Sneak Peak: TWINE from (13 Wicked Tales Of Witches Book)



TWINE




My sister always had an obsession with string. She liked to play with it. Run around with it. Roll it between her fingers, tie bows around arbitrary things. 

Braid it into her hair.

I never really thought it was abnormal. 

Until some of the things she started tying up and wrapping bows around began to do strange things. 

Like her dead gerbil, Penny.

There are some that say we are bound to this world by some unseen thing, like our mortal coils. 

Coil. 

Sounds a lot like string, huh? 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just think about how the three Fates from the Hercules movie could cut your string and it would kill you. All they did was break the twine binding you to the earth. 

To the living.

Penny came back to life.

We were sad when she died. We loved her, she was part of the family, but she was old and her time with us had come and gone. The only person her passing surprised was Lara, my baby sister. When Penny was gone and it was time to bury her, Lara had marks all over her arms and legs from tying that damned string all over her body. 

She said she was trying to keep the memories in; so she wouldn’t forget about Penny.

I knelt down and told her, “Penny will always be with us,” I put my hand on her tiny little chest and patted her unicorn shirt right over her heart. “Right here.” I said. 

I made sure to look her in the eye. So she knew.

She needed to know that her big brother would never ever lie to her. 

Only the truth for my baby sister.

She counted on me to tell her things ‘adults’ wouldn’t. She depended on me to separate the chaff from the wheat when it came to bullshit. 

After the divorce, everybody lied to us. 

“Everything is going to be okay.” They all said, but it wasn’t. We had to stay in a shelter for a long time because my mom was pretty sure he was going to try and kill her for leaving. 

He never did.

We hid at a shelter and lost our house for nothing.

Nobody’s seen that ass hat for months.

I went out of my way to find the truth and let Lara know what was really happening to our family. And she’s stronger for it now. So am I. It’s easier to deal with what might be coming if you know enough to prepare.

I digress.

Penny came back to life because Lara wrapped her up in twine before we put her in the shoe box.

It was just me and my sister. Mom was at work. I should have told the kid not to be petting and playing with that dead gerbil, but I figured she could wash her hands when she got done; but dealing with her pet’s death, saying goodbye the way she wanted to, was priceless. I let Lara do what she needed to do to be alright with the death of her friend.

We laid some tissue paper down in the shoe box and put the gerbil in, twine and all. Three days later, that thing was back in its cage, rotting. It chewed through the box, dug its way backup out of the ground and hobbled back up to our apartment. Back to the feet of its creator. 

My sister.

The resurrector. 

The thing wouldn’t touch its food or water and got very excited whenever anybody walked into Lara’s room. 

A real live zombie gerbil.

I told my buddy Mark about Penny. He said maybe she was just sick, but I know better. That rodent had been cold and stiff when I went to feed her that morning nearly two weeks ago. Penny had died. Penny was dead now, but somehow, she was still moving around. She stunk and she was rotting. A walking, squeaking corpse.

Lara brought her back with that string of hers. 

I don’t know how it works. 

I found a dead bird this morning. Brought it to Lara. I asked her to do it again. 

She gave me a sly little smile that unnerved me. (I’ve never been unnerved by my sister. She may be eleven years younger than me, but she’s like my best friend. We understand each other. Maybe that just means I’m simple, but I don’t think it does.) She took the bird from the paper bag I’d dropped it in on the way home from school and peered inside. 

“What happened to it?” she asked me.

I just shrugged. “Found it walking home from school. Can you bring it back? Like Penny?”

She nodded. “Maybe.” Lara was silent for a long time, but she didn’t move. Just stood there thinking, looking into the bag. “Whatcha gonna give me for it?”

“Give?”

“Yeah silly, you gotta trade somthin’.” 

Her sweet little voice was angelic, but the things she was saying made my spine want to shrivel up into a knot. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, even through a fresh coat of sweat after the two mile walk from my high school to our apartment on the west side of town.

I knelt down so that we were on the same level.

