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Perusca walked along the road, grimacing as mud, flung up by passing cars, hit her shoulder. It always amazed her how rude some of the drivers could be; not one of them had swerved to avoid splashing her. She was dirty, tired, worn out, and not done. She hadn’t found Kentira, and that was all that mattered. Lost in thought about her lost friend, Perusca didn’t notice that her road ended until someone suddenly spoke to her.
“Do you have a death wish, ma’am, or did you not notice that there’s a cliff ending here?” Turning, Perusca found a young boy staring at her. Turning back, she found that there was, indeed, a cliff and she had, indeed, nearly walked off of it.
A small part of her wished that the boy hadn’t been there. This all could’ve been over with.
“I didn’t; must’ve been lost in thought. What’s your name?”
The boy laughed. “Names don’t really matter, do they? Sleep does, though. New clothing, too. Do you have a place to stay?” Something about the boy’s manner seemed off, but she couldn’t place what it was. He seemed normal enough; blondish hair, a plaid blue shirt, and a few freckles. Nothing to worry about, for sure.
“No, I don’t. Any particular reason for asking?”
“Well, Perusca, there’s a place a bit down the cliff for you. Everyone stays there at some point, and it’s about your time, I suppose.” Had she told the boy her name? Perusca didn’t think so. “You don’t have to trust me, but I can’t wait around all day for you. Come if you like.” The boy jumped, and Perusca could hear stones skittering beneath his feet. What would she lose? What could she lose?
She jumped.
With a lot of running, and sliding, and a bit of falling, Perusca managed to stay mostly upright. The figure of the boy was clear in the distance, as was a large cottage at the foot of the slide. The boy reached the cottage and vanished inside.
When she came to the building, she saw a small sign posted by the door.

Entry by Invitation Only
Today’s Finder:
Erik

Supposing that the boy (Erik?) had invited her, Perusca stepped inside.
People were everywhere. All kinds of people; tall, short, black, white, male, female, rich, poor…..the list of opposites could continue forever. And everyone was talking! In fact, Perusca mused, the gathering seemed a bit like a college party.
“Well! We have a guest! Jack, would you please bring up a seat by the table? And Calypso, you must find this poor girl something to wear.” A huge, old man strode through the people, scattering them as he went. “My name, child, is Tiresias.” He laughed. “I had the weirdest parents you’ll ever meet, hence the strange name. Your name is Perusca, correct?”
“Yessir, that is my name. How do you know it?” Perusca was uneasy, as all those who had been previously talking were now looking at her.
“I know the names of all, but yours particularly. We’ve been told to look for you.” Before she could ask what the statement meant, a woman (presumably Calypso) was ushering Perusca off to a separate set of rooms. Laid on an ornate bed were some clean clothes.
“They’re for you. Don’t worry; they’ll fit.” The woman leered at her. “They fit Kenny too.” Walking out, the woman closed the door.
Kenny? How could the woman know about Kentira?
Easy answer; she didn’t. This was just a coincidence by a very creepy person. Pulling on the clothes, Perusca found that they did fit, and that they were a lot nicer than the coat and jeans she’d been wearing for the past month or so. As the woman hadn’t told Perusca what to do after pulling on the clothes, she quietly left the room and explored the back of the cottage.
The rooms she found were filled with all sorts of random things, including a skateboard, a life-sized stone beagle, and a laptop. Moving on to another room, she found all sorts of photos. Including, it looked like, one of Kentira.
In it, the girl was sitting on the edge of a hill, staring into the sunset. The falling light made her hair look like flaming copper; almost as though it was glowing.
The worst part was that Perusca thought she recognized the picture; it looked identical to one that had been taken a few days before Kentira went missing.
Clutching the picture, she ran back to the main room, intending to ask Tiresias about it. Calypso distracted her, though.
The woman was yelling at a young boy; the same boy, in fact, who had led Perusca to the cottage. Perusca made her way through the gathering crowd so that she could hear what was going on.
“You led her here, Erik; you take her back! You know she doesn’t belong with the rest of us.”
“I’m sorry Calypso; she was lost, so I found her. I swear, when I brought her here I didn’t know who she was.” Calypso scowled.
“I know you want her to stay, so I’ll make you this deal: If Perusca ever mentions that girl, then I’m getting rid of her. Both of them, in fact.” As the woman finished talking, she looked straight at Perusca and smiled.
Perusca turned around and steadily walked away, trying to decide what to do. Finally, she decided that she would sleep (if she were allowed) in one of the abandoned bedrooms, and then she would search for Kentira in the morning. Erik had been right about her needing sleep, and she wasn’t going to be any use to Kentira without resting first.
“I’m sorry, dear, but are you Perusca?” An old woman dangled a room key in front of Perusca. “If you are, Tiresias asked me to bring you this. He thought you might be more comfortable sleeping if you knew no one could enter your room.”
Smiling absently, Perusca took the key and thanked the woman. Before long she had found her room, and, after locking her door, fell fast asleep on the bed.

Perusca woke up with sunlight streaming in her window and felt much better. She was definitely more capable of finding Kentira.
Unlocking her door, she noticed the silence that permeated the cottage, and decided to go to the main room. Surely someone was awake by now. All thoughts of going to the main room soon left her head, however. Strewn through the halls were mannequins. Tall and short, black and white, male and female……but all wood.
Perusca stepped closer to one of them to examine it, and found that it had facial features painted on, with clothing carefully placed on it.
Looking at another mannequin, she found a strange resemblance to Erik, the boy who had guided her to the cottage originally. Another looked almost identical to the old woman who had given her the room key.
A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Perusca looked up but only saw a plain, white ceiling. While wondering where the paper had come from, she picked it up and read it. When she was done, she ran out of the house. Still clutching the paper, she ran up the cliff and next to the road and while running, disappeared.

The paper was drifted down from where she had dropped it at the cliff.

Lost girls and boys are all you saw
You’re one of us; we heard your call
Invited you here to our palace to stay
To waste away death with torture and play

Kentira was lost; she’ll never be found
Like us, she sleeps far below the ground
Memories manifest night after night
Remembering her fast, frantic, frightened flight

We know not where you sleep, or where you belong
We only know death as a dream lasting long
You have decided; you’ll run and you’ll hide
Your decision was made when rest closed your eyes

To forget friends of old, and push them aside
Your quest it is finished, you know where she lies
But through your inaction she’s lost for all time
While your memory wanders this earth still

Alive



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