Terrifying Tales Short Story Contest Winner: 9-11

Inseparable

Inseparable by Hanna T., 9-11, from the Maple Valley Library 

The lake shimmered the color of the sky, darkening like the clouds. The occasional birds twittered, and deer friskily ran in-between trees. Peaceful, cold water lapped gently against the shore. Gradually, eerie fog formed, shrouding the lake in a bone-chilling mist. The birds flew away, the deer hid. Without warning, a girl slowly rose out of the lake. Her drenched, straggly black hair hung like a curtain over her face, masking the deformed, wrinkly mass of graying flesh under it. A dark, sunken eye peeked out. Her white nightgown sagged along with her. She looked straight at me, staring blankly, jerkily getting closer and closer…  

I jolt upwards, breathing heavily, forehead beading with sweat. What happened? As I try to control my breathing, I remember the girl from my dream. In my mind, she stares back at me solemnly. For some reason, I feel a prickling on my skin, a shadow behind me, as if someone’s watching.   

I groggily get up and glance at the math homework I left on my desk. Yawning, I sit down and try to get my mind to start working. After a few failed attempts, I toss my pen away in frustration. I stare at my phone and call Dad. Riiinnggg...   

Just when I’m about to hang up, I hear his familiar rich, baritone voice. “Hey Dave, how’s it going?”  

“Dad...we miss you so much,” I say close to tears. “Why can’t you just come back?” My voice 

cracks and I have to swallow hard.   

He sighs. “Things aren’t working out with me and your Mom anymore,” Dad answers exasperatedly. “What’s wrong, buddy?”  

Hesitantly, I reply, “I’m worried about Sara. She’s been acting weird since we moved here. It's hard to explain things to her; she’s just five.” I take a deep breath and keep going. “I don’t even like this creepy house. It feels...” There’s silence on the other side. “Dad? Are you still there?”   

His voice jolts back, hurriedly saying, “Yes. Um, I’ll talk to you later, okay? Bye.”   

And just like that, the call ended. I sink back into my chair feeling helpless.   

“Come play with us, Dave!” I hear a little voice not far from me. I see Sara sticking her head out the door. “We are playing hide-and-seek!” She exclaims. Ugh. She’s been going on like this for a while.   

“Stop it, Sara!” I groan. She pouts, her bottom lip sticking out. “Okay, when I’m done with my homework we’ll play.” Then I reach out and tickle her. She giggles and runs away. I eventually continue my homework. After a few minutes, I hear Sara laughing and talking nearby. I get up and look for her.  

“Sara, what are you doing?” I ask.   

“I’m playing with Sabina!” Sara answers excitedly. “She says this is her house.”  

I look around. “Sara, there’s no one else in here,” I say, trying to hide my frustration. 

“Sabina’s on the bed,” Sara implies. I look at the bed. Empty. I kneel down to look at Sara’s round, innocent eyes.   

“Maybe, you’re hungry,” I say, smiling faintly. Suddenly, I feel a strange, cold sensation.   

Sara’s eyes shift to something behind me. “Now Sabina’s on the rocking chair.”   

My smile turns to confusion. “What?” Swallowing, I turn toward the rocking chair. It moves back, forth, back, forth. I stand up, feeling goosebumps all over my skin. I walk over in two strides and hold the rocking chair until it stops.   

“I probably just moved it,” I mutter, trying to convince myself.   

Sara cries, “You just have to believe.”   

I desperately change the subject. “Do you want to play?” I carry her up, laughing. She can’t answer. She’s too busy squealing happily at being swung in the air.   

After a cereal dinner, I carry a sleepy Sara into her room and stroke her silky hair until she falls asleep.   

“I’m home!” Mom calls cheerfully, carrying grocery bags. I quietly leave Sara, run downstairs, and hug Mom.   

“You want spaghetti?” Mom asks, smiling. I shrug and watch Mom as she starts to cook.  

Nervously, I say, “Mom, I have to tell you something.”  

“What is it?” Mom replies.   

“It’s Sara. I-I’m worried about Sara. She keeps talking to no one at all.”   

Mom pauses for a moment, then continues preparing our food.   

