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The Girl from the Well

Cover of The Girl from the Well

The Girl from the Well

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I am where dead children go.

Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they're due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on.

Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen's skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There's just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host.

I am where dead children go.

Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they're due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on.

Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen's skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There's just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host.

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  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.3
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    5

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    CHAPTER ONE

    Fireflies

    I am where dead children go.

    With other kinds of dead, it is different. Often their souls drift quietly away, like a leaf caught in the throes of a hidden whirlpool, slipping down without sound, away from sight. They roll and ebb gently with the tides until they sink beneath the waves and I no longer see where they go-like sputtering candlelight, like little embers that burn briefly and brightly for several drawn moments before their light goes out.

    But they are not my territory. They are not my hunt.

    And then there are the murdered dead. And they are peculiar, stranger things.

    You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

    We are the fates that people fear to become. We are what happens to good persons and to bad persons and to everyone in between. Murdered deads live in storms without season, in time without flux. We do not go because people do not let us go.

    The man refuses to let her go, though he does not know this yet. He is inside an apartment that smells of dirty cigarettes and stale beer. He sits on a couch and watches television, where a man tells jokes. But this man who wears a stained white shirt, with his pudgy arms and foul vapors, this man does not laugh. He has too much hair on his head and on his face and on his chest, and he is drinking from a bottle and not listening to anything but the alcohol in his thoughts. His mind tastes like sour wine, a dram of sake left out in the dark for too long.

    There are other things inside this apartment that he owns. There are filthy jackets of shiny fabric (three). Empty bottles (twenty-one) dribble dregs of brown liquid onto the floor. Thin tobacco stalks (five) are grounded on a tiny tray, smoke curling over their stunted remains.

    There are other things inside the apartment that he does not own. Small, pale pink scratches of cloth snagged against nails in the floorboards (three). A golden strand of hair, smothered within the confines of wood (one).

    Something

    gurgles,

    from somewhere nearby. It is a loud and sudden noise, and it penetrates through the haze of his inebriation, startling him.

    The Stained Shirt Man turns his head to a nearby wall and shouts, "You better fix that fuckin' toilet tomorrow, Shamrock!" mistaking one problem for another. If he is expecting a reply, he does not receive it, but he does not seem to care.

    He does not look my way because he does not see me. Not yet.

    But she does.

    I can tell she has not been dead long. Her long, yellow hair hangs limply around her waist, her skin gray and brittle and bloated. The man drowned her quickly, so quickly that she does not realize it. This is why her mouth opens and closes, why she gulps at intervals like a starving fish, why she is puzzled at the way she does not breathe.

    Her blue eyes look into mine from where I lie hidden, shrouded in shadow. An understanding passes between us for I, too, remember that terrible weight of water. Her prison had been of ceramic, mine wrought from cobbled stones. In the end, it made little difference to either of us.

    The Stained Shirt Man does not see her, either. He does not notice the thin, bony arms clasped about his neck, or the manner in which her little rag dress is hiked up above her hips, her legs balanced against the small of his back. He does not notice the beginnings of decay that are ravaging a face that should have been delicate and pretty.

    Many people are like him; they...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 16, 2014
    Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story, drawing from the same ancient Japanese legend that inspired The Ring and other horror pieces. Okiku is a vengeful spirit who wanders the world, tracking down those who abuse and murder children, killing them to free their victims’ souls. When Okiku encounters 15-year-old Tark Halloway, she discovers that he’s haunted by a terrifying spirit who is capable of great violence. Okiku has dispassionately existed only to take vengeance, and the unexpected fondness she develops for Tark and his cousin Callie eventually takes them to Japan, where Okiku confronts her own tragic origin and sees a chance to rid Tark of his demon. Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend. The tropes Chupeco invokes will be familiar to any fan of J-horror, but the execution is spine-tingling, relying more on cinematic cuts than outright gore. Ages 14–up. Agent: Nicole LaBombard and Rebecca Podos, Rees Literary Agency.

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