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"Eerie" is the word the wind whispers to everything in its path, but the song is disturbed by a lone pine tree in the Galen's yard. The tree splits the wind, causing needles and cones to litter the ground. A small flock of birds that sit huddled at base of the trunk, jump at the sudden rain of pine cones. One startled bird flies head on into the glass of a nearby window. On the other side of that window stands a little girl, giggling wildly at the confused animal.
"Brynn. Brynn, look! That bird just ran into the glass." The little girl jumps up and down, motioning her sister to come to the window.
"I heard it, that must've been painful. Did it fly away?" The older sister, Brynn, steps up to the window.
"Yea, he did. Silly birdie's going to have a headache now." The little girl presses her face closer to the glass, waiting to see if any more scared birds would fly towards her. The stool she stands on wobbles under the shift of weight.
"Careful, Marley, or you'll end up just like him." Brynn puts a hand down on the stool, forcing it back on all fours.
"Sorry, I'll get down now." Marley climbs off the stool, returning to her sketchbook on the floor. She lifts a pencil to her lip, biting on the eraser in thought. "I want to draw Mr. Bird." She announces to her sister, beginning to scribble away at the paper. Brynn smirks silently, returning to her desk to complete her homework.
Marley is the youngest of four children, her closest sibling is Brynn, yet there's still a whole decade between the two sisters. So, the seven year old girl deals with lack of attention like every other kid her age, by bugging her siblings. Marley's eldest sibling is her only brother, Chris, beating her by fifteen years. The boy has long since moved out, marrying a beautiful woman when Marley was only five. At the time she thought her new sister was a princess, a round princess who "needed to lay off the cake" but eventually she got better. Brynn told Marley that the new Mrs. Mary Galen wasn't a princess and that she was pregnant, not fat. Leading to Marley meeting her nephew, Matt, a few months later.
Brynn and Marley are also forced to reuse clothes their oldest sister, Angie, had worn; rarely receiving new ones. The high maintenance sister is a flunky, a high school dropout who works as a waitress at a local pub. Spending any free-time she has with her boyfriend or babysitting Matt for some extra cash. Angie is only around for a few hours a day and plans on moving in with her boyfriend, Sam, as soon as possible.
The Galen's live in an average-sized house in a neighborhood devoid of children, so Marley doesn't have any option to make friends outside of school. Marley tries to talk with Chris and Angie, but gets blown off each time. Marley's asked if Matt would play dolls with her, but of course, "He's too young." And playing with dolls is for "little prissy girls." But if Marley timed it just right, Brynn would play with her.
Brynn is by far the child with the heaviest of expectations from their mother and father. After Chris started a life earlier than he should have, and Angie blew off what needed to be done for what she wanted to do; Brynn is always being pressured to succeed. She's consistently being judged for her performance, leaving her to always be doing homework, reading textbooks, re-reading textbooks, and doing it all over again the next day. Marley would always pop in while Brynn would listen to her music too loud only to find her sister beat boxing with the bass or mimicking the radio's announcer. And the little girl would giggle madly, running around Brynn's room calling her "radio-head" or "music-mouth." Brynn would shout at Marley to shut-up and leave her alone, not being able to hide her red cheeks or pleased smirk.
Today is a day like the rest with Marley waiting for Brynn to finish her heavy investigation of "The Anatomy of the Human Body." Marley brushes her honey gold hair away from her face so she can have a clear view of the window. Her small hands drawing out the image of Mr. Bird, but sadly her muse has left her brain and Marley can hardly remember what he looked like smashing into Brynn's window. Leaving the paper to only show the window's pane and Brynn's dusty curtains. Still waiting for her sister to finish, Marley manages to squeeze the pine tree into the drawing.
"All done, I expect you want me to play dolls with you." Brynn smiles down at Marley, giving all her attention to the seven year old. Marley slams her small hands on each side of the sketch book, pushing herself up energetically.
"Please!" She shouts, slowly sitting up as Brynn blinks at her. "I mean, if it's not too much of a hassle." Marley rubs her arm, pulling the biggest puppy-dog eyes; a pair that have yet to fail their master. Brynn smiles.
"For a little while, it smells like dinner is almost done." Brynn slides a slip of paper inside her book before closing it. She stands up, walking towards her door. "Don't forget your stuff."
"I won't. Wait up Brynn!" Marley scrambles to gather up her sketch pad and pens, racing after her sister. As Brynn turns the handle to Marley's room, the little girl rams into the door in order to get inside first. "I didn't close your door, 'cause my arms are full." Brynn smiles before turning around to close the door her sister left open. Marley drops her things on a small desk, that once belonged to Angie, running to grab her two favorite dolls. Marley jumps on her bed to reach the shelf where the porcelain girls rest their heads on each other.
"Don't drop them. I can't always super glue them back together." Brynn's hand reaches up to catch one before it falls.
"I want to play with that one, Brynn. You should use this one." Marley trades dolls with her sister, cradling the one that nearly fell. The two girls sit on the floor, each with a doll in hand and making high pitched voices as they make the dolls do as they wish.
"Brynn, do you think you could use your superpower to make this more fun?" Marley's little voice returned to normal as she politely makes the request.
"Superpower?" Brynn cocks her head to the side in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"That thing you did to make the doll talk without moving your lips." Marley holds up her hand to mimic a small puppet opening and closing its mouth. "It was really cool the last time you did it."
"Oh, you want me to do ventriloquy. Okay, where's your hand puppets?" Brynn's tiny hobby is about the only thing she can do outside of her studies, making her text books "tell"her the answers or having a conversation purely with a mirror. Marley can't completely comprehend the talent her sister had learned, thinking that Brynn had acquired some form of telepathy so as to make only Marley hear her.
Brynn moves to the shelf full of dolls, lifting a small white ghost that Marley had snatched from the box of Halloween decorations years ago. She places it on her hand and tests the mobility by opening and closing the jaw. Brynn draws her lips partially together, breathing out her mouth slowly.
"What's this guy's name?" Brynn turns to her little sister, still adjusting the puppet.
"Call him... Mr. Bird!" Marley calls in excitement, cradling both of the glass dolls.
"Alright, ehm..." Brynn clears her throat, kneeling down to be level with Marley.
"Hello child, my name is Mr. Bird. I am your spiritual guardian and I want to be your friend."A voice sounding like an odd little man echoes from the puppet as Brynn opens and closes his mouth with her hand. "Would you like to play a game with me?"
"I'd love to Mr. Bird, let's play i-spy!" Marley rocks around with her dolls, scanning the room thoughtfully. "I-spy with my little eye... something sparkly and grey. I bet you'll never guess."
"Is it... your dirty clothes?"Mr. Bird flicks his head to look at Marley's tinted sweat pants that lay in a heap on her floor.
"They're grey but, nope." Marley giggles. "Do you give up Mr. Bird?" Brynn makes the puppet look around frantically, trying hard not to move her own head to ruin the illusion. She pulls her vocal cords to make Mr. Bird chuckle.
"I don't see much anymore, your sight isn't the same after death."Mr. Bird gives up the battle, allowing the seven year old to win the little game. Marley begins to laugh mischievously, squishing her dolls closer to her face.
"Turn around Mr. Bird, i-spy big sis's pretty eyes." Brynn freezes, unable to think of anything to reply. She turns the puppet around, forcing its mouth to open and close like a fish. Marley tilts her head to the side, confused to why her sister is staring so intently at the ghost. "Brynn? Mr. Bird?"
"You think my eyes are... pretty?" Brynn speaks normally to Marley, still holding Mr. Bird in the air.
"Well, ya. Why wouldn't they be?" Marley starts to fiddle with her dolls, as if suddenly embarrassed. She picks up a hairbrush from nearby, lightly running it through the dolls locks. "All of you is pretty. I want to look like you when I'm older. Is it okay if I have your same hair too?" Marley pushes herself to her feet and walks beside Brynn, running her fingers through her sister's hair. "Mom says you have chestnut curls like grandma. I'm still going to be a blonde..." Marley pouts her lip, starting to braid Brynn's long hair.
"Your blonde hair matches your blue eyes, Marley."Mr. Bird chirps in, bringing a smile to the seven year-old's face."You're bright and clear like a sunny Summer day."
"You're such a gentleman, Mr. Bird. But I think Brynn has a more of a dolly face than me." Marley ignores the puppet, pinching Brynn's cheeks before returning to braiding.
"All little girls have happy faces like a doll's, why should you be any different?"Mr. Bird complains to Marley, spinning around to face the two porcelain girls. Marley stops braiding, taking Mr. Bird by the head before throwing the puppet onto her bed. Brynn's hand is suddenly revealed and she stares at it sadly, missing the little game Marley had wanted to play.
"Mr. Bird can go home now." Marley pouts, padding her hand on the ground in hopes to find a hair tie. Her tiny fingers brush against one and she finishes playing with Brynn's hair. "Thank you for playing with me." Marley picks up her small dolls again, undoing their hair to mess with it.
Brynn stands quietly, sending a look to the ghost puppet on Marley's bed before walking out in complete silence. Marley watches her sister walk out of the room, closing her door without making a sound. Her gaze finding Mr. Bird collapsed on the sheets, lifeless now.
"I'm sorry for getting mad, Mr. Bird." Marley mutters to the puppet, half expecting him to jump up and talk to he like he did when Brynn was there.
Knock, knock. Marley flicks her head to see her door slowly opening. Her father standing in the doorway. He eyes the room with utter confusion, as if expecting to see another being there besides his daughter.
"Marley, honey, who were you talking to?" He asks, his smile laced with evident worry.
"I was playing with Mr. Bird, he's a ghost." The color drains from her father's face as he laughs nervously. "See." Marley holds the small puppet out to her father.
"So, you were only playing with your dolls." Her father sighs in relief, "Alright, I just thought I heard a man's voice. Good impression, dear."
"Impression? You mean Mr. Bird's voice, right?" Marley tilts her head to the side.
"Right. Well, dinner's ready. Let's go eat." Marley's father leaves the door open as he turns out of sight.
"Brynn, dinner's ready." Father pounds on Brynn's door, pushing into her room before she could object. "Why are you not finished with your homework?" Marley can hear her father growl at her sister.
"My eyes are heavy." Brynn's quiet voice calmly replies.
"Then you should sleep rather than spending the night listening to those boring talk shows." Marley peers around the corner, watching her father cross his arms. "If it becomes a problem young lady, I'll take that stupid stereo and throw it in the attic. Are we clear?" Father puts pressure in his voice, near to roaring at Brynn. Marley watches silently as her sister nods, agreeing without a word. "Good, we're eating." Father turns swiftly out of Brynn's room, stomping past Marley's little form and downstairs toward the kitchen. He growls to himself as Marley flicks her head to look at her sister.
"Brynn?" Marley's nervous voice brings her sister's grey eyes towards her own. Brynn smiles, holding her balled fists behind a textbook.
"Let's go, Marley." Brynn stands up, reaching to rub the little girl's shoulder. "They're waiting for us."
- - -
The Galens gather around their dinner table, chatting aimlessly. Father doesn't lift his gaze from his plate.
"So Angie, how's work been?" He asks the eldest sister, continuing to eat.