“She always talks about a 10-year-old girl named Sabina. I keep telling her...” I trail off when 

I see Mom’s not listening. Just like Dad.  

Distractedly, she asks, “Do we have any cheese?”  

“Mom, are you listening?” I grumble irritatedly. Mom doesn’t say anything. Annoyed, I raise my voice, “Mom! I said Sara isn’t well. Aren’t you concerned about her? You have to listen!”  

“Dave,” Mom’s voice has dropped its happiness.   

“Maybe your divorce with Dad is affecting her too much!” I say angrily.  

Dave,” Her voice holds tears in it.   

I keep going, “You and Dad never listen! You just don’t seem to care-”   

“Stop! Just stop!” Mom shouts. “Dave, I’m tired physically! I’m tired mentally!” She puts her hands on her face and starts to cry.   

I swallow, and look down, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I say softly.  

“We moved here to help you forget.” Her voice rises. “You have to let her go. We have to move on!”  

I look up. “What? What do you mean let her go?” I say, bewildered.  

Your sister is DEAD!” Mom yells. Her tears turn to sobs.   

I don’t understand! “What are you talking about? We just played and ate together!” I point to the table with two bowls of cereal. “And I just made her sleep!” I shout.   

Mom slumps against the wall, slides down, and keeps sobbing. Unable to stand it any longer, 

I break away and run upstairs.   

I stop for a moment in front of Sara’s room. Slowly, I open the door, but her bed’s empty. My heart starts beating fast. “Sara? Saraaa!!” I search the hallway and in my room. “SARA!” My voice trembles as tears run down my face, and I remember. 

   

TWO YEARS AGO  

“Mom, can Sara and I go to the playground?”  

Dave’s Mom looked out the window. The wind was blowing a few autumn leaves on the ground. 

“Okay, but bring your jackets. And stay away from the lake!” But Dave wasn’t listening. He and 

Sara had already run out with their jackets, shouting with joy towards the playground. Dave looked around. No one else was there. That meant they had the whole playground to themselves! What luck!   

Sara asked, “Dave, can we build a sandcastle?”   

“Sure, but only a quick one, before it gets dark,” Dave said, looking up at the sky.   

“Now go get some rocks and sticks!” Sara giggled and wandered off. After a little while, she saw some ducks swimming in the lake. She smiled. “Oooh! Ducks!” Sara ran to the deck trying to reach the ducks.  

Meanwhile, Dave was still making the sandcastle while waiting for more rocks and sticks. He got up and looked around. Sara was nowhere to be found.  

“Sara! Sara! Where are you!? Sara!!! Saraaaa!!!!”  

   

PRESENT DAY  

“NO! NOOO!!” My chest heaves with sobs as I remember everything. What had I done? I scream her name repeatedly, trying to bring her back. Tears stream down my face and drip down my chin. “She was too young to die!” I curl myself into a ball at the corner of my room.   

“Are you okay?” A little voice asks, concerned. I hold my breath and slowly look up. Standing in front of me is Sara. Her white nightgown is soaked. I sob harder.  

“Sara, I’m so sorry! I love you, Sara!” I say longingly.   

She smiles. “I love you too, Dave.”   

I feel comforted by her presence, and whisper, “You’re right, I just have to believe.” As my tears slow, I turn to see where Sara’s eyes are looking.   

I notice a figure moving under the bed. I rub the tears from my eyes and squint to see clearly.   

Crawling out under the bed are rotten fingers on a decaying hand that smelled of death. As it comes out, I see her mangled face directed toward me, blood dripping down out of her deformed, ragged lips. Her long, black hair sticks to her face, which is torn, mutilated to the point where it hardly looks like a face at all. My eyes widen as I look in horror. Bits of torn skin hang down, revealing dark empty holes where her eyes used to be. As she continues to come out, I see a knife stuck deep in her chest; her tattered dress barely masks the maimed, crippled body underneath.  

Before I can scream, her ghastly, disfigured face is right in front of me, close enough to smell her putrid breath. She slowly tilts her head; her damaged mouth twists into a horrifying grimace. I can't move; my hands are clasping my legs, shivering uncontrollably. She sucks in a wet, wheezing breath as she slowly rasps, “Let's play.” 

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