The house watched the newcomers pull up in the driveway. Tim was the first inside. He flung the doors open and started running towards every window to open them. He looked behind every door and was already making his way onto the second floor.
Shelley sat in the car by the driveway. She needed a minute to herself. She looked at the house's big facade and wondered what her life was going to be like in there.
Mom walked in with the boxes, dropping them in the entrance hall and calling out to Tim. “Careful darling, don't run so much or you might hurt yourself. Come help me with the boxes and get your sister out of the car please”.
At a distance she heard her reply. “Mom, the rooms are huge, which one is mine?”.
“Your room is the one facing the street and Shelley's the one facing the garden”.
“Garden?” and loud scurrying steps came down the staircase until Tim was back in the hall and about to head off again when mom stopped him.
“Help me get these boxes in, then you can go play in the garden”
“Why isn't Shelley doing it?”
“You're right, get her out of the car and both of you can bring the boxes in”. Seeing that Tim was about to argue more she added. “And then you can go to the garden”.
A muffled “Fine” came from Tim as he went back towards the car.
Mom walked through the hall and turned towards the kitchen and saw those big windows she loved. The smell she knew so well was just faintly there under her nose. She saw the house had been cleaned and felt a relief at that. She glanced towards the living room which was on the other side of the hall. Tim had opened the door, but only a crack revealed a couch, and half of a fireplace. It was the same one.
A cry snapped her out of her daydream.
“Shelley, you're such a bitch, stop acting so weird all the time”.
“You're the freak, you don't even have an eye”
“Mom, she's making fun of it again”.
“Cry baby”, said Shelley.
Turning back towards the front door, mom said, “Ok, stop it you too, it hasn't been five minutes and you're already at it. There are still boxes in that car, and I would like for us to get settled in—today”. She walked towards the car, started picking up the boxes from the back and putting them on the floor. “I'm going to find the nearest supermarket and get us some dinner. While I'm away, Shelley you're in charge. Both of you get the boxes in, put your stuff in your rooms, and stay out of trouble”.
“But some of these boxes are really heavy”, said Tim.
“That's why you have your sister to help”, said mom. “Can I count on you guys or not?”, she added looking at both of them straight in the eyes.
“Yes”, said Shelley rolling her eyes.
All the boxes were now on the floor and mom got in the car, “I won't be long”, she said driving away.
Shelley and Tim struggled a bit to get all the boxes in, but after a few drops of sweat, a paper cut finger, and a few “fuck yous” all the boxes were inside.
“Headed to the garden now, and don't bother me till mom gets back” said Tim, running down the stairs.
Shelley was sitting on her new bed, an odd dark green wallpaper covered the room. She looked around and felt the room was both empty and yet full. She decided to get her stuff unpacked and opened the first box. There it was, a picture of the whole family. She put it on the desk by the window, where she saw Tim playing with an imaginary sword. Behind the desk she noticed a small place where the wallpaper was coming off. She looked at it closer, and was about to move the desk when she heard, “Hey, good job on getting all the boxes in. I see that Tim is back to his pirate phase”. Mom made her way to the bed where she took a seat and said,“So I was thinking of lasagna tonight, and we could discuss what you want to do for you birthday this week, what do you think?”. Upon hearing her mom's voice, Shelley stood straight and was now looking out the window trying to cover the peeling wallpaper with her body so that her mother would not see.
“Yeah sure, lasagna sounds great”, she said without turning to face her.
“Ok, and what about your birthday, do you want to talk about it now, or later maybe? I bought everything to make your favorite chocolate cake and some balloons”.
“Yeah, whatever that sounds fine”
“Shelley, you need to snap out of it, you haven't said a single word the entire ride here, what's the matter with you?” she snapped.
Shelley turned towards her mom and said “I'm sorry, I just need some time”.
Mom looked around the room and saw the picture frame neatly placed on the desk and said, “Ok, but it's been two years”.
“Yeah I know, I just need to get used to it. But yes lets talk about my birthday over dinner”, Shelley managed to force a smile out to please mother.
During dinner Tim said he hadn't seen anyone in the house next door, but was hoping the neighbors had kids so he could have a friend.
“No one would want a friend like you Tim, you've only got one eye”, said Shelley with her eyes still down watching her fork mash the food on her plate. She immediately covered her mouth realizing she had said it out loud.