“What did you trade for Penny?” I prayed to God she was going to say her favorite doll, or a few cookies. Mr. Morcott’s dog died not to long ago. I didn’t want to believe that my sister was behind it. 

Could she take a life for her own ends? 

Did she not know better or did she just not care? 

Was I jumping to conclusions?

“I’m not supposed to say. You have to keep it a secret or he’ll take it back. But I didn’t have to trade for Penny, I already traded. He owes me.”

“Who will take it back? Who owes you, Lara?”

“The Man.”

“What kind of man? Where do you see him?”

“The Dark Man.” She answered suddenly turning shy. Coy. As if I were asking her about the boy down the street. I thought six was a little young to be looking at boys, but what do I know?

“Where do you see him?” I repeated the question when Lara tried to evade it.

“Everywhere.” She whispered. “He follows me to school sometimes. Sits behind me on the bus.”

“Then he’s a kid, like you?”

“No, he’s a man.” She held a hand up high above her head to show me he was tall. 

“But he rides the school bus?”

“I see him lots of places.” She told me. “At school. In the park. Here.”

I looked around the room behind me and I didn’t see anything. 

I was old enough to know that just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

You can’t see love can you? Hate? Air? Betrayal. Fear.

No. But you and I both know all of those things exist. You don’t have to see something for it to hurt you. So why not ghosts and monsters too? 

All it took was an idea to destroy my family. The idea that my father was worth more than the rest of us. At first, he was the only one who believed it, but as the years passed, he showed the rest of us how it was true.

I’m learning he was wrong now, but at the time it was true because we all believed the same thing: that we weren’t shit and he was.

Again, I’ve gotten off topic.

“Show me where he is, Lara.”

She smiled. “If you can’t see him, then you can’t see him. Tommy can’t see him either. He’s only friends with some of us.”

“Why?”

“Because,” she whispered, “only some of us are special.”

Her patience with me asking questions was nearly over. I took the bag back from her and told her she could go play, as long as she didn’t go far. I told her not to talk the the Man anymore. 

I doubted she’d listen.

I’m only 17, but I’m no dummy. 

I’ve seen enough movies to know that when kids start talking about shit you can’t see, there’s a reason for it. I was going to skip the step where everyone is in denial about what was really going on and just assume she was talking to some kind of demonic beast/ monster/ demon, whatever. 

I lined our doors and windows with salt. 

My mom would be pissed, but she’d get over it. She’d be more pissed if she knew her daughter could bring back the dead. Maybe not pissed, but horrified. Either way, it’d ruin her day.

I read something somewhere about how you can use basil to kill off evil; so I made spaghetti for dinner and put way too much in it. Lara didn’t seem phased by the herb and my mother was so happy to be home and not at work for once, she didn’t care.

We skirted around any conversation about gerbils and how tough things were right now, and tried to move onto happier topics. What was good on TV. What kind of things was Lara working on in school. Mom asked me if I was still failing Calculus… she needn’t have asked, we both knew I was. (I may be smart, but not when it comes to proofs. They just don’t make any sense.)

I threw the paper bag with the dead bird in it into the dumpster behind our apartment building and tried to forget about it.

***

Three days later, I woke up to the flapping of dirty wings in my face.

I screamed. Flung whatever had landed on my face off of me with enough force to kill anything normal. The bird I’d found on the way home from school just got right back up after hitting my bedroom wall. 

Like it was nothing.

Lara stood in the doorway, hands outstretched from where she had just released the newly resurrected pigeon to fly freely about my room and wake me up.

“Lara! What the hell?” I growled. 

Angry and horrified at what this meant. The bird was alive. She saw the Man again and obviously traded him something for another life. Because she thought that’s what I wanted. Then there was the question of how she’d fished the bag out of the dumpster in the first place.

I couldn’t have cared less about that bird, I just wanted to know if she could really do what I thought she did with Penny. Now that I knew she was trading for favors, I was way less inclined to test the limits of her new ‘ability’.

