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Toxic #29: Hell’s Bells

Aug 13, 2014

I woke up to the sun stabbing me like an angry serial killer, its rays piercing my eyes and beating my skin. Everything hurt, all the way to my fingernails. Rolling onto my stomach and shoving my head under the pillows didn’t help. That bitch of a star found me through the gaps in the bedding.

There were bells, too, buzzing straight from hell into my brain. They bruised my eardrums and made my head throb in a mushy pulse. If this was what a hangover felt like, I was never going to drink again. Not beer. Not griffin tears. Nothing but coffee and water.

The bells kept clanging. After a minute of silently praying for the sound to just stop already, hadn’t I suffered enough, it dawned on me that it was coming from my cell.

I refused to take my head out from under my pillow. My hand batted around blindly for the phone, knocking something breakable off my nightstand. I knew because I heard the crack and the tinkle of glass.

“Oh, God. Please. Just stop ringing.”

My fingers closed over the phone, and I dragged it under the pillows. “Someone better be dead.” My voice sounded like I’d spent the night chewing sandpaper.

“Jesus, you sound like crap.” Scott’s voice came through the phone, painfully perky.

“Kill me. Please.”

He laughed, setting off another mushy throb in my brain. “At least you’re alive.”

“That might not be a good thing right now.”

He snorted, which dug something sharp into my ear. “Well, I can think of a few people who’ll think it is. One of whom is on his way over.”


“Vincent. I figured you’d want a head’s up.”

I rolled onto my back, pressing the pillow as tight to my face as possible. “Why is he coming to my house?”

“Let’s just say last night turned interesting after you passed out drunk. All the guys are in an uproar.”

“And that has what to do with me?” I was pretty sure I already knew what it had to do with me, but the question was, did anyone else? “And define interesting.”

“The fairies stormed in. Vincent is freaking, and I’ll bet you my Director’s cut of Army of Darkness that he’s going to tell you to stay out of sight until they leave.” He laughed. “Dude, I can’t believe you slept through it. No one misses it when they show up hot and bothered. Not even humans. They put on this killer red lightning show—”

“You have a Director’s cut of Army of Darkness?”

“Yeah. Signed by Bruce. Now focus, Tiz. Fairies? Vincent grounding you?”

I managed to sit up without my head exploding. My stomach was a different story. The fairies had shown up, just like Arabus warned. And they were pissed.

The fact that they hadn’t come bursting in my door yet didn’t mean they weren’t going to. And not only did Vincent work for them, but he was on his way to my house. True, I had no idea what he did for them. He could be a shoe polisher for all I knew. But him showing up unannounced the day after I lit up the town made my stomach roll. “Um, why, exactly, is Vincent coming over?”

“I told you. Probably to tell you to lie low while his bosses are in town.” Fir shouted something unintelligible in the background, and Scott swore. “Look, I gotta go. I just wanted to give you a chance to shake some of the hangover before Vin got there. Later, ‘kay?”

“Yeah, thanks.” I tossed the cell onto the side table and flopped back into a horizontal position.

“You are a disgrace, Tallulah Marie Banks.” My grandmother popped into existence, hovering inches from my face. Other than the hovering bit, she was doing a perfect impression of a pissed off nun.

“Can you yell at me later? I need to brush my teeth.”

She sniffed. “You’re seventeen. You have no business drinking alcohol.”

I rolled off the bed, doing my best to not let any body parts slide through her. The maneuver sent the room, and my head, spinning. “For the last time: it wasn’t alcohol. It was griffin tears. And I’m never drinking again.” A sour burp brought up the taste of dirt. Lovely. That little side effect was still around.

“You are grounded for the foreseeable future. And you’re damn lucky your mother can’t see me or I’d tell her what you’ve been up to.”

“If Mom could see you, I wouldn’t have nearly as many problems. Now can I please shower? Vincent is on his way here.”

I was a bath girl, hating showers with a passion because they reminded me of waterfalls. If either was going to set off my phobia, it was going to be a shower. But not showering was not an option. I smelled like I felt.

She floated over to the bathroom door, blocking my way. “A friend? What part of grounded did you not understand?”

I walked right through her and peeled off my clothes. I was still dressed in what I’d worn the night before, and everything was covered in gold dust from Arabus. “This isn’t a ‘let’s hang out’ kind of visit. Some stuff happened last night. He’s probably coming to yell at me about it.”

“Then I like him already.”

I snorted, a bad move as it turned out because it sucked the dirt breath into my lungs. I grabbed my toothbrush and got in the shower, hoping it would make me feel partially alive. Or at least less gross.

My grandmother managed to shut up and leave me alone until I finished scrubbing every bit of ick off my skin. I even got to swallow some Advil in peace. As soon as I got back to my bedroom, though, my reprieve was over. “Start explaining.”

I filled her in on my night while getting dressed. She wasn’t happy with the drinking, but she looked pretty awed about Arabus. By the time I got to putting on my sneakers, she was babbling about how she’d love to meet a fairy. I was just brushing the tangles out of my hair when the doorbell rang. “So can I let him in? I need to know how bad this is.”

Her mouth went into her lemon-puss frown, but she nodded. Being hung over, not stupid, I raced out of the room before she could change her mind.

Vincent was on the porch, two small travel cups of coffee in his hands. Judging by the black smudges under his eyes, he’d gotten less sleep than me.


“Scott said you needed caffeine. And I’m hoping like hell it’s not for the same reason I do.” His stared at my sneakers, his drawn fatigue morphing into a scowl. “Please tell me your shoes are covered in gold because you were tagging up the town last night.”

Shit. I’d put my sneakers on, which, like my clothes from last night, were covered in gold dust. “Graffiti isn’t really my thing.” I grabbed one of the coffees before he could take them away in disgust. Or dump one on my head.

“Are gold dragons your thing?”


He sighed and sat on the porch stairs, cradling the other coffee in his hand. “You better start talking. And I hope like hell I don’t regret not getting myself a Venti-sized.”

© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.



Toxic: Installments