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From Earth Magic
First, you had to get past Brutus the Bouncer.
Black as midnight, one-eyed and bobtailed, he lay across the top step of the porch like roadkill on State Line Road. I knew better, of course. Once dead, any self-respecting corpse stays that way. Not Brutus. He'd wait till you jumped over his body, then twist into the air and sink his teeth into a leg or thigh. This discouraged most intruders, including Cal and Annie, who came with me the first night I sneaked out to Violet Hill.
Cal led the way as we walked up the overgrown path to the old house. My brother's a year older than Annie and me and likes to think he's in charge, but we all knew this adventure was my idea. All my life I'd heard whispers about the old abandoned house that sat on the corner lot at the end of our street. Nobody came right out and said it was haunted, but I knew something strange went on there, and I wanted to see for myself. Was I scared? You bet! That's what made me itch to get inside.
"Hurry up, Cal!" I hissed when he stopped on the bottom step to stare at Brutus. Not that I knew the cat's name. Not then. He was simply a black blob that didn't stir even when Cal shone the flashlight in his face.
"I dunno, Jen. He's huge! And he doesn't look very friendly. Maybe we should--"
"Go back? Okay! Come on, Jenna!" Annie piped up.
"You two are wimps! Give me the flashlight and I'll go first."
That did it. Cal crouched, jumped, and then yelled bloody murder as Brutus went into action.
I'm not sure what happened next. Annie took off, but everything else kind of jumbled together for a minute or two. I saw Cal sprawled across the porch under a black shadow that had wrapped itself around him. He was still yelling, so I knew he was okay. And I remember a feeling that urged me toward the front door. Probably I should have stayed and looked out for my brother and cousin, but I wanted to go inside. I had to know what waited behind that door.
The oversized doorknob felt cold and damp as it turned against my palm. That's right. The knob turned, and as it turned, the urge to enter overwhelmed me. Without looking back, I pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Dark, dank gloom hit me like a force field. And cold, a biting cold that went right through my fleece-lined windbreaker. Shivering, I saw that the place was empty. Only the heavy curtains at a couple of windows showed that anyone had ever lived here.
As I walked toward the back of the house, I realized the room was growing brighter. The kitchen door had swung open, letting in a stream of light. That puzzled me since I didn't remember the moon lighting our path when we made our way up the street just minutes ago. I kept walking, but I knew something was wrong.
Halfway across the kitchen, I almost turned around. That light really bothered me, yet I could hardly contain my excitement. If I didn't keep going, I might miss something. Good or bad. I didn't know, but I had to find out. Taking a deep breath, I ran the last few steps to the open door. Into daylight.
"I gotta be dreaming!"
"If you are, I am, too, and since I do not fall asleep at four o'clock in the afternoon--"
I whirled around.
"Who is it, Vic?"
"A young girl of about twelve years, judging from her size and body structure, although I find it difficult to estimate age when I cannot see the facial features, which in her case are almost entirely obstructed by a veil of unruly red material, rather like a mop, emanating from her head."
Well! My curly hair has been called lots of things, but never a mop. Scowling, I pushed a long frizzy strand out of my face and gaped at the two figures who had just emerged from a yellow brick house across the road and now walked toward me. The boy I dismissed quickly, though normally I would have given anyone who looked like him at least a few seconds of undivided attention. But somehow, even tall, dark and handsome couldn't compete with a huge, talking cat....