The Dickens Mirror

ALSO BY ILSA J. BICK

The Dark Passages
White Space

The Ashes Trilogy
Ashes
Shadows
Monsters

First published by Egmont Publishing, 2015
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016

Copyright © Ilsa J. Bick, 2015
All rights reserved

www.egmontusa.com
www.ilsajbick.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bick, Ilsa J.
The Dickens mirror / Ilsa J. Bick.
Summary: In the second book of the Dark Passages series, Emma wakes up trapped in the body of a grown Victorian woman trapped in an insane asylum, and must find a way a way back to Reality or else her friends and family will die with her
ISBN 978-1-60684-422-9 (ebook) – ISBN 978-1-60684-421-2 (hardback)
[1. Reality–Fiction. 2. Horror stories. 3. Science fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.B47234
[Fic]–dc23
2014039129

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.

v3.1

For Carolyn:
Honestly, kid … count your lucky stars. You’re still standing.

I am not who I am
.
—William Shakespeare

Contents
NOW

1

EMMA’S JUST TURNED
twelve. She will not pass through White Space, fight a thing from the Dark Passages, lose her friends—lose Eric—and nearly die for five years yet. But every life turns on a dime, and sometimes several: pivot points after which everything changes.

This is hers.

This is what happens a week after down cellar.

2

“SAAALLL!”
SCREECHING, EMMA
blunders up their cottage’s front steps and yanks the ancient screen door. Caroming on a
squawww
of old hinges, the door slams stone with a resounding
fwap
that rattles windows and makes the glass buzz. Beyond the house, down in Devil’s Cauldron, the surge pounds sandstone in a relentless
ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom
that echoes the crash of her heart. Bulling through, she straight-arms the front door, tattooing a handprint in drippy blood. The other hand’s clapped to her chin. Having taken the two miles home at a dead-out, panicky run, she’s winded, terrified. Her bike’s a tangled heap down the road, front wheel bent out of true, the rear pancake-flat because she just never
saw
the stupid pothole and the gravel was really slippery, and she
was
wearing her helmet, only it popped off, and she
tried
to do a Lara Croft, but she
is
so
sucky at gym … and no no no no, who
knows
how long she was knocked out, and
why
do they have to live
so
far from town, with
no
neighbors, no one she can go to for help, because she’s
cut
, she’s
bleeding bad
, and her face, her face, her
face
!
“SAAALLL!”

No one answers except Jack, the big orange tabby, who appears at the top of the stairs with a teeny-tiny
mew?
As if to ask,
Whoa, Emma, why all the fuss?
The only other sound above her frantic huffing and the
plip-plip-plip
of her blood dribbling onto the floor is a thin, scratchy line of melody dead ahead: the radio tuned to golden oldie big band crap.

“J-Jasper?
Jasper?
” Gulping sobs, she streaks into the kitchen, trailing blood, hoping against hope. When Jasper paints—more like slaps monsters onto canvas, if you ask her—he mostly listens to Dickens novels on tape. (Why? Beats heck outta her. Her guardian is truly loony in so many ways.) If there’s no Dickens, though, Jasper just might be sober and actually useful for a change. Music like Ol’ Frank—Jasper’s on a first-name basis with the entire Rat Pack—he saves for when he’s out on the boat or perched in a camp chair to sketch,
getting down with his bad self
, as Sal, Jasper’s lizard-eyed live-in housekeeper, says. (Emma has
no
clue what that means; honestly, it’s not bad enough that Jasper’s pretty permanently shnockered and the village nutjob? Why
does
he have to be so weird?)

A single glance around the kitchen, with its white vintage gas range, a rack of cast-iron pots on one wall, the potbellied woodstove, and century-old yellow pine floor worn to a high gloss, is enough. No one home. She’s on her own.

“Nooo.”
Her moan is bubbly and wet. Fresh tears stream down her cheeks. Her mouth tastes of salt and wet iron. Where
is
everybody? “I need
help
. It’s not
fair
.”

No one seems to care but Ol’ Frank, who’s very concerned about what’s gotten under his skin. That makes two of them; she’s a mess. Her shins are speckled with bloody, glued-on grit; her skinned knees are on fire; and she’s pretty sure her left elbow needs stitches. No need for a mirror either. If her face is as torn up as she thinks, she’s not sure she could stand looking anyway. She still remembers the sound her teeth made as the point of her chin banged rock: a snappy, crisp
tock
that also chipped a tooth. Her tongue aches from where she bit down. All the blood she’s swallowed has left her queasy, but that’s probably fear, too.

For a split second, she debates about 911. Sure, this isn’t a heart attack, but
still
. Except that’s stupid. She’s not going to
die
or anything. (Oh
nooo
, her face’ll fall off, that’s all.) Madeline Island’s not
huge
, but Jasper’s cottage is almost twenty miles away from La Pointe, the island’s only town. Everyone sane lives there, so, of course, Jasper doesn’t. An ambulance will cost money, and she doesn’t need to give him one more reason to
kill
her, which he’ll
do
. All the surgeries to make her face normal, and
now
look. She’s
ruined
it, she’s messed up, and you watch, buster: he’ll throw her back, just like an undersized salmon. She’ll wind up in foster care so fast, make your head spin.

“Stop it, you baby,
stop it
.” Her voice is blubbery and little-kid small. At her feet, Jack leans against her ankles, kind of propping her up as her chin
plip-plip-plips
. A lot of blood hits the floor, though some drips onto Jack, who paws and shakes his head—like,
wuh?
—but doesn’t budge otherwise. (She loves this cat, but boy, she wishes he were a dog right now; dogs’ll eat anything, even blood.) “Stop crying and do this, Emma. You can do this.” Right? Sure, she can; Jasper’s always getting dinged up, and Sal’s cleaned him up in this kitchen plenty of times. “It’s not that hard.”

First thing, she’s got to get out all this crap. You can’t leave dirt and grime and old blood in there; she’ll get an infection, and then you watch: her face will get all pussy and bloated. It’ll sag like molten candle wax and then slide right off in big, ooky, rotten green slabs. Huge chunks of her skull and all her teeth will fall out and
tik-tik-tik
all over the floor like an overturned mason jar of buttons and …

Stop it, Emma, stop it
. Scuttling to the sink, she rips off a double handful of paper towel for her chin. With her free hand, she paws open the cupboard beneath the sink and wrestles out a first aid kit Sal always keeps there. But when she pushes up, a sweep of woozy vertigo whirls through her head. Her lips ice; deep in her belly, her stomach does a loop-de-loop. There’s a distant clatter of plastic on wood as the first aid kit slips from her fingers and the kitchen kind of
smeeears
.

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