Anika crouched on the porch, gripping the beam that jutted out from the wall in between the two center windows. The support beam ran from floor to ceiling and formed a vertical barrier behind which Anika could hide and wait, only the right half of her face exposed in the window as she peeked down through the trees at the still water from which she’d just emerged, anticipating some investigative scene to unfold. They would be coming shortly, no doubt, The System men, to dredge the lake or send in divers with cameras and the brightest of lights. They would search diligently for her corpse, summoned by Mrs. Klahr, Anika’s docile neighbor who had been captured in the crossfire of Anika’s madness and taken hostage. She’d seen the whole episode from only a few feet away, including Hansel’s death blow, which had landed flush on Anika’s temple and had sent Anika toppling to her death under twelve feet of murky water.
But when they didn’t find her? When the bottom sediment of the small, regional lake rendered nothing? What then?
Only a few years ago, The System wouldn’t have spent ten seconds debating whether to send an officer all the way out to the Back Country upon news of a missing corpse, and certainly not when it involved an obscure family like the Morgans. But things had changed significantly since then. The Morgan family had become infamous in the Southlands and beyond, thrust there unwittingly by the life, death and rebirth of Marlene. And the Back Country was now a steady beacon on the radar of The System.
But their interest went beyond just Anika and her family’s notoriety; they had lost officers in the unfolding of the terrifying story, men who had been corrupted and murdered by the Witch of the North. Any news of a death at the lake behind the Morgan property would not be taken lightly by System authorities.
Anika waited in her position on the deck for what must have been an hour, and then, seeing no signs of an impending investigation, stood and began to pace the deck, constantly extending her left arm in front of her as she did to avoid bumping into the room’s furniture. Her left-eye blindness would take some getting used to.
She walked to the porch screen now and looked out across the lake to the Klahr house. She thought of Hansel, and as the vision of her son rose in her mind, she collapsed to the floor and began to weep. The feelings of love and longing and protectiveness suddenly felt brand new, as if she’d never experienced them for anyone before. It was as if the continuous months of addiction had destroyed her ability to feel anything resembling caring or devotion. The potion had consumed her to the point of total immersion.
Anika closed her eyes now and let her thoughts go fully to the potion, exploring in the depths of her cells whether the addiction still existed. She visualized ingesting one of the thin vials of liquid which she had so delicately measured out and then handed over to Hansel for him to dispense. The decision to cede this power to her son had made him an accomplice to her addiction, and she’d always known it was a monstrous thing to do, but there was no doubt it had kept her alive. Had she controled the potion for the duration of her addiction, she’d have been dead early on. That would have been a good thing, perhaps, she considered, but there it was.
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