“Are you serious? Could you not”, hammered mom. “Every freaking time you've got to say something about his eye”, she said.
“I'm sorry”, muffled Shirley. “I didn't mean it”.
“Whatever, I don't care”, Tim responded. At least my birthday is not in two days and I have no friends to come attend it”, he said sticking his tongue out.
“That's not true”, mother said. “Your friends said they would come for the weekend, have a sleepover.
“Yeah, I doubt that”, said Shirley.
“Well what do you want to do?”, said mom. “Do you want to stay here, or should we go find a clearing nearby for an outdoor celebration?”
“No need to make a fuss”, said Shirley. “We can just stay here, it's all the same anyways”.
“But Shirley, it's your 16th birthday”, said mom.
“Exactly”, she responded.
The next morning, Shirley walked into the kitchen where mom and Tim were already having breakfast.
“Good morning”, said mom, waving a plate of pancakes under her nose until Shirley was seated and placed it in front of her.
“What's this for?”, she asked.
“Well its your last day as a 15 year old”, said mom as if that sentence gave her all the necessary information.
Tim went on saying, “So, I was telling mom that I had the weirdest dreams last night, and I swear I heard something like someone's voice and it was trying to tell me something but I just couldn't make out what it was trying to tell me”.
“Oh so now you speak to ghosts?”, said Shelley.
“No, that's not what I said”, he paused. “But maybe a ghost is trying to speak with me”, he went on.
“Right, and that makes more sense”, said Shelley.
“Ok, ok you two, I need to run some errands to get everything for the big party tomorrow, and I need you two to stay put while I'm away”, said mom. “I'll be back soon”, she said placing the dishes in the sink and left the kitchen.
Shelley and Tim spent the afternoon in the house. Tim played video games, and Shelley was reading her book. Shelley started to fall asleep when Tim said, “Did you hear that?”
“What?” said Shelley, sitting up straight.
“Just now, I swear it sounded like someone speaking”.
“It's the wind Tim”, said Shelly. “No, there's no wind, that was a voice”, he argued.
“Tim, if you're trying to spook me, it's not going to work”, said Shelley, and just then they heard the doors upstairs bang shut.
“I don't see a storm coming, did you leave your window open?”, asked Shelley.
“No”, said Tim.
They looked at each other for a second too long. Neither wanted to give in to their fears.
“Go check”, said Shelley.
“No, you go”, said Tim.
“Ugh, lets both go”, she decided.
They went up and saw that every single room was closed. They walked down the narrow hall and opened the first room. Bathroom room and window closed. Then toward the next room, Tim's room. They opened the room and saw the mess that he had left, and his windows were closed too. The next room was mom's room. They hesitated before opening it, and looking at each other, Shelley took a deep breath and opened it quickly. Nothing. The last room at the end of the corridor was Shelley's. They opened the door and saw the desk moved and the wallpaper was ripped more than last time Shelley had seen. Tim asked in a whisper “What's that?”, pointed to an engraving Shelley hadn't noticed. Walking up, closer to the wall, they both saw letters carved which spelled LEAVE.
Shelley, turned to Tim and giving him a mad look she said, “Great joke”. She pushed the desk back to its place. She rolled her eyes at Tim while he argued “No, but I swear, how could I have done this? Really this isn't one of my pranks”.
“Seriously, I don't want to play with you, and this is not funny”, said Shelly.
“I swear this wasn't me, I...”
“Get out of my room”, Shirley said firmly.
“What about the...”
“I said get out of my room”, Shirley stood up, pushed Tim outside the door and shut it in his face.
Shirley wondered whether she hadn't noticed that carving before or she just forgot it.
That night, Shirley, fast asleep, was woken up by Tim whispering in her ears, “Shirley, get up, Shirley, I know who it is”.
Shirley took a minute to stand up and look at Tim, she was about to say something when he covered her mouth and said, “shhh, you've gotta be quiet, we can't wake her up”. Suspicious, Shirley nodded and she was freed to say “What the hell are you doing in my room? What time is it?”
“Shhh”, Tim insisted. “This will sound crazy, but I need to know that you will listen to me”.
“What?”, said Shirley.
“Promise”, said Tim.
Shelley stared at him.
“Promise”, Tim repeated.
“Ok, what is it”, she replied.
“Remember the voice I kept hearing, well I figured out who it is”
“What are you saying?”
