Authors: Adalynn Rafe
Whimpers escaped Adie as she stared back at the fire. Silver streaks rushed down her hollow cheeks. I could feel her pain, the stabbing shooting through her being. She knew that something bad was happening, but no would believe her.
I stared at my mom with disappointment. She wouldn’t even listen to her daughter, just to hear her out. Hazel was scared and everyone saw it, but Mom didn’t care.
With tears in her own eyes, Mom sat next to Adie and wrapped her arms tightly around her slim frame. “I understand that you are upset.” She kissed the side of her head. “I understand, baby. It’s a natural reaction when we lose the people we love.”
I sat on the carpeted floor next to my sister. The doorbell rang, sending seven chimes through the house.
“Who could be here at this hour?” My mother rose to her feet.
Adie tried to stand up, but was too weak. “It’s Jema and Daphne. They are going to sleep over tonight.” She wiped the tears from her face quickly, as to hide her weakness.
My mother answered the door. After welcoming the girls, she hugged them tightly. “You are so sweet to come over,” my mother said quietly.
“We love Adie. We are her best friends,” Jema reminded my mom, her blue eyes twinkling.
I moved out of the way so that the girls could huddle around the fire together. A smile filled my face as I watched them talk and laugh. At least my family wasn’t alone.
After Mom left to gather food, Adie began explaining the discussion she had with my mom to the girls. Her voice was low. It was like overhearing the planning of a covert operation. It was just them talking about the conspiracy theories about the missing girls that floated around town. Three missing girls, a psycho Hazel, and a troubled teenager that had committed suicide; I’d heard it all now. What else, a serial killer? I laughed. Not in our small city––impossible!
I patted their heads, knowing that I would disappear soon. “Love you, too,” I whispered over their talking. “I miss you lots.”
In the corner of the dimly lit room was a painting, propped against the wall. Adie had brought it downstairs at some time. It was the painting of the red lily, not yet finished.
The glacier pond glistened in the combined light from the sunrise and sunset. Turquoise waters flowed effortlessly through a tranquil stream and into the small body of water. Trickling noises brought serenity to the small space where we sat. The air smelled like rain and had a refreshing hint of moisture to it.
Kelly and I were lying on soft emerald grass beneath a grove of purple trees with ash-gray trunks and branches. We laid in close proximity, our arms touching comfortably and our heads angled toward each other. Bandit lay beside me, snoring lightly as he slept.
Anxiety had become a constant companion since I found out that my sister’s life was in jeopardy, and that multiple teenagers were playing puppets with the evil puppet master. But right then . . . I felt semi-okay.
“Do you like it here?” Kelly picked a blade of vibrant grass and examined it closely.
“Yes . . . I do. But I don’t belong here, Kelly. I should be walking among the living, not stuck here in holding. I still don’t even know if this is real . . .”
Kelly dropped the blade of grass and stroked my hand with his warm finger. “Do you believe that I am real?”
I glanced at Kelly, rather bothered. “I don’t know. I swear that this is just a dream and that I will wake up soon. Right now, you are real to me. But in the real world, I fear that you are just an apparition.” My forehead creased. “I don’t want you to leave.”
Leaning onto his elbow, he looked down at me. I stared at his face, his half-lidded eyes, and the smoothness of his light skin. Softly, he ran his finger along my forearm, leaving a trail of bumps. “Is this real?”
A small gasp escaped me as Kelly lightly brought his lips to mine.
My eyes closed as I allowed the kiss to happen. It was pure and innocent, filled with sweetness––a mixture of vanilla bean and milk chocolate. Lingering on my lips was a spark. His kiss was something so desirable––a feeling that I craved. Something that sparked my heart and made it beat funny.
If I hadn’t encountered the creep at the party, Kelly would have been my first kiss . . . but only because I had died.
Kelly touched my face softly as he smiled down at me, his blue eyes squinting with kindness, adoring.
“You feel so real,” I whispered. Slowly, my fingertips touched my lips as my heart calmed down from the sweet surprise.
“I’ve never kissed a young lady,” Kelly informed me. “I was too shy, and died at such a young age.”
“Is this even possible?” I gazed hesitantly into his eyes.
His smile could chase away any darkened feeling. “It just happened, didn’t it?”
A small laugh escaped me. “Are you sure I’m not dreaming?”