"I quit." She states bluntly. "My boss was making a move on me, so I smashed a wine bottle over his head and stomped out the front door." Angie gives the details in bullet points, trying to anger her parents. Mother throws her fist down onto the table, giving Angie a deep glare.
"You did what? Angie, how are you going to pay for college now?" She growls.
"Easy, I'm not going to college. Sam asked if I'll move in with him this weekend. Plus Chris and Mary want me to watch Matt while they go on vacation for their anniversary, so I'll have cash until I get another job."
"That's no excuse young lady, you need to stay employed otherwise you'll do something stupid. Like living with Sam for example." Father scoffs at Angie.
"Shut up, Sam loves me more than you ever have."
"That's bullshit and you know it, I wouldn't let you live under my roof if I didn't love you."
"Then it's a good thing Sam has a place for me to sleep. Because why would you want a failure like me as a daughter, right?" Angie growls, grabbing her plate and getting up to walk to her room. "I'm so done with you." She hisses in a catty tone, disappearing down the hall. Father begins to growl under his breath as Mother shakes her head.
"I can't believe that girl." Mother mutters with a scowl.
Brynn and Marley had watched the argument, silently eating as their parents murmur about Angie and Sam. Brynn swallows her food, blinking in thought.
"She won this one." Brynn mutters to no one, but Mother and Father notice her comment and glare at her.
"What do you mean, honey?" Mother asks with a scowl.
"She wanted you to react negatively so she could have an excuse to move out." Brynn says in a calm voice, not showing any signs of uncomfort under their gaze. "You've made her believe she's unable to succeed, so in her head she plays the failure and must act in that role." She looks to her parents, muttering her thoughts to herself.
"Are you saying that it's our fault that she's a mess?" Father growls, causing Marley to whimper quietly. Brynn looks at him, nodding once. "You're wrong, it's her friends and that bastard Sam. Not us. Our job is to push you kids to live a life better than our own, meaning we have to teach you how to act and punish you when the standards aren't met." Father hisses into the air, giving off a superior aura. Brynn breathes out a frustrated sigh.
"Of course, pardon me for doubting you." She whispers.
"Brynn, don't you have homework to do?" Father growls, receiving a nod from his daughter. "Finish it."
"Excuse me." She grabs her unfinished plate, walking it the the sink. As she quietly sets down the dish, Brynn hears her sister sigh.
"Can I be excused?" Marley chirps in her sweet voice, standing before Father could say otherwise.
"No, kid. Sit down until you've finished eating." Mother growls at Marley, causing her to cringe and sit back down.
"But Brynn still has food on her plate, can't she finish eating?" Marley's not looking for an excuse to leave, but rather she wants her family to stop fighting.
"No, Bynn didn't finish studying, so she doesn't get to eat. It'll be that way when you're on your own, you better get use to it young lady." Father states, shooing his daughter off.
"Yes, sir." Brynn whispers loud enough for him to hear, but she doesn't turn to face him. Marley watches her sister disappear down the hall.
With both Angie and Brynn gone, Marley's parents begin to gossip about her three siblings, even Mary and Matt slip from their lips. Marley has managed to deal with the tension in the house her whole life, but because she began to listen to Brynn's observations, she started to notice the hypocrisy in her parents. It hurt her little heart to watch her family fall apart at the seams like this.
- - -
Once Marley finishes her dinner, she excuses herself and scampers up to her room. She pauses before opening her door, hearing the light sound of Brynn mimicking radio static. The sound twists and cracks abnormally, giving off sad wubs.
"Brynn..." Marley mutters, looking at her sister's door. Remembering how loose the hinges are on both of their doors, she builds up the courage to sneak in. Marley opens the door to her room, without going inside, she slams it hard. The impact rattles Brynn's door open a crack, allowing Marley to wedge her hand in to push it open just enough for her to crawl through.
Brynn's room is covered in darkness, except for the glow of the streetlight through her window. Marley can't see anything, and wedges herself between the floor and Brynn's bed. Just as she expected, her sister appears in the light from the hall. She walks towards the door and closes it with a sighs. But Marley remains motionless, steadying her breath so she'll remain hidden. Footsteps land of the carpet as Brynn returns to her original place. She looks out the window emotionless, putting a hand up to the glass. Marley watches with curiosity as her sister turns to the small radio, turning it on. Brynn throws her window open as the talk show host speaks in a hushed tone.
"...but things aren't going good with the local officers, as the killer is still free as of this moment. We're sorry for the unnerving news, but glad that you've chosen to spend your evening with us." Brynn holds up her finger as she speaks with the announcer. "I'm Kennedy Moss and this is the Late Night Show." Marley listens as the speaker begins to read emails from listeners, answering them with a quiet voice. Brynn jumps up to sit on the windowsill, pulling away the screen before dangling one leg outside. Marley struggles to hold back a gasp, fearing her sister would fall.
The speaker continues to speak, his voice gentle and soothing. The talk show itself isn't meant to hold someone's attention for long, and it's clear that the announcer is trying to relax his listeners by either reading articles from newspapers or ranting about other current events. Mr. Moss however, has Brynn's full attention as she stares out her window. By this time, Marley believes her sister isn't bothered by Father's comments and begins to think of a plan of escape. However, the seven year old closes her eyes for too long and is lulled to sleep by the radio announcer. Marley curls into a small ball, slowly growling a yawn as she begins to snore.
As Kennedy Moss pauses to move to a new topic, Brynn hears the light sound of Marley's breathing before noticing her limp body curled up on the carpet. With curiosity, Brynn steps back into the room. She walks to Marley, bending down to brush her hair out of her face.
"How long have you been in here?" She mutters with a smirk, waiting to see if her sister would twitch awake. Brynn chuckles before walking to quietly open the doors to both her's and Marley's rooms. Being the "good big-sister", she scoops the seven year old into her arms to take her to her own bed. Marley's arm falls loosely at her side as Brynn walks. She sets Marley down on her bed, attempting to tuck the child in but has to unbury the sheets from the many stuffed animals littering it. Finally succeeding to keep the seven year old comfortable and asleep, Brynn's eye is caught by the small ghost puppet. Sitting on the shelf with Marley's two favorite dolls is Mr. Bird, his closed mouth leaving Brynn's imagination to figure out what he's feeling.
Brynn reaches her arm out to grab the doll, rubbing her fingers over the rough fabric. She places the puppet over her hand and leans down to have Mr. Bird peck a kiss on Marley's forehead.
"Goodnight, child. May the sweetest of dreams find you."Brynn squeezes the words from her teeth in a gentlemanly tone. She leans down to kiss the crown of her sister's hair.
"I love you, Marley." Brynn talks as motherly as she can, placing Mr. Bird on the hand-me-down desk nearby as she walks out of the room.
- - -
Marley awoke to a strange bumping sound. Alarmed, she lays motionless, trying to figure out what the noise was. Marley rubs her eyes, confuse to why she's in her own bed.
"Wasn't I in Brynn's room?" She mutters, silencing herself when the noise echoes around her again. Marley squeaks, diving under the covers as footsteps descend the stairs. The sound disappears as Marley slowly gains the courage to open her eyes. She waits for any other sound, severely on edge. The seven year-old throws her legs over the bed, landing on the floor. She pads her hand over the wall searching for the light switch. Marley grunts, accidentally ramming into her desk. She runs her fingers over the surface until her hand finds something soft. Marley grabs it, recognizing it to be one of her dolls and squeezes as much comfort from it as possible.
She feels for the door handle, twisting it as her night vision starts to outline objects in the darkness. Holding tight to the soft doll in her grip, Marley tries to sneak down the stairs without wetting herself. Clicking heels hit the kitchen tiles, and the little girl can clearly hear the cabinets open and close. Originally believing that the sounds were being caused by her sister, Angie, Marley remembers that the hotty teen left to spend the night at her boyfriend's house. Marley begins to shudder in confusion, nervously clutching the doll to her chest.
Creak. Marley's feet lean off the last stair, causing it to give off a loud moan. All sounds from the kitchen stop, and Marley has to cover her mouth to keep from screaming out. Slowly the sounds return but are incredibly more quiet than before. Marley takes the risk to breathe, heaving a sigh as she digs her nails into her doll. From her obscure perch on the staircase, the seven year-old stares towards the dark kitchen, trying and make out a faint blur. A figure stands in front of the counter, their back blocks Marley view of their hands. The blonde girl grows curious at the strange hooded figure in her house. They're too short to be Chris and Sam doesn't know the house well because Angie never invites him over. But Father would never wear a sweatshirt like that, and... Marley forces herself to think of anyone who could fit the image before her, but her mind goes blank when the figure lowers their arms. In their hand is a shimmering blade, lathered in dark liquid.
Marley squeaks, stumbling up the stairs in an attempt to escape the intruder's gaze. All she can do is panic over the figure's bloodied knife, unable to comprehend where or who it came from. Marley mindlessly runs into a door, slamming it. She breathes heavily as she searches for her bed, ramming into things she doesn't remember were there. She freezes, hearing escalating footfalls.That person is coming!Marley mentally screams, forcing herself to cower in the corner of the room and choke back tears. She's absolutely terrified.
The footsteps approach calmly towards the door, stopping when they face the frame. Marley's poor heart beats loudly and she fears the intruder will hear it and find her. The figure bumps the door lightly, causing it to swing open with ease and allow entry. Marley begins to sob, sniffling as her breath quickens. Please don't find me, please don't find me.The girl prays to herself, burying her face into her doll.
"Marley?" A soft and calm voice echoes around the room as a light is suddenly flicked on. The seven year-old jumps away from her sister's voice, causing Brynn to look down at her in surprise. "Are you alright? Why aren't you in bed?" The little girl's eyes widen, before spilling over with tears.
"B-B-Brynn!" Marley launches herself into her sister's arms, wailing into her chest. "There's someone in the kitchen and they have a knife, it's covered in blood! I thought you were them. Please, Brynn, d-don't let them hurt me."
"You saw what?" Brynn asks in a curious tone.
"A-a figure with a hood on and a bloody knife. They were chopping up something in the kitchen." Marley has troubles explaining through sobs, but Brynn manages to piece together the shaky story.
"Marley." Brynn starts, pushing her sister a few feet away to look her in the eye. "I was in the kitchen." Marley looks at the teen with a questionable stare. "After I put you to bed, I started reviewing my homework. I was starving when I finished, so I came down to sneak something to eat before I go to bed."
"But if you were in the kitchen, then why'd you have a blood covered knife in your hand?" Marley chokes out.
"Because I made a jelly sandwich. Look." Brynn states bluntly, pointing to a small sandwich that she had set down on the nearby desk. "It wasn't blood, it was raspberry jam on a spreading knife." Marley follows her sister's finger, lowering her brow.
"And, why were you wearing a hood?" The little blonde girl stares at her sister in confusion, her brain still in shock.
"I was cold." Brynn blinks calmly, remaining blunt. "You saw how I had my window open, the room got too chilly and my ears were bothering me so I covered them. I just didn't flip it before going downstairs." Brynn gives a half smile, silently apologizing.
"You scared the crap out of me, I thought I was going to die." Marley hiccups, pulling her doll to her chest subconsciously. "D-don't do that again, please." She mutters then looks to Brynn for some kind of apology. Brynn pulls her hand to cover her mouth, a grin peeking through her fingers.