“I told you it was going to sound crazy, but I know who the voice is, and I know what she wanted to say”
“Sarah, it's Sarah”
Hearing my name, Shelley sat up straight.
Eyes furious she said, “Tim, how dare you? How dare you speak of her”
“No, but it's true it's her”.
“Use her for your little joke is really not cool, you have no right”.
“It's not a joke, Shelley, please, just listen. Sarah told me what happened, she told me it was her.
Covering her face she said, “What, how do you know?”
“I'm telling you, Sarah told me”, he paused and said, “She said what happened on her birthday will happen on your birthday. She's the one that wrote LEAVE”
“Tim, you need to get out of my room right now. You have no right. You have no idea what you're speaking about”. Shirley's voice was rising and Tim placed a hand on her lips “Shhh”. Shirley pointed towards the door and mouthed “Get out”. Tim, hesitant took one step forward, and Shirley looked at him dead in the eyes and said loud enough but without screaming “Now”.
The next morning, Shirley woke up and looking at her clock saw that it was past noon.
“Shit”, she said to herself. She went to the bathroom, washed her face, and when she walked into the kitchen she heard mom say, “Well, well well sleepy head, good morning”. Tim was reading a comic and kept his eyes down on his book.
“Mornin'”, Shelley said.
“Did you have trouble sleeping last night?” she asked.
“Yeah I guess so”, said Shelley.
“Oh well that's normal, you're 16 today”, she said turning to her with arms spread out for a hug. “Happy birthday my darling”, she said giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Jee, thanks”. As Shirley sat down, Tim got up and said, “Gotta go”, but before he could leave the kitchen, mom asked “Where are you going young man?”
“Just out to the garden”, he replied attempting to leave once more, but mom added “Ok, just don't come in with dirty shoes and leave mud all over the house like last time”. “Sure”, he said, and he was off.
Shirley was caught in a daydream eating her breakfast. Mom had sprinkled some confetti on her pancakes as a sign of cheer.
“Not hungry?” asked mom seeing her barely touched plate.
“Not really”, said Shirley.
“Nonsense, you've gotta eat, it's a big night for you”, she said.
“It's not that big of a deal”, said Shirley.
“Finish your pancakes”, said mom
“I'm done, I'm going to see what Tim's up to”, she said. But before she could get up mom got really close to her face and repeated, “finish your pancakes”.
“Jeez, what got into you?” Shirley sat back down and cut one more bite. “Fine, but if you need to buy me a new pair of jeans because I can't fit in these anymore, that's on you”.
“Good girl”, said mom.
Later in the afternoon Shelley found herself opening her eyes to notice she was lying on the grass in the garden. Not knowing or able to remember how she got there she took some time to sit up and look around. There were no lights in the house except for the lamp on her desk that shone through the windows from her room which she could see from the garden. She got up and started to walk back inside. She could smell a rich chocolate scent coming from the kitchen. She walked inside, there were no lights on but she could see flickering from the kitchen. Shelley saw a huge cake, properly mounted on three layers with confetti sprinkled all over it. She looked around and saw some candles that didn't look like birthday cake candles but they were lit. She walked towards the dark living room and peeked inside. There was no signs of anyone in there.
Shelley started to walk up the stairs, careful not to fall in the dark corridor. She had the impression she heard someone's voice and put a finger in her ear to shake it.
I was trying to warn her, trying to tell her not to go. I was desperate and I think my desperation and anger made me able to do things I hadn't before.
Shelley jumped as the the painting on the staircase wall fell. She walked quicker up. The carpet on the staircase lifted and Shelley ran up the rest of the stairs arriving to the second floor.
How else could I tell her to turn back?
Shelley stood on the corridor of the second floor. She saw candle light flicker coming from her room. Her room was the only room with the door open. She slowly made her way towards the light, and when she arrived she saw what she couldn't believe was real. Her mother, naked, stood there with candles burning everywhere and a thick book displayed, open, laying on her bed. Shirley walked in and shaking said, “Mom, what's going on?”. Her mom cheerfully replied “Oh Shelley baby, it's almost midnight, it's almost your birthday”.
“Yeah but what are you doing naked?”, she said.
Mom turned to Shelley, grabbed her face in both her hands and said, “Shelley, you have to do something for me, ok baby? You have to do it for him”.