Kelly shrugged before lying down again on the plush grass. His warm hand wrapped around mine and held it tightly. “If you are, then this has got to be the best dream you’ve ever had,” he replied, glancing at me over his shoulder.
Closing my eyes, I allowed myself to enjoy the moment; the cool air, soft grass, and the sound of the water in the background. It was all great and wonderful until a question nagged my brain. “Kelly, where were you stationed during the war?” My eyes opened and I stared at him.
Exhaling loudly, Kelly stared up at the purple leaves as he thought. “I can’t remember. There was a body of water involved, perhaps a ship. I can’t remember if it was a ferry, or a U-boat. Perhaps it was a destroyer or an air craft carrier. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you.”
“You were a member of the Navy?”
Kelly nodded lopsidedly. “I believe so.”
Moving to my side, I leaned on a propped elbow and rested my head in my hand, looking at the side profile of Kelly’s face. He had a very straight nose and tempting full lips that I wanted to kiss once again.
“I feel like I have been searching for centuries for what really happened to me.” Kelly’s lips pursed slightly and his eyes narrowed as he stared up at the royal canopy. This mystery seemed to pain him more than he showed.
“I know the feeling,” I remarked, tracing the angles of his face with my eyes.
Kelly gave me a sorrowful smile. “Speaking of . . . do you want to see how you died? Aren’t you curious?”
“No,” I replied sternly.
Kelly rolled his eyes at my stubbornness. “I would die to know what happened to me.”
I laughed. “You’re already dead, remember?”
He made a face. “I would die again to know what happened to me.”
“Yes, of course.” Only he would do such a noble thing.
“So, you understand why I ask about your hesitance to find out how you died?”
I shot Kelly a look of discomfort. “It’s not the same.”
“Death is death,” Kelly pointed out.
Aggravated by him, I leaned onto my elbow and scowled. “You died of a noble cause, remember? And me—I—I—might have committed suicide. That isn’t so noble, wouldn’t you agree?”
Kelly rubbed my arm soothingly. “Cecily, the thing that binds you now is your own conscience. If you say you aren’t noble or good enough for happiness, you only condemn yourself to an afterlife of torture.”
“You’re telling me that the great judge in the sky will not be judging me?”
“The only judge will be you. The desires of your heart will guide you to where you want to be. Only you can exalt yourself to glory or punish yourself in Hell.”
My hand reached forward and rested on his chest. “What if I desire to be with you?” My hazel eyes met his, crystal blue, and the corner of my lip lifted shyly.
Kelly smiled broadly, his eyes twinkling. “Then, your will shall be done.”
I brought my face closer to his. Stopping just before my lips reached his, I asked, “You won’t disappear on me, will you?”
He shook his head before kissing me. “Never,” he whispered.
Gulping, I glanced at Bandit. He panted, sitting on the ground beside me. My nerves fired as I thought about the thing that would set me free. “Kelly . . . show me how I died.”
Darkness filled the old hiking trail.
I had hiked it a million times with my Papa and had found it to be a place of comfort, regardless of my upset. Those trails would always be remembered as refreshing and bright, shaded by glorious trees with luscious green leaves. Wildflowers would grow during late spring into early autumn. Quietness seemed to always fill the space, a very refreshing quiet that soothed one’s mind. And a breeze, as crisp and pure as anything, always floated down the canyon.
This night was far from what I remembered, however. Many trees were stripped, due to cold weather, and the wildflowers had wilted. Some trees still had colorful leaves, but not many. Sunlight seemed to be something that didn’t exist here. The land was plagued by darkness––not even the crickets dared to chirp.
Kelly held my hand in his. Knowing that I would be confused, scared, and disturbed, it was how he assured me that he was at my side.
“Where is Cecily?” I breathed, exhaling a plume of ice crystals.
His finger pointed to the ledge of the cliff above. The higher ridge cast a dark shadow on the cliff. Silver moonlight caught something on the edge, reflecting quickly before disappearing. There sat Cecily––doing things that only the Almighty Dude above would know.
I closed my eyes. When I opened them, we stood on the rocky ledge with a very sad and morbid Cecily.
Around us, lots of rock, a few dead plants, and a forest of dying trees, filled the landing. Dark, desolate, and worthy of a horror movie . . . Cecily couldn’t have chosen a better place to die.