"Don't you worry, child. I will protect you like a knight to the princess." An odd manly voice crawls to Marley's ears, fooling her mind into looking down at the small doll in her arms. "You'll be safe as long as I'm near."
"Mr. Bird?" Marley questions, realizing that she's been carrying the puppet around this entire time.
"It is I, child. And let tonight be proof of my promise."The puppet's mouth doesn't move, but his voice is clearly heard by the seven year-old's ears.
"Promise?" Marley asks quietly, as if Brynn isn't allowed to hear.
"Promise."Mr. Bird replies confidently.
"Really?" Marley makes Brynn snicker and break off the puppet's voice.
"I think he means it, Marley." She smiles, reaching for the sandwich she made.
"...Okay." The little girl starts to rub her eyes, pulling Mr. Bird closer to her body. "I'm going to go to sleep now. Goodnight, Brynn." Marley waddles over to the bed plopping down on it.
"Uh..." Brynn hums. "Wrong bed, dear." Marley looks around with a confused face, glaring tired eyes at the bedsheets. I'm in Brynn's room, no wonder her footsteps came straight here. Marley gets up with a defeated groan.
"I'll see you in the mornin'... Nighty night." She mumbles as she exits her sister's room.
Brynn listens for the sound of Marley's door closing, continuing to eat her sandwich. Once finished, she changes into her sleepwear and hangs her grey hoodie in her closet with a sigh.
"Am I really that scary?" She mutters, trying to think of a reasonable explanation to why Marley panicked like that, but sadly nothing comes to her mind and Brynn is left with a gut wrenching feeling. She clutches her nose as a headache sets in, groaning, the teen sits on her bed to massage her temples, refusing to let the anxiety win.
Marley sits in her school desk, fiddling with her pencil. A piece of paper sitting in front of her has light lead scratches connecting a strange pattern. Marley ignores her teacher's lecturing, trying to imagine what Mr. Bird would look like if he was alive and human. She runs her pencil across the page, lining a long tunic from the hips of a figure. Marley's classmate, Kale, looks over her shoulder.
"What's that? You in your future wedding dress? Who are you going to draw marrying you?" Kale snickers, pulling the drawing away from her.
"No one, it's not me and they aren't getting married." Marley growls taking back the paper. "It's my friend, I wanted to thank him for helping me yesterday, so I'm drawing him."
"Why does he wear a dress?" Kale pushes closer towards Marley causing her to scoot away.
"Because- " Marley starts to explain, but is cut off by their teacher.
"Kale, Marley: I need you to stop talking or you won't know how to do your homework." The two seven year-olds draw their mouths close, pull apart, and put their gazes on the board. The teacher continues as Kale pulls a piece of paper from his backpack, scribbling down his previous question. Marley carefully chooses the words in her reply, forgetting to mention that Mr. Bird in a doll.
"Why does he wear a dress?"
"Because he doesn't have legs."
"He doesn't? Then how can he walk?"
"He doesn't, I have to carry him around."
"Youcan carry an adult?"
"He's not heavy, my sister can hold him with one hand."
"That's weird. Where'd you meet that guy? The circus?"
"No, I found him in my garage. With a bunch of spiders and old candles."
"What? Why the crap was he in there?"
"I don't really know, but I figured he was lonely so I let him live in my room instead."
Kale pauses, as a disturbed look crawls over his face. He hovers his pencil over the paper, lowering it to write something but quickly changing his mind. Marley remains comfortable, sketching away like nothing happened. Kale finally picks his next question.
"What is his name?"
"Mr. Bird, he's a ghost."
At this point the color fills Kale's face again and he laughs. The teacher closes off the lecture by dropping a homework packet on each desk. As Marley begins working on the first problem, Kale snatches the note they were exchanging and slips over to the teacher's workspace.
"Excuse me, but Marley Galen was telling me a scary story about a ghost that lives in her house. Now I'm too scared to do my work." Kale complains to the teacher, earning himself a glare.
"I told you two not to talk."
"We weren't, she started passing me this note." Kale puts the paper on her desk, giving his best poker face so that the teacher won't know he's lying. "She's also drawing a picture of him, the ghost." The teacher takes the paper and begins to investigate it. Looking up from the note, the teacher bites their lip in thought.
"Kale, go sit down and start your work, Ms. Galen is only telling stories." They shoo Kale off, rereading the note before deciding to call the blonde girl over. "Marley, come here for a minute."
Hearing her name being called, Marley drops her pencil and quietly walks towards her teacher.
"Yes?" She says confidently yet with a tinge of nervousness, being that she'd never been called to the teacher's desk before.
"Marley, I remember teaching some of your siblings and all of you are very special, but I need you to respect the students around you and myself. So rather than telling stories and drawing scary pictures, you should be focusing on the lesson instead."
"But Teacher, I was listening until Kale started talking to me." Marley argues, pouting her lip.
"Kale told me you were the one who was talking to him. You were passing notes and discussing your ghost story." The teacher leans closer to Marley, pointing at the last line of the note. "This Mr. Bird isn't real. And I don't want you scaring my students with silly fables."
"Mr. Bird is real, he's at my house. He talks to me, tells me he'll keep my safe. My sister knows he's real, we all played games together."
"Oh, I remember your sisters. Angie, the kid who never listened, and Brynn, the four-point-O student with her collage planned since first grade. Neither of those girls would ever play in the supernatural, they were both realistic students. You should use Brynn as a role-model, she's going to have an amazing job and be rich. Don't you want that?"
"Brynn loves playing with me. She does it everyday after she finishes her homework." Marley feels the energy drain out of her. "I'm not lying." The seven year-old sighs, clenching her fists.
"I'm going to have to turn this into the office and they'll call your parents." The teacher mutters, reaching for the phone on the desk. Marley's eyes widen as she blurts out a question.
"What! Why? I told you I'm not lying." The teacher give her a deep glare.
"Because it's my job to teach you, not humor you with praises on living a fairy-tale. You are no princess Ms. Galen, I'm not going to give you any special treatment." The teacher lifts the phone to their ear as a dial tone begins to sound. "Go sit down Marley, or you'll have homework tonight."
- - -
"I can't believe you were telling ghost stories to your classmates. What part of your tiny mind thought that that would be a good idea?" Mother stands over the cutting board, chopping carrots. "You're lucky that your teacher called me and not Kale's mother, otherwise we'd be having different words."
"I wasn't trying to scare him... he asked so I answered." Marley cowers behind her hair. Mother sighs.
"Sometimes it's better not to answer, I wish you kids would learn that." She finishes cutting the orange vegetables, throwing the pieces into a large soup pot. "Darling, go play in your room until dinner is ready. It shouldn't be too long."
"Yes, Mama." Marley mutters in a disappointed tone, stepping off the bar stool she'd been sitting on, before heading up the stairs.
Marley approaches her door with tears growing in the corners of both blue eyes. As anger and sadness build from the embarrassment of the day, Marley pictures Kale standing in-front of her. She swings her leg to kick the image between the legs, imagining the pathetic boy cringing and collapsing to the floor. Her foot collides with her door, throwing it open and causing it to hit the wall harshly. Marley hears her mother curse, and the light rattle of Brynn's hinges as her door creaks open. The teen walks towards the frame, attempting to shut the door.
"Hi, Marley." Brynn smiles, but stops when she sees her sister's tears. Scanning the seven year-old, Brynn opens the door fully, flicking her head inside before walking towards the window.
Marley's lip trembles, but she steps into her sister's room, closing the door behind her. Brynn leans on the wall staring through the glass with calm and peace-filled eyes.
"Close the door." She whispers, the crispness of her voice sends a shiver up Marley's spine. "I heard everything Mom said. I'm sorry that kid bullied you." The seven year-old carefully pushes the door into its frame, turning to her sister as a choking sensation stops her from speaking.
"I-I..." Marley starts, her sniffles keeping her from making excuses. "Why... why did he do it, Brynn? Why couldn't he just leave me alone?" Marley runs across the room, launching herself into Brynn's arms. "Why did he ask me those questions?" The child sobs into Brynn's stomach, leaving tear stains on her shirt. "I-I... I hate feeling like this..."
"Marley, does his opinion really matter? If it didn't then you wouldn't be crying, are you looking for his approval?" Brynn asks in a quiet voice, running her fingers through her sister's hair.
"No... I hate him." Marley growls.
"Then don't play his game, ignore his opinion, don't listen to what he has to say if it doesn't matter. Then he'll learn that you don't care and leave you alone." Brynn pushes Marley away, holding her shoulders as she kneels to look her in the eye. "Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"Kinda, I've just... I've never felt so angry; I want to hurt him, to humiliate him to the fullest. Would you help me?"
"No." Brynn bluntly denies the seven year-old. "Fighting back will only make things worse. State your point but don't make a scene." Marley lowers her gaze into a glare, the gears in her head turning at a fast pace.
"That's what you do, speak and leave." As Marley growls, Brynn hands drop off her shoulders. "You always tell Mother and Father what you think, but then when they tell you to go to your room, you don't say 'no' like Angie does. Why?" Brynn tosses Marley's words in her mind, considering everything she speaks.
"You're right, that's exactly what I do. But I don't fight back because... because I don't know how to be rebellious. I've always thought that Mother and Father would guide me to success so I never question their commands. But-"
"But you're not having any freedom." Marley's breaths grows quiet, as if she isn't breathing. "I hear your radio through the wall sometimes, it's like Mr. Moss is your only friend." The blonde girl balls her hands into fists, shaking heavily. "I'm not like you, Brynn, I can't live alone!" Marley bawls, her words exiting as squeaks.
"Marley..." Brynn whispers in pain, hurt by the accusations from her sister.
"Don't talk to me right now." Marley growls before stomping towards the door. How dare her sister try to tell her to just forget about it, it's not going to get better until Kale feels this humiliation. Marley slams Brynn's door, the amount of anger in her churns into fear and sorrow as she wobbles into her own bedroom.
"Brynn is such an idiot, why'd I even go talk to her?" Marley pouts her lip, wiping the tears off her cheeks. " Stupid, stupid sister." She sniffs as tears dribble off her chin. Unable to keep her face dry, Marley gives up and continues to cry uncontrollably. Seeking to find a small amount of comfort, she turns to embrace her dolls.
- - -
Marley's father walks through the front door after a long day at work, inhaling the sweet smell of his wife's cooking. He steps into the kitchen, kissing Mother's cheek.
"Hello dear." She mutters. "How was work?"
"Quiet, how was it here at home?" Father drops his work bag on the table, earning a glare from his wife.
"Your daughters are making me angry, all three." Mother hisses, locking gazes with the confused man.
"What'd they do this time?"
"Well, Angie never came home last night and refuses to answer her phone. Brynn's grades from last semester came in the mail, she got a B+ in Math! Can you believe that, a B+?" Mother growls, pointing a knife in the air as she addresses her husband. "And Marley's teacher called me today, saying that she was telling ghost stories during one of the lectures and scaring a classmate."
"That's interesting." Father wandered towards the table while Mother was talking, and began to read the daily paper.
"Honestly, do you even care? Don't answer that, but I want you to go up and see what they're doing."
