“I was born with a strange gift. The ability to see what no human being has ever seen before. It’s all mixed up in my head. The images, the sounds, the smell. I need to remember. Put things in order right up to this moment. Remember who I am. If I had to say how it all began, I might just as well start here.”
It all begins to snowball around my eighth Christmas. Each night progressively gets worse. They’re always around me anymore, even when I can’t see them. They flicker around my lamp, tug on my drapes, and make my room feel as if it has traded places with the most barren place in Antarctica. They even go so far as to possess one of my toys, making him clang his cymbals and his eyes glow. He clashes them faster and faster, the symphony of tinkling and crashing growing louder until I can’t stand it. I break free of my sheets and scream for Mommy.
The daytime is not much better. The snow has piled up to the window, drifting aimlessly with the wind. Boredom has encompassed my mind. I don’t want to do anything because there’s nothing to do. I’ve tried everything, but Aiden is always somehow involved and he ends up ruining my fun. So staring listlessly out the window is the only safe thing that can be done.
Mommy is worried. She suggests sympathetically that I find something to do. When I don’t respond, she sighs and proposes for a venture outside, that she’d call me when dinner was ready. I don’t want to go outside. But I cave in, since she wants me out of the house.
I pull on my heavy coat and boots, drawing my cap over my ears. As I tread down the hall, I can feel a whoosh as Aiden yanks my cap off of my head, a burst of static making my hair stick up. He waves it teasingly out of reach.
“Stop it, Aiden! I told you I don’t want to play with you anymore!” I shout.
Aiden recoils and drops my hat to the floor, retreating to the back of the hallway. Not that he’ll stay there long. He’ll just follow me outside, as he has no other choice.
I adjust my cap back on my head and slowly pull open the back door. “Okay, I’m going.”
Mommy calls her acknowledgement and I pull the door shut behind me. The bitter air assaults my face. I hate wintertime. The only good thing about it is Christmas, but as of late, I haven’t really felt much holiday spirit.
The snow crunches under my feet and I make my way down from the deck to the yard, wandering. I’m not only bored now, but freezing. Aiden, however, is just the opposite. He loves the outdoors, mostly because he can’t feel anything. He never gets cold. He kicks around my soccer ball to his heart’s content while I sit on the swing set, shivering and miserable. Does he not realize how much I hate being like this? He must. He hates being tied to me just as much as I do. Maybe that’s why he likes the outside. He can get away from me for a change.
I glance over at the fence. I can hear some commotion coming from the street. Curious, I plod my way to one of the knots in the fence, peeking through at a group of kids pelting each other with snowballs.
“I think I just found a way to have some fun.” I grin.
Aiden voices his objection, reminding me that we were never to leave the yard.
“Okay, I know we’re not supposed to. Come on, we’ll just leave for five minutes and come back. Mom will never know.”
Aiden mumbles out something about how Mommy is not the one we should be worried about, but nonetheless, pops out a board and creates a gap big enough for me to crawl through. Sometimes, Aiden wasn’t so bad after all.
“Hey Jodie, wanna play with us?” A young kid offers when I emerge on the other side. He’s a little older than me. I’ve seen him around school before.
Before I can even accept, he says, “Hurry up and hide then. You’re gonna get creamed.”
He runs off and I pick up some snow, mushing it into a thick ball and throwing it at the back of the boy’s head. I heard him grunt and fall. I hide behind one of the cars, arming myself and assailing the other kids on the opposite side of the road. I am giggling and laughing as I seem to hit each and every one of them without fail. Just call me the snow princess.
As I run out in the open, I can hear the boy I had hit earlier advancing behind me. He tackles me to the ground and immediately mashes some snow in my face. I can’t breathe. I hit him on the knee to let him know he has gone too far, to let me up, but he only sees it as a playful gesture. He won't stop and I struggle for air, but the boy doesn't seem to notice.
I hear Aiden growl and suddenly, the pressure is gone from my face. I scramble around to see the boy clutching his throat. Through Aiden’s eyes, I can see the boy’s life force gleaming red, floating away in little sparks.
“No, Aiden! No!”
Aiden, at my command, releases the boy and he falls to his knees, coughing and gagging. When he finds his voice, he turns to the others.
“Did you see that?! She nearly killed me!”
A bubble of dread floats in my stomach. I am going to be in huge trouble.
“She’s a witch! A dirty, rotten witch!” He screams, backing away to the safety of his group. The words sting and I grimace. There is no way to protect or justify what Aiden has done.
