So, sorry if I don't frighten anyone, but I hope you like it anyway. Happy Halloween!!
One Step Closer…
I sit on the bed, staring blankly at the wall as the doorbell rings. Again. Nobody answers. Nobody here wants to to give out treats or admire the bevy of witches, vampires and superheroes that haunt our doorstep.
Downstairs, my mother shrieks “I wouldn’t care if you died, you know that James? If you had another heart attack right in front of me, I’d laugh. I wouldn’t even bother to pick up the phone. You’re not worth it.”
I put my hands over my ears, missing my father’s bellowed reply. My parents don't wait for Halloween to turn into monsters. They do it on a daily basis—using the magic formula contained in a bottle of gin. I flinch as a plate smashes against the wall. After awhile, it gets easy to tell what’s being thrown. Plates hit with a shattering snap. Glasses are more high pitched, almost like wind chimes ringing all at once. Coffee mugs have a hollow thump that cracks into pieces.
You’d think that, for this one night a year, they’d remember my little sister. But they don’t, even though Daisy loved Halloween more than any other time--but not for the trick or treating. Not for the candy. Not for the costumes. No, my little sister loved this night because of the gift it gave her.
She’d ask me to take her places every Halloween—hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers. I’d drive her and walk her in. She’d give me the name of some stranger and I’d find out where their room was. Then she’d sit on their bed, making them laugh, holding their hands. On Halloween, even though death was hovering on the doorstep of every person we visited, Daisy could keep it from coming in. A touch of her hand, and every one of those strangers found a miraculous cure.
So, that’s how I spent my last five Halloweens--watching my little sister heal people. Last Halloween was like the others--until the morning after. That morning, when I went to get Daisy up for school, she wasn't breathing. She was gone, just like that.
I never asked her how she knew people were close to death. Her abilities were just part of who she was. We never discussed them. Now I wish I had. I wish I knew if she’d be waiting on the other side. I glance at the bottle of ambien on my nightstand as the cyclone of drunken destruction continues downstairs.
I’m reaching for them when I sense…something. My head jerks up and turns to the mirrored door of my closet. All I see is my own face. Grey eyes, messy dark hair, clothes that look like I got them out of a dumpster. But then, a shadow flits behind my mirror. I startle and turn. Nothing’s behind me. Until I look back in the mirror. My breath rushes from my lungs in a short scream. Thick fog runs its smoky fingers along the glass. Out of it, a pair of bright blue eyes emerge. Eyes I’d know anywhere.
My heart jackhammers as I look behind me again. Nothing. But, in the mirror, Daisy rises out of the fog. It drips down her shoulders like she’s breaking through water. Her golden curls are as bright as I remember, her smile as full of love. She beckons me closer. My heart booms in my ears like a thousand bass drums as I get slowly off the bed and creep towards her. Behind Daisy, light slides into darkness and then back into light. I crouch in front of the mirror and put my hand to the glass.
Daisy puts her hand on the other side. I let out a low gasp when her childish scrawl appears on the mirror. “Take this.”
For a split second, I feel her small hand—warm and alive-- pressed against mine. Then it’s gone but—when I look down—I’m holding the locket I gave her for her fifth birthday.
The writing appears again. “Open it.”
She smiles at me, her eyes bright with happiness. I can’t help but smile back. I open the locket to find one golden curl tucked inside.
I know what to do without her telling me. She nods as I remove the locket, slide it on my black cord necklace and clasp it around my neck. Heat explodes through my veins. My blood rushes as every cell in my body blazes into something…more. They expand, pushing outward until I’m sure I’ll splinter into a thousand shards of light. I collapse onto the musty carpet as everything goes black.
When I open my eyes, Daisy is gone. One last message awaits me. “You’re older. Stronger than me. Use it well, Thomas."
And, suddenly, the answers to all my questions are inside me. I know she cured those people by taking on their deaths. She took as many as she could, before it caught up to her. We visited at least five people, each Halloween, from the time she was four until she died at nine. Twenty lives were saved because of her gift. Now it’s mine.
And, because of the locket I wear—her locket that came through from the other side-- I won’t have to wait until the one night of the year when the veil between the living and the dead is thinner. For me, every day will be Halloween. I even know where to start. In the children’s hospital downtown, there’s a five year old boy who’s supposed to die of leukemia tomorrow.
I move quickly, throwing my clothes and toiletries in a bag, grabbing the wad of money I was saving up for a car before Daisy died. My parents are still fighting as I take their keys and leave. Neither of them notice, but it’s okay. I understand that neither Daisy nor I was put on this world to be noticed. We were put here to do a job, until we can’t do it any longer.
Now each life I save will bring me one step closer to death. To peace. To my little sister. I’m smiling as I start the car.