Hi! And welcome back to the Bohemian Legacy Chapter 4.14.
Last time, following Phoenix’s health scare, Generation 5 of the Bohemians, including a newly childified
Coriander, went on holiday to Three Lakes with their grandparents, leaving Requiem behind. Rhapsody
nearly burned the house down, Journey reluctantly bonded with Cori, and Elise obsessed over her
brother’s health. After discovering half a formula for a cure for death left in the Three Lakes cottage by
its previous owner, Elise decided that the only way to save her brother was to track down the person
who had potentially invented this cure, one Mr.Goth of Pleasantview, and the Generation 5 teens
decided to embark on an adventure in a bus.
So, if you’re with me, turn the page for Road trip adventures!
“Sleeping bags? Emergency medical kit? Flashlights? Auto repair manual? Phones? Clean clothes?”
“Yes Daddy, for the last time we have everything we could ever possibly need.” Dee smiled amiably into her
father’s shirt as he nearly suffocated her with a hug. “Food, fresh clothes, sleeping bags, emergency medical
kits…I’m pretty sure I even caught Journey lugging his guitar into the back earlier. We’ll be fine I promise.”
After several hours of arduous concentration and group brainstorming during which they systematically
discarded increasingly elaborate lies to tell their parents, in order to be allowed to skip out on school and other
responsibilities for an uncertain stretch of time they had come up with the perfect ploy.
Tell the truth.
It was dastardly in its simplicity and surprisingly effective.
River released his daughter “Well be safe and have fun driving down to the city.”
Ok, so not the whole truth. There were limits even with their parents. They were quite happy to release their
children into an irresponsible road trip to wander aimlessly in the general direction of Sim City. They would
most likely be somewhat less happy to release them on a very deliberate mission to track down a potentially
dangerous scientist and ask for his help in bending the rules of humanity for Phoenix.
That was the moment Journey chose to lean on the horn and glare out the window impatiently at his sister.
Giving her parents one last perfunctory goodbye hug Rhapsody dashed down the porch and settled into the
driver’s seat of the bus.
River wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist as they stood on the porch and watched the bus jerk its way
down the road.
“They’re up to something aren’t they?”
“Almost definitely. It’s cute that they think we haven’t realized that though.”
No sooner had they left the scattering of houses that constituted their lost little corner of the
desert behind, it quickly became apparent to the seven teenagers that they were in for a
singularly boring scenery.
The desert was immense and empty. They drove for hours through the barren golden landscape,
following the straight road by sandy dunes and flat stretches of nothingness until it became
“You ok?” Turner shook Rhapsody out of her reverie several hours into the monotonous drive.
“Yeah, I’m good” she smiled, rolling her shoulders stiffly “I was just thinking about how if we
hadn’t already seen the mountains and the lakes I might not believe there was anything but
desert in the world…”
Turner squinted ahead “Well even there isn’t at least we’re not the only people who live there.
Check it out.” He nodded ahead “A town…sort of.”
Dee peered out the windshield into the dimming sunlight where Turner was pointing. Sure
enough, shivering uncertainly in the distance like some sort of heat induced mirage, she could
make out what was clearly signs of civilization.
Requiem stepped up beside Turner, a frown on her face, as they drew level with the houses lining
the asphalt highway “Strangetown?” She read a dusty metallic sign as they drove past “I don’t
remember that from any of the maps…”
The others were already crowding around the windows as they began to roll past the first signs of life they had
seen since leaving home.
“Have we taken a wrong turn?”
“I’ll check. Where did you put the maps?” Turner asked, automatically flipping open the glove compartment.
“Right…maps” Dee smiled sheepishly at her cousin “I knew I was forgetting something.”
“Are you serious?” Elise, overhearing the conversation was up beside them instantly “You forgot to bring maps
and we’re already lost? How is that even possible! I looked at those directions, and it’s a completely straight
road! And we’re on that road! We can’t conceivably be lost!”
“Oh man, is this going to turn into a teen horror flick where we end up hopelessly lost being picked off one by
one?” Journey grinned settling back into his seat as his sister needlessly paused at the stop sign on completely
quiet road, “Hey Elise, start worrying, cheerleaders never make it far in situations like these.”
“Yeah and you definitely have horror movie survival skills Journey.”
“Well they’re better than yours.”
“Guys! We’re not lost and we’re not going to die. I promise. I’ll just pull in here and we’ll ask for some
“Well that’s almost as bad as saying ‘I’ll be right back’”
Satisfied sounds accompanied stretching as seven antsy teenagers piled out of the hot bus into the slightly less
“I am dying for a nice cold drink.” Cayenne sighed as she let a warm spring breeze roll across her bare skin.
Journey muttered something under his breath which she decided to ignore “I saw some machines when we
were pulling in. Who’s in?”
There was a general noise of assent which was followed by some stiff staggering steps around the bus to fulfill
their quest for refreshments.
They’d taken approximately six steps when they found themselves stopping short.
They were being watched.
Or rather, stared at.
In complete silence.
And with obvious curiosity.
It was incredibly disconcerting and the only thing they could really do was stare back. Journey voiced what
they were all thinking first “What is up with their clothes?” Elise jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow in
Rhapsody Bohemian however was hard to disconcert,.
“Hiya!” She smiled easily as she stepped up to the closest boy in green “We could use a bit of help, we
might be lost. Except we’re not actually sure if we are or not. Because I haven’t seen any turns, except
this town’s not on our maps. Or at least we don’t think it is, we don’t actually have any maps. Is there
any way you could give us some directions? Or maybe tell us where we could buy a map?” She finished
The boy in green blinked huge obsidian eyes at Rhapsody as she spoke very fast before finally speaking
“You’re actually lost?”
The girl in pink laughed a high clear sound that pierced the awkward silence “Golly you can’t actually be
lost can you? That’s impossible.”
“Clearly you’re underestimating my sister’s ability to defy the laws of possibility.” Journey muttered
scuffing his foot against the asphalt.
“But- I mean- No one ever comes here by accident. I mean, Jinx, we’re literally halfway down the road to
nowhere...” The girl’s smile had become rather fixed now as confusion flashed behind her eyes “We’re
not supposed to be found...”
“Are you spies?” It was one of the boys, clad in an unseasonable sweater and tie, who spoke up this
time, apparently sharing his pigtailed companion’s confusion.
“Don’t be kookie Petey, they’re too young to be spies.” The blonde girl perched in the back of the truck
piped up. “Maybe they’re scientists.”
“No, that one’s too naked to be a scientist.” The leather clad boy nodded towards Dee.
“Are you getting a creepy blast from the past vibe from this place or is that just me?” Phoenix whispered
leaning over to his sister.
“I get the feeling we should maybe just keep driving...” Elise admitted, trying to shake off the weirdness
The other teens seemed to be feeling the same, the girl in pink however was somewhat less tactful
thank Phoenix as she blurted loudly “This is like so strange! No one ever comes here unless they’re
looking for us first. They’re not supposed to find us unless they know where we are. It’s why we’re not
on maps or anything.”
“Ok, that’s only a little unnecessarily weird.” Requiem commented drily.
The boy in green was scrutinizing them still as something seemed to occur to him “So...you’re actually
here without official authorization?” He sounded baffled by the very notion.
Rhapsody shrugged “I guess...does that matter?”
The boy opened his mouth to respond when suddenly the sound of a car engine shattered the
increasingly eerie silence.
The five teenagers immediately stiffened and their heads snapped around in time to see a large mud
splattered truck pulling off the barren strip of desert road and into the parking lot.
“I don’t want to scare you or anything...” the blonde girl straightened her glasses nervously “...but you
might want to hide. Quickly.”
The door of the vehicle slammed shut behind an impeccably uniformed man, his eyes rested on the five
teens almost immediately, pressing into a thin disapproving line. This technically qualified as loitering.
“Good afternoon General Grunt.” Five voices chorused, like a class of small children greeting their
“Good afternoon.” He replied brusquely, then he noticed the giant yellow bus.
“What” he inquired, “Is that?”
Minnie Curious’s eyes went wide and innocent “What’s what General?”
“That.” General Grunt indicated the bus. “The Illegally parked government issue vehicle?”
“If you already knew what it was why are you asking my sister?” Ricky Curious piped up from his
position on the hood of the red sports car.
“That was here when we got here sir.” Minnie lied quickly. “We don’t know anything about it.”
This seemed to somewhat mollify the general, but his eyes flicked across the teenagers suspiciously as
they fixed him with blankly innocent stares.
“I will arrange for it to be towed in the morning.” The general concluded finally, turning his attention
away from the bus “And I assume that you are all aware that curfew begins in an hour?” The General
reminded the five teenagers sternly.
“It’s the same time tonight as it’s been for the past sixteen years general, we know.” Jill Smith spoke
with a cool politeness that no one could possibly reproach her, including the general, but there was
something tentatively insubordinate in her voice that he did not miss.
“Then you might also know Miss Smith, that when sitting in a motorized vehicle passengers are required
to occupy seats properly equipped with safety measures, and are not to be perched on the edge.”
“Gosh, of course I know that General. I also know that that rule is only in effect if engine is running.” Jill
smiled sweetly from below her pink frames as the general turned on his heel and strode across the
parking lot to the grocery store.
“Oh thank plumbbob! It was sort of crowded in there.” Seven Bohemians unfolded themselves from the
back of the pickup truck, clambering out of the car with varying degrees of grace and speed.
