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The walls are bare, cold, like a hospital. She paces to the locked door and then back to the wall.
The space is 3.5 meters wide, 5 long. Not really enough to live in. The window is barred, and soundproof. It looks out onto a large courtyard surrounded by low office blocks, built in the seventies, pale-painted. Above them is the sky, blue and unmarked. She knows where she is, but not where the rest of the world got to. There is a bed, low and slender and hard. The mattress is thin.
She stops pacing; drops to the floor. Fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, repeat three times. Now the combinations. Front, reverse, backhand. Left hook, right hook, left uppercut, right. Front kick, side kick, roundhouse. She turns. Front kick, this time with the left leg, side kick, roundhouse. Left arm leading, front hand jab, reverse, backhand. Repeat. The temperature of the small room rises with her body heat. The sweat drips down between her breasts. Left hook, right hook, uppercut, jab.
The day the door opens, Thera will be ready. She will be prepared.
We wanted to contact the dead, just to see who was around. It was a still, humid July day, the kind where the sweat trickles down your back under your T-shirt, and we had exhausted ourselves playing tag in the churchyard, among the graves. That must have been where we got the idea. We ran back to my house and dug out an old Ouija board from J17 Magazine that Billie and I had glued to cardboard and left in my bookshelf.
The five of us tramped across the wheat fields toward the copse. Around six o’clock in the afternoon, the wind suddenly picked up. I watched the breeze move the wheat, and then lift the backs of Billie’s and Sam’s blonde hair. On Fridays, my village gang stays out through teatime and has supper late, so Billie, my little brother Sam, Hattie, Poppy, and I were all there at the copse. We crawled on our bellies down the long entrance tunnel to the den and sat in a circle, our backs to the bushes. We must have all felt the significance of the moment, because we lit our candles in silence. My mum had dug out one for each of us before we left the house. “Don’t play with these,” she’d warned, handing me the matches.
I’d rolled my eyes, for show. Hattie was watching. “Yeah, I know, Ma.”
We closed our eyes. I asked the spirits to come forth. We waited. Billie repeated my demand, louder. We opened our eyes, looked at each other, and felt a spark go between us. There’s always been magic between Billie and me. We can make things happen. We opened our mouths at exactly the same time and repeated the words Billie had spoken, together. “Come forth, dead things, and speak to us your will!”