"Mh-hm, yes honey."
"Now." Mother growls at her husband, causing him to stand up reluctantly and stomp towards the staircase.
As Father nears the door to Marley's room, her voice slides into his ears, mumbling and giggling. He finds it odd, freezing to hear her more clearly.
"Mr. Bird, I'm glad you're here for me. You understand what I'm going through, right?" Father raises his brow, forgetting about Brynn's grades. Just hearing the name "Mr. Bird" sets him on edge, causing him to grow more curious to what she is up to. "Why don't you reply anymore, are you mad because I'm mad?" Marley's voice grows more sorrowful, drawing her father to open the door a crack. He watches with one eye as his daughter faces away from him, holding a small doll in her hands as her tears melt into its white fabric. She softly cries "sorry" as if expecting the toy to reply. Father laughs to himself, thinking his daughter is playing a game. He turns away, starting to close the door as an odd voice echoes from behind him.
"Don't cry, Marley. I like to see you smile."
"Mr. Bird! You don't hate me?" The seven year-old mumbles in surprise, even though it was she who made him speak.,
"Of course I don't, I promised to keep you safe, remember? Just keep me with you so I can, Okay?"Marley lifts Mr. Bird over her hand, opening and closing his mouth as he talks. Father's heart stops, and he considers all the possibilities. That doll was the same one he saw her playing with a few days ago, the ghost Mr. Bird. Could it be that the ghost story his wife mentioned could also be connected to that puppet?
Father lifted his hand hesitantly, knocking on the door before opening it immediately.
"Um... darling, is everything okay? I heard you crying." Marley pulls Mr. Bird into an embrace, covering him from her father's gaze.
"Yea, Daddy. Everything is fine. I just had a bad day at school." She turns to her father, her puffy red eyes reflecting how tired she is.
"Do you um... want to talk about it?"
"No thank you Daddy, it's not a big deal anymore."
"O-okay" Father sighs in defeat, his insides churning at the thought of his daughter playing with that strange toy. "I think Mom is almost done with dinner. How about you go help her set the table?"
"Alright Daddy." Marley stands up with the white doll still in her arms. She pushes past her father and down the stairs, leaving the confused man to boil in his head.
"What if..." He starts to speak his thoughts, before shaking his head and laughing nervously. "No, now I'm just getting paranoid."
'... a common method the lungs use to protect themselves can also create problems. The airways inside of the lungs are surrounded by muscle. When the lungs are irritated, this muscle can tighten, making the breathing tube more narrow as the lungs try to eject the irritant . The tightening of this muscle is called bronchospasm. Lungs can be very sensitive to irritants. Bronchospams may cause serious issues for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and they are often a major problem for people with asthma, because it is harder to breathe through the narrowed airways...'
Brynn rubs her eyes, the glare from her anatomy book burning words into her head. She sighs, shutting away the "Logic on Thoracic Terminology," and throws it on her bed. Groaning, Brynn leans back in her chair.
"I'm starving." She grunts, standing up. "Have Mother and Father gone to bed yet?" Brynn steps away from her desk, careful not to make too loud of a creak while opening her door. She rolls on her feet to remain as quiet as possible, scaling down the old staircase. Freezing on the last step so that she can peek around the wall. The babbles of drunk patrons reaches her ears. At first Brynn believes that her parents are hosting a friend and cracked-a-bottle for the occasion, but the mumbles and grumbles slowly become more familiar.
Crash.Brynn cringes, hearing the smashing of glass and thump of someone falling to the floor. Nervous, she tries to get a better view of the kitchen. A fit of giggles falls from her father's lips as he watches her mother splash on the floor in gold liquid.
"Oh Darling, you are speaking my language. Sleeping sounds like a wonderful idea!" Father gurgles through clenched teeth. "Come on, Sugar. Our bed is so much warmer than the floor, and... it doesn't have glass shards in the mattress. I made sure of that... when I bought it." He reaches down to pick-up his unconscious wife, hiccuping as he wobbles out of the kitchen. Beer, or whatever alcoholic beverage they were doused in, drips from their clothes and leaves a perfect trail down the hall. Brynn listens quietly, trying to catch any sound that could tell her what Father is doing.
One thud and the creaking of bed springs whisper that the coast-is-clear, and Brynn tip-toes into the trashed room. Avoiding the shards of broken bottles, she walks towards the fridge, opening it to peer inside.
"They drained this thing." Brynn whispers, examining the remaining contents. An empty carton of milk, half a dozen eggs smashed in their box, butter crushed under a salsa jar, leftover pasta and vegetables sit uncovered; wrinkling from the loss of moisture. Brynn crinkles her nose as the horrid stench of rotting food mixes with alcohol, and closes the fridge swiftly. She holds back a cough, reaching for a glass of water to wash down the smell that lingers in the back of her throat. Brynn chugs multiple glasses until the sour feeling is gone, breathing deeply.
"Nope, I'm not hungry anymore." She shakes her head, thinking over whether she should clean up the messes or just go to sleep. Brynn smirks while in deep thought;if Mother and Father wake up not remembering anything from the night before, then the state that this room is in now will definitely spark concern. I could make them see that they aren't the flawless beings they think they are. Maybe then they'll be more lenient with the mistakes of their children. She sighs, knowing that she is over thinking the situation again, letting her mind wander aimlessly until it reaches a drastic conclusion.
"This isn't a fairytale, the chance of that happening is miniscule. I mean why'd-" She cuts herself off, hearing laughter coming from down the hall, to be more specific, the bathroom.
"Now, why would they try something like that? Question my authority, bah! It's a lie, not my daughter..." It's Father muttering to himself in the mirror, glaring into the eyes of his reflection. "Those kinds of things don't exist, right? Even if they did, she's too young to know not to play with ghosts." Brynn listens to her father's giggling, trying to piece together his nonsense. She slides along the wall, inching closer towards him. A click and a squeak echo down the hall, followed by the thumps from feet. Angie calmly walks into the living room, not hearing Father, but he heard her.
"He's coming to challenge me, that bastard." He growls insanely, throwing himself down the hallway. Brynn dives to the side, desperate not to be caught. If Father found her while in this state, he might do more than just scold her for not being asleep. Coated with the thick shadows, Brynn watches the man stomp towards the front door, thinking of what he could mean by "that bastard."
As Angie wanders into the kitchen, finding the shattered and empty bottles; Father makes heavy noises with his shoes. Angie begins to panic, clearly not expecting him to be awake. She finds the light, throwing the switch and coating the room in light.
"Dad, you scared the hell out of me. What are you doing up this late?" She breathes quickly.
"Angie? Where did Itgo? Let him come at me, I'll show him he can't just mess with me and my family." Father growls.
"I haven't been home in weeks, and this is how you welcome me back? By threatening Sam." Angie steps closer to the man, puffing out her chest and tilting her head up. "I don't want to hear it, thanks."
"Sam? I wasn't talking about Sam. No, I want to have a talk with that damned Mr. Bird."
"Who?" Angie raises an eyebrow, feeding the questions to the drunk man.
"That doll, Mr. Bird, he's a ghost and he's taken over Marley's mind. She always carries that bastard around. He mocks me." Father begins to laugh hysterically, putting his hands on his knees to stop himself from swaying. Angie stares with wide eyes, sighing.
"Dad, you are immensely drunk. And you're not a heavy drinker either." She puts a hand on Father shoulder. "Go lay down, and I'll go buy some alka seltzer quick. Come on." She pulls on his arm, but he struggles.
"No! I will not sleep until he's out of my house!" He pulls his arm away, shoving her into the wall. "Move!" He commands, walking past his daughter. Angie catches herself, and without a second thought, grabs his arm and spins him around.
Slap!Brynn gasps from her dark corner, watching as Father stands stunned. Angie lets her red hand drop to her side.
"Daddy, it's time to go to sleep." She whispers in a quiet voice, watching for his reaction. Father closes his eyes in defeat, sighing.
"I understand, goodnight Angie." He mumbles, stumbling back to his wife. Brynn presses her body deeper into the shadow, accidentally popping her ankle. Father flicks his head to look at where the sound came from, unable to pick out her silhouette from the rest of the dark room. The man groans, shaking his head. He holds a hand over his eyes until he's in his bedroom, closing the door behind himself.
Brynn exhales slowly, finally allowing herself to breathe. Angie sighs too, spinning her car keys on her finger.
"Good thing I worked at a bar for so many years, otherwise that would've ended badly." She stares past her sister to their parents' bedroom. "He's not going to remember that anyways. Whatever, lets go get that alka seltzer." She groans, turning to walk back out the front door again.
Once it clicks locked, Brynn steps out from her hiding spot, the light from the bathroom illuminating her. With sad features, she walks into the bright room and flips the switch, drenching the house in complete darkness.
"Goodnight." She mutters to no one, carefully walking back to her room. "Sweet dreams."
- - -
Brynn throws her legs over the edge of her balcony, gently swinging them back and forth. She looks down at the large garden underneath her, watching as Marley runs in circles around a well cut hedge, playfully being chased by a puppy. Brynn snickers as her sister falls in the grass, giving the small dog a change to tackle her. Marley's giggles of joy echo around the whole garden, childishly; and Brynn breathes them in, looping the sound continually so she will remember it.
"You seem happy today, Brynn." A male voice rings around her, but no one else stands on the balcony.
"That's because I can only smile when I'm asleep, Kennedy Moss. So don't pull me from this yet." Brynn mutters with a smile on her lips. Kennedy's laugh spins in the air.
"You can stay so long as you're still smirking like that." His voice travels behind her, condensing into a white cloud. "So how is young Marley these days?"
"Alive and breathing laughter like it's air." Brynn smiles before shaking her head.
"That's a poetic lie, how is she really?"
"School is hard for her, she's not fitting in. The closest thing she has to friends, are her dolls."
"What about you or Angie? Does she not consider her sisters as friends?" Kennedy's cloudy figure tilts its head, and Brynn sighs.
"I have no idea, there aren't books on that." Brynn teases, turning around to look back at her sister, not noticing as Kennedy turns from white to grey.
Marley leans against a tree, petting the puppy in her lap, both slowly falling asleep after playing. Kennedy moves to stand by Brynn, leaning on the balcony railing. He watches Brynn's mouth as she begins to hum, not showing any signs that she's the one making the noise. Her fingers begin to tap to the invisible beat, and she slowly bobs her head along with it. Kennedy listens until her little song was over, suddenly announcing a title and name like her song was playing on the radio.
"I wish that world could be as peaceful and perfect as this one." Brynn mutters, thinking of her father. Kennedy snickers.
"Watch that smile." He warns, and Brynn takes it as a command, lifting her lips immediately. "There you go. Just think of Marley and me when you're sad. Okay?" He whispers and Brynn nods, pulling her hands onto her lap. She blinks quickly staring down into the garden.
"Kennedy, did you see where Marley moved to?" She questions frantically looking for her sister. "She's not by the tree anymore. Where is she!?" Brynn begins to panic, missing Kennedy's sick grin as he darkens from grey to black.
"She woke up, Brynn. And let it not be said that I'm not a man of my word." Brynn turns to the cloudy figure, with wide eyes. "You stopped smiling." Kennedy reaches his hand onto Brynn's lower back, giving a quick shove.
