There was something wrong with the lady that lived at the edge of the block. Stacey had always thought so, even when she was a little girl.
When Stacey was little, she used to walk past the woman's house on her way to play with Gabrielle. The woman - she learned later the widow's name was Mrs. Fitch - lived in a rather nondescript ranch style house with pampas grass in the front yard and blinds that were always drawn closed. It did have a pretty creeping rooster weather vane on top of the house. But it didn't really scream 'haunted' or 'crazy lady.'
Still, Stacey knew.
Every time she walked past Mrs. Fitch, the woman glared at her. When she was really little, walking past with her ruffled socks and scrunchies, Mrs. Fitch would hiss and curl her lip up. One time, Mrs. Fitch started running after her raising her gardening shovel and Stacey ran screaming all the way to Gabrielle's house.
Of course, her mother thought she was just making it up. Mrs. Fitch was just a solitary old woman. But Stacey knew.
Even as she entered high school and started getting rides to school from the football players, Mrs. Fitch still gave her the creeps. The woman still growled at her and lurked in the shadows watching, and once, Mrs. Fitch had yelled after her "This year! It'll happen this year!"
That was enough to set her off for the rest of the day.
Stacey hadn't thought much about what she meant by that: this year. Until it did happen.
She was brushing her hair when she felt the bumps, two little numbs on top of her head on either side. Stacey screamed and ran to tell her mom, but she was on the phone and already running out the door for work.
Oh well. It was probably nothing. A bump from cheer leading practice.
When Garrett came to pick her up, she didn't say anything about it. But across the street, Mrs. Fitch watched from her garden and made the sign of the cross.
The bumps were longer the next day and one had formed at the top of her butt, almost like a tail trying to poke out. And...was that a tinge of black in her eyes? No. That was ridiculous.
She wore sunglasses all day until the teachers told her to take them off.
As the horns and the tail grew and her eyes got blacker, Stacey stopped going to school. Her mother was convinced it was some kind of allergy. The doctors said he had a rare disorder. But Stacey knew none of it could be true. There was something else.
In desperation, she went down the block, to Mrs. Fitch. As soon as Stacey got close, the woman backed up and made the sign of the cross, gardening sheers still in hand.
"What's happening to me?" Stacy cried. "I know you know what it is."
Mrs. Fitch stared from her door. "You've been marked with the sign of the devil since you were a little girl. I've always seen it."
Stacey started crying. "What? That doesn't even make sense! What mark?"
Mrs. Fitch stepped inside her house and closed the door so that just her head could be seen through the crack. "I always saw what you were and they thought I was crazy. But now, they will all see."
Mrs. Fitch slammed the door closed and Stacey heard the click of multiple locks.