Written by Audrey Francis-Plante
Photo Art by Plaidbowties
DEAN & LILY
The stench of flood and rotten apple is so strong I almost faint as I climb over the fence. I put on the mask they asked me to bring and step into the darkness of the orchard.
The thick mud stains my new shoes, but I don’t care. This school year has to be good because A, I’m invited to the Troupe’s Initiation, and B, Dean isn’t.
It’s probably childish of me to find satisfaction in the fact that my ex-boyfriend isn’t invited to be a member of the city’s biggest secret society when I am, but after everything Dean made me go through, I feel like I deserve this.
Excited whispers fill the night. I follow them to my left, where more apple trees are leaning towards the ground, all dark and swarming with vermin.
I finally spot a few green lanterns. I walk in their direction and meet the other initiates. Three girls and five boys smile at me with their eyes, their mouths masked.
“You’re the last one,” a girl says.
“How do you know?” I ask.
She points at a tree above which a hologram sparkles with a vibrant red. I read it.
Year 2099 – Nine initiates
Your Host of Ceremony will appear when your hands are bound by the wine of your rot.
When I look at the others, I see they already cut their palms. The yellow moon glistens in each droplet of blood. A boy offers me a knife. I hate blood, but being part of the Troupe will make this new year better in so many ways. I cut both my palms, wincing.
We form a circle of joined, bleeding hands inside the circle of dim, green lanterns. Then a figure looms through the decaying trees. My legs shake as I see blue-dyed hair and a scarred lip.
“Congratulations to the nine of you,” he says, staring solely at me.
I break the circle and cross my arms. “You said you weren’t invited.”
“Of course I wasn’t, Lily.” Dean laughs. “I’m the Host. I wrote the invites.”