The baby stared, and disappeared. The four of them crowded down hallways, shouting her name, terrified. And they found her in a rocking chair, grinning, with a knife.
"Look at you four, you're scared to death! I totally got you. It was a hoax. The zombie was Noel. Happy Halloween." She licked ketchup from the knife, and offered Hanna a little taste. "You guys passed the test. The way you guys came charging in here? I know I can count on you now. If I really need you, you'll be there for me."
And that was the story she told. She led them back to the party. Everything looked different. The younger kids had left, the older kids showed up. Melissa was there with Eric, Noel's older brother. Officer Darren was there, chatting with Jenna. Ian was there, and Alison snuck up to him -- "What's that saying? Boys play with toys, and girls play with boys..." -- but slunk away when Melissa appeared, to kiss him again. Emily got curious about the man chatting with Jenna, and Hanna shrugged elaborately. This is the story she told:
"That's not a costume. He's a real cop." And did Hanna know him? Not yet. Not really. "I've just... Seen him directing traffic."
"Bitch," Lucas spit at Alison, taking off his burlap baby mask as he ran.
"Don't hate me," grinned Noel, taking off his burlap baby mask.
"Are you kidding? It was perfect! The way you shoved me against that wall? You even scared me," Alison gushed. It was a believable story; she liked that. But it wasn't Noel. He was never there. He was stuck at his own party, Eric took his car for beer and he never made it to the Mockingbird house.
Dying to know who I am? asked A. You'll find out.
When the girls asked her who it was, she smiled and said it was a secret. And that's exactly what it was. The burlap babies were everywhere. One of them killed her. And this is the story they told:
"The girls in the story didn't play too nicely, for too long. Girls never can. They aren't allowed. Something gets in the way, always, and you're all alone. Alone is all you are. Boys play with toys, and girls play with boys. But if you stand in a dark room and speak to a mirror, wonders and terrors will be revealed to you. You might mistake a stranger for a sister, or a sister for a stranger. A sick smile might come across your face, like the hunter's moon. The most perfect, the most beautiful one, was interrupted by a stranger. Not her favorite, but probably the weakest.