I often wonder about lights in the sky, if there’s something else than stars, planets and a map of black nothingness. Here’s my #Fridayflash spilling a hair over 1k – enjoy:)
The first time you came into my room at night, you stood at the foot of my bed, motionless, clutching yourself. “They’re coming for me. You have to help me hide. And lie. But you can’t let them know you’re lying!” Dark night, the blue moon cast a shadow on your features, hiding your eyes. Opened or closed, I never knew.
That following morning, Mom found you crammed between the washer and dryer in the basement. You denied sleepwalking, all those horrid nightmares, your screams waking the whole house at least once a week. But Dad wouldn’t allow this kind of talk, he didn’t believe in psychiatrists either.
You were obviously going through something big – big enough to wake your little brother at night, subconsciously. Then you began to change, your stupid friends wouldn’t come around anymore, you began locking yourself in your room and staying in on the weekends. Mom noticed, but Dad wouldn’t hear about it, thinking it was a phase that would go away. It didn’t, but you did.
It took them eight months to find something, and it was nothing. A shoe in the woods at the edge of town, by the foothill where you used to read before supper on long summer evenings.
Dad changed his after work gin and tonic from less tonic to straight up. Mom pretended she didn’t see, but she was the one buying the groceries.
We had to talk about this, if not for you, for those you left behind. “She isn’t coming back, is she?’’ I asked Mom when Dad was out, wrecking the woods to find you. As if you’d materialize safe and sound, and he’d bring you where you belonged. Our Dad, our hero.
“Don’t ever say that.’’ She stopped scrubbing the invisible spots on the kitchen counter and turned to me with dead eyes: someone had taken you and it was too late. “Christopher, go do your homework. I’ll take care of this mess.’’
She’d been cleaning that kitchen for hours, no mess left to scrub.
You’d been gone for eleven months, two weeks and five hours. Mom still hoped, Dad still drank, and I thought I’d never see you again. Forgetting was our new family motto, although no one ever spoke it out loud. But not me, I wouldn’t forget you.
‘’To Jenny,’’ I raised my glass of milk for your birthday, and everything went silent for a second. I don’t even know why I said it, I guess I felt you.
The lights flickered, the entire house buzzed for a good three seconds. And this weird noise, like we were about to blow up. Then, a black out.
Mom and Dad checked the fuse box, but I stayed at the kitchen table, finishing my macaroni and cheese. I guess it’d be hard for Mom to stop cooking what you asked for year after year.
Our parents ran around the house as if we lived in nuclear times, under attack from invisible forces. Maybe they felt you, too, and wanted to get away as fast as possible—because if we felt you in the room but you really weren’t there, it meant we’d lost you forever.
That night, I heard something strange. I went to the window, and in the sky, a star shined brighter than the others. It turned a paler shade of blue, pink, and yellow. The colors of a rainbow, on your birthday, from you to me.
“Jenny…” I prayed and wished you’d hear me.
The star turned into a million of them, a piece of the sky detached itself from the endless map, and a pyramid of lights danced. The sky fell that night, beautiful and frightening.
I never mentioned it, but every other night, one of the stars glittered more than the others. Sometimes, when I got lucky, it turned pink. Your favorite color.
The policemen came once, shoulders low and faces grave. They had bad news, they didn’t have time to step inside, refused coffee and cake. Mom and Dad stood side by side, waiting. Did they find your body? Had you gone from missing to dead?
The case was to remain open for five years, but the searches were non-conclusive. They offered counseling schedules and a package. Great, they’d brought a present. More like a bomb, in our house.
They left one minute after that. Dad stayed downstairs and Mom went to their bedroom’s en-suite. She got into the shower, her sobs louder than the water. I stayed in my room, waiting for someone to tell me it was a joke, that you were okay, just a runaway in a cool city, waiting for me to join you.
Two years, three months, eleven hours, that’s how long it took you to get me. I’d changed schools and had a piercing, but none of it mattered that much.
“Christopher.” Clear with every syllable, waking me in the middle of the night, like you used to. “Christopher.” Every hair on my body stood on end. “Look into the sky.” Your voice, Jenny.
The summer wind gusted and lashed the trees lining the street. I opened the window, letting in the hot air, my curtains shifting, their shadows eating my walls. The A/C went out with the power in our house.
I shook from head to toe, but couldn’t look away, couldn’t ask the voice to stop. I felt you; I sensed you close to me. And you repeated for me to: “Look into the sky, Christopher.”
The stars moved, changed, soft blue, pink, yellow, twisting and turning, making me lose all perspective. Massive as it came down, and silent, like a summer storm: a spaceship.
‘’I’m scared.’’ Barely a whisper, but you heard me. You always did.
‘’Don’t be. We’ll be together.’’ And then, as if I doubted the voice wasn’t yours, ‘’Journeys may end and nights might fall, but Brother, you will always be loved.’’
‘’And through the hardship of rain and the sorrow of dreams, you will always remain Sister mine.’’ I’ve remembered these words ever since you first read them to me at bedtime, back when I was a kid and you were my world.
I’d never be alone again, Jenny, because I joined you. The stars became my home, and I turned them blue just for you.
August 18th, 2011 at 9:16 am
My gosh. How incredibly beautiful and poignant. You know, if this is what a short story of yours does to me, I can’t wait to read a novel. You have a gift.