- - -
Brynn lands on the floor with a thump, her face smacking into the corner of her night stand.
"Owch." She groans, lifting herself with one hand while having the other is cover her forehead. Blood seeps through her fingers, beginning to drip down her arms. "No, head wounds bleed a lot. This is going to get messy fast." She hisses, grabbing for the door handle with her clean hand. Without hesitation, Brynn runs for the first-aid kit in the downstairs bathroom. But freezes at the bottom of the stairs, seeing a flickering light coming from the kitchen. It's not the silent wave of a candle burning nor the still glow of a gas lamp. Confusion and curiosity build in her head, causing her to turn towards the light rather than the bathroom. Brynn keeps her steps as quiet as she can, sneaking into view of the light. At the moment she sees the flames licking a pile of char, smoke forces it's way down her throat. Brynn begins to cough, forcing herself to pull her hand away from the wound to cover her nose and mouth. A metal oven tray sits burning a crispy wad of cloth on the counter, alcohol bottles laying empty nearby.
Brynn pulls her hands away only to fill a pitcher full of water, quickly drenching the flames. Smoke and steam form around her, lightly nipping at her arms. Brynn gasps, dropping the empty pitcher into the mess. The oven tray flips off the counter, spilling water and char onto the floor, ringing a large crash. Brynn steps on the pan to stop its rattling, freezing to hear if she had woken anyone. Silence. After a few moments, she sighs in relief; leaning down to investigate what was burning. She pokes the charred remains with a fork pulled from a nearby drawer. Brynn peels back a black flake, finding a plastic tag curled in on itself. She opens it carefully, squinting to read it.
"Ghost puppet, small. $5.99." She looks down at the ashes, seeing two plastic beads staring back at her. "Mr. Bird?"
Thunk. Brynn jumps as a door swings open upstairs. She woke Marley. The teen pushes the tag into her shirt, confident that her sister would be crushed to know her doll has been destroyed. But where could she hide, last time Marley found her out of her room late, she cried in fear that she Brynn would hurt her. Brynn doesn't want to see her sister cry again; so she moves into the living room, squeezing herself into a corner where she can still see the staircase. When Marley comes to investigate the noise, Brynn will be able to see her by the light seeping through the window.
Heavy footsteps walk down the hallway upstairs. Believing that her nervousness is making Marley's footfalls louder than average, Brynn tries to calm her quickened heartbeat by pressing a hand to her chest, reminding herself that she can't be found in this darkness.
"Now, why would they try something like that? Question my authority, bah! It's a lie, not mydaughter..."
Brynn twitches as Father's voice plays in her head, his angry expression sitting vividly in the corner of her vision.
"I will not sleep until he's out of my house!... Let him come at me, I'll show him he can't just mess with me and my family."
His haunting features tickle Brynn's nerves and curiosity. A sense of mystery ringing in his words.
"He's coming to challenge me, that bastard... she's too young to know not to play with ghosts."
Ghosts, Brynn's mind racks around the word, considering the tag in her shirt.
"She always carries that bastard around... he mocks me... That doll, Mr.Bird, he's a ghost and he's taken over Marley's mind."
The footsteps continue to inch towards the stairs, making Brynn's heart pump fast. She knows something is not right.
"...he can't mess with my family... not my daughter..."
Brynn's heart stops as she turns to look at the top of the stairs.
"My daughter can't mess up my family."
The silhouette of her father looks out the window, the glare highlighting his crazed smile. He pulls his arm forward, illuminating the rope held tightly in his fist. Father takes a few steps down, dragging a heavy weight at the end of the rope. Brynn watches as this weight drops down the first stair, tangling itself in tiny hair-like follicles. Shining curls... Brynn gasps, her father continuing down the stairs as the thing he drags flops behind him. Its loose ligaments banging inhumanly against the railing bars, and sending chills through Brynn's bones, a choking sensation crawling in her throat.
"M-Marley?" She cries inaudibly, sending the invisible sound slithering down her body.
Father laughs with the snicker Brynn heard not even an hour ago, a crazed and sick cackle that shakes her nerves roughly. Tears fall from Brynn's eyes as the teen claps her bloody hands over her mouth to keep from screaming. But her silence doesn't keep Father away, and he walks down each step slowly, letting the limp weight topple over itself. The light shines from the window, casting away the illusion of darkness held over the tangled limbs. Staring into the carpet is the once smiling sister, Marley, dead at the end of Father's rope. Brynn stops breathing, unable to tear her eyes away from the knot around Marley's neck; tied messily by excited fingers. Brynn blinks away the tears in her eyes, struggling to understand why, but there's one fact her mind does register; she is angry.
Father finishes descending the stairs, letting Marley's body bounce down the remaining steps. He laughs, turning towards the living room, clearly headed for the front door to dispose of the corpse. But Brynn's insides burn with an unfamiliar hunger that drives her fear into the back of her mind. She launches herself away from the dark corner, stumbling over numb feet.
"No! You bastard, let her go!" Brynn screams shrilly, taking the man by surprise. She rams her tiny shoulder into his stomach, knocking him off his shaky legs. Father falls backwards, landing on Marley's body. Snap!Father cries in pain as he crushes Marley's bones.
"No! Get away from her!" Brynn proceeds to cry hot angry tears, her head throbbing from its earlier cut. She kicks Father's side, rolling him off of her sister. Marley's arm bends backwards, the radius and ulna bones broke through her elbow and stabbed Father in the back when he crushed her. Blood spills from both Marley and Father, dyeing the carpet underneath their bodies. Brynn pants heavily, collapsing near them. She reaches a twitchy hand towards her sister, brushing the knotted hair out of her eyes. She wanted to speak, to say something; but why try when she won't hear, she's motionless. Marley's blue eyes are faded grey and empty, draining to a white.
Brynn lets out a cry, her wailing echoing through the the entire house. It bounces off the walls, crawls on the floor, spins out the windows; Brynn howls all her emotions, her mind retching years of fury and pain through sobs and tears.
"Marley!" She wails. "No, no, no, no! Please wake up!" Brynn wraps her arms around her sisters bruised corpse, mindlessly pulling her close. "I'll play with you everyday, just like before, I promise! Just... come back!" She continues to weep.
"You'll be safe as long as I'm near." Brynn whispers with Mr. Bird's voice
"Promise?" Marley's tiny voice asks the dainty puppet
"Promise." Mr. Bird replies confidently, making the seven year-old grin happily.
Brynn hears her sister's voice, hunting her over her promise. A promise that she would be safe, protected; but it was a lie. The teen looks down into her sister's open eyes, gazing emotionlessly past her.
"I'm... I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She mumbles pathetically. "I'm sorry..."
Marley is jerked from Brynn's arms and sent toppling into the wall. The teen cries out against it, reaching out for her sister. Father quickly wraps his arm around Brynn's shoulders, pulling her away from the corpse.
"You're too loud, you're going to wake your mother." He hisses gleefully. "I want her to be well rested before revealing the surprise. She's had a rough night." He begins to ring that sick cackle, freezing Brynn in his arms. She grunts, throwing an elbow into his gut, hitting the same spot as earlier. He coughs, tightening his grasp on her, cutting off her air supply. "Aren't you grateful I got rid of the demon? Now we can sleep in peace, Brynn."
"Y-you killed... her!" She manages to spit.
"Of course, because she was possessed. But her soul was dead before her body was; I didn't kill her, he did. Mr. Bird killed Marley." He laughs again, roaring with mirth. "Now he's gone and everything is better. Don't you think so?" He pulls tighter, strangling her. "Huh, Brynn?" He questions and she struggles to reply.
A key jiggles in the lock as Angie pushes open the front door and flicks on the light, dropping her shopping bag as her eyes land on Brynn's thrashing body.
"What are you doing? Let go of her!" Angie screams, running towards Father and punching his arm. He grunts, releasing Brynn who begins to throw air in her lungs. "What the hell is wrong with yo-" Angie cuts herself off, looking past her father to the bloodied wall behind him.
"I got rid of him, Angie. Now he can't hurt our family anymore." He giggles like a child, not making eye contact with his daughter.
"C-call the cops." Brynn coughs out, panting quickly. "He- he..." She can't form the words, pointing at the mangled pile of limbs coated in blood. Angie follows her finger, her skin turning white.
"Marley! You drunk bastard, do you even know what you've done!" She shouts, running towards the seven year-old, putting a hand on her neck. "Brynn, get me the first-aid!"
"Why bother, you can't fix it." Father laughs.
"Shut up!" Brynn wails with tears on her eyes, lunging at the man, brandishing both fists. "I'll kill you!" She straddles his chest, throwing her bony fists in his face. She screams, cutting both his cheeks and her knuckles. "Call the police, now Angie!"
"Brynn! Stop this, help me with Marley!" Angie screams back.
"She's dead! No pulse! Stone cold! Blood-loss! Head-trauma! Strangled! Take your pick, but she's gone!" Brynn growls, digging her nails into her father's head. She no longer sounds like the scared girl she was a few moments ago, rage taking over her mind and she begins to growl in a deep voice. "And it's because of you."
"Well, you're quite the mouthy one, aren't 'cha." Father laughs as a crumpled tag falls out of Brynn's shirt. He grabs it with a bloody hand, lifting it between his fingers. "He got to you too!" Father growls, flipping to tower over Brynn. He releases heavy blows to the teen's face, aiming to cleanse her from the evil spirit.
Angie pulls her hands from Marley's neck, digging through her pockets for her cell. She dials 9-1-1, holding the device to her head. The ringing in the background pulls her to the edge, her anxiety building as she watches Father pummel Brynn's face into the carpet. When an officer answers, Angie begins to spew information into the receiver. Brynn's ears ring with an unfamiliar static as she struggles to fight back, distantly hearing Angie scream the house's address. Brynn focuses her gaze on Marley's mangled corpse, the taste of blood filling her mouth as she remembers the sound of her sister's laughter. Brynn smiles, turning her head to spit in Father's face. Angered, he lands a blow on her nose, breaking it. Brynn gives up the fight, retreating into her mind, intending to find Marley so they may play dolls again.
Red and blue lights flash though the windows moments before uniformed police officers bust through the front door, kicking away Angie's shopping bag and running directly for Father. He laughs insanely, not letting them pull him away from his daughter. He screams that he's not finished, thrashing in their grasp. It takes multiple officers to throw him into a corner, all aiming their guns at him. One officer calls for a medic, leaning over Brynn's beaten body. Two other officers scream for more gurneys, carrying Mother from her bed, still unconscious. Brynn's hearing grows vague, catching an officer cry "D.O.A." Dead on arrival. Brynn groans trying to stand.
"M-Marley, I... I'm sorry." She collapses into the arms of an officer, being lifted onto a gurney and quickly rolled out the front door.
"Thanks for helping me with shopping, Brynn." A blonde woman says with a smile, opening the trunk of her car and grabbing out an arm full of grocery bags. "I hope you and your mother like stew, it's about the only food I know how to make for a lot of people."
"Don't worry about it, Mary. Would you like help preparing it?" Brynn asks walking behind the woman, her face empty of emotion.
