Mandy stared at the old door and nervously flicked open and closed the lighter she wasn’t supposed to have. The door was about five feet tall and the color reminded her of a quote from some Latin class: Wine-dark seas. She scowled. “This is it?”
“Yup.” Meredith had a tattoo just visible at the edges of her neck, to remind everyone that, at least once, someone had mistaken her for eighteen. There were reasons why she had been sent to Fairlane Academy.
There were reasons why all the girls had been sent here.
Mandy, of course, had her own issues she hadn’t shared. She leaned up against the wall. “People use this door to enter people’s dreams.”
“Not just any people. Headmaster Martin.”
“And the school’s nurse.” Mandy frowned.
“Well, of course Mistress Frieze. She’s the one who discovered the door.”
Mandy rapped on the door once, which made Meredith jump. “She’s the one who made this?”
“I didn’t say she made it.” Meredith tipped a loose hair behind her ear. “I said she found it. This door used to belong to this dude, John Dee. Used to work as a magician for the Queen in the sixteenth century.”
“Yeah. This was near… the end of his life, I think? He came back to his house and he found out it vandalized. This door was one of the things missing. The original owner of this place—I mean, before it became a school—figured out how to use the door and became really famous. He later vanished and the house sold to settle his debts. That’s how it became Fairlane.”
“So how does Mistress Frieze fit into this?”
“Didn’t you know? She the granddaughter of the owner. She came here because she remembered the door.”
“Why didn’t she use it to become famous or something?”
“Have you met her? Not a thimbleful of imagination. And when she tried to get into Headmaster Martin’s head, he confronted her and she had to make a deal.”
“So they painted over the door.”
“To make it look normal, yeah.”
“And then they started using it on students.” Mandy couldn’t help an amused snort. “You really expect me to buy this?”
Meredith looked offended and started to open her mouth. Mandy cut her off.
“Look, it’s a good story. I admit. Mysterious door. Evil headmasters. But… seriously? What do you think I am, six? So where does that really lead?” Mandy leaned forward and grinned. “Have you got mates in there waiting to surprise me?”
Meredith bit her lip. “I brought you here because I thought you’d help.”
“I know they haven’t touched you yet.”
Mandy brow furrowed. “How do you know that?”
“I… I’ve been following them. They don’t like your dreams. They’re all fiery and hot and they’re not sure what to do with them yet.”
“My dreams. You’ve seen my dreams.”
“Look, they’re trying to empty all the students. Even me. To put their fire out. To make them soulless, stupid. Have you talked with the other girls here?”
“So what did you see in my dreams?”
Meredith sighed. “Billy’s got this dream where she’s a spaceship pilot in the future, but they keep crashing her ship. Jennifer was building weapons in some fantasy magic-land thing. They have her killed by her own weapons. Nancy was a superhero. Lost her powers in the middle of a fight. Jodi dreams of being dead, of being a vampire. I think she’s already on their side.”
Mandy grinned. “You’re avoiding the question.”
Meridith blushed furiously. “I know if you wait until after the fire…” She started to stammer. “There’s the red room.”
Mandy paled. “Oh shit. Shut up.”
“I know what’s kept at the side of the bed and how you use it. I know about the ‘special dress’ and the whispering voice.”
“Jesus. Just shut up. I believe you, okay. Holy hell. Just be quiet.”
“Yeah.” Meredith shook her head. “Yeah.”
Mandy turned to the door. Then she set to work with her knife.
Meredith panicked. “What are you doing?!”
Mandy kept peeling off the paint. “You said there was shit on the door. I want to see what’s underneath.”
A blue strip peeled away, revealing part of a circle made of bronze. And letters that flashed silver. Mandy stepped back to admire it. Meredith was freaking out. “What are we going to do? How are we going to cover this up?”
“They in there now?”
Meredith shook her head.
Mandy sighed. “What’s your plan?”
“We go in after them. We stop them.”
Mandy considered. “Okay. Go in and find them. I’ll go get some supplies. That okay?”
Meredith chewed her upper lip. This was going far too fast for her. Her nod was brief.
Mandy gave her a brief hug to console her and then watched as Meredith opened the door and ducked inside. Then she stuck a chair under the doorknob for good measure. Having done that, Mandy walked down the hall to the supply closet. There she grabbed about a dozen bottles of different cleaners and solvents, all clearly marked flammable. All of which she knew what the ignition points were, and how hot they burned. She grabbed a bunch of rags too. The mop, which was currently dry. That would do for tinder.
She brought them back to the door, arranged the rags around it, soaked some of them, splashed liquid on the walls. The key, she knew would be to reach a temperature which would allow the walls to go up. That should take care of the blue door. The bronze and the silver would go as the temperature climbed.
Mandy smiled. It was good to see the talents that had gotten her sent here put to good use.
With a feeling of true contentment, she took the lighter they absolutely completely shouldn’t have let her have and, clicking it once, set it all in motion.