“What?”, said Shelley.
“Baby, you have to take this knife and drive it into your heart”, mom said smiling.
“What?” proclaimed Shelley.
“It's the only way”, said mom.
“What?”, she repeated, “What do you mean?”
“You're our last hope to be seen equal in his eyes”, said mom.
Shelley walked in closer and deeper into the room, her face baffled. She turned to take a look at her desk which had moved and saw, just next to it her little brother. “What's Tim doing?”
“I had to”, she said. “I had to offer him first. I know it was before his time but he was so dirty, he was so un-pure”.
“Mom, what the hell is going on”, shouted Shelley.
“Yes”, she said. “Hell is going on and you must, you just must”.
“What? Must what?” said Shelley.
“He commands us to return to him, we must join his kingdom and join in his glory”, she said.
“Mom, you make no sense. Stop, you're scaring me”.
“Oh child, this is the least scared you should feel”. We are so close. Minutes away. It is almost time. His kingdom will be so bountiful and I by his side will rule the world at my feet”.
“Seriously, stop. This isn't funny. Tim get the fuck up”, said Shelley.
Shelly hurried toward him, dropped to her knees and shook Tim's shoulder. He was not moving. She shook him more and saw that his other eye was slashed open. Gone. Shelley shrieked. “What have you done? What have you done to Tim?” she screamed desperately.
Mom was dancing and chanting with a candle burning down her hand. Wax covered her fingers which were blistered and red.
“Mom”, Shelley screamed.
She wasn't responding. Shelley stood by Tim crying and shaking his body as if there was a chance to wake him.
I couldn't do anything more than blow out the candle.
“No”, shouted mom. “No, no no. It was your time before and now it's Shelley. Stay where you are ungrateful child”, shouted mom.
Shelley in shock was crying and looking around, she didn't understand.
Mother came close to her, she lit another candle, and from the table grabbed a perfectly cut piece of confetti sprinkled chocolate cake. “Eat it” she said. “It's your 16th birthday”.
In a cry Shelley said, “What are you doing mom? What is happening?”.
“The time has come baby girl, I won't repeat myself, eat it”. She pushed the cake towards Shelley's mouth, which was slightly open as she cried.
“No. Stop”, said Shelley.
“Don't make me repeat myself child”, Said mom.
I was powerless, Tim was my only chance, he had heard me, no one else payed attention. How could I save her?
“Midnight is upon us and he has asked for his promise to be delivered to him on this moon”, proclaimed mom.
Shelley kept crying, confused. She couldn't get up.
Mom, naked still, turned to Shelley who was still by Tim and as she turned, Shelley saw the dagger in her hands. “You must give yourself to him ”, said mom. She brandied the blade high above he head and with one swift motion planted it in Shelley's heart who looked, wide-eyed, straight into her mother's eyes, confused.
I went to her and tried to console her. “We can't escape our faith”, I said. “This was always meant to be”. Shelley looked at me and her mouth opened, blood gushing out. I knew she saw me now. “It's ok, its pain now, but it will soon be over”.
All the while mother chanted and danced, pouring hot wax on her breasts and belly. She lit up her pubic hair and screamed. “Let us join you in your kingdom oh dark lord”. We are ready to repent abandoning you and devote our life to you fully”.
Shelley's body laid flat against the floor next to Tim. Mother went near and cut off all her hair.
“I have gathered a son's eye and a daughter's mane”, she said. “Allow me to enter you kingdom and join you at your side in all your glory”.
Shelley was standing next to me, she looked as if she had a terrible hangover.
Mother let the candle drip on Tim and Shelley and then let the flame burn them. She fell on her knees and shouted “Fire and life I give you, oh Lord. Allow me entrance into thy kingdom”.
Shelley looked at me and with a questioning gaze stared me over. “I'm so sorry, I tried, but I knew there was no way out. We were all promised”.
A small “What”, came out of Shelley's mouth and she saw her naked mother, her body was covered in ulcers and puss and burned from the wax. “I give myself to you fully”, she screamed in pain. She lit her own hair and stood up. In a smiling calm face, she ran towards the window.
Shelley crawled and I walked towards it and saw mother facing up, her limbs broken and stretched like a squished bug. Blood gushing out her head. Her eyes still open.
“Our mother wasn't a good person, and we never stood a chance”, I told her.