Home > Sanctum (Asylum #2)(11)

Sanctum (Asylum #2)(11)
Madeleine Roux

“At least it’s twenty percent less creepy than the pictures,” Jordan muttered. “Can anyone explain to me why every vintage photo looks like they used the Macabre filter on Instagram?”

“Doesn’t look like they put up any rides, either,” Abby said, squinting toward the tents.

“You’re right.” Jordan shrugged. “No Ferris wheel . . . Kind of dumb to have a carnival with no rides. Still, seems like we should check it out anyway. Who knows, Dan, it might have a big, important clue.”

“If we have time,” Dan said, choosing to ignore Jordan’s sarcasm. “And only after we’ve checked out every address. We might not even be able to get to all of them, or we might have to split up.” It was then he realized neither of his friends was responding, and both were staring at the ground.

“Not trying to be a killjoy,” Dan assured them. “But that is why we’re here.”

“We’re here to figure out why we’re all having nightmares and hearing voices. We’re here so we can get some closure and move on with our lives.” Jordan zipped up his jacket against the wind as they walked. “That may or may not involve Felix’s scavenger hunt, Dan. You have to be open to the idea that maybe that kid is just off his nut and those houses don’t have anything creepier in them than Republican voters.”

“You think Felix just picked a bunch of random addresses for his own amusement? No way,” Dan insisted, reasonably, he thought. “I think whatever . . . possessed Felix . . . gave him these coordinates. They’re linked. I can feel it.”

“Yeah? Are your Super Warden powers activating?”

“Jordan, that’s not funny.” Abby halfheartedly elbowed him.

“You’re right. Shit. I’m sorry, just . . . being back at this place . . . I knew it would be weird, just not this weird. The carnie vibe isn’t helping any.”

Dan couldn’t fault him. All three of them grew quiet as they walked the path snaking through academic buildings and fraternity houses. The admissions building where they were supposed to meet their hosts was on the far side of the campus and had its own separate driveway for cars of parents dropping off their kids. It looked like Dan, Jordan, and Abby must be the only three students who’d come by bus.

The walk took them past a small, gated cemetery. Dan had never given it much thought over the summer, since it was little more than a manicured patch of grass, the gravestones haphazardly arranged in no real line or pattern. Some of the grave markers were so old they weren’t much more than crumbling stubs. But now, a bright flash of red on one of the newer markers caught his eye. At first he thought it was just an ordinary flower arrangement, but when he looked closely, he saw that it was a wreath of red roses shaped, more or less, like a skull.

A thin carpet of mist wound through the headstones.

“That’s an odd choice,” he muttered, thinking aloud more than anything else.

Jordan followed his gaze. “Yeah. Real tasteful. Jeez. Why didn’t they just put a big blinking arrow that said: ‘Hey, look! A dead guy!’?”

Abby paused to look at the wreath, and Dan bumped lightly into her back. “Oh, sorry,” she said distractedly, “I was just thinking it almost looks like an ofrenda.”

“Huh?”

Jordan and Dan had said it together.

“For the Day of the Dead?” Abby asked. She drew closer to the cemetery gate and leaned forward, studying the flower wreath. “An ofrenda.”

“Just saying it over and over again doesn’t explain what it is,” Jordan said.

“Right.” She rolled her eyes a little and pointed to the flowers on the headstone. “Basically, it’s like the flowers you take to the graves of loved ones, the offerings. Usually you bring marigolds, but skulls are a big part of the Day of the Dead, too, so maybe somebody combined them? I’ve never seen a design like that.”

“Maybe he left it,” Jordan said, nodding his head down the path to where a stout college-aged boy was curled up against the cemetery gate. His head rested on an empty rum bottle. Someone had covered his face in marker.

“Man. Looks like someone had either the best or the worst night of his life,” Dan said.

“Ugh. Hazing. I don’t get that crap,” Jordan cut in. His suitcase left narrow, wet tracks on the path as they continued on toward Wilfurd Commons, leaving behind the snoring frat boy. “Why would I pay a bunch of roided-out jocks to be my friends just so they can get me completely wasted, write all over my face, and leave me in a graveyard? What’s the point?”

They stepped into the tall shadow of Wilfurd Commons just in time—a light rain had started to fall, and the mist Dan remembered from the summer was rising in full force. Other prospective students were mustering outside on the grass, herded this way and that by NHC students in bright orange T-shirts. “I don’t know,” Dan said. “I sort of get the appeal of a frat. Everyone wants to feel like part of something.”

“Sure, but what’s the point if you have to pay your way in?” Jordan snorted.

“We should hurry up,” Abby said. “It looks like most people already dropped off their stuff inside.”

“Yup, we need to blend in,” Dan said, following her and Jordan into the big blob of high school students pushing their way into Wilfurd Commons. A knot grew in Dan’s stomach as he realized just how many student chaperones were there to keep an eye on them.

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