Name: Amelinda Berube
Twitter handle: @metuiteme
Fifteen-year-old Skye has had it with her sister’s weirdness. She’s determined to leave the makebelieve games they shared behind. But when Dierdre’s kidnapped by her own stick-and-bone monsters, it’s up to Skye to save her.
My sister disappears on a wild night, with a crescent moon sinking into the leafless claws of the trees, dull and red like a promise of violence.
When Mom bursts into my chilly basement room I’m half-dozing, the whistle and mutter of the wind prying into my dreams. I blink in the sudden flood of light framing her silhouette. Even in the split-second before she speaks it’s obvious: something’s wrong. I’m coiled in my bed, stiff and rigid, bracing for it.
“Skye, have you seen Dierdre?” She demands. She barely waits for my stammering answer before turning away from it. Her footsteps hammer up the stairs, her voice echoing through the house. “Dierdre! This isn’t funny!”
I stay huddled in place a moment longer, some five-year-old part of my mind hoping this isn’t really happening, that any minute I’ll wake up for real. On the nighttable the clock flicks from 12:17 to 12:18. A gust of wind shakes the window. But instead of fading, the fear unfurls, blooms into an almost physical thing, an almost definable quality in the air. Like a smell, lingering on my tongue.
The door slams as I come upstairs; outside, Dad hurries away from the light, shrugging his coat on. The darkness swallows him, leaving only the muffled echo of Dierdre’s name shouted into the night, over and over. Mom yanks closet doors open, hauls the couch away from the wall, slaps at every switch until the house swims with light, every corner exposed.
I watch her in silence, hugging my sweater around myself, winding my icy fingers in the wool. I should help. I should do something. But the thought is distant, muted, like it’s trapped under a thick pane of glass. Outside, a little cone of white light from Dad’s flashlight tracks his path around the yard, the tree trunks flashing thin and gray when he turns it towards the woods.
“Where could she have gone?” Mom cries, slamming out into the garage. “Dierdre! Dierdre!”
I stand frozen. The grandfather clock ticks the seconds by. The chill sinks into me like teeth. Years ago, by accident, Dierdre once hit me in the head while she was throwing rocks in the river. That’s what this is like: the ringing, muffled space before the pain came crashing in.
They’ll find her. Any minute now. They have to.
The door to her room swings open soundlessly. The bedside light is on, throwing shadows all over the room. Its pale circle falls over Dierdre’s bed, the pillow dented, the covers rumpled, tossed aside.
It’s full of leaves. Pinecones. Gray sticks, forked and bent. They’re heaped over the mattress in her place in a little drift; a few of the leaves are curled and scattered on the carpet, ground into brittle fragments. Dad’s voice drifts in through the open window with a spill of cold air, a distant shout, thin and ineffectual. Dierdre! Dierdre! The leaves twitch and ruffle as if they’re stirring at her name.