Chapter OneShe thought the candle flickered.
Well, of course it flickered...that's what candles do. It wasn't odd, no, far from it. In fact, it was normal, and that was a relief.
Anne Baker was sitting, cross-legged, in the middle of her room, wearing her favorite nightgown, the pale yellow one with the blue and pink flowers littered across the front, all junk swiftly thrust to the side---nightgowns two sizes too small, discarded socks, forgotten and abandoned stuffed toys, markers, colored pencils, and pens of all shapes and sizes, crinkled paper strewn with eraser marks and edges worried away with age, books read halfway through, then moved to the side in hopes of a better novel. Blankets from her bed had escaped the mattress and made their way onto the ground, curling around the wooden floor, keeping close to the girl's bed.
Little Anne Baker was no more than seven years old, eight in November, but the look in her paling brown eyes was enough to give an adult chills. The second child of Mrs. and Mr. Baker had one animal in her lap, a stuffed one from her father's study, a little weasel with beady black eyes glued onto its head, and rounded off-white teeth that were displayed as the weasel curled its lip over them in an expression of either hatred, fear, of perhaps both; all four stubby paws were planted on the ground, and its small tail was posed straight up in the air, hair brushed the opposite way, so as to imagine as if the mammal were startled, or frightened. No matter what the taxidermist had been thinking at the time of creation, the weasel looked like that, and there was no reason why except because that was the way things had gone.
Regardless of the animal's appearance, Anne Baker had this already dead animal customized to look as if it were real sitting, rather, standing, on her lap, as if it were real. She had its entire body facing the candle, which flickered in a wind that the young girl couldn't feel; it danced in the air, as if spasms were wracking its body. At one time, Anne probably would have wondered why it did that, but she was a different person than she was one or two years ago...yes, a whole different person.
She had drawn the lines herself, with her red marker. It was her favorite one, and she didn't want to waste it on her floor, but she'd used it nonetheless. She felt threatened if she didn't, as if something would injure her if she didn't listen to it. So, taking her coloring utensil, she'd scribbled the markings on the ground, not knowing consciously what she was doing.
When all was said and done, she'd broken out of her room to grab the stuffed weasel, and sat back here, in her room, with the obviously deceased animal resting quite contentedly, it seemed, on her lap, and neither little Anne Baker, nor the weasel, bothered to change anything.
She'd been sitting for ten or fifteen minutes when something happened. Something not even Anne Baker would have expected.
The candle began to move. The candle began to move, touching each and every one of the markings she'd drawn on the wood.
And then it began to spin.
And the weasel began to move.