Four days ago I posted part I of this story. You can read it here.
As he followed Florence into the house, Abel focused on the bird’s faint heartbeat. His own heart thudded with anticipation of what Cassandra might see. Abel’s hunches were rarely wrong. He had spent enough time with animals to know when something was wrong with them, just by sensing it. And what he sensed from the still body in his hands chilled him.
“What do you have now?” muttered a voice from the stairs. Cassandra descended toward them, carrying Henri, their blind cat, in her arms. Henri’s expression mirrored hers: both exuded a dark cloud of grumpiness as usual.
“A dead bird,” said Abel. “Except I’m pretty sure it’s not actually a bird. Take a look at it.” He held out the newspaper-wrapped bundle. He thought he could feel the creature’s heartbeat grow a little stronger.
Cassandra dropped the cat, who meowed and sauntered away, and took the creature.
“What? What do you see? It is a bird, really?” Florence piped, releasing a small swarm of moths from her swirly wings in excitement.
“Be quiet,” said Cassandra. “I can’t see properly with your noise.” She drew the creature close and leaned down, closing her eyes as she peered into the reality that her brother and sister could not see. The little moths flocked around her head as if around a bright light. Her hair came loose from her braid through an unseen force and floated along with the moths. Abel and Florence froze, hardly daring to breathe lest they interrupt.
Cassandra gasped. The spell broke. Abel winced as the sounds of winter resumed unnaturally loud and heavy, the melt and drip of icicles like irregular drumbeats.
“Where did you find him?” she whispered. Abel jumped at her voice and looked up. The moths had vanished. Her face had turned even paler than usual.
“Outside. In the snow. Is it real, or was I wrong?” He swallowed hard, tense with expectation.
“You were right.” Cassandra curled her hands around the paper. “It’s actually a boy.”
Abel’s shock morphed into a thrill that savored of the unknown. “A boy?”
“A boy?” shrieked Florence at the same time. She bounced up, fluttering with questions. “How old is he? What happened to him? Is he okay? How should we get him back? Can we use a wish?”
“Stop,” Cassandra said in a flat voice. “He’s under some sort of curse, I think. But I don’t know how to change him back.” Her gaze wandered into the distance.
Abel gently took the bird-boy from her cold hands. “First we need to warm him up. And then—” He glared at Florence who had accidentally released a spurt of moths again. “Then we can decide what to do next.”
“But what if he changes now?” the little girl chimed in.
“Well, that would be awkward.” Abel took off for the kitchen, leaving a damp trail of melted snow behind him as if he were a giant snail. He didn’t plan to tell his sisters his suspicions. Something unfathomably sinister was following the bird-boy. And if that was the case, then using one of their three precious wishes might be the only way to change him back in time. He alone could tell just what kind of trouble they were all in now.