This story is by Madison Lawson and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
She’s almost identical to my mother. Her hair that still has the dark gray tint to it barely brushes the tops of her shoulders. Eyes shining with every moment of laughter as her full lips curl into a smile.
That’s where the resemblance ends.
I spin around, fear bubbling in the pit of my stomach. All around people rush down the street, yelling into phones and hailing taxis. Oblivious, not one looks at the creature that stole my mom’s face. Her smile goes unnoticed by everyone but me.
I return my attention to her, studying the way she walks, how she almost seems to float above the ground.
Her teeth are like black ink, dripping from her bleeding gums and smearing against her cracked lips. The smell, a mix of a decayed animal’s carcass and fresh lemon, emanates from her smile.
She opens her mouth wide and a shrill whistle escapes.
I scream, hands clamping hard against my ears, legs buckling beneath me. The sound stabs at my ears and brings tears down my cheeks. Surely someone else can hear this?
When the whistling stops, I fear I’ve lost my hearing for good.
Until she speaks.
“Loss. Fear. Do you feel it? Do you feel how I did?”
The words echo in my head and I shake it, standing to my feet once again.
Humans continue to pass us, unnoticed or uncaring. They ignore my screams in favor of the city sounds.
Despite the stiff work shoes strapped onto my feet, I’m fast and agile, muscles absorbing every step with ease. Years of running distance for my college track team and marathons with my friends suddenly pay off as I sprint for my life.
Or perhaps my preparation started that night, years ago, the moon high and my feet naked as I ran on the rocky, dirt road. Running from a life that suffocated me, from a future that terrified me.
The whistling chases me. I close my eyes, fighting to shut out the sound.
The tip of my shoe catches on a crack in the pavement. My eyes snap open as I fly forward, shoulder hitting the concrete hard. With gritted teeth, I roll onto my back, staring up at the blue sky. I imagine kites catching the wind, gliding high. My favorites have long tails, dancing wildly in the breeze. My baby sister, Eliza, points at the blue ones. “Boo!” she exclaims with a large smile. The moment is serene, and almost a perfect painting until my mom storms in, prepared to tear it down.
The whistling reaches my ears once again causing the images to vanish. I wince, face contorting in pain.
The creature towers over me, showing off alabaster skin. She smiles, gunk from her teeth slowly falling from her lips until – drip – it splashes between my eyes. I cry out in disgust, blinking madly as I wipe away the liquid with the back of my hand. The smell of it continues to assault my nostrils and I shudder at its Jell-O like consistency.
“Loss. Fear,” it repeats.
“I’m not afraid,” I mutter, unconvincing as guilt swells in my stomach. The tears continue falling and I struggle to crawl away, glancing around in desperation for someone – anyone – to come to my rescue.
I make eye contact with a little girl, no older than three. She’s frowning at me. Out of what I assume is curiosity, she releases her mom’s hand, walks over to me and squats, oblivious to the terrifying creature standing at my side. The girl reaches out and gently wipes away one of my tears, her light blonde hair strokes my cheek as she does, as if spreading hope across my face. Her eyes, filled with innocence and belief, resemble Eliza’s.
“Please… help,” I whisper.
The girl chuckles, showing off clean white teeth and a beautiful smile that makes me long for my little sister.
“Help me,” I plead.
The monster turns its attention to the child, shrieking loudly, the whistle even more shrill and painful than before. Though invisible, the child still hears the sound and instantly erupts in a cry. Her mother rushes over, scooping the girl up just as the monster claws at her feet.
“Eliza…” it whispers, voice no longer harsh and jarring.
The child shakes her head wildly, calming when her mother picks her up. I roll over and grasp the monster’s arm, tearing it and the girl apart. It jerks around, floating above me. It’s mouth opens wide, screaming. Black pus falls, covering my face, blocking my vision entirely. Blinded, I take shallow breaths, feeling exactly as I did that night a year ago.
Mom called me drunk and I normally wouldn’t have gone, but I could hear Eliza crying in the background. So I left the comfort of my home to come to my mother’s rescue. Or really, Eliza’s rescue. I strapped her into a car seat with Mom up front, enduring her drunken screams and insults. I was angry, yelling at my useless mother. My face grew heated and tears filled my eyes as Eliza sobbed in the back seat.
My vision blurred as I drove into the darkness, blind to the road ahead. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t stop. I was scared. I needed Mom to stop yelling, to sober up and get the help she needed. I needed her to stop.
I needed it all to stop.
Perhaps I saw it coming or lost control, because, the next instant we collided with a tree and that’s when everything stopped.
Mom stopped screaming.
Eliza stopped crying.
They both stopped… forever.
I couldn’t see.
I wipe the blackness away from my eyes and catch the gaze of my mother standing before me, returned after months of death.
“Do you feel it? The fear?”
I nod. Mom will take me to see Eliza again.