Chapter 27

“Aveny,” Brand hissed through the darkness. “Wake up. We have a problem.”

Aveny snapped alert and rolled over, shifting her bed of blankets, as Brand flicked on the light.

“I heard something in Tali’s room so I went to make sure she was ok.” He was breathless and Aveny detected a trace of fear in his voice.

“And …” he started, his mouth freezing around the word.

He stretched out his hands, revealing a small grey form, softly slumbering within.

“It’s a seal,” he whispered. “A live seal. It was in Tali’s bed and I can’t find her anywhere … and … what does this mean?”

Aveny stared back at him with silent, astonished eyes.

Brand pressed the form toward her. “Aveny – we’re going to have to figure out a way to communicate because what the Hell is happening right now?!” His voice edged on hysteria.

Aveny propelled herself awkwardly forward, prodding the form with her nose. It rolled over, batting her touch away with one small flipper, and slumbered peacefully on.

Aveny looked into Brand’s wide eyes, then wiggled past him and out the door. He laid the sleeping selkie on her bed of blankets and followed, frustrated and bewildered.

Aveny wriggled into the office, where she gestured up at the computer. Brand understood. He grabbed the laptop and lowered it to the floor, pulling up a blank document page as he went. Then he offered Aveny a pencil. “Here, use the eraser to press the keys.”

Slowly, she pecked out her reply, as Brand stared desperately.

“i dont know b”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Brand plead. “Don’t tell me that – you have to know what’s going on. Ask the ghost ladies in your head!”

Aveny glanced at him and continued slowing tapping.

“i dont know but when i changed, it was supposed to affect the kids too. It must have made Tali change.”

Brand’s face went pale. He stood and hurried out of the room. In moments, he was back. “The boys are still ok. They’re normal. I just checked.”

“idk,” Aveny typed out.

“What do the ghost ladies say?” Brand pressed.

“not helpful but im working on it,” she typed.

Brand looked more depleted in that moment than Aveny had ever seen him – and that was saying something.

But it was nothing compared to his visage the next morning, when he discovered that he and Miriam were now the only two humans left in the house.

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