"Nah, I'll get my lazy husband to chop things for me." Mary says with a smirk, turning the handle into the Galen's house. Brynn follows, gazing down at the boot print smeared on the front door. Mary catches her staring, and sighs. "I'll get Chris to wash that too, it's a painful reminder."
"Yea.." Brynn mutters, ripping her eyes away to close the door. Both girls carry their bags into the kitchen, dropping them on the counter with a thud.
"Mommy!" A little voice echoes off the walls as a tiny two year-old runs to Mary, wrapping his arms around her legs.
"Hey, Matt. Aren't you suppose to be taking a nap?" Mary pats the boy's head, receiving a sad look from him.
"M-movie." He shouts excitedly pointing at the T.V. Mary shakes her head.
"I guess that is a good babysitting technique. Go get Daddy for me, please."
"Yes Mommy." Matt giggles running back to his show. Mary stands up to look at Brynn.
"I was going to ask you to watch him while I cooked, but I guess you're off the hook. Oh!" Mary gasps, reaching for a stack of papers on the counter. "These are the assignments the school wanted me to print out for you. They said they're due whenever, so you should start thinking of going back." She says with a smile, obviously trying to give Brynn the hint.
"Yes, Mary. I'll get to work on it." Brynn mutters, taking the papers from her. Mary sighs, her smile disappearing.
"I know its been hard without them, but you should live with the happy memories and-" She tries to explain, but Brynn begins the walk to her room without a second glance at the blonde woman.
Matt comes running into the kitchen, his hand pulling on his father's. Mary turns to her husband with a sad look in her eyes.
"Thank you, Matt. You can go back to your movie now." She tells the two year-old, who runs away giggling. The man looks down at his wife with concern.
"What's wrong?" Chris questions, reaching a hand for her shoulder.
"I'm glad we could move in with your family when we were evicted, but our timing was the worst. To think we needed them, I'm starting to think they may need us more." She rants in a quiet voice. "Can they even learn to recover from this, Chris?"
"Brynn's acting the same as always, and Angie is happy to finally be living with Sam now that Dad's not here tell her off anymore." Chris says nonchalantly, receiving a smack on the arm from his wife.
"Don't talk like that, even if the other two aren't struggling your mother is." Mary growls, turning to the bag of groceries. "She's been washing her tears down with gallons of alcohol. I can't imagine how she feels, I mean if I lost you and Matt I'd..." She trails off, shaking her head.
"I wasn't trying to be insensitive, Honey, I just wanted to point out that they might not be as helpless as you say." Chris says with a sigh, happily taking the vegetables Mary puts in his hands.
"Chris, your Father is in an Asylum for the criminally insane because he murdered your sister!" She hisses jabbing his side with the hilt of a knife. "They are allowed time to mourn but four months is just too long. Brynn needs to go back to school soon." Mary and Chris start to vigorously chop carrots and potatoes, throwing them into a bowl.
"I'm surprised actually, she's always been the straight A student. But I don't know how that girl thinks, she's never been forward with her emotions or anything of the sort; always solving her own problems, ya'know." Chris mumbles. "That's why I was doubtful when I heard Angie's side of the story. She said she'd never seen anyone as angry as Brynn was that night. Then again, the whole incident sounded like it was made up when I heard it for the first time." Mary nods in agreement, stepping away from the cutting board to start the broth boiling.
"Hopefully they'll be able to function like before." She sighs, turning to look at her son now curled up on the couch. His innocent looks expressing how naive he is to the tragedy around him.
- - -
Brynn steps quietly into her room, dropping the papers Mary gave her on the floor. She disregards the work, stepping on it as she makes her way towards the window. Brynn throws open the glass, punching the power button on her radio. She lets out a sigh, inhaling the music as it exits the speakers. Subconsciously she begins to bob her head and tap her foot, slowly relaxing.
"I was so close to snapping at her... again." Brynn groans, pulling on her hoodie as January's breeze nips her skin. "Why do I feel this way? I'm so confused..." She mutters, continuing to listen to her radio as she stares down into the yard. She imagines that the unkept lawn is flourishing healthy green flowers, and how nice it would be to fall into them from up here. Knowing that would kill her or at least break several more of her bones, Brynn backs away from the window. "I don't want to go back to the hospital anytime soon, that place was..." She's stopped as flashes of white walls, white bandages, and white face-masks temporarily blind her. Her father getting dragged away in handcuffs, her sister and mother each strapped on a gurney; unmoving. The powerful force of blood clogging her own throat, making Brynn feel like she was drowning; too weak and beaten to fight for her life.
"... not a peaceful place." She finishes with a sigh, her thoughts closing at the sight of the small black bag leaving the hospital room she shared with Marley.
A new song begins to play on the radio, one that she finds very calming. Brynn closes her eyes, placing a hand on the speaker in order to feel the bass, cherishing it like a tiny heartbeat. She draws in every word, memorizing it. Brynn tries so hard to force that night out of her head, but even month after month, she is constantly reminded of Marley and Father. Without his threats to push her studies, Brynn can't even open a book without imagining Marley to be drawing on the floor, just wanting someone to play with. School is of course the least of Brynn's worries, why go back, not like there is anyone there who's missing her anyways.
"... Good afternoon, listeners. I hope you're day is running smoothly and that your schedules have begun to return to normal after the holiday season. I am Kennedy Moss, closing off the Music Morning with some peaceful tunes..." Brynn listens to her favorite radio announcer as he begins his part of the broadcast. "...In other news, more deaths have been reported with the same conditions as the others in the past few months. Meaning the culprit is still out there and wasn't the same as the Galen murder..." Brynn's head snaps up in attention. "...for those who don't know, the Galen murder happened a few months ago. During the accident, Mr and Mrs. Galen were heavily drunk, the mother was drugged into a state similar to a coma. The father, thinking his youngest daughter was someone else, ended up tying a rope around her neck and strangled her until she died. His other daughters found him while he attempted to get rid of her body, leading to him beating one near to death. The police arrived before she lost consciousness, managing to save her and the mother while the youngest daughter was found dead on arrival. Originally, police believed that Mr. Galen was the one responsible for the other deaths simply because of the location of the Galen's home, in the center of all the crime scenes. Almost like they took the idea straight out of a detective show..." Kennedy snickers at his own joke, trying to lighten the heavy atmosphere he's brought upon his listeners. Brynn breathes in slowly, her fist clenching and unclenching. "... either way, from everyone involved with The Late Night Show, we're sorry for their loss and hope that they have a smooth recovery. I am Kennedy Moss, and we thank you for choosing to listen to us this evening. Now for the next piece of busi-" Brynn exhales a growl, throwing her fist down on top of the radio. The blow crushes the top, sending a shrill scream from the speakers before going absolutely silent.
"Shut up." She growls, throwing another fist into the speakers, ripping the skin around her knuckles. Brynn breaks the tiny radio further, sparks spray from the pile of screeching parts. "I don't want to hear it." She mutters, picking up the groaning object and walking towards the window. Brynn throws the radio down to the ground below, watching it shatter and send shrapnel bouncing in every direction. All she does is stare at the mess, waiting for it to stop clicking.
"Brynn? Are you alright?" Mary calls from downstairs, and Brynn can hear her footsteps approaching at a fast pace. The teen turns away from her window towards the door, stepping into the hall just as Mary appears at the top of the stairs. "Brynn, I heard a crash. What happ-"
"I put my radio on my window sill, it fell and broke. I'll clean it up." Brynn says emotionlessly, pushing past her sister-in-law roughly. Mary watches as Brynn grabs a garbage bag from the kitchen before walking out the door, her face blank to mask the mixed feelings churning inside her.
Brynn lay in her room with her back on the floor, both legs thrown onto the bed. She lets out a breath while pursing her lips into a circle, emitting a hissing sound. She twists it to mimic a tuning radio, trying to think of a song that she could sing. When nothing comes to mind, she begins to make nonsensical wubs and imitate T.V. static. She draws pictures in her mind, encircling the light on her ceiling while listening intently to nothing. However, Matt's tiny voice begins to play in her ear as he runs into the upstairs bathroom, singing as kids do with random phrases and no beat.
"... juice is good, juice is mine, my juice is good; yea!" His distant melody echoing in Brynn's head.
"... juice is good, juice is mine, my juice is good; yea!" She repeats, singing exactly as he did. As he continues to sing, Brynn matches his tone and makes it hum off the walls. "...Mommy gives me juice. Ahhh, juice, juice, juice. Lalalala." Matt begins to wash his hands and Brynn begins to mimic the running water, even finding herself clicking her tongue as the door opens and closes. As her nephew disappears back downstairs, she twists her voice to fade out into silence just as his had.
She sighs, pulling a hand to her forehead, groaning as she blinks.
"Why did I have to break my radio?" She mumbles, allowing herself some room to think. But only finding Kennedy's haunting voice ringing in her head.
"...Mr. Galen... drunk... a rope... strangled her... other daughters found... he attempted... rid of her body... beating one... the police... she lost consciousness...save... mother...youngest daughter... dead on arrival..."The messages she heard that day replays in her head, slipping from her lips in choppy phrases, scratching her tongue on her teeth as she pronounces the "L"in "arrival." "Doesn't it leave a bitter taste in your mouth to know her death is your fault?"A devious snicker surrounds her, and causes her to jump.
"Who are... wait, my fault?" Brynn mumbles in a confused voice, nervously looking around the room. No one sits in the corners nor on her bed or at her desk; she's completely alone. "H-hello?" She calls out nervously, not receiving an answer. Brynn breathes slowly, listening for the tiniest of noises. She can barely hear Matt downstairs, continuing his song. Standing up, Brynn decides that she must be receiving hallucinations from dehydration, and finds herself wandering downstairs to guzzle down several cups of water. Barely breathing between glasses, Brynn drinks until she can feel the liquid slosh in her stomach.
"Auntie Bry?" calls a tiny voice from behind her, causing her to turn and face the two year-old. "Trash, look." Matt hold out his hands, showing Brynn the small piece of plastic he found.
"What's that?" she asks kneeling down to his level, grabbing the side of his hands.
"A tag, what it say?" He blinks several times, trying his best to talk. Matt places the dirty wad in his aunt's palm, waiting with curiosity bordering his eyes. Brynn smirks and peels back the fold to find the words.
"Ghost puppet, small. $5.99..." when Brynn realizes what she just read, it's too late and tears flow out of her eyes as she chokes on her desperate attempts for air. Matt gives her a confused look, reaching up to wipe her wet face, but she pulls away to cover her mouth with her hands. She tries to stay quiet, not wanting the others to see her this way. But of course, Mother heard the crack in her daughter's voice.
"Matt, are you alright?" she slurs, leaning on the kitchen counter.
"Gramma! Her eyes popped!" he shouts, confusing the woman just long enough to let Brynn walk away, hiding behind her hair. "She scared of trash!" Matt says innocently, earning a quiet smile from his grandmother.
"Did you give her the tag I told you to throw away?" she asks, and Matt nods in return.
"Sorry..." he mumbles.
"It's not your fault, Matt. She just has mental scars." Mother turns around to watch the teen climb silently up the stairs, mumbling to herself. "We all do..." She leans down, picking up the two year-old in her arms. He gives her a confused frown.