“What’s going on here?” I hear my father demand, coming up beside me.
“She’s a witch!” The boy shrieks, repeating his chant, like he was intending to curse me, “I’m telling you! Jodie Holmes is a witch!”
Struggling not to lose his temper in front of the kids, my father grabs my hand and tows me hastily to the house. God forbid that everyone in the neighborhood find out what he was truly like. Everyone already avoids us, thanks to Aiden. He slams the door, letting loose his carefully composed fury.
“What were you doing in the street?! You know you’re not allowed to leave the yard!”
“What happened?” Mommy is at his side.
I struggle to hold myself together. “ I saw the other kids playing. I just wanted to have some fun –“
“What did you do to that boy?!” My father’s voice is rising to a shout, his vehement eyes glued to me. Mommy is trying to calm him down, but it’s not working.
“I didn’t do anything! Aiden did it. He was trying to defend me – “ I can't get my explanation out fast enough for his liking.
“I’m sick and tired of your stories! Jodie, this time, you’re really gonna get it!” He advances and seizes my arm, raising his hand to strike. I shield my face with my hands, but Aiden is quicker. The lights go out and the lamp is thrown to the wall with a piercing shatter. My father lets go and backs away, looking around him in fear of the forces at work surrounding his child.
“Go to your room,” he orders, trying to hide the tremor in his voice, “now!”
I scurry upstairs and hide under the covers, afraid to peek out from under my cave of darkness.
Later that night, Mommy brings me dinner and tucks me in.
“Try to get some sleep, sweetheart. Everything will be better in the morning, okay?” She kisses my forehead and I just watch her with skeptical eyes. “Night, night.” She whispers.
She rises from the bed and turns out the light. The unfamiliar blue light of the moon and shadows of the branches outside invade my room. They’ll be here soon.
“Mommy!” She turns around, “I’m afraid of the monsters, Mommy. They’re gonna get me.”
She smiles reassuringly. “Honey, you know monsters don’t exist. I’ll leave the light on and the door open, okay? Get some sleep, sweetie.”
She pads out of my room, the yellow sliver of light coming from the hall a small comfort. I settle back down into the warm bed only to be startled when the lamp flickers on. It’s only Aiden, but my anger from today bursts out of its seams, “Go away! I hate you! It’s your fault my parents don’t love me. You hear me?! Go away!”
Aiden, hurt by my words, melts away downstairs and I watch through his eyes as Mommy enters from upstairs to confront my father.
“You shouldn’t get so angry with her, Phillip. She’s just a little girl.”
His head snaps up. “Little girl?” He sneers, “You’ve seen what she can do, right? Susan, that’s no little girl. That’s – Susan, that’s a monster.”
Mommy whirls around to face him. “Don’t you dare talk about her like that!”
He rises from the table. “The things that are happening around her, they’re not normal, and they’re getting stronger. For the love of God, Susan, what’s to stop her from turning on us?!”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!”
“Susan, that thing is like an uncontrollable animal. We have no idea what it’s capable of!”
Mommy is at the table and he has followed her, tainting her with his words. “We have a demon living with us right under our own roof,” He looks up, as if he is regarding Aiden, before turning back to her, “Susan, this is gonna stop, and it’s going to stop now, before we end up crazy or dead.”
A beat passes. She doesn’t want to accept it. “We agreed to look after a little girl, Susan, but not this. Not this.”
No wonder they hate me.
The monsters zip under my bed and I sit up, turning the lamp on in the hopes it might scare them away. Aiden huddles close, watching out at the intimidating darkness.
“There’s no reason to be scared, Aiden. We’re going to sleep, and nothing is gonna happen.”
The words don’t do any good, as the monsters can hear me. They take over my toy, which smashes his cymbals feverishly. I shrivel away, but they see me and grab at me with their inky tendrils. I scream as I’m pulled off of the bed and to the floor. I scream bloody murder, terrified of what they will do. Aiden is horrified, helpless as to how to assist me.
I hear Mommy calling, the door rattling and pounding. Only when it falls victim to Phillip’s kicking does she enter and envelope me in her arms. The monsters growl and fade away, promising of a speedy return.
“Are you alright?! What happened, sweetheart?!” She looks at me with worried, frightened eyes.
“You told me monsters didn’t exist. You were wrong, Mommy. You were wrong!”
She hugs me tightly to her and I look up to see Phillip looking at me like I am one of them, the monsters. He shakes his head in disbelief. He’ll put a stop to this. Oh, that was for sure. Not that it will be in my favor.