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My sister, Maggie, and I were close from the day I was born, even though she was five years older than I was, and that closeness never went away, even in death.
It was a warm spring day, the kind of day you dream about in the winter months, when they discovered the body of my sister. She was beside the lake, with her arms laid across her, and the pretty pink dress she wore to the birthday party that day was wet, and clinging to her body. Her hair bows were also wet and limp, and her eyes were wide open.
My mother nearly lost her mind after the police car pulled away, and after the initial crying and screaming, she stayed silent and wouldn't talk to anybody, not even me. I stayed under the kitchen table most of the time to avoid seeing anybody. They had not found Maggie's killer, and for all I knew, he could still be out there, maybe in my own living room, pretending to be normal and all the time waiting to kill me like he did Maggie.
I dreaded the day of the funeral, but it rolled around all too soon just the same, and to make it worse, the sun was shining and beautiful, just like the day they found Maggie. I stuffed down my tears, and that isn't easy when you have lost your best friend, but I got in the car to attend the funeral without so much as one escaped tear. When we pulled up to the church, I grabbed my father's hand and held it tightly until we were inside the church, and he released my grip. The church sounded hollow, and each step echoed loudly in the air. I felt as if everybody was talking about Maggie and I wanted them to shut up and stop whispering. I guess it was all the stress, but once my father and I got to the front of the church, he motioned for me to sit down, and all the whispering and sympathetic looks were behind me.
Once the Reverend entered the church, everybody went silent. I could hear my mother sitting behind me, weeping softly. My father took my hand, and I was glad, because the idea of my dead sister being in that casket really made my heart pound, and my eyes tear up. I couldn't look at her, because I would probably scream and that would upset my mother more. So I sat quietly, staring at the carnations that adorned the front of the church, Maggie's favorite, pink carnations. I tried to think about all the fun times we had together, and let the sad words fade into the distance.
It felt like hours, but I knew it wasn't, when the service was finally over. Now came the hard part, figuring out how to get around having to look at her, with her white skin that probably looked like wax. I watched my mother bend down and kiss her. That had to be the coldest kiss in the world, and then my father walked past, waiting at the end of the tiny casket for my grandmother, and to make sure I walked past. My grandmother was last, and I watched her climb up the stairs, her cane wobbling, and a kleenex sticking out from the edge of her sleeve. When she touched her lips and then touched Maggie's, the kleenex slipped out of her sleeve, and I had the most horrible desire to laugh. It was nerves, watching my father watch me, and knowing I was next.
My legs were shaking when I stood up and began walking up those stairs, staring at my shoes the whole time, and then looking over at my father, who nodded as if to tell me to go ahead and say goodbye. I don't know why, but I suddenly found my voice and said I wanted to say my goodbye's alone. My father looked at me for a moment, and then he walked out of the church, leaving me there to face my demons.
I made myself look, but what I saw nearly knocked the wind out of me. As I stared at her dead face, her eyes slowly began to open and then shift toward me. I couldn't have moved if I wanted to, and was afraid I might wet my pants. This had to be a hallucination, but no, something inside me took hold and suddenly I wasn't as scared. Maggie slowly turned her head toward me, and I leaned in to hear what she had to say. Her mouth opened and the words came spilling out, chilling words, that warned me about the monster who had done this to her. She said he wasn't a person, but a monster with the power to as he liked, and that he would continue to kill until all the children had been sacrificed, including me. She told me to get out of town, to run and never look back. I was sweating now and my stomach was in a knot.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and nearly jumped a mile, but when I looked back at Maggie her eyes were closed and the room was still. My father walked me out of the church, but I remember looking back several times and wondering if what I heard was real.
It was real. More children were found murdered in the same fashion, and people began leaving town until there was nothing left and no reason for us to stay. I had kept Maggie's words to myself, but in retrospect, and with the reasoning ability of an adult, I wonder if I could have saved some lives had I passed on my sister's message, or would they have just told me I was a kid with a big imagination?