this.

And I won’t let them get away with murder.



Present Day





My name is Bizzy Baker, and I can read minds. Not every mind, not every time, but it happens, and believe me when I say, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Like now for instance.