Edie shut the window but the sound of the revels forced its way in despite the glass. Worse each year, more sex, more drugs, until it was just bands of people in the street looking for new playthings. No wonder her daughter couldn’t sleep.
“I could brush your hair?”
Tammy nodded. They hadn’t shared this for years, but the movements came back. Long strokes through her daughter’s fine blond hair.
“Will I go with them someday soon?”
“Someday, but not soon. I’d like my girls to stays girls a little longer.”
“Julia is sixteen. The other kids her age are out there.”
Out there, getting drunk, being forced to do things, or worse, not being forced, enjoying it. She shivered remembering her own time in the revels, the regret that came later.
“She’s sixteen, you’re fourteen-”
“Almost fifteen, and you can both stay home with me a little while longer.”
The noise outside defied her, getting louder, coming close. Then over all of it, the voices, the music, the screams and moans, she heard knocking.
“Stay here. Don’t open your bedroom door.”
“They don’t steal people, Mom. It’s not kidnapping.”
Sure it wasn’t.
Downstairs her husband walked toward the front door, hand extended.
“Don’t!” Rushed down the steps to stop him, but it was too late.
“Good Revelry!” He called in greeting and she cringed at the sight of them, too drunk or high to recognize their neighbors.
“Good Revelry!” The group replied back as one.
“What do you want? There’s no one here for you,” she half-shouted from the last step, then pushed beside him at the door.
“Your visitors.” The president of the PTA gave a lusty grin, her wrinkles clashing with the look in her eyes. “Those two young men from out of town. Send them out.”
Edie cursed them, cursed her husband for bringing them. Fair hair, light unwrinkled skin, blue eyes; they were exactly the type the revel ate alive.
She started to nod, but her husband stopped her. “They’ve had a long flight, why don’t we let them sleep?”
The crowd groused, unhappy and unstable. She’d heard of this, the revels turning to riot in a second. There were laterns in the crowd, rocks on the ground. It could go very baldy.
“We want new ones for the revels and you’ve got two perfect young men. Send them out!” The horde took up the chant, “Send them out! Send them out!”
She gave him one look, one glance to let him know they had no choice and started up the stairs. The strangers would wake up hung over and ashamed, but that was the revels. She wouldn’t risk having the house torn apart. Her girls were upstairs.
“What if we give you two to take their place?”
She froze, afraid he’d heard her thought, scared of what he would say next. Couldn’t stop herself from turning around to watch.
“My daughters haven’t enjoyed your revels yet.”
She saw the piggy eyes of her banker narrow. Saw the tightening of lips. Saw them all think about it. No. Almost fifteen, barely sixteen. Not yet. She couldn’t let that happen.
“No!” She screamed and slammed the door shut in their faces. “Go somewhere else!”
“Are you crazy?” Her husband whispered.
“Are you? Offering up our girls. What makes your business partners so important?”
“They… they just are.”
“Not good enough.” She shook her head, filled with rage. “We need to go.”
She pulled back the curtain so he could see. The crowd moved to the street, milling around, unsure. He’d given them the girls, put the idea in their head. They’d be back.
“We need to go,” he agreed.
He called his brother, asked for help, then went upstairs for their guests, the ones she’d wished had never come.
Tammy got into the SUV oblivious to the danger, calling for shotgun. Still asleep Julia took the second seat, stretched out. Her girls, it made her heart hurt to look at them, so close to grown up, but still so young.
“We need to go, Edie.” Dan, her brother-in-law, a fan of the revels, pushed her into the last seat. If the group turned on them, if they ripped opened the back door, the two of them would go first. Her to fight, Dan to try and talk his friends down.
“What about our guests?” She hoped the two men were out in the crowd, placating them. It might give the family a chance to escape. She heard a bottle fly through the air, then flinched when it shattered against the garage door.
“They’re gone. They said to get out, and don’t look back. The revels… you know how it is some years.”
They left the garage as a second bottle crashed against the house. Flames licked out. They were rioting, burning the house. The fire would spread. The whole city would burn. Her husband gunned the engine, speeding away. Revelers scrambled out of the way.
“Don’t look back.” Dan grabbed her chin, forced her face forward. “There’s nothing back there any more.”
But there was. Her first house, her daughters’ first steps, her first job, her city, her whole life was behind her in that city. More crashes outside and more explosions. For once she believed it, believed the revelry would destroy the town, leaving nothing but ash. She glanced back, couldn’t stop herself.
Salt. An immediate craving filled her. Her head pounded. She needed salt. She swallowed nothing, didn’t understand the need.
“This is your fault. You should’ve let them take the girls. You can’t keep them from growing up.” Dan prattled on, but she didn’t listen, just concentrated on the desperate need inside her. Salt. Where could she get some? What could she do? “They would’ve probably enjoyed it.”
Hateful words penetrated her mind and she grabbed his arm, nails digging in like wide needles. The taste of salt, fresh rich salt, flooded her mouth. Dan clutched at his chest, half-gasping. She wanted more, and somehow knew it came from him. But then there was nothing left, no life in him, no salt for her to take. The city burned, she wanted more, and he had nothing left.
His arm fell away from her hand and she saw white. Dust maybe, or sand. Except it wasn’t and she licked the crust from her fingertips. Sweet salt, so perfect. Only she needed more. The crowd fell away from them as the SUV got faster, and she gave up on logic, sucking the tips of her fingers searching for more salt. The town gone, just highway behind them. Highway ahead of them. Her eyes ran over the interior, her husband driving, her daughters sleeping, nothing else. No more salt. She looked at them and knew she couldn’t, never would. But him… She looked to her husband, hungry.