Long auburn hair, kinked and snarled, fell down the black lace shirt that covered her back. She wore the skank shirt from the party. Elbows on knees and a fist to her chin, she hunched on a dark rock. In the background, a few lights lit up the town, gradually increasing toward the city beyond. I could pinpoint the hospital from here because it had a billion red lights around it.
In her hand she clenched a bottle of rum, knuckles white, seeking comfort from the warm liquid as she stared out at the sleeping town. After lighting a cigarette and inhaling, she blew the gray smoke laced with ice crystals from her lungs smoothly. A small tremble went through her—she was cold.
“What am I going to tell my mother?” she asked herself.
Cecily became silent as she took another puff. It made me sick watching her ruin my body like that, with no regard to who she hurt or the consequence of her actions.
Another stream of smoke exhaled from her lungs and she flicked the cigarette with her finger to release the ashes from the glowing tip. “Hazel is going to nag the life out of me. She is such a nag sometimes. I take one thing from her dad’s liquor cabinet, and it’s the end of the world.”
Cecily held her palm to her head, cigarette extending from between her fingers. She leaned forward into her hand as she stared at the lights below her. She tapped her foot eagerly against the rocky surface as a million thoughts raced through her mind.
“This is stupid,” she breathed. “What is wrong with me? I should be at the police station reporting those creeps, not here.” Tears filled her eyes suddenly. “And Hazel,” she whispered painfully. “What have I done?”
Cecily smashed the cigarette butt on the rocks and then threw it over the cliff. Closing her eyes, she held her face with her free hand and moaned loudly. “I feel like dying,” she whined, moaning once more. “I feel like crap. I
Doubt filled me. I would never commit suicide. No matter what.
After opening the bag of cocaine––that white powdery substance––that she kept in her pocket, Cecily poured a little bit on the back of her hand. “No regrets. Right?” Tears returned to her eyes and she snorted it.
Her hand covered her nose as she cried. “What have I done?” A trail of blood dripped down to her lip from her nose, but she didn’t bother to stop it.
I covered my face with my hands and held back vomit. “Kelly, I can’t watch this.”
My fingers spread open over my eyes so that I could watch her.
She looked up to the sky and the stars. “Papa?” The blood trailed down her ivory neck from her nose.
Cecily loosely turned her head toward me and Kelly. With huge pupils––more than darkness should induce––a trail of blood down her face and neck, and all of her dark makeup now running down her pale cheeks from crying . . . she looked like a tormented ghost.
She took a swig of alcohol. “I’ve disappointed you, haven’t I?”
“Yes, you have!” I yelled at her. “Get it together!”
Kelly patted my shoulder to calm me down. “She can’t hear you.”
“I––I––,” she stammered. “Papa, I remember the time that we caught a snake in the river. I was scared and you knew it. You made me hold that snake. I didn’t want to hold it.”
I did remember that. I acted so tough so that he would be proud of me, but I apparently resented him.
“Papa, I remember when you and Mom were fighting over how to pay for Adie’s medical bills. For a moment, I wished that Adie would die so that you wouldn’t fight and that Momma wouldn’t cry anymore.”
My lips pursed and guilt filled me. I was a horrible person.
“Papa, I remember the time that you got the cancer. Your spirit broke then, and I watched the life drain out of you.” Her shoulders shook as she started to sob.
I stared across the clearing below and at the next set of darkened hills where the mines hid. The mines took him. My jaw tensed.
“Papa, I remember the time you died. You left momma here alone to raise her two girls. We were lost without you. I am still lost without you . . . !” Rage rolled off her, but she hid it behind glossed eyes and pursed lips.
With the nod of my head, I fully understood how she felt. I was abandoned by him.
“Papa, why have you betrayed me?” She looked up at the stars again. “Why have you left me here all alone? I need you to protect me! I can’t do this alone . . . it’s—it’s too much!” Her voice filled with pain and tears, a sad song that echoed down the cliff.
Something rustled in the bushes to the side of us. Cecily stood up stiffly, clenching the bottle of rum even tighter, and turned toward the noise.
That’s when I saw how truly torn apart she was. Her eyes had dark circles around them and were bloodshot red. Hollowed cheeks were accentuated by her white skin. The blood had trailed down all the way down her neck and to her exposed cleavage. Hazel eyes were filled with pain.