“Jill right?” Turner glanced up at the blonde as he allowed his sister to clamber over him, “Way to stick
up for yourself there kid.”
Jill flushed prettily “Thanks. Sorry if I kicked you a couple of times while you were hiding.
Turner grinned up at her “Don’t worry, it was a pleasure hiding out next to your feet. And by the way,
nice...shoes.” Jill turned bright red as Turner pushed himself to his feet and swung over the side of the
truck behind Cayenne.
“Ok, what was that all about?” Dee inquired, brushing stubborn dark hair away from her face as she
turned to Minnie.
“If you’re here without authorization, you might get in really really big trouble! And curfew is in less
than an hour. We have to hide you before then or you’ll be arrested.”
“They can’t do that! They can’t arrest us just for being here? Can they?” Minnie didn’t reply, but Pete
anxiously glancing after the General told Dee everything she needed to know. “What kind of place is
“It’s just Strangetown.”
Welcome to Strangetown, your new home!
What’s Strangetown you say? If you’re asking that question it probably means you’ve been brought here
against your will. Don’t worry, you’re not the first, we’ve been doing this for decades, you’re in good
hands. So, while the knockout gas wears off, please sit back, relax and enjoy this short video where we’ll
explain everything about your new life inside this wholesome government compound.
Strangetown is a town built just for you! That’s right you Mr. Scientist! We want to provide you with the
opportunity to conduct experiments with all the resources you could possibly want, and all to benefit
your government, you patriot you! Here in Strangetown you don’t have to worry about funding, and
ethics, we’re bringing you together in a town full of minds just like yours to collaborate with. Because
uniformity it good for industry!
Of course it’s not just folks like you here. You’ll be living with some of the top military men in our system.
Yes sirree, they’re here to keep you safe twenty four seven, and to keep you from breaking any of our
rules of course.
But here in Strangetown we want you to feel at home, which is why we’ve built this whole compound to
look just like a real town. Take a wander down to our good old fashioned ice cream parlour, or go have
good clean fun at the drive in and meet some of your neighbours. Why here’s two of Strangetown’s nice
normal residents now. Wave hello ladies! Yep, just good clean wholesome citizens in our fair town.
We’re sure you’ll settle in here quickly. Strangetown is a great place to raise the family. We offer some of
the best educational facilities in the country and we’re sure your little tykes will learn a whole lot just
from being around the house with you. After all here in Strangetown we don’t think of it as
experimentation, we think of it as good clean family fun!
Heck who knows, maybe in time your experiments will even be part of your family. Everything’s possible
Get settled in and join our wholesome little community out here in the desert, where no one will ever
find you. And you know what they say, in Strangetown no one can hear you scream! Forget about your
family and friends back home, Strangetownites are your new family, and here we know how to take care
of each other.
So Welcome once again to Strangetown. We hope you enjoy it here, because thanks to the advanced
high tech tracker we injected into your leg while you were passed out, you’re never leaving! After all, you
already know to much. We hope you like it here!
“I hate it here already. Why can’t we just keep driving?”
“Well gosh, you’d never get out of town at curfew time. That’s when security gets really serious. They
did a study and it showed that 90% of the people who have tried to escape from Strangetown have
done it at night. Not that any of them made it very far of course. I mean there’s the fence the whole
east side of town and it’s desert as far as the eye can see on all the other sides, you don’t last long
walking miles through the sand and the heat. By the time they find you with your tracking device you’re
pretty glad to see them.”
“This place sucks. And blows. It sucks and blows. I hate it here. Why the hell did you have to drag us
If Rhapsody heard her brother’s complaining she gave no sign of it as the teenagers made their way into the
derelict industrial building. Journey complained frequently enough that it eventually became white noise to
those around him, and in that moment, no matter how much she loved him, Rhapsody was more interested in
their surroundings than her brother.
“What is this place?”
The boy who had introduced himself as Ricky Curious shrugged “Old weapons factory, it’s bee closed for years.
We used to play here when we were kids.”
Rhapsody felt an unpleasant sensation run through her and shrugged it off quickly. “Recycling a building” she
forced a smile onto her face “cool. Looks like a great place to sleep! And we’ll keep driving in the morning.”
“You’re going to go home you mean?” Minnie spoke up, trailing along nervously behind “Back the way
you came...you’ll never get through the other way, there’s a checkpoint set up, they’ll never et you
Turner snorted “We don’t need their permission.” He winked at the green girl “We’ll be creative. It’s
what we do best.”
The pretty young blonde girl was lingering at the door as the others explored the old factory. “The sun is
going to set real soon.” She bit her lip “That’s curfew, we should be going.”
“You don’t have to you know. You could stay here if you wanted to...you could even come with us. Out
Jill looked at Dee “We can’t.”
“Of course you can.”
But she just shook her head “We live here, this is our home.”
“But you can’t be happy here. And you have to know that them keeping you here...everything they’re
doing here, it’s not right. You must know that.”
Jill just stared at her penny loafers, “I have to go.” And then as quickly as that she ducked out of the
door, followed rapidly by the others. And all Dee could do was watch them go.
“Testing! Testing! 1 2 3! Ladies and Gentlemen this is your captain speaking. Guess who found the
Cayenne’s enthusiastic voice echoed around the empty walls where they had set up camp. Night had
fallen quickly after the Strangetown teens had left, and the sound of rain beating on the windows made
everyone grateful they had somewhere dry to spend the night.
“What’s more!” Cayenne continued into the microphone, “Thanks to this family’s questionable, priorities,
while we don’t have any maps we do have about eight billion CDs, so…” Cayenne’s voice crackled out to silence
for a moment before being replaced by the blare of loud music.
No I don’t know where I’m going, But I sure know where I’ve been
Hanging on the promises, In songs of yesterday
And I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time…
…But here I go again…
“Idiot” Journey remarked offhandedly abandoning their makeshift fire to sink down next to Phoenix a little
“Me or her? Or just people in general?” Phoenix asked, laughing.
“Her obviously” Journey scowled “Although while we’re at it, you’re a bit of a jerk.”
“What did I do this time?”
“I finally worked it out today. I’d been wondering you know. Yeah, don’t think I don’t notice these things
Phoenix.” The blonde boy glanced over his shoulder to notice his cousin scowling angrily at a neon lighting
“You’re going to have to help me out here Journey, I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about this whole roadtrip thing. Ever since Elise started mucking about with those papers and this
trip you haven’t said a thing about any of it and I finally worked out why. You don’t think we can save you do
…Though I keep searching for an answer, I never seem to find what I’m looking for…
Phoenix smiled tiredly and leaned his head against the crumbling brick work “No I don’t”
“Then why the hell are you letting us all trek across the desert and put ourselves all through this if you think
we’re just going to end up being disappointed in the end? You jerk.”
Phoenix suppressed the smile, he knew Journey well enough to know he was lashing out at him out because
he was upset, and he didn’t want him to think he was laughing at him. That rarely went down well with
“My mom once told me that the hardest thing about dying wasn’t the dying bit, or the being dead part. At
least not for her. She said it was coming back and seeing how much everyone who loved her had suffered.
Grandma and Grandpa, your Dad, aunt Saffron…” Phoenix pushed the hair from his brow as he looked at his
sister, deep in conversation with Requiem around the fire “I don’t want to die Journey. But what sucked the
most when I was sick last time was how much it sucked for you guys. So if there’s even a tiny chance that this
can save me I’ll go along with it because it makes Elise happy to have some hope, because not letting her try
would be more selfish than demanding that you do…”
“Because we’re the ones who have to live without you if you die. Not the other way around” Journey
“You’re the most annoyingly selfless dying person I know Phoenix”
…and I’m gonna hold on for the rest of my days, ‘cause I know what it means, to walk along the lonely street of
...and here I go again on my own, walking down the only road I’ve ever known...
“Are you all right?” Dee turned at the sound of Em’s voice “Normally I wouldn’t ask because your usual
setting is happy go lucky. But you’ve been walking around up here for an hour now, so I though I would
Dee was silently for a moment as Requiem fell into step beside her “I don’t like this place.” She admitted
Em raised her eyebrows in surprise. For as long as she had known Dee she had found something positive
in everything, she had even found something positive in her, and Em was trying to remember if she had
ever heard her dislike anything.
“It makes me feel so...vulnerable you know. Because what they’re doing here, it’s just not ok.”
Rhapsody was heiress to a name, a house, a Legacy, and a way of life. And it was one she couldn’t share
with these anxious oppressed and horribly used teenagers. The realization that she could not have been
more powerless to help people was not an easy one for someone who thrived on an almost unconscious
ability to infect anything she touched with happiness.
“I’ve been walking around through this huge place for an hour because I’ve been trying to find
something that’s not machinery or discarded bullet casings and I don’t know how we’re going to get out
of this place either and-”
“I know.” Em said nothing more, but those two words were enough to help as they continued in silence
for a few moments. The Dee swung open a door and her foot struck something hard and metallic.
And all of a sudden the world was not such a terribly dark place anymore. She felt a smile tug at her lips.
Her eyes lit up as she looked at Em, who raised her eyebrows helplessly. Turning Rhapsody bellowed
down the stairs.
“Hey guys! Who wants to help me with a project!”
“This is never going to work, we are so screwed.”
“Of course it’ll work, just remember your job Elise, keep your foot on the accelerator and don’t panic.”
“This is never going to work! And I’m the only one here who seems to be rational and all I’m saying...”
