One Hundred Candles [2]
time, but it was exactly the kind of thing my parents frowned upon. More than frowned, actually. They basically forbid Annalise and I to ever participate in games like this, if you could call them games. Dad thought participation in any kind of weird ritual had the potential to hurt our family’s reputation as scientific debunkers. Mom would be angry, too, but for different reasons. She believed that while games like Ouija boards weren’t “real,” they could stir up dormant energy. Basically, she felt you could open yourself up to negative energy, inviting it into your life. Dad agreed with this, but didn’t believe it as wholeheartedly as Mom. Either way, they would be more than a little disappointed if they knew I was here.
    I thought about Dad calling me a kid, and the way he had droned on and on about Ohio. I felt strangely pleased with myself for participating in something that he would be furious about if he knew. Ignorance is bliss, he’d said. Fine. I would apply his logic: if he didn’t know I was delving into stupid games, then he wouldn’t be hurt. Not that I cared if he was.
    “It’s good that you guys are here,” someone said. I looked over and saw Callie, a friend of Avery’s and mine. “We were running out of stories,” she explained.
    Harris reached toward an unlit candle. “I’ll go first.”
    “Remember,” Gwyn said. “It has to be a true story, something that actually happened to you or someone you know. And it’s better if it actually happened to you. One fake story can mess up the whole thing.” She looked directly at me. “And we’re not here to judge. We simply listen. No questions. Understood?”
    Gwyn stared at me. I stared back until I couldn’t take it any longer and looked down. It felt like she was accusing me of something.
    “We get it.” Harris furrowed his brow. “This happened when I was little,” he said. “My grandma had this dog. It was a white poodle and she loved it, treated it like her own kid. It would always claw at my legs under the dining room table when we ate dinner at her house, trying to get me to feed it scraps. I hated that because then my leg would be all scratched up afterwards.” He paused. “Well, the dog got really old and died. A few months later, we were having dinner with my grandma and I felt this tugging at my pants. I looked down and there was nothing there. But it felt like the dog, like it was begging for food. That night, I was getting ready for bed and I saw it.”
    “The dog?” someone asked.
    Gwyn immediately shushed them. “No questions allowed,” she hissed.
    Harris shook his head. “Not the dog. My leg.” He looked up. “My leg was covered with long red scratches.” After a moment, he leaned forward and lit his candle, then pushed the votive toward the center of the circle and handed me the lighter.
    I picked up a candle. “This is gonna be good,” someone whispered. Suddenly, I wanted to leave. I could almost feel the expectations people had built for me and knew how they were waiting for me to come through, to tell them some ridiculously scary tale. Most of my stories weren’t that scary, though. Not to me, at least. Most of the things I had witnessed could be explained.
    “I’ll tell one from when I was little, too,” I began. I had to think another minute, which I guessed people interpreted as dramatic suspense, but really, I just needed to come up with something that truly was unexplained. Something distant, I thought. I did not want to bring up Charleston, and I was hoping that Avery and Noah wouldn’t, either.
    I cleared my throat. “Once, my sister and I were with our parents while they were investigating an old prison. It was daytime, and Annalise and I were walking down a hallway, just talking, when she stopped and touched the back of her hair. I was about to ask her what was wrong when I felt it, too.” I looked around the circle of my classmates. They were all watching me. “I felt a hand tug my

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