"Brom!" Gemma screamed, rattling the brass doorknob of the old Victorian style house. She pounded her fists against the thick grey wood of the door.
She paused, heart drumming in her chest, waiting for a sound. After a few moments of sickening silence, Gemma raised a hand to the door again, beating the wood with all the strength in her.
She parted her lips to cry his name again, but just as the word came to her throat, another voice - crackling and unfamiliar - spoke from behind her.
"You're not going to shout like that all day now, are you, dearie?"
Gemma felt her skin grow cold as she turned her head. Just beyond the wooden steps of the front porch, wearing a pale blue cotton maxi dress and a pair of tatty brown flip-flops, stood a woman, perhaps in her late sixties, with long, stringy silver hair and pale skin that seemed to tight, even for her short, frail body.
"It's just there are people living around here who might need quiet," the woman continued.
Gemma again opened her mouth to speak, but this time could form no words. The woman's brown eyes darted over her.
"What's your name, child?" the woman wanted to know.
"Gemma," she managed to reply. "Who are you?"
The woman's face changed; her features seeming to soften, but not in a comforting way - in a way that made Gemma think that the woman had been expecting that answer, that she'd known all along who she was.
But she didn't seem to have any intention to tell Gemma who she was; Gemma's blood gave a hot burst of injustice.
"Who are you?" she asked again, the bitterness inside her creeping into her tone.
As the woman began to speak, Gemma heard a rumble from inside the house; the sound of somebody racing down a flight of stairs. Heart lifting, Gemma flung herself towards the door.
"Brom?" she called, as there was a rattling sound from the keyhole. The door was flung open.
Gemma stepped back as a figure emerged from inside, head bent, shadows dulling the features of the face.
"Is everything okay, Brom?" Gemma asked warily, lowering her head, trying to catch a glimpse of his face.
"I would be very careful if I were you, girl," the strange woman.
Gemma didn't even look back at her, because just then Brom lifted his head and spoke.
"Come into my house, Gemma. And we can engage in teenage activities."
As the light hit his face, the peachy colour of his skin faded to a shade of greyish purple, and the pupils of his eyes melted, leaving behind only the whites of the eyeball. Tiny strokes of orange lightning flickered in the eyes, and when he opened his mouth to speak again, the same lights were flashing at the back of his throat.
"You have nothing to be afraid of," he said.
Gemma screamed as a glowing hand reached for her shoulder. Turning, she fled down the rickety steps, almost crashing straight into the woman standing there. The woman barely seemed to notice her, and instead thrust her body towards Brom, her petit form climbing the steps all at once in a single graceful leap.
Gemma stared from the lawn as the woman tackled Brom back inside the porch, through the front door, back into the shade of the house. She gasped as her friend was thrown to the floor, and raced forward, almost losing her footing on the steps, and dragging the woman from him.
"What are you doing?" she cried.
"Keep him in the shade for a while," snapped the woman, as though Gemma was somehow to blame.
Gemma pushed against the woman, hoping to move her aside, but she was sturdier than she appeared, so Gemma had to flit around her to reach Brom.
"Are you alright?" she asked manically.
Brom lifted his head; his skin had stopped glowing, and his eyes had returned to their usual lively blue shade.
"He... He took them," whispered Brom. "He took them and now he's inside me." His eyes rolled in his skull and his arms and legs shuddered, as though whatever had taken over him was protesting at its presence being revealed.
"Brom!" Gemma gasped. "What'll I do?" she cried, turning to face the woman in the blue dress. She had known what to do before, she had to help him now.
But as her friend convulsed and gasped, Gemma found an empty doorway, an empty porch and an empty garden. The woman was gone.