“....is that this in no way qualifies as camouflaging the bus! If anything we’re more conspicuous now.”
“You say that like it’s my fault we ran out of green and had to improvise. And look how snazzy Belle looks!”
“Belle Lebus, I named her.”
“When we get arrested or court marshalled or whatever they’d better now put me in the same holding cell as
“Awww, you’re just cranky because we were up ‘til 3 a.m doing this.”
“I’m cranky because we’re going to get arrested.”
“Both of you shut up for a second, we’re at the town border.”
“Gee I wonder if that fence is electrical.”
“Probably. Cayenne, you sure you’re up for this Kid?”
“Hi” Cayenne smiled nonthreatingly perching herself on the bus’s step, “How are you today?”
The officers stared mutely at her, obviously trying to conceal their confusion with officious silence
“Ooook. So I was thinking maybe you could raise that barrier for us. Would be much appreciated, we has
official business outside of Strangetown.”
“What Business?” The man who was obviously of superior rank to the others demanded.
“The classified kind we can’t tell you about.” Cayenne kept her face straight.
“You will state your business or will report you to the General.”
“It’s very complicated you see, we’re undercover agents, we’re infiltrating a gang of teenage hippies...”
“Goddam Hippies.” One of men muttered. Cayenne knew she officially had them distracted enough to
not notice her cousin sneaking around the other side of the bus.
“What is she going on about?” Elise drummed her fingers anxiously on the wheel, beside her Turner
shook his head.
“Who knows, but they seem to be buying it. You ready to put the pedal to the metal as soon as Dee’s
out of there?”
“So if you cold just raise the barrier for us we’ll...” Cayenne caught movement out of the corner of her
eye and grinned “Actually nevermind, there it goes on it’s own.”
The officers spun around in confusion as Belle’s engine roared to life and began to pull forward as the
crossing barrier rose and Dee grabbed the other side of the bus.
Cayenne flashed the men a smile as the bus pulled away “Outwitted by teenagers and a little creativity,
shame on you. Peace out fellas!”
“I told you it’d be fine.”
“What if they follow us though! We can’t outrun anyone in a bus.”
“Might be a problem yeah, if I hadn’t emptied their gas tanks last night while the rest of you were
tarting up our Belle Bus.”
“Sweet.” Elise grinned relieved at Turner as she floored the accelerator, and the angry shoots of the
officers faded behind them. “I vote we drive around Strangetown on the way home though.”
“So!” Elise piped up all business as the scenery extended emptily ahead of them once more “Even without
maps I’m pretty sure I’ve got this itinerary figured out. I think we can probably be in Pleasantview in two days.”
“Yeah right, that seems like it’ll happen.” Journey leaned over Elise to get to the stereo “Who wants some
“If we drive through the night, and don’t get distracted any more we can make it in two days.”
“Elise” Journey sighed, giving his cousin a withering look “Lighten up.” He jammed a CD and hit play. As it
turned out he was right. It definitely took them more than two days.
Whooo mmm yeah...
Well, life's like a road that you travel on
There's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
“Yes Mom, your Vagabond children are still alive…we did call two days ago you
know….Somewhere near this place called Pleasantview…yeah it’s just suburbia, nothing
interesting. Just one thing that Elise wants to check out, but we figured it was a bit late when we
finally got here, so we’d at least wait ‘til dawn before we started…sight seeing…No we’re camping
out near this old abandoned shack tonight so no need to break into anything, but thanks for the
“No I’m still fine Mom, really…Elise took my temperature three times today, I’m being careful, I
promise…Yeah I will…yeah Mom… How about this, if I die, I promise to call and let you know….Oh
come on, it’s sort of funny Mom...”
“Yeah, I know Daddy…No, we’re good for cash now…No nothing, it’s fine, we took care of it…no
without breaking the law and everything!...Yeah I know.”
“Ok, we’ll call tomorrow…Mmmhmmm, give my love to Mom and Grandma and Grandpa...I love
you too Dad.”
“Heya.” stowing the cell phone safely in her pocket Rhapsody flopped down next to Requiem by
the fire with a smile.
“Hey.” A moment of comfortable silence passed between the girls, the kind that can only exist
between friends who have known each other a very long time and understand each other better
than most. Then Dee spoke up.
“Em…are you sure you don’t want to call your parents? We’ve been gone a while now and you
haven’t checked in with them once. They must be getting worried about you.”
Requiem shrugged “They know where I am.” She tactfully omitted to mention that this
information had been relayed via a note taped to the fridge just before walking out the door with
her suitcase to get on the bus. Her father was probably worried. She wondered bitterly if her
mother would have even noticed she was gone if she had just left without even the courtesy of a
Of course she would have. Requiem got the feeling that even when she was being wholly ignored
by her mother there was little she missed.
“Emmi,” Rhapsody spoke carefully, “you know I’ve never met your family…”
Requiem’s shoulders stiffened visibly, her eyes quickly darting away from her as she began to sink
into herself, carefully beginning to build a wall around herself like she had every single time the
issue of family came up since they were children. And Rhapsody had always allowed it, she had
never pushed Requiem when she didn’t want to be. This time she pushed.
“Emmi. What are you hiding from me?”
Requiem fastened her eyes on Rhapsody, something oddly dangerous flashed there, like a trapped
animal who was about to attack and for a moment Rhapsody felt a shiver run through as her
friend stared at her. Then Em looked away.
“You wouldn’t understand.” The words came out sharply, forbidding any further discussion.
Requiem pushed herself to her feet, fighting the sudden surge of emotions pulsing through her
chest. “Because you’ve never hated anyone Rhapsody.”
“Em, please don’t walk away from me…I’m your best friend” Rhapsody stumbled on a concealed
tree root as she followed Requiem away from the warmth of the fire. “…and I’m your drive
home…so you’ll have to come back anyway...”
The absurd simplicity of this last statement caught Requiem off guard, her step faltered and she
felt a laugh bubble up inside her and her shoulders began to shake.
“With you life is completely uncomplicated Rhapsody, and I love that, I love being here, and all the
stupid things we’ve done this week, and I love having fun and I don’t want things to change and-”
She felt the tears coming and quickly looked away, “And I love that you’re my best friend and I love
In all the years they had been friends it was the most open she had ever been with Rhapsody. She
knew Dee took it for granted that they were best friends and that they cared about each other,
but saying it outright was different. She blinked the tears from her vision and not quite daring to
look at her.
Rhapsody said nothing. Instead she simply reached out and pulled Requiem into a hug. She clung
to her best friend, shaking a little.
Neither of them said anything else. But in that moment the girls felt their bond tighten just a little
In spite of the lack of address or phone number it turned out that it wasn’t hard to find Mr. Goth
thanks to Elise’s genius suggestion that they pull over and ask for directions the next morning.
As it turned out she was right in her assumption that Pleasantview was just one of those places
where everyone knew who everyone was and where they lived.
The house they were directed to was normal in every possible way. A normal colour, a normal
lawn, a normal size, on a nice normal and completely peaceful street.
The peace was shattered the second they rang the doorbell.
The house erupted into a cacophony before the doorbell had even died away. A dog began to
bark, eliciting a scolding female voice which was practically drowned out by a baby suddenly
beginning to scream somewhere upstairs and amidst it all voices reverberated around the walls
demanding that someone get the door.
Finally someone did as the sound of running feet was accompanied a moment later by the
appearance of a cheerful looking small boy with messy brown hair who wrenched open the front
door and then stopped.
Mommy! Daddy! I got the door like you said, ‘cept it’s strangers. I’m not allowed to talk to
“Oh for the love of-, ok, chill out Davey. I’m coming.” A teenaged girl materialized in a doorway,
tucking dark hair behind one ear, a large dog attempting to trip her up as it darted around her
heels. The latter barked once at the Bohemians before darting out the door and through their legs
into the garden, followed a moment later by the small boy who nearly bowled Rhapsody over in
The dark haired girl leaned in the doorframe, “Hi, what can I do-” The rest of the sentence died on
her lips as her eyes flicked across the scene in front of her, rapidly taking in the seven teens and
the brightly coloured bus. And then she burst out laughing “Nice. What is this? Pimp my ride to
school? Putting the cool back into school bus?”
Journey laughed a little in spite of himself. The girl had an easy inviting smile, the kind that made
you want to smile with her. She winked amiably in his direction and Journey found his grin getting
Cayenne gave him a sideways look. Since when did Journey smile?
“Ummm…is this the Goth residence?”
“Sooooort of.” The girl pulled a face. “I mean it’s technically half of my last name, but Mom hasn’t
been a Goth since like two husbands ago. Still what can I do for you?”
“Well we’re looking for a Mr.Goth, one of your neighbours pointed us here. Is he in?”
“That kind of depends, the only Mr. Goth here is-” A door swung open behind the girl and she
glanced back over her shoulder.
“Nicky! Speak of the Devil.” The girl rounded on a dark haired teenage boy who bore a distinct
resemblance to her.
“What about me?” The boy Nick, blinked at his sister, caught off guard.
“As far as I know Nick is the only Mr.Goth here. Although like I said technically It’s ‘Goth-Lothario’,
we hyphenated.” She shrugged apologetically.
“Actually I think we’re looking for someone a bit older…”
“Yeah I kind of figured. You’re probably wanting Uncle Alex, right? He doesn’t live here, but I think
he’s coming home from Uni for a visit next week, if you want to talk to him then?”
