"What an evil and original story. You can't stop reading Kaitlyn's diary. But is she real? It's a mystery inside a mystery--and the shocks keep coming. Scary stuff!" --R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series Welcome to the Dead House. Three students: dead. Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace. Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere." Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson. Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it. Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.
Release date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Print pages: 448
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The Dead House
I curse anyone who reads this book.
If you touch it, hell will be waiting.
Screw you. Happy reading.
Diary of Kaitlyn Johnson
Sunday, 29 August 2004, 12:24 am
Claydon Mental Hospital, Somerset
I am myself again.
Carly has disappeared into the umbra, and I am alone. Ink on my fingers—she’s been writing in the Message Book.
Good night, sis! she writes. We’ll be back at school soon. I can’t wait!
I wouldn’t have done this diary thing, except Carly thought it was a good idea too. See, Dr. Lansing thinks that getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper will allow me to be free of them. She gave us both a journal with lock and key, and the instruction to “be honest and whole.” Mine is black (ha ha), and Carly’s is green. I’d like to think mine is black because it’s Lansing’s impression of my nature—solid, unchanging, hidden—but really I think she chose it because black’s not a color.
You see, Diary… Dr. Lansing is convinced I’m not really here.
I’m not the diary sort, but if I’m going to record my life, I’m going to do it thoroughly. Honesty, honesty, honesty. Yes? Lansing can’t tell me I don’t really exist—product of trauma and all that—when my thoughts and feelings are as real as Carly’s.
I am real.
They won’t kill me send me away.
Message Book Entry
Monday, 30 August 2004, 4pm
Kaitie, do you realize that we might never be coming back to Claydon Hospital after this year? Our LAST YEAR at school! Do you realize that? So close! We’re so close! We just have to keep going. We just have to stick to it. All the lying will end as soon as we’re free.
Okay, breakdown in case she tests you tonight:
Breakfast: 2 tablespoons of shredded wheat with skimmed milk
Lunch: Skipped (sorry)
Supper: Tuna sandwich, half a bit less than half
I love you, Kaybear. Please let us sit rest tonight. No breaking the rules. I really need to feel top-notch tomorrow.
Diary of Kaitlyn Johnson
Tuesday, 31 August 2004, 2:14 am
Claydon Mental Hospital
A crow caws outside my window each night. I can never see him, but I know he sees me.
Elmbridge High School looms before me like some awful miasma—we return for our final school year in a few short hours! Our progress has been “admirable.” What that really means is that Carly is eating again and that I haven’t done anything “potentially self-harming” in weeks. Dr. Lansing thinks she did that, but it was always Carly. What it boils down to is a series of carefully planned and executed lies.
Everything is timed. Everything is coordinated. Everything is rehearsed.
Carly and I pretend to be recovering from a sickness we don’t have. But when no one will believe you, you become the liar they think you are.
We work the system.
After our parents died, they sent us to Claydon. I can barely write the words without flinching. Without the deepest dread sliding over me like freezing water. Claydon is what you’d call a live-in nuthouse—excuse me, “psychiatric facility”—for troubled teens. Really it’s a place for embarrassed parents to hide away their mistakes.
Carly isn’t the mistake, though. I am.
We were fifteen and orphans and wards of Her Majesty. Wards of the social care system. In 2003, from January to September, they watched us, because they thought Carly might try to off herself. When it became obvious she was mostly fine, they went looking for a school. I guess Elmbridge High School won because it has a boarding facility. That was last year. We were sent back here for the summer. Until we turn eighteen (count: 274 nights), we’re their problem. All the other Elmbridge High pupils go home to their families, but we don’t have one of those anymore.
Elmbridge is definitely a step up from Claydon, but it’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate City of Gold is the sweet haze of urban cityscape light pollution, that rot scent of rubbish gone sour, and the endless living night that is London.
Where the night is vivid with noise, people, and anonymity—where the depraved live hand in hand with the righteous. London is awake all night. London is somewhere I can disappear. Or not. As I choose. I can find some kind of life.
Elmbridge is the gateway; Dr. Lansing is the gatekeeper.
Anyway—what else matters except that Elmbridge isn’t Claydon? Because anywhere outside of Claydon pretty much takes the cake; a sewer in hell would be a step up. Anywhere that freedom is an option is automatically better than being locked behind a pristine white door, forgotten in a neat little cage.
I’m sorry. I really do try not to get angry. Carly says anger is a weapon, but sometimes I think it’s just another cage.
So these are the goals:
Graduate—even if it kills us
Get out of Somerset and to London
The real reason we ended up in Claydon is because they think Carly’s crazy damaged. They think the accident caused a fracture in her mind. I am, apparently, the result of trauma. They think it started that night. They think I don’t exist.
It’s all about “putting me away again.”
