This one is… strange. That’s all I have to say.

Quick definition: #sagatime, in which I write a story in real time on Twitter. Originally Joanne Harris’s idea (@joannechocolat).

~

Once upon a dry riverbed, storm clouds gathered on the horizon.

The girl was standing on the bank, barefoot, when she saw them, and she stared slack-jawed. She ran home, a dark blur in the bleached white of the ground. Frantically she started locking doors, binding windows closed, and the first raindrops hit the window.

She stepped away from the walls, wide-eyed. She sat down in the center of the room and hugged her knees and waited.

It came, as she knew it would — amidst the storm and thunder and lightning drumming into the roof of her hut.

She looked at it, and it looked at her, and they held each other’s gaze for a moment.

Then thunder crashed, and the stillness was broken.

“Alina,” it said, “join us.”

She shook her head, silent. It was a ghost. She didn’t trust ghosts, wasn’t supposed to. Even if it was her brother.

SHE COULDN’T.

It frowned. Lightning shone through its body, and the rain had never sounded so loud.

“Please?” it said. She shook her head again, still unable to speak.

No. A month ago. Her brother’s body found by the river, head bashed in. Three weeks ago. Her grandmother killed, left on a doorstep. Two weeks ago. Her parents dead. One week ago. The funeral.

And she knew that she would be the last, and she would be killed.

Then they came. The ghosts, who her parents had always said to never talk to. Who would take her somewhere safe. Rain — they always came in rain. That was how the stories always were told.

She was scared: of what they’d become, and of what she might become if she went with them. Then the hot spell settled in, and she thought she would be safe.

She looked at the ghost of her brother, which was still watching her.

“Alina?”

The rain softened for a moment.

“Please?”

She remembered when she’d been a kid and she’d wanted to play in the rain and speak with spirits and ride dragons.

Where had that kid gone?

He stretched out a hand, and the hand that met it wasn’t hers. Not the hand of a girl scared of death and the night and magic and rain.

She laughed and walked outside into the rain, splashing in the puddles next to her brother.

She didn’t have to worry about anything anymore.

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