“Actually we’re looking for the person who wrote this.” Elise interrupted. Stepping forwards she
handed the pair the battered old science fiction volume. They flipped the cover open and glanced
at the inscription.
A look passed between the two before they spoke again “That’s our grandfather’s
handwriting…Cassie, that’s our mother…”
Elise leaned forwards hopefully “Yes! Great. Is he in?”
The girl shook her head “Grandpa died a few months ago.”
Elise felt like someone had just punched her in the stomach.
Everything, all the travelling, all the planning, all the hoping it had all been for nothing. Despair
filled her as she looked at her brother, his face unreadable as he stood unusually quiet next to her.
The man who was supposed to be able to cure death was dead, and that meant there was no way
to save her brother.
Phoenix’s arm was around her a moment later “Elise, don’t worry, you did everything you could.
And I’ve had fun on this crazy drive of ours. Don’t beat yourself up.”
The dark haired girl had flipped forwards in the book to where Elise had been keeping the jumbled
notes. A curious expression passed over her face as she handed a few of the pages over to her brother
“I’ve seen this before...” The dark haired girl spoke, half to herself.
Her brother nodded seriously as he inspected one of the sheets of scribbled notes “It’s an early stage of
project Grey.” He looked up at the Bohemians seriously “You’re after Grandpa’s immortality formula.”
“For the last time dad I don’t want you to drag me and my family into this craziness.”
“Least you forget Cassandra, I am part of your family too. I have been working on the Grey project since
you and your brother were children, and I think I have finally perfected it. You’ve seen the workings, you
know that it’s sound.”
“Yeah I have seen it, and that’s why I know that it’s unethical and illegal and sick!”
“It’s logical Cassandra, and genius if I do say so myself, it regenerates any sick cells almost instantly, it
keeps aging and dying cells from degenerating. I can’t die if I have nothing to die of, neither age or
“And can you honestly tell me you don’t see anything wrong with that! You can’t eradicate death Dad. People
aren’t meant to live forever.”
“Don’t be absurd Cassandra, it’s not forever. It will simply be until Ingrid is old enough to fend for herself, then I
will stop taking the drug it and I let sickness and age have at my body. Will that make you happy?”
“Oh don’t you dare try to guilt trip me about this Dad. That’s not fair. I don’t want you to die. But at least I’m
adult enough to face the idea that dying is a fact of life.”
“Is this about inheritance Cassandra? If you need money darling-”
“You are so impossible!”
“It’s not what you think.” Elise interjected quickly as the suspicion suddenly sparked in the other
teenagers eyes “We’re not looking for immortality. We’re just trying to keep my brother from dying. He’s
sick...his immune system is degenerating and before too long his body is going to start attacking itself
and he’s going to die. We don’t care about the immortality thing...I just want to stop the his body
degenerating and dying faster than anyone can do anything about it. Please...he’s my brother.”
“Hello, Nicholas, how you feeling?”
“Hi Grandpa. I’m sick. That’s how come Mommy says I have to stay home from school today.”
“Yes I heard. I’ve dropped by because I believe I can help. I have some medicine that will make you feel better,
but you mustn't tell your mother about this, all right?”
“Mommy said you weren’t supposed to do ‘speriments on us anymore...”
“This isn’t an experiment Nicky, it’s the same medicine Grandpa takes. It’ll cure up anything just like that. Don’t
you want to get better quickly?”
“I can’t believe you Dad. You gave some of your warped little drug to my son. My son Dad! Can you even
comprehend how wrong that is!”
“Well the boy got better Cassandra, I fail to see why you are blaming me for curing your child.”
“He had the flu Dad, he would have gotten better with some bed rest and chicken soup! I thought I’d
made it clear you weren’t to try to ‘help’ my children with your experiments anymore. You know a
normal grandfather would just have brought him a toy or something.”
“In spite of your efforts to deny this fact Cassandra, I am not normal, and neither are you, regardless of
how mundanely suburban the house you have chosen to ensconce yourself in is. And neither are your
children, whether or not I do anything to help them. You will need to accept that fact some day my dear.”
“I’m going to make this very clear Dad, start being normal around my children, or they will grow up
without a grandfather in their lives, no matter how old he lives to. Do you understand me?”
“As far as I know....the formula was for an injection...it had to be administered every few months to keep
Grandpa alive forever....” The boy passed one hand through his dark hair making it stand on end “But if
you were just going to use it as a one off from time to time to keep someone from dying...theoretically
that could work...”
“What Nick is trying to say is that we might be able to help you, but we have to get out of here right
now before our mother starts-”
“Anastasia Belladonna Lucrezia Goth.”
The dark haired girl winced “Dammit.”
“Oh hey Mom. Fancy seeing you here.”
“Annie, what did I tell you about cleaning your room yesterday?” A dark haired woman bouncing a
small boy on her hip gave Anastasia a stern look.
“That it was my room and I should be able to keep it however I want?” If her mother caught the
sarcasm she ignored it, turning to her son instead.
“And Nicholas, I saw you were working on something for the science fair. I hope you can get that
finished today. I need you to babysit tomorrow ok?”
“Mom, it’s not even due for another month.”
The woman glanced at the doorway seeming to notice the presence of the seven Bohemians for
the first time “Who are your new friends?”
“Hi! I’m Dee.” Rhapsody waved cheerily from the porch. The dark haired woman nodded,
apparently satisfied by this wholly useless response.
“Annie, when you’re done with your room I’m going to need a few things done around the house
before your step brother drops by tomorrow.”
“That’s great mom, you know I woke up this morning and I was wondering what could possibly be
missing in my life and now I have realized, chores! Is Dirk bringing the princess of Darkness too?”
“I think Lilith” she emphasized the name sternly “is staying on Campus actually. Now can I count
on you guys to take care of things for me and not just spend your Saturday goofing off with your
friends?” She fixed the pair with a motherly gaze as she bounced the toddler on her hip.
Annie and Nick traded a glance, perfect understanding passed between them “Yes Mom.”
“So how much trouble do you guys figure you’re going to be in with your mom?”
“Meh, probably the usual amount.” Nicholas shrugged.
“And it’ll probably take her a while to realize we’re gone anyway. Assuming she even tears her
attention away from the baby long enough to ever notice. Ok, this is it. It used to be Grandpa’s
house. Nicky and I were both born here too, but we moved when mom got remarried, and Alex is
at college, so now it’s just Aunt Ingrid.”
The Bohemians peered up at the grey monstrosity looming over them like something out of a
horror film. If it hadn’t been the middle of the day a flash of lightening in the background and
some organ music might not have been out of place.
If Anastasia and Nicholas noticed the creepy vibe they gave no sign of it. Annie pushed the door
open confidently calling loudly as she went “Ingrid! You home?”
“I’m right here Anastasia, no need to shout.” Journey following just behind Annie blinked in
confusion at the girl who had stepped gracefully into the hallway.
There couldn’t have been less of a resemblance between the two girls. Where Anastasia was dark
Ingrid was pale to the point of near translucence, blonde almost white hair framing elegant
Anastasia ignored the blonde girl’s raised eyebrows as the seven Bohemians traipsed into the
house behind her. “Listen Ingrid, you haven’t cleared out any of Grandpa’s old lab have you?”
“Mmm?” Her tones were distracted and cool “No, why would I? I did try to get the maid to take
care of it after he first died but she refused, said she didn’t want to go poking around all those
experiments, that it might be dangerous. Useless woman. It’s impossible to get good help these
days you know.”
Turner’s lip quirked up in amusement as he inspected the petite blonde “She’s your aunt?”
“Yep. Well half aunt I guess if you want to get technical. Grandpa’s daughter from his second marriage.
She was actually born just a few days after Annie and I. We all grew up here together. She’s more like a
“And she lives here alone?” Dee sounded concerned.
“Yeah, Ingrid, Alex and Mom all inherited one third of the house after Grandpa died. Mom didn’t want
anything to do with it, Alex is off at college, so it’s just her. Her mother was declared unfit when we
were all kids, just after Grandpa divorced her and Grandpa’s will didn’t leave her a legal Guardian, I
guess because he wasn’t expecting to die before she turned eighteen. Mom was going to be put in
charge of her, but they never got along, so she sued for emancipation.”
“So listen, it’d be cool if these guys poked around up there for a while right?” Annie continued
“You wouldn’t mind?”
The blonde fixed the seven Bohemian suspiciously for a moment before waving her hand airily “I
suppose not. Just…try not to make a mess. Do you think they can manage that?”
“Ok. It is not humanly possible to make this more of a mess.”
“What happened here?” Elise stared at the tiny attic space that looked like the sight of recent
Nicholas shrugged “Grandpa happened here. Organization was not one of his strong suits. I tried
to find a couple of things after he died and gave up pretty quickly to be honest, but then it wasn’t
a matter of life or death for me.”
“But he always knew exactly where everything was. Although most of the time that was in his
head. He was cautious about writing things down after Mom found some of his notes when we
were all toddlers and flipped out. Turned out he’d been secretly dosing our milk with some
compound that was supposed to make us grow up super intelligent. She just about killed him for
“Your grandfather drugged you as a child.” Elise suppressed a shudder. She was liking the sound of
this man less and less. “I can’t say I blame your mom for freaking…if someone had done that to
us…” Elise trailed off. She could barely imagine her mother’s wrath if anyone had ever endangered
her or Phoenix.
“He was trying to help, in his own screwed up way…He was like that. Same reason he started
messing with immortality. He wanted to be there for us.”