"What's that, Gramma?" He groans, putting his hands on her face.
"It means we're broken, Matt." She says with a sad expression.
"Daddy can fix it! I'll help!" Matt pulls on Mother's cheeks, making her smile. "Better?" He questions and she lets out a laugh.
"Careful kid, I'll blow alcohol breath in y'er face." She warns, pursing her lips before blowing his hair out of his face. He giggles, covering Mother's mouth. Upstairs, Brynn can hear the child's laughter, unable to brush away an image of Marley smiling with her dolls; the girl's face filled with joy, leaving a gaping hole in her sister's heart. Brynn tightens her grip on the stained tag, finally finding the space to weep uncontrollably with flashes of that night appearing behind her eyes.
- - -
Brynn opens her eyes to find she's sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Groaning in pain, she lifts a hand to her head, holding closed a gaping wound. She makes a hissing noise as she tries to stand; feeling her whole body refuse to function, she figures the first-aid kit is what she should be searching for. Brynn knowingly walks into the upstairs bathroom. She flicks on the light, leaving a blood smear under the switch. No wait; she used her clean hand to hit it, but then how did- Brynn's thoughts are interrupted when her eyes find red blotches trailing into the sink. Her eyes widen, her hand dropping from her head in surprise. Bloody smears cover the counter and sit in the form of hands, big hands. Brynn steps away from the sink, forgetting the blood dripping down her own face. She peers up into the mirror, caught by something between her and her own reflection.
"Clean?" She reads out the jagged letters from off the glass, shivering at the blood scrawled message. Brynn struggles to think of a reasonable explanation; did she hit her head too hard? Is it an illusion or trick of the light? She reaches to run her finger over a tiny puddle, feeling the sticky liquid too thick to be water. Lightly gasping, Brynn shakes her head. "This is a dream; Kennedy, wake me up." She growls into the mirror, hearing a deep chuckle. Her reflection bends and fades into a smoky haze, a crescent shaped gap peels open where a mouth might have been, and the cloud smiles at her. "Very good Brynn, but to tell the truth, I was hoping to get you this time." A devious tone reverberates in the air as Kennedy speaks. "What gave it away?"
"This blood is dry and cold, rather than wet and warm." Brynn hisses, not pulling her gaze away from the grey mass. "You've been giving me nightmares for the past few nights, Why? What is the point?"
"To make you see what you've done; to force you to taste the thing you created all those months ago." Kennedy says. "The bittersweet bloodlust that Father felt that night wasn't because he was drunk; he was scared." The man's grey form melts through the mirror, allowing him to put his hollow smile on Brynn's neck. She shudders but refuses to back away, listening to his voice. Kennedy laughs deeply, wrapping her hair between his faded fingers. "You doused him in a concoction of paranoia, failure, and the supernatural. You threatened him, in a way."
"Threatened? Did you expect me to just sit and cry as he laughed over Marley's corpse?" Brynn shouts, pursing her lips to blow away Kennedy's form. He flickers slightly, taking the hint.
"Of course not, that was a scene I would never dare replace. I was thinking more along the lines of the sour insanity you caused that man to have." Kennedy leans closer and she takes a step back. "You're talent scared him, but here's the best part! You used Marley as a scapegoat!" He tilts his head back to laugh at the ceiling, his chuckles sounding like they are dissolved in static. "You drove him to kill your sister, and seven months later you're still denying it!" He continues to laugh, slowly turning into Father's chilling cackle.
"Shut up!" Brynn shouts, throwing herself against the mirror, crushing Kennedy's form along with shattering the glass. Shards fly and embed themselves in her flesh, sparkling in her shoulder as she pulls away. "I- it wasn't me. Father killed Marley because she carried around that stupid doll." Brynn cries, fingering her wounds. "There's no proof ! You don't have anything you can pin on me."
"Oh, you don't understand. I know only what you know; this is, of course, your dream. Your own hallucination, built subconsciously. I'm merely the manifestation your mind choose to relay your inner thoughts." Kennedy's cloudy figure stands in the doorway, smirking confidently. "You picked me to tell you the truth, and to have the honor of watching your reaction."
"I didn't do anything!" Brynn screamed, pulling a shard of glass out of her arm.
"Exactly." The man laughs. "If only you had said something. Maybe like, 'Daddy, it was me. I'm the voice behind the doll. Punish me, not Marley.' Then maybe she would still be alive!" Kennedy can't control his laughter, his form fluctuating between black and grey. Brynn's eyes widen, and her jaw drops.
"Is- is that why he burned the puppet?" Her voice cracks, "Because..."
"That doll, Mr.Bird, he's a ghost and he's taken over Marley's mind. She always carries that bastard around. He mocks me." Father's voice flows from Brynn's lips, reverberating off the walls.
"But I was pretending to be Mr. Bird, there was never a real ghost!" Brynn begs to herself, her throat growing sore as it twists into a higher octave.
"Brynn, do you think you could use your superpower to make this more fun?" Marley's tiny voice slips between the teen's clenched teeth. "That thing you did to make the doll talk without moving your lips."
"It was only a game! I swear, I didn't mean for this!"
"Now he's gone and everything is better. Don't you think so, Brynn?" Father's groaning echoes through her tears.
"No, it's not better! I'm alone now thanks to you, bastard!"
"Well, you're quite the mouthy one, aren't 'cha." Brynn cries as her Father's words fill her head and drip down her chin. All the while Kennedy laughs, seeing the teen suffer between the different voices. The torture being a hilarious show of mental agony.
Brynn screams, the shrill sound piercing into Kennedy's form, causing him to melt into solid black. His smile widening at the sight of her cowering.
"Don't you see, this all started with you. And now everyone's lives are ruined because of you!" He laughs at her, grabbing a fistfull of her chestnut curls. "Admit it, from now on there's no way you can live a peaceful life!" Kennedy begins to drag Brynn by her hair, stepping across the hall. He throws open the door to Marley's bedroom, continuing to stomp into the center. Brynn replies with wails and sobs, too overcome to think rationally. She's dragged over the broken bodies of porcelain dolls, their dirty dresses barely able to hold them together. Kennedy laughs, lifting Brynn high into the air, the blades of the ceiling fan whipping the loose pieces of her hair. "You'll be alone, ignored, and no one will know who you are! You'll have no where to call home, no one to share a bed with, no one to love you! And do you want to know why?" Kennedy pulls Brynn close to him, growling. "Because you're nothing more than a mouthy little brat." He hisses in her ear, earning a gasp from her lips. Kennedy laughs hysterically, quickly flicking his wrist and sending Brynn upwards into the fan.
- - -
Brynn throws her hands over her head, only to smack the backboard of her bed. She wraps herself into a ball, clawing at the bedsheets. Her cheeks are stained with tears and her eyes sting with a burning sensation. The dream had left her unnerved and tears still stream onto her pillow.
"I did it, it's my fault. I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry." She lightly groans, letting her sister's name slip from her lips over and over again. "Marley... M-Marley... Marley... Marley..."
There could've been a more intense torture than what Kennedy had condemned upon Brynn. But after that dream, she spent even more time in her room alone with her books. Mary would call her downstairs for dinner but would never receive an answer; she'd show worry by knocking on her door. She'd walk inside either to find Brynn already asleep or not home at all. Though truthfully she would be sitting on her bed in the dark, and her sister-in-law would gaze over her but wouldn't acknowledge her presence. Ignored, just as Kennedy had said.
There was a time she wanted to have a heart-to-heart chat with Mother, to confess her aching and beg for forgiveness from the guilt that infests her mind. But standing between the woman and the T.V. or screaming in the her ear didn't grant Brynn her attention. The teen sobbed on the living room floor, baring her soul and Mother didn't hear a single word; she just kept her eyes on the screen. Brynn grew angry, growling as she stomped out of the room, but not before another little voice pierced the air.
"Gramma! Look! I made a picture." Matt shouted while running down the hall. Mother looked past the teen to her grandson as he ran full force into Brynn, falling onto his back. Blinking he looked up with a scared look in his eyes. "Auntie Bry! S-sorry." He gave a quick apology before running to Mother with his wrinkled picture.
"Show me your drawing, Matt." The woman spoke calmly, causing Brynn to cringe. "Oh, hello Brynn. I didn't see you there, ya' about gave me a heart attack." She laughed lightheartedly, ready to spark a conversation but was interrupted when Matt shoved his picture in her face. By the time Mother was able to pull the drawing away from her eyes, Brynn was gone again.
For a month, she wasn't able to talk with her family unless they spoke to her first; otherwise it was like she was invisible. She tried to get their attention by going to extremes. When she stole Mother's beer, the woman blamed Matt. She knocked glass dishes to the floor once while Mary was cooking dinner, only to hear her sister-in-law curse and clean it up. She even tried to hide Chris's car keys so he couldn't go to work, but the man had an extra set, another damn set. Brynn was losing it, is losing it. She can't see a reason to speak, but can't stand the silence either. Her voice only shows to reply to another that would leave her lips. She's stuck in a fragile state, only able talk to herself.
- - -
The lights are off, but the walls of Brynn's bedroom are lightly illuminated by the streetlamp outside the window. Brynn sits against the wall underneath the windowsill, muttering to herself in different voices. Her ventriloque taking over her mind as she subconsciously sings random pieces of songs, and making tuning sounds as she digs into her mind for the next thing to listen too. Excerpts from her textbooks flow out her mouth occasionally, and sometimes she remembers articles or interviews announced on the radio, and she'll quote them word for word.
"...We're sorry for the unnerving news, but glad that you've chosen to spend your evening with us. I'm Kennedy Moss and this is the Late Night Show."She groans using his deep voice to replay the message. She sniffles, unable to cry because of her dry eyes. "... instead we could've been trying to find them... missing girl and her friend still aren't found, but evidence... appearing in abundance."An old police reporter had once claimed, now the voice is repeated to keep this lonely teen sane.
"...Brynn? Do you know what day it is?" A small voice asks, and Brynn looks around to see no one.
"I do, how can I forget? How can anyone forget?" She replies quietly and the voice giggles.
"You already know who, your family. None of them have shown any emotion towards today, its totally normal for them."
"But it has everything to do with them, they can't just disregard it like dirt."
"Oh but they are, you even tried to remind Mother too, but she didn't hear you, did she?"
"She ignored me, just like always." Brynn mumbles. "Why are you acting like I can make some kind of difference?"
"Because you can. You've been begging for weeks, wondering why your family doesn't care anymore. Well, don't you still want to find out?" The voice taunts with a chuckle. "I know the perfect game."Brynn joins in the duet, snickering with a sick smile.
"I like your games, what do you have in mind this time?" She stands up, shaking with laughter.
"I was considering that we involve the rest of the house too, it can be our playing field."The voice pulls Brynn's eyes to look out the window, so she's able to see her reflection. "I say that you should try to prove they're not morons, see if theres something you can do to make them remember. And once they remember, we see if they'll do anything to celebrate."Brynn's reflection mouths the words of the voice, smirking as she explains the rules. "However there's a setback, Kennedy's damn curse makes it so they won't notice you unless they're looking for you. So you'll have to get creative, there's a good chance scaring the boy would work."