See, they think I’m a personality disorder. I touched on this before. I am “a way of coping” when Carly was coping just fine. DID—dissociative identity disorder. I’m a coping mechanism… an alternative personality. I’m a symptom. They think I’m like a disease—I’m infecting Carly.
No one believes that I’ve always been here. Carly says it’s because no one trusts the word of a teenager. And our parents, the only two people who could have told them the truth, are gone forever. I guess Jaime could tell them too, but who believes a five-year-old?
This is how it works:
I’m here courtesy of Carly. I’m anywhere because of her. Not that I’m complaining, and she’d never admit this, but I’m like the wart on her arse she’ll never show, but she constantly knows is there. Where she goes, I go.
I am a prisoner of my skin. My bones are my cage. But she tells me she needs me, that I make her so happy, that she couldn’t live without me, and I know it’s true. It’s true for both of us.
Carly and I are closer than sisters. Closer than twins. We might as well be the same person, because we share the same body. But we are different. You might say she’s my better half. We share one life, each getting part.
Carly gets the day.
I get the night.
We live in shifts; it’s always been this way. I’ve always been here. Always, always, al
Wish they’d believe that.
Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to be born to the night watch, so I’m the one nominated for deletion integration
Dr. Lansing says it’s a good thing, but I’m not much tempted by oblivion. Not today, anyway.
I don’t blame Carly for being the one in the light. I love her more than anything. She’s my opposite completely, and she’ll say she’s the weaker half of our equation, but the truth is she’s my rock. She is everything I wish I were.
See how honest I’m being, Lansing, dear?
During the crossover, at dawn and dusk, just as the sun is moving behind or above the horizon, I can sometimes feel Carly coming. It’s hard to describe. I get sort of dizzy… like I’m high… and just as I’m about to go, I feel her brush past me. Not quite touch… more like a familiar scent or a gentle breath. It’s the closest we get to touching. I can almost talk to her in those endless minutes when we are neither one nor the other.
But, since that’s impossible, we use other methods—the Message Book and little notes scribbled on purple Post-its stuck here and there.
Gotta go—I hear the nurse coming for checks.
Found between the pages of Kaitlyn’s journal
Remember to behave tonight. Only one night, OK?
PS: Grabbed you one of those gross marshmallow concoctions you love from the canteen. Under the bed. Also, Jane Eyre from the library.
Go nuts. Be good.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Now that we’re heading back to Elmbridge High School, it’s safe to write in the Message Book again. For a while, back in late June, Dr. Lansing read it without our knowing, and would say things that could only have come from reading our exchanges. But we figured it out soon enough, and that was the last time we wrote in it. Lansing wanted that, of course. She saw it as Carly indulging in her alter ego—an “enabling behavior.” When Carly wasn’t writing to me there, Lansing probably smiled and put a neat little tick next to a task box that read “stop all messages.” But she was wrong if she thought that would stop us.
We wrote to each other in the bathroom mirror, in steam. We wrote Post-it notes, which we hid in unlikely places and swallowed after reading (not the nicest thing to force down your esophagus, but they checked the bins to make sure I wasn’t smoking). She forced us underground, and underground we’ll stay, until the day we pack our bags and head for the city, where the night never sleeps.
For now, my nights are full of nothings, and Carly’s days are full of everythings.
Session #45 Audio
Dr. Annabeth Lansing (AL) and Carly “Kaitlyn” Johnson (CJ)
Tuesday, 31 August 2004, 8:34 PM
(AL): How are you feeling tonight, Carly?
(CJ): Today was a good day.
(AL): Last day here. No anxieties about the upcoming school year?
(CJ): I like being at Elmbridge…
(CJ): [Pause] They sent a notice that they’re giving me a new room. Apparently, it’s a little smaller. Different. It’s in the “L,” so I’ll be able to see the boys’ dorms across the courtyard, which is weird.
(AL): And it bugs you? The change?
(CJ): A bit. But it will be good being back.
(AL): Change affects us all in different ways. It’ll get easier as more time passes. Tell me, how much did you manage to eat?
(CJ): I ate in the hospital canteen today. I had salad and some tuna.
(AL): I’m pleased to hear that you ate… but you know that a salad really isn’t enough nourishment for the day.
(CJ): I know. Actually, I’m starving.
(AL): I have cookies. Would you have one?
[Rustling of plastic.]
(AL): This is remarkable progress. Are you sure this is Carly I’m speaking to?
(CJ): You think I’m Kaitlyn?
(AL): Or maybe a new alter ego altogether. If you are, you’re welcome to speak.
(CJ): I’m Carly.
(AL): Kaitlyn, I know it’s you.
(CJ): [Pause] Then why ask what I ate? I know they report everything she eats to you.