“Listen Nick” Elise bit her lip anxiously as she looked around the cluttered lab, she so wanted to
believe there was something here that might save her brother, but she couldn’t ignore the
evidence “I don’t mean to be rude, but the fact of the matter is your grandfather failed. He died. I
appreciate you bringing us here and everything but, there’s not much point in digging around here
if all we’re going to find is a formula that doesn’t work.”
“Oh, it works fine. Grandpa, died the healthiest youngest looking ninety-eight year old I’d ever
seen. He probably could’ve lived to see us all graduate, get married, have our own kids…if he
hadn’t been murdered.”
Downstairs the remaining Bohemians had readily accepted Ingrid’s begrudging offer to raid the
fridge and make themselves some breakfast. Journey however found himself wandering curiously
through the old fashioned living room, inspecting the photos that lined the walls. The first one
showed an elderly and frankly fuddy-duddy looking old man who must have been Mortimer Goth,
his arm draped around the shoulders of a stunning blonde who was easily a third of his age. A
goofy smile was plastered on his face, as if he couldn’t believe his luck in even getting close to a
woman like her, let alone being married to her. He didn’t look like someone who could conquer
death and change what it meant to be human to Journey, especially not in that bow tie, but what
did he know, he’d never had a head for science.
The second photo showed… “My parent’s wedding.”
Journey turned to see Annie smiling at him from the doorway. Instantly an unfamiliar fluttery
feeling settled itself in the pit of his stomach. He swallowed hard. “Cool.” He shrugged, striving for
She smiled again and closed the distance between them in a few steps. “Journey right?”
“Yeah. And it’s…Anastasia?” He tried to sound as casual as she had.
“Yeah. But for the love of all that’s good call me Annie.”
“So those pictures…” Journey gestured over his shoulder “I’m guessing either that’s mini-you or
your evil twin.”
“Well technically if she weren’t me, she’d be my evil triplet. Nicky’s already my twin. So who’s to
say I’m not the evil one out of the two of us. I mean look at my face. You just know I’m plotting
something by the way I’m drinking that bottle.” She grinned wickedly at Journey and he felt his
belly flip flop “The other one…” her eyes strayed to the picture of three children grinning foolishly
at the camera, obviously her, Nicholas and Ingrid “That, was taken on Ingrid’s birthday, just before
my parents split up.”
Journey felt his smile falter, suddenly he was sorry he’d brought it up “Uh…sorry…that sucks.”
Mentally he cursed himself for not managing a more articulate expression of sympathy.
Annie didn’t seem to mind though, “Yeah that pretty much sums it up.”
“What happened? I mean…you don’t have to tell me or whatever…I was just wondering but if you
don’t want to…”
“Nah, it’s cool. Same thing as every two out three marriages happened I guess, or whatever those
stats are for divorce these days. Mom and Dad started fighting a lot, she was unhappy but
pretending she wasn’t, he was never around…”
“The cheating probably sealed the deal though.
I mean I didn’t know about it until years later,
but mom caught my Dad in the sack with
Grandpa’s wife” she nodded towards the
blonde woman adorning the walls, somehow
Journey wasn’t surprised that a woman with
cleavage like that was cheating on a man in a
“Turned out she wasn’t the only one he had
going on the side. She kicked him out that night.
I didn’t know about how messed up it was at the
time. I was only seven and all I knew was that
my Daddy was leaving me. And before I even
had time to get over that, mom was already
getting remarried. I must of cried for weeks, I
was pretty pathetic I guess.”
Anastasia smiled ruefully “Sorry, didn’t mean to go all TMI on you there. Now you must think I’m a
“Cool. I mean…no. I don’t think you’re a whacko. It’s cool that you told me. I mean, my parents are
together, and it’s kind of sickening. So whatever. Maybe you’re better off.” Mentally Journey was
kicking himself for not being more emotionally articulate. But Annie just laughed amiably.
“Seriously, should we be worried about this? I mean he hasn’t insulted her even once yet. He’s
actually attempting to be nice to her. Journey’s not nice to people.”
“Maybe he likes her…”
“No, that can’t be it. You’re his best friend, he likes you. And earlier he told you to get your idiot
blonde terminally ill head out of his face first thing in the morning. I mean that’s just how he
“Yeah you’re right…he must really like her.”
“So you guys drove here all the way from the desert in a bus? That’s pretty badass”
“Yeah I know! I mean…it’s ok or whatever. Back home I have a motorcycle.” Journey tried for a
cocky grin but it came out more lopsided and goofy, something about Annie seemed to do that to
She returned the smile “That is so cool.”
“Yeah, whatever, I mean it’s totally not a big deal or anything.” He beamed inwardly, he was just
wondering if he could work the fact that he played the guitar into the conversation when it
occurred to him that they were totally alone in the living room, and that Annie was standing only
inches away. Her full lips parted invitingly into a smile. Journey leaned forwards a little…
“So it looks like they’re going to be digging around up there for a while.” Journey’s head snapped
up as Turner strode into the room and frowned at his interrupting cousin, while simultaneously
attempting to discretely wipe his sweaty palms on his jeans.
“So we should probably find somewhere to leave Belle Lebus.” Turner continued oblivious to his
cousin’s ire “I mean I doubt your mother will be thrilled with us if we just leave her blocking traffic
in front of your house for however long it takes the brain squad up there to put this together. We
should also probably find somewhere to stay that’s actually in town.”
“You guys can stay here if you want.” Annie offered. “It’s a big house and I mean, I’ll ask Ingrid but
I’m sure she won’t mind, in fact she could probably use the company.”
Turner smiled dashingly at Annie “That would be awesome, thanks kid.” Annie smiled back and
Journey abruptly found himself glaring daggers at his older cousin. Then she turned the smile onto
“Besides if you guys stay here I’ll know where to find you to come and hang out.” And with a
mischievous wink at the dark haired boy she turned in search of her teenaged aunt.
“Cute kid” Turner remarked offhandedly as the pair watched Annie’s retreating back.
“Yeah, she’s pretty cool or whatever. If you like her type.” Journey shrugged, wondering where this
urge to start a fight with Turner for no apparent reason was coming from. Something in Journey’s
voice caught Turner’s attention, he glanced over at his younger cousin. Journey noticed the look
and scowled “What?”
“Nothing.” Turner grinned. Perhaps he’d wait until the murderous look left Journey’s eyes before
he started winding him up about his crush.
Annie was as good as her word and for the next few days it seemed like she was at the Goth family
home any time she wasn’t at school or asleep. However much to Journey’s annoyance, as huge and
sprawling as the old house was it seemed to be difficult to get any privacy.
Meanwhile the rest of the Bohemians were hard at work. Or rather, Elise was, the others helped where
they could, until their limited attention spans inevitably wore out. When that point was reached all Elise
really asked was that they not distract her as she dug through piles of notes and painstakingly deciphered
notes scribbled across books, scraps of paper and once or twice on the backs of food stained delivery
But no matter how much they worked and searched, they came up with precisely nothing to show for it.
Until finally, late on the afternoon of the third day of their stay Phoenix confronted his sister with
a sports analogy. “Elise, I think it might be time to drop back five and punt.”
Elise turned her grey eyes tiredly onto her brother “What?”
“Like in football, when you don’t think you can get the ball ten yards by the fourth down so you-”
“I know what it means.” Elise interrupted impatiently “I’m a cheerleader remember, unlike the rest
of our artsy family I actually understand sports. You’re telling me to give up. To cut my losses and
give up on figuring out this formula. To give up on helping you. I’m not going to do that Phoenix.”
“Elise, you found some scribbled notes in a book by complete chance. You worked through them,
figured out the science behind them. You managed to figure out who’d written them through
trickery and you got us all the way here, to the house of a man who was murdered. Which frankly
freaks me out on a whole different level, but that’s not our problem right now. You’ve done more
than I could possibly have imagined in trying to help me just by getting us to this point. But I think
we’ve come to the end of line here. And I don’t want to see you destroying yourself trying to push
this further if it’s futile.”
“It’s not futile…I can do this…it just might take a while…”
“Elise we don’t have a while. If we stay away much longer you’d better believe Mom will come
down here and drag us back kicking and screaming if she has to. You’ve done everything you could
with this. Now maybe it’s time to admit that you’ve struck out and throw in the towel.”
“Those are two different sports.” Elise pointed out, preparing to return to her search.
“Elise.” Phoenix caught her by the arm “you know what I mean. You can’t always win, no one can.
I’ve accepted that. And you’re going to have to one day.” Elise swallowed hard. She knew they
weren’t talking about finding the notes anymore. But she shook her head.
“We’ve come miles and miles for this Phoenix. I can go the extra ten yards.”
Before Phoenix could argue any further there were footsteps on the stairs and a moment later
Anastasia appeared looking cheerful. “Hey guys. I don’t mean to interrupt your work, but we’ve
kind of decided to throw a party. Here tonight. Just thought I’d let you know. Sound good? You
Phoenix’s face lit up immediately “Oh we are so in.” He spun to Elise, seeing protest already
beginning on her face “Elise, if you’re not going to give up on this can you at least do me a favour
and take a time out. You haven’t had any fun since we got to this town. Can you chill out for one
night. As a favour to me.”
Elise’s mouth quirked into a smile “I can handle that, I guess.”
