trigger warning: self harm
It started after my sister disappeared, and I wish I had noticed sooner.
Mom tried to tell us, but we didn’t listen. We thought she was crazy, and she was, but she was also correct.
We should have listened, we should have done something, but it’s too late, and it doesn’t matter anymore.
I’m alone; all I have left are wishes, dreams, and memories. Each is a punishment and a reminder that it started with me and will end with me.
We moved three years after Marie disappeared from Philly to a rambling farmhouse in the suburbs. It composed of tilted land and towering trees; our nearest neighbors were deer and far too many bugs.
The move was long overdue, and we thought it would help us heal, but to mom, it was a betrayal, and she wasn’t wrong, but it was also self-preservation.
We had to put Marie to rest so we could live. We couldn’t cling to the hope that one day she would turn up at our doorstep and walk in.
Mom didn’t talk to dad or me for months. She locked herself in her room, and whenever I saw her, she looked through me.
It hurt, of course; why wouldn’t it? When I told dad, he sympathized and told me to give her space, but I noticed he would no longer meet my eyes.
I missed my family, and I missed my sister. What could have happened to her? I wish I could shut down my mind. I was tired of hurting every moment of every day, and I was tired of imagining my sister buried under a pile of dirt, waiting for us to find and unearth her bones.
She came to me at night, and I could hear her singing from the woods.
She pressed her palms against my window, leaving imprints surrounded by frost, and when she smiled, her lips quivered, and her eyes shone like starlight.
She whispered my name throughout the night, and she had so much to say.
She spoke of enchantments, taught me curses, and sang low and sweet.
It’s not real, I told myself. You’re being stupid. It’s just the wind and your imagination.
But the wind doesn’t know my name, and my imagination can’t leave scratches on the window.
I tried to forget. I told myself it had been a dream, and after a while, I convinced myself because the alternative wasn’t possible.
But then I found Marie’s locket on my windowsill, coated in thick black mud.
She would have never taken it off, not willingly, and even though I had told myself for years that she was gone, I had repressed the hope but not abandoned it, and now there was no more.
I lost my mind that day.
I ran to the fields and screamed until my throat was raw.
I lay on the itchy grass and stared at the sky, watching it darken and the moon bloom.
The fields glittered with lightning bugs. I chased and captured them, cupping them in my hand, ripping their wings off, and watching as the glow they held dimmed.
It made me wonder how long it must have taken Marie to die. If she had just laid there, accepting her fate, feeling the life drain out of her.
I crushed them and stared at the luminescent smear on my palms, then stuck my fingers into my mouth.
I sucked on them.
It was my fault that Marie was dead. It had been me who pressured her to go to the party. I knew she didn’t want to go. It wasn’t her thing, but I needed a designated driver.
“It’ll be fun,” I had persuaded. “Are you going to waste the rest of your life watching tv with mom and dad?”
So she had come, and I smoked and drank and smoked and drank
I passed out, and when I woke up, I had 20 missed calls from Marie and twice as many from my parents.
My heart dropped into my stomach, and I tried my hardest not to throw it up.
I knew something was wrong, and it was all my fault.
It was all my fault
I helped dad around the house because that was the only time he gave me attention.
The ladder we had was old and terrifying, but he insisted on using it, so I held it still as he cleaned the gutters.
I stood in his shadow, feeling sick. I imagined him falling and cracking his head open at my feet. His brain spilling, and his eyes weeping blood.
I was relieved when he finally descended, but the thought of his mangled body had never left me.
I dreamt of Marie that night. She stood in the corner of my room, looking at me. Her hair tangled and full of bugs and earth, and her lips had rotted off, revealing her gums and teeth.
I asked what she wanted and begged her to go away.
She just smiled and stared at me, and then her eyes rolled back in her head and revealed empty sockets wriggling with maggots.
Sometimes I smelled blood in the air, and that’s when I knew Marie was nearby
I know mom sensed her too.
On the rare occasions we encountered one another, she would look at me, terrified.
I imagined Marie clinging to my back, caressing and tracing my face with blood-stained fingertips.
I lost dad during the height of summer. I found him sitting in the kitchen, staring at a corner, his eyes unfocused and full of tears.
“She’s here,” he told me. “Asha, your sister is here. I can see her. We shouldn’t have left her. We shouldn’t have left her. We need to find her.”
And then he got up and left, the door banging shut behind him.
He would be gone for days and come home with dirt in his pockets and eyes red like blood.
He would sit at the table and cry and talk to Marie. He apologized to her.
She wanted us to find her, and she was upset that we had given up on her.
The days grew longer, summer felt endless, and she grew angrier by the day.
A storm blew in, rain lashed the windows, and the wind shook the house.
We went outside after it was over to ensure there was no damage.
We looked at the house, and it gazed back at us with hundreds of pairs of eyes. It had been papered with the missing posters of Marie.
Her gaze was accusing.
Have You Seen Me? The posters read.
The ground was soft and sprinkled with teeth. I picked them up while dad collected the posters. His mouth twitched, and his eyes were cold, and I knew he was gone.
As I’m writing this, his body lies crumpled under my window.
I heard the crack as his neck broke on impact, and I know I’ll never forget the sound.
Mom has barricaded herself in her room. Occasionally, I hear laughter followed by wailing.
Nothing matters anymore.
What does matter is that Marie is here, and she’s waiting for me. The window is open, and I hear her. She’s singing and laughing, her voice warped by time, dirt, and larvae.
She emerges from the woods, beautiful and dark. She gazes up at me and smiles.
The moon is bright tonight, and the sky is full of stars.
I run outside and try to touch her face, but she pulls away from me and runs back into the woods.
I chase her, and around me, the trees vibrate, and the air shimmers.
I am going to find her. It has all led to this.
I know what to do and where to go.
I will sift through the dirt and unearth her bones, and I’ll shroud myself in her hair.
Together, we will wait for the sun to rise and say goodbye to this world. If death is the only way we can be together, so be it.
There’s nobody left to haunt and nothing left to grieve.
There is only the end.