(AL): It isn’t as prison-like as you make it sound. Carly doesn’t eat. We all know that.
(CJ): My answer told you who I was.
(AL): So why don’t you be honest with me, huh? Tell me how you are.
(CJ): [Mumbled incoherence]
(AL): Yes, I do care, Kaitlyn. About you, about Carly. Once upon a time, you trusted me, and I did everything I could to help you. Remember?
(CJ): You keep secrets from me. You won’t tell me what happened that night. You won’t tell me.
(AL): We’ve spoken about this. Carly isn’t ready to know what happened. Neither are you. You both need to work towards it. You need to integrate. [Pause] It’s been a while since you mentioned the Voice. Tell me what’s been happening with him.
(CJ): Why? So you can tick “crazy” on your little forms? So you can tick “Communicative”? So you can go home to Mr. Lansing and your perfect daughter and laugh about your demented patient?
(AL): Kaitlyn, you know I’d never do that.
Besides, Margo’s not perfect. [Pause] [Sigh] She was just suspended for mooning her English professor.
(CJ): No way, don’t lie. You’re totally fucking shitting me!
(AL): Don’t swear, please. And no, I’m not.
(CJ): [Laughing] Oh, my God!
(AL): So. The Voice—your Aka Manah. Has he been bugging you?
(CJ): You know already. I don’t like to talk about him. You think he’s a construct. You think he’s not real.
(AL): Tell me why you chose to call the voice Aka Manah. Why that name?
(CJ): That’s just his name. Arcane. Scary. Which is what he is.
(AL): And if I told you that in Zoroastrian mythology, Aka Manah was associated with evil thought? That, traditionally speaking, he was a kind of demon known to affect the mind? The thinking of people?
(AL): Don’t you think it’s telling? You give your auditory hallucination a name that implies he’s in the mind, influencing the mind? You have control over that. And this is a clue.
(CJ): A clue to what?
(AL): A clue telling you—begging you to see—that Aka Manah isn’t real.
(CJ): I’ll just agree with you, shall I? Get it over with?
(AL): Kaitie, I can’t help you unless you’re honest with me. Unless you try. We were friends once, right?
(CJ): [Whispering] Aka Manah used to be far away… I could tell because he shouted at me. I didn’t really feel him around me. Now… sometimes…
(AL): Sometimes? [Gently] What, Kaitlyn?
Kaitlyn, use your words. You can do it.
(CJ): I don’t want to talk about him. He’ll hear me.
(AL): Is he here now? [Pause] How do you know he’s here?
(CJ): [Barely audible] He’s closer. He’ll hear you.
(AL): How do you know? Is he shouting at you?
(CJ): [Barely audible] No. He’s whispering.
(AL): Whispering at you? Right now?
(CJ): [Whispering] No… at you.
(AL): I see.
Sometimes I can feel him… his breath on me. But sometimes it’s worse. I can feel him… inside me.
(AL): Kaitlyn, enough.
Kaitlyn, enough. This isn’t a game.
(CJ): Screw you, Lansy-pants. You never listen.
(AL): I think that will do for this evening.
(CJ): I want to see Jaime.
(AL): That’s enough for this evening.
(CJ): I said that I want to see Jaime! I’m entitled to see my little sister every month. It’s been three.
(AL): Kaitlyn, that is enough.
[Scraping of chair, followed by footsteps receding]
(CJ): [From a distance] You never listen! You can’t stop her from visiting. Keep trying that, and you’ll see what you push me to!
[End of tape]
Dr. Lansing Therapy Notes
Session #45: Carly/Kaitlyn Johnson
Tuesday, 31 August 2004
Carly continues to dissociate into Kaitlyn. Continuing attempts at deception indicate the need for an adjustment in her medication. Delusions also persist with regard to “the Voice.” Consider readmittance to Claydon Psychiatric Hospital, inpatient department for a few more months.
A visit from Jaime Johnson is long overdue. I have been reluctant to grant one in hopes that Jaime could be used as a restraining tool, but withholding visits has had an adverse effect, as tonight’s was the first dissociation into Kaitlyn that Carly has experienced in at least a month, as far as I can tell.
Dr. A. Lansing MBChB MD PhD
Carly Johnson returned to Elmbridge High School on Wednesday, 1 September 2004 at 7:54 AM. Naida Chounan-Dupré, an aspiring journalist and key witness to what was to follow, compiled a video diary of her final year at Elmbridge High School. This video diary, which was posted online to a secure blog (MalaGenie.com) at regular intervals, and was pulled from the online archive after the discovery of the Johnson journal, reveals much that was previously unknown about the Johnson Incident.
Video footage has been transcribed by [name omitted at request] and included at relevant sections throughout this testimony.