It quickly became apparent that this was not the first party the Goth children had thrown in the
old house. In fact it seemed that parties there were expected by the rest of the teenagers of
Pleasantview. After all, how many other teenagers in town had a huge house all to themselves and
no adult supervision?
By the time darkness had fallen over the little slice of suburbia the old house was filled to the
rafters with teenagers that the Bohemians were rapidly getting to know.
“Oh and this little creature is Cara Mia, she’s our half sister…and Ingrid’s too actually. Cara, this is
“The one you told me about?” The dark haired girl Annie was introducing to Journey seized him
enthusiastically in something between a hug and a handshake. “And call me Cara, or I will die from
the shame of my full name.”
“You’re her half sister and her aunt’s?” Journey looked oddly at Cara “That’s messed up.”
“Welcome to our family! You should meet our brother who’s also my cousin.” Journey wasn’t sure
if she was kidding or not.
But before he could ask Cara had already moved on, and appeared to be giving him a thorough
once over “You know she was right, you are cute. In a kind of skinny way.” And with that she
clapped Journey on the shoulder hard enough to make him stagger and wandered off into the
When Journey turned back to Annie he could have sworn she was blushing under her dark skin.
“Sorry, she has a bit of a brain to mouth filter problem…”
Journey felt a smile spreading over his face “So I’m cute?”
“I take the fifth.”
“I mean awesome I get. Or cool, hot. I just didn’t know I was cute-”
“Well I- Leo!”
Without warning Annie launched herself into the arms of a handsome dark haired boy who had
just stepped through the door. “I haven’t seen you in days! I thought you’d ditched me.”
“Oof.” The boy exhaled as she knocked the air out of him with the hug before folding his arms
around her “Ditch you? I’d never dare.” He released her with one last squeeze and a smile.
Journey hated him instantly.
Momentarily forgetting about Journey Annie was beaming happily at Leo “What happened to you
hair.” she reached up and tugged a curl on the top of his head, the boy batted her hand away
“I lost a fight with Mom and a pair of scissors. Apparently my old hair was, and I quote, ‘beginning
to make me look homeless’.”
“Awww, I thought it suited you in a dashing kind of way.”
Journey glared at the other boy. He was emanating jealous so very violently that Cayenne could
sense it all the way over on the other side of the room.
“Oh for the love of…” Cayenne put down her drink on top of the piano and took a few confident
strides forwards placing herself in between Journey and Anastasia.
“Hey, what-” Journey began to protest, but his cousin silenced him with a look.
“Ok. I’m telling you this because as fun as it’s been watching you pine after this chick and fight
back your evil nature around her, I can only get so much pleasure out of your pain before it starts
getting painful for me to. So I’m going to give you some advice.”
“I don’t need-”.
“Of course you do. Trust me I know more about girls than you do. I am one. So shut up. Now, you
need to stop following her around looking like a lost puppy. It’s not attractive. Just leave her alone,
mingle, make her come to you. Also if I’m right, Annie seems like the type of girl who likes her
guys to be jerks. And you’re really good at that. So clearly this is a match made in heaven.”
“But that guy…” Journey peered over her shoulder to where Annie and Leo were still deep in
“Ignore him.” Cayenne advised. But Journey’s eyes never left the pair. She sighed and shook her
head, she’d never seen anyone have it this bad for a girl before. If that someone weren’t Journey
it might have been sweet.
“Besides, if you used your admittedly limited brain cells for anything apart from planning to pick a
fight with any guy who even looks at her, you might have noticed that they have the same nose.
He’s obviously family not competition. You idiot.”
“You’re the idiot.” Journey muttered as Cayenne punched him in the shoulder and turned him
very deliberately away from Annie.
“Veronica Beatrice Langerak, I’m not even going to acknowledge your existence if you’re going to
start smack talking .”
“Ok first, Beatrice is not my middle name you dork.” Ronnie Langerak rolled her eyes under dark
bangs at Cara “Second, I’m not smack talking anyone all I’m saying is that their new stuff is better
than their old stuff.”
“Yeah see all I heard there was ‘blah blah blah I don’t know what I’m talking about, blah blah blah,
my taste in music clearly sucks.’”
In spite of his initial protests against Journey was actually having fun that didn’t involve stalking Annie
and waiting for the right moment to make a move.
“I dunno, I’ve got to go with Cara on this one.” Journey shrugged, “The new stuff just feels like they’re
trying too hard or whatever.”
“Exactly. Trying is so overrated. See, clearly the smart people are correct.” Cara gestured pointedly,
sloshing her drink on herself in the process.
Ronnie raised an eyebrow at Journey mischievously “You know…it’s kind of loud here. Maybe you and I
should go and talk about this somewhere in private. You might even be able to convince me of your
point of view if you make a good enough argument.”
“Ok you two, stop molesting him.”
“Annie!” Cara turned and beamed at her sister who had fortunately saved Journey having to come
up with an answer for Veronica, “You impinge my honour. I’d never molest a soul. It was all Ronnie
and her mini skirt of sireny doom. Doom I tell you!”
“Yeah ok I’ll buy that.” Annie rolled her eyes amiably at the other girls before smiling at Journey
“Hey you feel like being rescued from my two crazy sisters here?”
“Oh it’s cool, I don’t mind we’re just- OW!”
“Ow?” Annie looked inquisitively at Journey he glared at Cara who had just delivered a sharp kick
to his shin and was now busy pretending to examine a spot on the opposite wall with an innocent
look in her green eyes.
“Umm…no, not ow, I mean, yeah. Rescue. That sounds cool…” he trailed off as he allowed Annie
to lead him away from the two other girls.
“Silly boy.” Cara remarked to no one in particular as they left, smashing her cup on her head to
emphasize her point.
“Your family is pretty cool.” Journey remarked as they flopped down on a nearby couch together.
“I mean, they’re all totally messed up, but you know…cool.”
“So’s yours. I mean, probably not as messed up as mine…but I like your cousins, they’re cool. And
your sister…does she ever stop smiling?”
“I know right! It’s so annoying!”
“I dunno, I think she’s sweet-”
“…and I think you’re sweet too.” Journey swallowed as Annie shifted her weight across the couch
closing the gap between them.
Her leg was pressed up against his, he could feel the warmth of her body through his jeans. She
turned her face towards him. There was an expectancy in the look she gave him. Journey
discovered that his arm had settled itself on her back and his right hand strayed tentatively to her
bare knee as he pulled her towards him.
“Annie?” Journey’s attention was reluctantly diverted from his dark haired companion as a blonde
haired boy appeared a few feet away. The expression on his face changed abruptly, passing from
surprised to upset to angry in the space of a few seconds.
Annie looked up “Uh-oh.”
Somehow Journey didn’t like the sound of that. “What the hell Anastasia.” He boy practically snarled at
her, then rounding hid gaze on Journey “And you get your hands off my girlfriend squirt.”
Annie was on her feet in a second, her brown eyes swept the boy looking unimpressed “Jim, what
are you doing here?”
Journey followed her up from the couch more slowly, feeling a little dazed “You have a
“Yeah she does.”.
“No I don’t. All I have is a clingy delusional friend who thinks that just because we went on a
couple of dates we’re as good as engaged.” She glared at the blonde boy.
“Oh don’t give me that Annie, you’re fine with me being your boyfriend when it suits you.”
“I have never once called you my boyfriend. Not to mention you’ve spent the last three weeks ignoring me. If I
wanted that I would have a boyfriend. Hell I’d get married right now if I wanted to be ignored and treated like
crap by a guy.”
“You are so freakin’ damaged Annie.”
“Listen man” Journey stepped between the pair before things could get any more out of hand,
people were already beginning to stare and he was actually beginning to feel a little sorry for Jim,
as much as he liked her it was beginning to seem like Anastasia was in the wrong “Just back off
and chill out ok. We can talk about this.”
“Get out of my face kid.”
“Journey, don’t, It’s fine.” Annie reached out and rested a hand tenderly on his back. Apparently
this was the wrong thing to do.
Jim’s fist caught Journey squarely in the nose.
Journey reeled backwards in surprise and pain as Annie let out a little noise of surprise and
distress. The second hit caught him in the chin and knocked him to the ground.
By now they definitely had an audience.
“Ooh right in the kisser. Kick him while he’s down Jimmy, Annie hit him below the belt, Journey get
up and sock him right in the face!”
“Who’s side are you on Cara?” Kayla Pleasant was watching with wide eyed horror and fascination
as Journey hit the floor.
“Side?” Cara inquired without looking up at her blonde friend “There are no sides, I just wanna
see a good fight! Come on hit ‘im again!”
Journey sat on the ground, more stunned than in actual pain. He had managed to hit his head on
the sofa on the way down and the room was spinning a little. He felt something warm on his face
and touched his nose. His hand came away bloody. He blinked at it in confusion. He’d never been
hit before, he wondered distantly how much this would hurt when the shock wore off.
He began to stagger to his feet dazedly to return the blow when he noticed that Anastasia’s legs
seemed to be planted firmly in his way.
“What are you brain damaged or something! What the hell is wrong with you? You can’t just go
around hitting people!” Anastasia was shouting, furious as the other guests began to gather
around at a safe distance, clearly hoping someone else was about to get hit.
“Get out of my way Annie.” Jim’s fists were still clenched “I’m not done with that skinny brat.”
“Yeah you are.” Journey blinked as a third pair of legs appeared in his bleary line of vision. It took
him a moment to realize it was Phoenix’s voice that he was hearing, it sounded much more
threatening than usual.