"Matt wouldn't know how to relay the message, I'd have to mess with the others more than before, if I want it to work." Brynn thinks, smiling as her reflection does. "I'll use fear, that should make them notice me."
"And then, you get our answer. Do they care? Or not?" The voice cackles, and Brynn follows suit. Both her and her reflection laughing with one voice.
"I know exactly what to do." She chuckles, walking towards her door. "It could be my gift to her. Happy Birthday my sweet Marley, h-happy eighth birthday."
- - -
Brynn descends the stairs with both hands in her hoodie pocket, her fingers rubbing against the tag that once hung off Marly's ghost puppet; now a small memento she can't separate with. Her nails trace the dry blood smear, letting all the memories of her little sister flow in her head. Once in the downstairs hall, Brynn can hear Mary singing with her own radio. Pulled towards the sound by an inhuman urge, Brynn steps into the kitchen finding the blonde woman shaking her hips to the music, clearly enjoying herself. The teen can't help but frown, a jealous serge flexes out her arm and she hits the power button, turning off the music. Mary looks at it with confusion.
"Mary?" Brynn questions, tilting her head to the side, but the woman doesn't answer her. With a sigh, Brynn leans down to unplug the radio; she waits for Mary to press the power button, humming her mimic of static at the perfect moment. The blonde struggles to tune the radio onto a good channel, hearing the noises Brynn is making. Mary settles for silence, hitting the power expecting to turn it off, but Brynn continues to make the buzzing. Even more confused and irritated, Mary rapidly pushes the button in a failed attempt to quiet the object. She yanks on the power cord, not feeling any resistance.
"What the...?" Mary groans, finding the radio was already disconnected. Fear crosses her eyes and Brynn twists her voice to sound like the generic voice of a small child.
"... Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear-" Brynn cuts out Marley's name with static, trying not to make the game end so soon. "...Happy birthday to you. Now make a wish, and blow out the candles."Brynn finishes, watching as her sister-in-law frantically looks around for the source of the sound, her eyes staring briefly at the teen.
"Matt?" She calls out, thinking its her son who's playing a trick on her. A pair of tiny feet pad into the kitchen as Matt answers to his mother.
"What is it, Mommy?" He questions, receiving a look of shock from the woman.
"We're you just singing, dear?" Mary says with a half smile, the color draining from her face when the two year-old shakes his head. "O-okay, nevermind then. Go back to w-whatever you were doing." She mumbles, grabbing the radio, walking it out to the garage as Brynn just shakes her head.
She reaches into one of the drawers for a pen and a small note pad. Brynn scribbles on it, gently pressing the sticky side onto Matt's back before he's able to run towards the living room. Brynn follows him, watching as he sits in front of the T.V. between the sofa and the screen.
"Hey, Matty." Mother calls from her perch on the couch. "There's something on your shirt, come'er and I'll get if off." She mutters sweetly, churning Brynn's insides. Caught with a craving to be cared for and wanting to be held close to someone, Brynn begins to feel regret bubble up in her throat as Mother rips the paper off Matt's back. The woman laughs, not realizing she's reading the note until her own breath hitches.
"No way... M-Marley?" She chokes out, putting a hand to her mouth after reading the word Brynn wrote, her sister's name.
"Gramma? Who's that?" Matt asks, pointing at the paper. Mother's eyes begin to water, and she stands up quickly to run to the bathroom. Brynn listens as her mother vomits into the toilet, the remains of her last beer no doubt being tasted twice. Matt begins to worry, running to his mom when she re-enters the kitchen. He shows his mother the small note, pointing to his grandmother down the hall. He screams and cries, concerned and confused as to what is going on.
- - -
The chaos is disregarded, and the three household members gather at the kitchen table, eating left-overs from the night before. No one noticed her, no one got the message. No one cares that its Marley's birthday! The dead girl's father is in an Asylum, her brother spending the day at work, her other sister shuns the family, and her mother sits drinking her life away. Why is Brynn the only one who remembers? Did they all forget? Or did they just move-on?
Brynn kneels on the floor in the kitchen, watching Mary, Matt, and Mother; eat a family meal without offering for her to join. Tears don't fall, she doesn't shudder nor cringe. The only emotion she can feel, is failure. She failed to tell the truth, she failed to save her sister, she failed to stay calm, and she failed the game. She looks down at her hands, playing with the small dirty tag. Brynn stands up, wobbling towards the front door.
"Because you're nothing more than a mouthy little brat." She can vaguely hear Kennedy's hysterical laughs in the back of her mind, making her drag her feet. She grabs the handle, turning it without hesitation and stepping out onto the porch. Rain is falling around the house, drenching the streets. Brynn finds it all too convenient as she slams the door. The click catches someone's attention, and Brynn sees her brother is home. Chris rushes from his car, aiming for the door. He sees Brynn and waves silently, waiting for her to wave back.
"Hey sis, what's wrong? Why are you out in the cold?" He questions jumping under the lip of the roof to hide from the rainfall.
"I-I'm..." Brynn thinks hesitantly. "... going to go buy Marley a gift... for her birthday." She mumbles and Chris's eyes widen.
"Oh, was that today? I completely spaced it, I feel like a total tool now." He snickers nervously. "Is everyone else inside?" He questions, receiving a nod from Brynn. "Cool, I'll uh... see'ya in a bit then." He mutters walking inside, slamming the door behind him.
Brynn's head is empty, the world is quiet. Rain falls down her face, flattening her curls to her head. She closes her eyes, and just starts walking. No idea where to go, or when to stop. No reason to turn back, no reason to keep moving forward either. Brynn gave up the moment Chris closed the door, realizing she doesn't want to keep trying anymore. So she walks, and walks, and walks; without the intent to keep living.
- - -
Angie turns off the lights in Sam's kitchen, forcing the walls to flicker in candle light as she holds her boyfriend's hand. The two of them look down onto a small white cake, illuminated with eight pink candles. Sam smirks as Angie squeezes his fingers, a sad smile being returned to him. They both breath in before singing a gentle melody.
"... Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Marley..." Angie chokes on her sister's name. "...Happy birthday to you." She whimpers, pulling her hands over her nose and mouth. Sam wraps his arms around her, slowly rocking her from side to side. He hushes her with sweet words, letting her cry into his chest. Sam watches in silence as the candles melt into wax puddles, neither adult bothering to blow them out.
Morning rays of sunlight poke the grey fabric of Brynn's hoodie, causing the dew drops to sparkle in her hair. The rain water has slowly dried out of the chestnut strands taking the saturation with it, leaving faded curls to bounce in front of her face. She hides behind them, staring at the ground with her mind blank of purpose. Sticks snap under her weight but the sound seems to refuse to break the silence of the world. Throughout the whole night Brynn has wandered aimlessly away from her house, not stopping or giving in to exhaustion. Her feet are numb from the cold, her skin is a pale grey with her veins a very prominent blue. She wobbles on her heels, walking through dense woods like the living dead if they were drunk and tired.
Brynn can't see through her hair, and doesn't register where she's going until she smacks right into a solid object. She falls backwards, laying on her back for a few moments, unable to properly understand what just happened. She blinks away the haze in her eyes as the metallic smell for rust crawls into her body, giving just enough curiosity to drag Brynn to her feet again. She combs her hair back with her fingers, irritated with it already as she struggles to see. Brynn looks around her, noticing beautiful spring trees, the tiny leafs catching sunlight as it breaks through them. She turns around to see what she ran into, looking directly into the side of a rickety metal shack. The tiny building doesn't look much bigger than a high-school classroom, except without any windows between the metal panels. Rust drips down the side in great amounts, dying the dirt below a thick orange; the density reminding Brynn of blood, and grotesque flashes of Marley's twisted corpse and father's beaten face flood her eyes. She could hear his laughter, and it starts to slip from her lips without her consent. But her thoughts are interrupted by an echoing sob.
"C-C-C... I'm sor-sorry. Sorry, I'm sorry.." A girls voice reverberates from inside the shack, tickling Brynn's ears with its dreamy fluctuations. She follows the sound, hearing it jump octaves from very deep and demonic to shrill and sincere. Brynn walks around the shack until she comes across a rusted door, left slightly ajar. She pushes it open, expecting the hinges to scream and alert the girl inside. But rather the girl and the door squeak simultaneously, giving Brynn enough room to slip in. She feels no fear, half wondering if this is all a hallucination, and yet she finds herself wobbling closer to the sobs.
Inside the shack, Brynn isn't able too see too well, but she notices intricate grooves in the walls as she drags her hand along it. She follows a small glow at the end of the dark hallway, turning at the sound of scraping. Brynn steps into a tiny room with a broken door, her eyes falling directly on a fire burning slowly by the far wall. After staring at it for sometime, she sees the fuel the fire is eating is actually a corpse. A man, who sits in the same position as Father did when Brynn had attempted to smash his face. She imagines that the body is of her father, breathing in the scent of burning flesh as if it were a taste of victory.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry C-" The girl's sobs reverberate around Brynn once again, pulling her from her daydream. She looks down at the wall next to her to see a figure scratching the metal with a rock, chipping away the rust to carve something into it. Brynn walks deeper into the room, staring at what the girl is writing. She's finishing the phrase "I'm sorry," crying as she moves to write in an empty space. Brynn looks around to see the whole room is decorated in the phrase, every scratch mark apologizing to nothing.
Feeling like she's being watched, Brynn's eyes flick down to the girl's, meeting with a pair of hollow orbs red from tears. The girl's black hair is stained with sweat and tipped with dirt. She stares through Brynn choking on her words and she growls "I'm sorry," once again.
"I'm sorry."Brynn growls in the girl's same voice, feeling her anger and pain through repeating her words.
"I'm sorry!" The girl screams shrilly holding the rock up to Brynn's face. Unafraid, Brynn leans in to mimic her again.
"I'm sorry!" She screams, and the girl lets out a deep growl, turning to slash the metal wall with the rock. Brynn looks around, her eyes landing on a metal shard on the floor. She repeats the girl's growl lifting the rusty blade above her head, running it down the wall. She hears the girl's heavy breathing, and mimics it against her control.
Brynn's long curls fall down over her eyes, blocking her view of the girl. She repeats the growl, feeling a ripping sensation in her throat as she pull her hair back into one hand. She lifts the the rusty shard, beginning to saw at the clump, slicing away the obnoxious strands and letting them fall to the ground. She continues to growl and scream as the girl does, a duet of pained cries saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
- - -
Both girls lean against the wall of the metal shack. The black haired girl had collapsed hours ago, her bruised body laying on Brynn's sore legs. Brynn runs curious fingers through her choppy short locks, slowly plucking the odd strands that are too long.
"All of you is pretty. I want to look like you when I'm older. Is it okay if I have your same hair too?"Brynn mutters in Marley's voice, remembering how she loved her hair. Sighing with the realization that she can't hear Marley's voice say that about her now. Instead she reaches down to brush this girl's hair, imagining her little sister.
"I'm sorry, Marley. I promised to keep you safe... but I lied. I'm sorry." Brynn mutters, unable to cry, but she chokes up none-the-less. She continues to brush her fingers through the girl's dirty hair, hearing an intense ringing in the air, giving her a piercing headache. Brynn quietly closes her eyes, mumbling. "I wish I could forget."