Naida Camera Footage
Wednesday, 1 September 2004, 4:00 PM
Elmbridge High Common Room
The image shakes for a moment, and then rights itself. We are staring into the face of a striking girl with pale, almost colorless eyes and black, curly hair. She puts the camera down on a shelf and steps back. She wears the Elmbridge school uniform, consisting of a white shirt sporting the Elmbridge crest and insignia, a blue tie, and a blue-and-green kilt fringed in white. Around her neck hangs a large necklace with thick black beads, and at the center, an amulet. She winks at the camera, fluffs up her corkscrew hair, and blows a kiss.
“This is it,” she says. Her voice is slow and languid, a faded Scottish accent lilting every word. “Elmbridge Truthful, Episode One, Final Year, Sociology 101. Seeking documented evidence of the daily teen experience. Main players—the Best Friend, Carly Johnson—”
She picks up the camera, and it spins before focusing on Carly, a slight girl with blond hair and haunted eyes that seem shadowed. She glances up from the book she’s reading. Her face waxes a deep shade of crimson, and the shadows beneath her eyes seem to lighten, chameleon-like.
“Oh, Naida—don’t film me. Please.”
“Come on, C!”
Carly hides behind her book. “It’s invasive. Besides, you’re the only one who decided to do the camera thing. You know… I think he was joking… I think he meant we should do journals. Most of us are.”
“Mr. Triebourn isn’t going to reward the sheep, hen,” Naida says as the camera angles around the room. “He’s going to reward integrity. With a shiny, beautiful A. I’m a journalist and a sociologist.” The camera turns back to Carly. “Aye, I will capture your secrets—”
“No.” Carly’s face, which exudes a gentle timidity, shutters closed, and her eyes grow unexpectedly hard.
The camera drops, and through the blurry screen we hear Naida say, softly, “Please? I really need this for my Royal Holloway portfolio. If I don’t have it, I won’t get in, and if I don’t get in, I’ll have to take a job as a hack or something—for a tabloid newspaper. A tabloid, Carly! Are you going to do that to me? Really?”
The camera lifts, refocuses.
Carly frowns, visibly uncomfortable. “That is completely forbidden emotional blackmail, I hope you know.” She eyes the camera with a sort of wariness, as though expecting it to be aggressive. After a moment, however, she nods, mutters, “Fine!” and then goes back to reading, subtly shrugging her hair over her shoulder to hide her face.
“Yes! Secrets shall be had, sugar… Nothing to be done about that.”
“Yeah, yeah, paparazzi,” comes a male voice from offscreen.
The camera turns to capture a lanky boy with dark skin, a little over six feet tall, with a slim frame and black hair, entering the dorm with a McDonald’s paper bag dangling from his fist. He grins at Naida behind the camera.
“Turning into a scandal scavenger now?” he asks.
Naida laughs. “Subject number two: Scott Fromley, the Boyfriend, but don’t ask me why. He’s a clown, a slob, and a jerk most of the time.”
Scott grins, looking over the top of the camera, which then jiggles as Naida leans in to kiss him. Briefly we catch a glimpse of the contact, Scott’s arm wound tightly around Naida’s waist, as he presses her close.
“Do you have to do that right in front of me?” Carly asks from somewhere off camera.
“You wait,” Naida says, and the camera pans back onto Carly. “You’ll have a beau one of these days, and your wild side will be set loose—no longer caged and celibate! Then we’ll see who’s making grotesque public displays of affection.”
The camera turns back on Naida, close in so that we can see only her darting, penetrating eyes as she whispers, “And I think I know who that might be…”
The camera cuts away to a shot of a blond boy, around five eleven, stalking into the room. His neatly styled hair belies his casual saunter.
“Mr. Brett [surname omitted], class president, voted cutest in the year and most likely to succeed, probably owing to the fact that he is, in all honesty, pretty damn gorgeous—”
Scott, off camera, protests. “Oi!”
“—and also because his dad’s [redacted]. Yessireee, you heard that right, lasses. We’re rubbing shoulders with the elite.”
“You’re one to talk,” Scott mutters, off camera. “Isn’t your grandmother some priestess or something?”
“Aye,” Naida agrees, “she’s a priestess, but that’s nothing next to this pretty boy.”
Brett bows. “Thank you. Thank you very much. Just let my father know that I’m ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the likes of you, and then let’s see how ‘elite’ I remain.”
Naida, turning the camera on herself, says, “That’s true. He’d disown you, for sure. Especially if he knew you joined my Mala group last year.”
She sticks out her tongue, revealing a diamanté bar piercing, which she wiggles for the camera.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Scott says. “Hey, are we doing that again this year?”
“You know, you’re more conventional than you think,” Brett says to Naida, “even if you were born on Fair Island, the most Mala-centric and remotest place on the planet.”
“Was it conventional when I taught you how to put t. . .
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