Then he felt hands on his shoulders, warm and comforting. He looked up to see his sister, kneeling
beside him and looking concerned.
“Fine.” Journey mumbled. He wiped the blood from his face onto his sleeve as he pushed himself
to his feet.
“I don’t want to fight you man. Just get out of my way.” Jim was apparently still brimming with excess
anger as he tried to dodge around Phoenix.
“Yeah, I’m not going to do that.” Phoenix crossed his arms firmly across his chest as Rhapsody helped
Journey up. He shook his sister off quickly.
“Hey, you want to fight, let’s fight. Leave him out of this.”
Then Journey felt a hand on his shoulder “No one’s going to fight.” Turner’s voice was very level as
he spoke “As long as Jimmy boy here doesn’t make us. Now I’m suggesting that you get the hell
out of this house before I change my mind about that.”
Turner was ready for Jim when he took a swing at him. He sidestepped the clumsy blow neatly and the
blonde boy staggered.
“I’m not going to fight you kid.” Turner told Jim calmly.
“Hell, I will.” Journey tried to take a step towards his new found nemesis, forgetting that Turner still had
a firm grip on the back of his shirt.
“No you won’t.” His cousin spoke firmly as he held him back. “This is over. Get out of here.”
For a moment Jim looked like he might take another swing at one of them, but something in Turner’s
face seemed to make him think twice about that.
He turned to Annie who was staring unhappily at her feet. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that.”
he spat at her. Annie didn’t look at him as he turned and stalked out of the room.
Turner felt a twinge of pity for the blonde boy as he watched him leave, still holding Journey by the
scruff of the neck. But if he had learned anything from his parents it was that family was supposed to be
on each other’s side, even when they were in the wrong and flirting with someone else’s girlfriend.
“Oh don’t be such a baby. You’re fine. Your nose isn’t even broken.”
“That freakin’ stings Elise! Are you sure you even know what you’re doing?”
“Are you actually asking me if I have enough medical training to disinfect a cut?”
Elise straightened discarding the last bloodied cotton ball in the sink. His nose had stopped bleeding by
the time she got to him, all she had need to do was clean away the blood and disinfect his lip where the
blow had split it rather nastily.
“You’re fine.” She told her cousin patiently, “You probably won’t even bruise.”
Journey scowled then winced “You’re sure?”
“Well if you really want me to I can stitch something or poke a needle into you, but that wouldn’t really
do anything. You’ll probably have a bump where you hit your head but you came out of things in good
shape all things considered. Trust me I may not be a doctor but I’m the closest thing to one in this
bathroom right now. So if you’re done I’m going to get back to work and-”
The door swung open interrupting Elise mid sentence. Abrupt silence fell over the bathroom as
Anastasia stepped in.
“Hey…” she looked around the room uncertainly “I came to see if you were ok and if there was
something I could do…”
“I think maybe you’ve done enough for one night.” Phoenix’s tone was not unfriendly as he spoke
to the dark haired girl, but it was certainly firmer than any of his cousins were used to hearing. He
liked Annie fine, but as far as he was concerned she looked like she was trouble for Journey, and
that he wasn’t going to stand for.
Annie at least had the grace to look ashamed of herself as she turned her eyes to the dark haired
boy. “Look, I’m really sorry about what happened- it’s just…” she paused, looking round the silent
faces in the room “Do you think we could talk in private? Outside?”
Journey hesitated for a moment before sullenly pushing himself up from the edge of the bathtub
and following Annie out into the corridor.
It was not until they had stepped outside into the cool night air of the garden that Anastasia spoke
again. “What happened earlier…that was really lame of Jim. I didn’t actually think he’d hit you, not
in a million years. Normally he’s not a bad guy, he’s just a little rough around the edges…but I’m
Journey didn’t look at her immediately, shoving his hands sullenly in his pockets. “You could have
told me you had a boyfriend you know.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend.” Annie scuffed her heel angrily on the dimly lit garden path as they
wandered slowly “I just have a guy who’s asked me out a few times and who’s a bit of a
commitment addict and who can’t seem to get a clue and realize I’m not the girl he wants to
settle down with. I mean I like him, but I don’t want to be one of those girls who just settles down
and marries someone in the town she grew up with and stays here and has a million kids, and
that’s what he wants and that’s fine but it’s just so not for me, and I then there was you and I
really liked you and I didn’t want you to think that- and- I mean- This is so frustrating!”
Annie kicked a tombstone angrily “It’s just…complicated you know. And I’m sorry that my sucky
handling of relationships got you punched in the face. I really feel so horrible about that.” Her
eyes met Journey’s, silently begging him for forgiveness. “I wouldn’t blame you if you hated me.
I’m pretty sure your family now things I’m a grade A bitch. But just know that I’m really sorry.”
Journey snorted “I don’t hate you. No matter how much I hate being punched in the face.”
Tension fled Annie’s her features visibly at his words. “Does it hurt?” She asked, examining his face
“It’s not bad…” Journey shrugged stoically “I mean, you know, whatever. It’s cool, I can cope.”
“Yeah?” Annie reached out tentatively towards the wound on his lip. Impulsively Journey caught
her hand and pulled her towards him.
Pain blossomed in cut on Journey’s mouth as their lips met. But it came with an intense flood of
pleasure at kissing Anastasia that seemed to block out any other sensation.
Which was why neither of them noticed they were not alone until the ghost actually spoke.
“Young man I will thank you to stop groping my granddaughter!”
The pair broke apart faster than if they’d been struck by lightening.
“As for you Anastasia. Does you mother know you’re here?”
Journey was very glad that Annie screamed first. He would have hated to be the only one.
“Grandpa?” Annie’s voice came out hesitant as she stared at the spectral form wide eyes.
“Young lady you were not brought up to hang around in graveyards kissing boys and bumping into
people’s tombstones and disturbing them!”
“But- but- you’re dead.” Her voice came out barely a whisper “You died, I was at the funeral!”
The ghost sighed, it came out a sharp unearthly whistling sound “You never were as bright as your
As if conjured by the Ghost’s words, at that moment the back door of the house swung open with
a violent rattling of wood and glass and eight teenagers poured out at a dead run Nicholas in the
“Annie! I heard you scream, what did he- Grandpa?”
“Just so we’re clear” Rhapsody’s words came ragged as she ran “Everyone else sees that right?”
“What the transparent looking guy in the bow tie? Of course we see him Dee!”
“Oh good.” She smiled back over her shoulder at Cayenne “For once it’s not just me!”
“Hey! There’s no need to be a jerk to her!” Journey was scowling at the ghost, apparently
forgetting to be terrified of it “All she said was that you were dead. Which as far as I can tell is
entirely true. So back off!”
“Journey, don’t pick a fight with a ghost ok?” Dee rested her hand quellingly on her brother’s
“Ghosts aren’t supposed to real! I mean everyone’s always said this house is haunted but…”
Anastasia pulled a face “This is beyond the realm of creepy.”
But Mortimer Goth’s attention was no longer on his grandchildren, his translucent colourless eyes were
fixed to his right, where his daughter was standing, her pale face and icy blonde hair making her look
almost ghostlike herself.
“Daddy.” The teenager’s voice was level, as if seeing her dead father’s shade did not perturb her in the
Then Mortimer Goth spoke again, with the same calm as Ingrid “You murdered me.”
Ingrid Goth never even blinked “I did.” Her tone was cool “What of it?”
“How could you?” His voice did not crack with grief but it did not sound far from it, even amidst the
strange unearthly syllables.
The blonde girl sighed, as if almost annoyed by the question. “Oh Daddy, how can you ask that. You
“I did what time and nature could not because of your tampering.” Ingrid’s tone was flat and matter of
fact “You knew it was wrong as well as I did father. You knew what you were doing was not right, that it
was playing with the rules of the universe.”
“You saw it just as well as I did father, the things that shouldn’t have been there, the ghosts walking out
in the night clear as you are now. They whispered things to me while I was sleeping, they told me it was
wrong, that you were meant to be crossing over, that you were fighting nature.”
“So I did what you wouldn’t and helped you die.”
“It wasn’t my fault father. You know that.” Ingrid’s voice was emotionless and unyielding, but her dark
eyes danced with something like a childlike grief at a lost parent, starkly contrasting with her adult
Mortimer Goth’s transparent face seemed to soften a little at her words.
Her niece and nephew were not so easily forgiving though.
“You killed Grandpa!” Nicholas’s arm was still around his sister’s shoulders but instead of fear confusion
and anger were warring on his face.
Anastasia seemed to have no indecision about what emotion she should give way to however as she
pulled herself from Nick’s grip “What the hell Ingrid? How can you think this is ok! How can you justify
this but claiming it wasn’t murder if you were just the universe’s hitman. You’re a complete
“This isn’t right...” Requiem spoke almost inaudibly as something in her mind began to turn. She felt
something in the lost pits of her mind struggling to rise to the surface where her consciousness could
grasp it and link it to the other pieces of knowledge floating haplessly around her mind. “This shouldn’t
be happening... Ghosts aren’t supposed to...”
And then suddenly it clicked.
Rhapsody turned as she heard a sharp intake of breath from Requiem. Em’s eyes were fixed squarely on
her, “What’s wrong.”
“It’s you- you’re causing this.”
“I’m causing what?”
“Him.” Em nodded towards the shade of Mortimer Goth “And everything else.”