I knew then that Cecily, me, had lost herself a long time before now and was terrified.
“Why am I like this?” I choked. “What happened to me?”
Whatever crept in the dark bushes made a rustling sound. Even I became scared of what was hunting me.
Cecily froze in her fear and dropped the alcohol. It crashed on the ground and sent bits of glass and rum all over the rocks. She pointed her hand toward the bushes with widened eyes. On her arms and wrists were cut marks, carved over and over again into her ivory skin. The fresh ones dripped blood onto the rocky floor below her.
“Kelly, this isn’t me,” I quickly pointed out. “This is not Cecily Wolf!”
“You can deny it all you want, but you know this is you,” Kelly responded.
Nausea filled my stomach. All I could feel was dread.
Cecily began yelling, “Get away from me! I know who you are!”
Something moved in the bushes for the third time. I couldn’t see it, though.
“No! I don’t want to die! Please, don’t come near me! Don’t touch me!” she begged and whined as tears filled her hazel, bloodshot eyes and streamed down her face. “Please don’t touch me––not again!”
“I was murdered?” I muttered, confused.
Cecily stepped backwards quickly. “No––no––no––!” She shook her head in fright. “Please!”
I watched her movements closely. Once she stepped on the slippery rocks where the alcohol had spilled, she lost her footing. Pivoting to keep her balance, she took three steps forward. The final step was the last step she took, the step that sent her pummeling to her death—face first. She had fallen off the cliff, not jumped, but had actually fallen!
Cecily and I began screaming at the same time as she fell through the air and toward the rocky bottom. It was like everything that had happened to me was returning––every pain, every fear, every sensation, and every regret. Everything that she felt, I felt.
And then, she hit the ground.
A loud thud sounded. Her body finally smashed into the rocks below.
I started sobbing, staring down the dark face of the cliff at my body. It lay limp on the cold, dark ground.
Kelly pulled me to him and I buried my head in his stable frame. Shards of glass filled my lungs, invaded my heart, and tore through precious tissue. There was no remedy for me, no way to bring me back to life! Stinging tears streamed down my cheeks as painful moaning escaped me. I truly was dead!
Behind us a dog appeared. It seemed to be a local dog, a golden retriever that was a friendly little guy. I fell to my death because I was scared of a harmless pup . . . ?
Kelly took my hand, leading over to the where Cecily had been sitting. On the stone ground were bloodied razor blades, a packet of white powdered cocaine, a pack of cigs, and glass fragments from the broken bottle of rum.
I looked toward the dog one more time, knowing that something didn’t add up.
In the shadows stood a man—his eyes reflected the light of the moon, his silhouette as still as a ghost’s. If it weren’t for those eyes, he would have never been found.
He had to be one of the goons from the party. How long had he watched me? Was it his intention for me to fall or was he going to push me––or kidnap me?
My limbs became numb and Kelly caught me as I fell toward the ground. “Why?” I whispered. I should have been terrified, but all I felt was numb. “Why did this happen? Who are these men? Kelly, Adie was right. Hazel’s in serious trouble!” Then the tears came and I whimpered pathetically in his arms. “I’m dead! I can’t stop them!”
Kelly stroked my hair calmly.
“Why are they attacking these girls?” My lip quivered and I felt cold.
“I don’t have the answers you seek. I’m only supposed to show you things to help you get back home.”
Next, I had to face her dead body. She had fallen on even rocks and her body laid flat on the cold ground. If it weren’t for the moonlight, I wouldn’t have been able to see the body in the dark night.
Cecily’s face was mutilated, her jaw snapped and her nose smashed into her head. Her sternum was concave and shattered, meaning that all of her ribs were broken. One arm had twisted back and her shoulder looked brutally dislocated. Auburn hair covered most of her broken face and bleeding skull.
Gasping loudly, my eyes widened and my hands covered my mouth.
This is me!
I was only seventeen and I was a dead, drug addict loser who had snapped sometime in my young life. Thinking that I would be better off tortured and abused by substances, I knew not that I would walk into the center of a horrific nightmare.
Because of my death, everyone around me would suffer. Adie, Hazel, Mom. If I would’ve gone to the cops, I could have stopped this. Instead, I fell off a cliff!
I believed that’s called the ripple effect . . . and the ripples that I would cause from this point forward would be impossible to avoid or reverse.