Thanks so much for sharing it. 🙂
August 18th, 2011 at 9:52 am
Anita…for you and your talented self to say I have a gift not only makes my day but my year!! Thanks so much for reading me:)
August 18th, 2011 at 9:55 am
Anne, that was very atmospheric. You got across feelings of loss with panache and made it a very moving story. Wonderful!
August 18th, 2011 at 10:48 am
Thanks so much, Colin:)
August 18th, 2011 at 9:58 am
I love this story. It speaks so much for your talent.
August 18th, 2011 at 10:49 am
Well, thanks so much – I do love to write for YA:)
August 18th, 2011 at 10:23 am
Anne, what a beautiful piece! Moving and so pure.
Thank you for sharing your gift!
August 18th, 2011 at 10:49 am
Lisa, thank you for calling it a gift:)
August 18th, 2011 at 10:33 am
Far away my fav piece of yours that you’ve ever written. Absolutely stunning. As a mom, all I could think about was the fall-out, the parents losing them both. So sad and such powerful imagery.
And the winning line: “It didn’t, but you did.” and choosing wasn’t easy!
August 18th, 2011 at 10:50 am
Yay! I’m so glad you liked it, Tams:)
August 18th, 2011 at 11:04 am
So heartwrenchingly beautiful! Well done, Anne!
August 18th, 2011 at 11:07 am
August 18th, 2011 at 12:29 pm
I enjoyed this very much. Creepy and the loss is palpable.
August 18th, 2011 at 12:31 pm
Thanks, Sir Salami! I do love creepy stories…
August 18th, 2011 at 1:51 pm
What can I say… you can write! Intriguing combination of elements.. mental health problems, when the daughter wanders off? Then a ghost story, nope Aliens! Writing style is engaging and subtle, and I loved the way you drew me into the centre of the story, and the family.
August 18th, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Well, thanks so much, Terrible James:)
August 18th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
Wow, so unique and original! I loved this journey!
August 18th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
August 18th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
Again, another moving piece! Beautiful!
August 18th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
August 18th, 2011 at 5:07 pm
Nicely done, have you thought about using that as a start for a novella?
August 18th, 2011 at 5:49 pm
I haven’t, Gareth, but now that you mention it…
August 18th, 2011 at 9:01 pm
WOW. So strange and powerful. But I feel really sorry for the parents.
August 18th, 2011 at 9:11 pm
Thanks, Sonia – yeah, they’re not getting it easy:(
August 18th, 2011 at 9:25 pm
It was a very moving piece, filled with emotions, those of sadness, loss and a glimmer of hope. You painted a vivid picture with your words, so that I too could see those stars change colour.
August 19th, 2011 at 7:19 am
Thanks so much, Helen – I’d like the stars to change colors, sometimes…
August 19th, 2011 at 8:43 am
Such a melancholy feel to this, but with a bright end.
August 19th, 2011 at 8:45 am
Not for the parents:) Thanks, Tim!
August 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
I’m with the others, beautifully written. It has a dream quality to it where the fantastic has been sprinkled onto the real world.
And btw I love looking up at the stars. I try do so every evening :).
August 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
Thanks so much, Craig – I LOVE star gazing, too:)
August 19th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Your story flowed from sad to beautiful to comforting effortlessly. I love it and want to read more from you.
August 19th, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Thanks so much, Emilia:) There’s a few #fridayflashes on here, follow the tag!
August 19th, 2011 at 7:33 pm
What a wonderfully poignant story this is. It has a dreamlike reality to it that’s a joy to experience.
“…and I turned them blue just for you.” made me smile.
An excellent read.
August 19th, 2011 at 7:35 pm
Thanks so much, Kevin…it’s one of my favorite line, too:)
August 19th, 2011 at 9:23 pm
Wow! This is so wonderfully written. It didn’t feel like it was over 1k words at all. Beautiful. And it left me with an urge to go outside and look at the stars.
August 20th, 2011 at 7:55 am
Oh, the best compliment – I made you look at the stars:)
August 19th, 2011 at 10:20 pm
Hi there Anne — lovely evocative writing.
This was a great image: ‘Mom found you crammed between the washer and dryer in the basement.’
And I thought this was deftly done: ‘Dad wouldn’t hear about it, thinking it was a phase that would go away. It didn’t, but you did.’
And lots of other lines I enjoyed, but haven’t listed, because, hey, I was enjoying the story. 😉 light, bright and uplifting. Covered a lot of time and space, quite literally. St.
August 20th, 2011 at 7:56 am
Thanks Stephen…glad you listened and read my story:)
August 20th, 2011 at 12:06 am
I wasn’t expecting this to be heartwarming in the end and love the way this twisted at the last moment to capture the love between two siblings.
August 20th, 2011 at 7:57 am
I do love the unexpected, Aidan!
August 20th, 2011 at 8:27 am
I’ve always loved this story, even reading it the second time I enjoyed it as much as the first. Lots of emotion and so well written Anne! 🙂
August 20th, 2011 at 8:39 am
Thanks, Pat – I do have the OWG to thank for making it better:)
August 29th, 2011 at 10:09 pm
I literally got chills reading this. The final words startled me & I realized I’d been holding my breath. Beautiful, Anne.
PS: Even more chilling would be that I am Jenny & my brother is named Christopher (although he’s older)…
August 30th, 2011 at 7:15 am
Oh this is creepy…please tell me you don’t have aliens after you?!