Photo by: Elephi Pelephi
Friday, October 19, 2012
I love this time of day. That one brief hour before. When the trees go gold across their tops, drenched in the last drops of sunlight. When I can feel the evening chill riding in on the coat tails of the shadows that slowly cover the hills and valleys of the land around me. For an hour I have nothing to do, but sit and wait. If I’m lucky, that’s all I do before They call me back inside, yanking at the vines that tie me to Them and this house and are somehow stronger than any iron chains.
I glance down at the two story monstrosity behind me, practically swallowed up by a sink hole the same day that They came, rotted and moldering and somehow still pretty in an awful broken down way. The perfect place for creatures like Them. Most people pass it by without a thought or downward glance anymore. Once in a while a group of teenagers decides it’s the perfect place for a séance or make out session, but they barely ever make it past the front steps and the guttural growls coming from somewhere inside. If they’re too slow, sometimes they never make it back off of those steps again before the door opens and they’re dragged inside, too quick for them to even muster up a scream.
I sit cross-legged in the grass and pick at the flowery weeds nearby. I pull at the petals and toss them one by one into the air. Make a wish on each in that brief moment when they’re hovering in space, before they flutter towards the earth.
Stay away today.
My wish sort of rhymes, which almost makes it feel ridiculous, but I say it anyway. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
“Hello there,” a pleasant voice says. A boy about my age, or at least the age I think I am, is standing just in front of me. I like his hands. They’re the first thing I look at, just a little rough and dotted with paint. I follow the paint drips like bread crumbs from his wrists to his arms, past his white t shirt sleeves and up to his face, all angles and hollows that seem perfect for tracing with my fingers. His eyes are green like the evergreens just beyond him.
This will be one of the times that my wishes don’t work. I can already tell. But still part of me keeps hoping. I cross my fingers on both hands and will them to anyway. Go away, I think at him.
It doesn’t work and I sigh heavily before dropping the last of my weeds onto the grass. I brush my hands off on my dress. It’s a faded yellow now. The ribbon flowers lining the rounded collar are almost completely unraveled and hang like streamers down my front. And it’s also too small in the shoulders and much too short on my legs, the netting under the skirt that used to make it full that now hangs slightly lower than the dress itself which is the only thing keeping the world from seeing my underwear.
I push my hair back from my face. I know it must be knotted and wild, but there’s no way to fix it. Actually, even if I could I probably wouldn’t. If I’m lucky, the combination of the dress and hair will scare people away, but I suppose it’s obvious by now that I am hardly ever lucky and so usually these things have the opposite effect and draw people closer, make them curious about me or sorry for me.
“Hello,” I say in a voice that’s neither friendly or unfriendly. It is a fine line that I walk. I know that They are listening and will pull at my vines if they hear me trying to scare people off. And They will do much, much worse later on when they pull me back inside. Those nights seem to go on forever and afterwards I’m way too black and blue to be their bait again for at least a week. Which is much too long for Them to go between feedings and They end up nibbling at me a bit instead. I don’t like to think about those times.
“I like your bracelet,” he says as he smiles again. His teeth are perfectly straight and so, so white.
I smile in spite of myself. Usually the first thing anyone does is ask if I’m okay and it always makes me want to smack them. Of course I’m not okay. Everything about me practically shouts this.
“It was my mom’s,” I say turning the bracelet around my wrist as I do. Saying the word mom immediately fills my head with memories from the night They snuck in. When the house sat level with the sidewalk and the street and was lemon yellow, not faded to the color of pee. My parents made us hide. But there’s nowhere you can go that They can’t find, sniff out. I didn’t see Them eat my parents and later on my sister, but I did hear the screams.
Every single one of them.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
I have to think about this. I used to know the answer, but that was a long time ago when this dress was so big that I had to safety pin the collar to keep it from slipping down. “Little Bit” is what my parents used to call me, but it wasn’t my name, not really. I frown, try to remember. “M-m-molly,” I say because it’s the only name that I can come up with, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not mine. I think it was the name of the girl I brought inside on the first night that They sent me out “fishing”.
“What are you doing out here?” he asks slowly. He hasn’t tried to come any closer to me. I think maybe he’s afraid he’ll scare me away which is so ridiculous that I start to laugh. I don’t like how hoarse and mad I sound when I do. I glance up at him and his eyes are wide, but he doesn’t back away.
“Hey, it’s getting dark soon. Do you live close by?”
I turn around, my gaze traveling down the sloping hill behind me where the black shingled roof of my house is visible. I can hear the vines rustling against each other as I move, but I don’t try to quiet them. He won’t hear them. He can’t even see them. They’re only visible to me and Them.
“You live down there?” the boy looks surprised. He takes a step closer to see the house better. I step into his path. I can’t tell him to stop, to run, because They’ll hear, but I can block his path.
“It’s okay, I just want to help you,” he says gently. I hate how kind his eyes are. Just looking at them makes my stomach hurt. Below me one of Them howls, high and soft enough for only me to hear. I look up. The stars are starting to come out. It’s almost time. I can feel Them urging me to do my job, to draw him in. Now. The vine around my right foot goes from slack to taut.
“Yeah, it’s actually pretty cool down there. Want to see?”
I look over at the boy, at his hands in his pockets, at his faded blue jeans and paint splattered shirt. He grins, not yet aware of what I’m about to do. Of what’s about to happen to him. I open my hand, palm up and offer it to him. It’s dirty and rusty looking where blood has caked around the nail beds and in the lines of my palm. Part of me hopes he’ll see it and will somehow know what it is, but he doesn’t. He does hesitate for a fraction of a second before taking my hand though. His instincts are kicking in, warning him to stay away.
But then his hand lands in mine and I sigh once more before I close my fingers around it. Together we walk down the ivy covered slope and directly onto the roof. They can hear us and I can sense Them, scrabbling up the staircase that winds through the center of the house, jaws snapping.
“Ouch!” The boy pulls his hand from mine. I was gripping it too hard. He takes a step backward. And before I know what I’m doing I push him off of the roof and onto the hill just beyond.
“Run!” I yell and below me They howl furiously and yank at my vines so hard that I fall forward onto my stomach. My breath goes out of me in one painful rush and then I’m sliding across the roof. Roofing nails dig into my palms, shredding my skin and smearing my blood on the shingles. I don’t scream, but the boy turns and looks at me anyway. I can see him as I begin to drop over the side of the roof and into their waiting claws.
Photo by: Elephi Pelephi
Photo by: Elephi Pelephi