Everyone was looking at Em now, who seemed to have come alive with an almost feverish look in her
eyes, that reminded Dee of a mad scientist she had seen in an old movie once, as he animated a corpse.
“It’s always been you...” Em was talking half to herself now her eyes in a distant place.
It was Turner who stepped in this time “Em, you’re going to have to help us out here. The babbling only
makes sense in your head.”
“Death” Em spun to face Turner, “It’s not like this normally.” She gestured vaguely at Mortimer to
compensate for her continued lack of coherence.
Turner didn’t bother to ask her to be clear again. Instead he just gave her a look Em got the message.
She took a deep breath as if to focus herself back to normality “I read in a book that things like ghosts,
they echo through from the afterlife all the time, especially in old places like this...or your house...” she
nodded to Dee “But not like this. Not solid and conscious. Usually they’re just...whispers in the dark
when there’s no one there, that thing you see out of the corner of your eye in the night...the feeling you
get sometimes that you’re not alone...”
“Yeah ok, but Mom said she saw a ghost when she was my age. Just after aunt Snow died. She even
spoke to it.”
Em gave Turner the sort of impatient look she only got when she was so wrapped up in knowing
something she forgot to be guarded “I’m getting to that, if you’ll let me. Apparently the reason ghosts
can’t manifest more visibly is because the metaphysical barrier between our world and the afterworld
won’t let them through as more than a flicker... Except it’s not like that all the time. When someone
dies, the reaper comes from the afterlife and the soul passes through the other side...it’s like...a
temporary door opening between our world and the next. It creates a weak spot at the place of the
death that lasts about a day surrounding the time of the death... When your mother spoke to the ghost,
like you said it was just after your aunt Snow died. Weak spot.”
“The problem here is that no one has died here since...well, him.” She gestured elegantly at the ghost
who was listening patiently as Requiem reasoned it out. “So this shouldn’t be possible...just like a
certain other number of...apparitions that have been...recorded recently, haven’t surrounded a death.”
Requiem pointedly avoided Dee’s gaze. She didn’t want to betray her best friend’s confidence.
“Those other cases I heard about, I couldn’t work it out...and then Ingrid said, about the ghosts
appearing when her father was meant to be passing on. Even without a death, the barrier was
weakening because he should have been passing on! Just his presence was creating a weak spot. Do you
see! Which means that the weak spot can be created by other things than a death, it can be caused by a
Nine bewildered teenage faces stared back at her. The tenth face was looking at her flip-flops instead.
“So you’re saying...one of us is supposed to be dying...” Annie spoke up finally “But...wouldn’t we have
“I’m not sure about that.” Requiem admitted, “But there’s sort of been a common factor between
certain...recorded anomalies like this...”
“A common factor?”
All eyes were on Dee, but as she raised her head it was Em that she looked at.
“Yeah, you are.”
They were silent for a moment as the implications of that settled in. Even Journey managed to bite back
sarcastic comment about his sister being a walking supernatural anomaly weirdo.
“Pity, I was beginning to think you were clever until you got to the end.” It was Mortimer Goth’s
unearthly voice that interrupted the morbid silence.
All ten teens turned to look at the old man, who had a surprising air of nonchalance about him. But then
again, it was probably difficult to worry about things when you were dead.
“Or maybe,” He turned to Dee “You’re just fantastically self absorbed.”
“Hey back off.” Turner stepped forward “You don’t get to talk to them that way.”
Em looked confused “What are you talking about?”
“Your reasoning. It was impeccable up until the end. Your friend in that absurdly revealing ensemble it
not the one who’s the problem. It’s you.”
Requiem had the sudden feeling of all the blood being drained from her extremities to fuel the sudden
furious pounding of her heart “Me?”
“No, of course not only you. Him as well.” He nodded to Turner “And you.” He pointed to Cayenne who’s
eyes immediately went wide.
“You’re lying.” The petite brunette whispered “You couldn’t know this.”
“Of course I could. Shades of you have all been over to the other side several times. I’ve seen you
Suddenly every single instance Rhapsody had been afraid she was going insane rushed to the front of
her mind. Every time she had turned around and someone she cared about had been missing.
As she considered the alternative that had suddenly presented itself, she wondered if she mightn’t have
preferred to have been mentally unbalanced.
“We’ve died? Wouldn’t we know if we’d died?”
“Don’t be so absurd.” Mortimer Goth spared a derisive look for Cayenne as he drifted by her “If you’d
died you’d be dead. You’ve simply been repeatedly pulled out of existence, towards the afterlife. The
problem of course is that it has been premature and without something concrete to kill you it will never
stick.” Mortimer Goth went on “You’ve been repeatedly bounced back into the world of the living.”
“Well thank plumbbob for metaphysical bungee cords.” Turner muttered, putting his arm around his
Mortimer Goth ignored him. It was Em who interjected with the crucial question “Why us?”
“Hmmm?” It seemed like the old man was losing interest in them as he turned to his Granddaughter “A glitch
in the metaphysical fabric of the universe I would imagine. I’m sure your removal from existence will stick
eventually though. Probably within a matter of years. I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of times
you intrude on our eternal rest.” Mortimer Goth shrugged “But I have better things to do in the afterlife than
worry about your problems. I only took interest in you as a possible means to return myself to the living world.
I see you have only begun fritting away larger parts of your dignity since I died Anastasia. Do you suppose your
skirt could be any shorter, I never would have stood for it if your mother had dressed like that.”
Annie tugged at her skirt, as she fumbled for a response, but before she could formulate one Cayenne piped
Turner looked at his little sister “What about him?”
“Mom always said he wasn’t from the desert. She told me once. Because I asked why we’d never met
our other grandparents. She tried to explain...” Cayenne furrowed her brow as she tried to recall the
conversation “I didn’t really understand what she was talking about, I was nine. But she was going on
about some experiment and...” Cayenne’s face cleared suddenly “and about passing through death to
Turner rubbed his eyes “Of course.” he said drily. “Yeah, that might explain why we’re boomeranging
intermittently between life and death. That’s great. What about Em though?”
“I...might have a similar problem...” Requiem said vaguely.
“So might Aunt Kestrel’s kids actually, now that I think about it.” Phoenix interjected.
“How do you know that?”
“Gavia Tegenaria was my lab partner last semester. She’s mentioned her Dad not being from here a
couple of times.”
“So has Janey, come to think of it.” Turner added, referring to his red headed Austen friend.
There was silence as the horrifying implications sunk in.
Requiem, Turner, Cayenne, Coriander Jane and Byron Austen, Raphus and Gavia Tegenaria.
That made at least eight people who were at risk of disappearing permanently, and more they might
not know about. Rhapsody felt sudden uncontrolled panic rise in her chest, that she quickly fought back.
This had been happening for years. Always getting closer and closer to a final end for people she cared
about and she hadn’t done anything about it. And if what Mortimer Goth was saying was true, it would
soon be too late.
“Well this is just awesome.”
“Could probably be worse.” Rhapsody tried.
“Oh yeah? How?”
“I’m not sure...” She told her cousin honestly. “But we’re going to fix this. I swear. It’ll all be ok.”
“You don’t know that.” Requiem challenged.
“No...that’s true I don’t. But I’ll do my best to make it ok.”
It was shortly after that a group of thoroughly deflated Bohemians decided it was best to make their
way back into the house and leave Annie, Nick and Ingrid to their disturbing family reunion.
But in spite of her brother’s protests Elise lingered a moment.
Six minutes later she emerged into the living room brandishing a piece of paper.
“I’ve got it.” No one had any doubt as to what it was. She sounded exhausted and relieved, as if all the
manic energy that had kept her going towards her goal for weeks had suddenly fled her.
“Are you out of your mind.” Phoenix shook his head sleepily “After everything we heard about this formula?
After we spoke to the shade of a man whose own daughter murdered him for using that? I won’t take it Elise.”
“Please. You have to! If not for you, do it for me.”
His sister knew him too well, she knew what button to push to make guilt and premature regret spring up in
him. Phoenix ran a hand through floppy blonde hair “Fine...but not forever. And not all the time. Just when I
get sick. Agreed?”
Elise beamed at her brother and dropped down wordlessly next to him, leaning her head into her shoulder.
Phoenix peered at the notes in her hand “I’m pretty sure at least three things on there are illegal.” He
told the top of her sisters head. But Elise had already dozed off.
Across the room Turner mouthed silently not a problem kid.
Across the room Turner mouthed silently not a problem kid.
Phoenix smiled, he might not like the way they’d gotten the result, but he was happy to not have to die,
and thrilled to have found a solution to a seemingly impossible problem. it was almost a relief to have a
problem to focus on that they could fix, while there was a much larger problem looming ahead of them
that none of them were sure they were up to tackling, no matter what Dee said.
It was something to hold onto, especially now when an even larger more impossible problem seemed to
loom ahead. They’d stopped him from dying, now they had to do the same for everyone else.
Morning dawned rainy and miserable over the Goth house. Even the presence of a brightly patchworked
Belle LeBuscould brighten the atmosphere.
After a degree of sulking, which led him to eventually be told that he could either get in the bus of his
own will or they would make him, Journey was busy bidding an enthusiastic farewell to Anastasia on the
Meanwhile their respective siblings were trying very hard to ignore them.
“Sorry about intruding of your life with our weirdness and stuff...”
Nick shook his head “Don’t apologize. I’m glad we finally know about Grandpa, even if it means we
know about Ingrid now.”
Dee smiled “See, bright side of life.”