My sister’s face wrinkled and the corners of her mouth pulled themselves into an ugly grimace. I’d made her cry.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I said getting out of bed and trying to pat her on the shoulder, calm her down. Take back yelling at her. I was supposed to be her friend, her brother. Keep her safe, not yell at her.

She cried anyway. 

Crocodile tears ran down her cheeks. “It’s a surprise.” She said between guffaws as the bird flapped its wings lopsidedly behind me. One or both of it’s wings was broken.

“Okay, thank you. It just scared me. Woke me up. I’m sorry I yelled, Lara.”

She ran off in a huff, and sad sister or not, I scooted the zombie bird right out that window. Let it fall two stories, into the court yard below.

Later that day, Mom made Lara get rid of Penny. Said if she wanted to keep her, Penny would have to smell better. ‘Bathing’ Penny didn’t work and we didn’t have money for a vet, so, that was that. 

Lara was pissed.

Gave Mom a lecture on what she had to do to get Penny back in the first place. A little kid, telling my mom what she had to go through to get back her gerbil after all my mom did for us. After all she’d been through. Mom didn’t think Lara knew the whole truth, but she did, ‘cause I’d told her. 

After their little fight, I watched Lara go outside and I followed her. It was getting dark, and we’d just started school about a month and a half ago, so it was beginning to get cooler in the evenings. The tree’s leaves were changing and football season was in full swing. 

It smelled like fall.

Like smoking leaves and apple cider and crisp, fresh, almost winter air.

Lara made her way down the stairs and into the court yard of our apartment building and I stood in the shadows and watched. She didn’t talk to any invisible people, which I silently thanked the heavens for. 

She innocently laid out string around the court yard. She covered shrubs and bushes. It looked like she was just draping the twine around randomly, so I lost interest and decided to head back up to my room, get a jump on a report that was due next week. I could keep an eye on Lara from the window. 

When I got to my room, I peered outside to check on her and realized the twine was spread out in the shape of a pentagram. The point was facing down. We’d studied cults in social studies last year, and I knew that particular type of star represented the four horned goat. Not something you wanna see a six year old plot out with string.

I ran back downstairs and the court yard was three times darker than it had been that last time I’d been down here. Nightfall coupled with the darkness my sister was conjuring.

Who had taught her these things? Was it the Man?

I had to assume that it was. I had to get her to stop.

“Hey, Graham.” She said, standing in the center of her creation as if she’d been expecting me.

“Hey, Lara. Whatcha doin’?” I tried to keep my voice light. Non-threatening. My sister was creeping me out, big time. 

“Gettin’ ready to trade.”

“Is that so? I thought you weren’t going to talk to the Man anymore. Remember?” 

She scowled. “The Man can’t trade more than he has. I’m going to trade with someone else.”

What the hell does that mean?

“What are you talking about, Bug?” 

“Don’t call me that anymore.”

“Okay, sorry.” I cleared my throat. “It’s getting pretty late, let’s go inside.”

“No.”

“Lara. Come inside. You can’t play after dark.” I let a bit of sternness creep into my voice. I was bigger than her after all, although I didn’t feel like it.

“No. I don’t have to do what you say anymore, or what Mom says. I’m special. I’m more special than the Man now. He can’t keep up.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to that, but something guardian-esque came out of my mouth anyway. “You do have to listen to us. Now, come on!”

I felt something tickle my leg under my blue jeans. I looked down to see string, crawling like snakes up my leg. I jerked my leg free and turned to run. I made it about three steps before I found myself lassoed and bound, struggling to get free.

“Lara! Stop this right now, dammit!” I tried to keep a petrified howl from escaping my lips. “You are going to be in so much trouble.”

I didn’t want to imagine that my sister was an evil power hungry little monster, but it was looking like that was exactly the case.

I saw her skinny little legs walk up beside where I was prone on the ground wrapped in a cocoon of string. 

“I didn’t want to trade you next. I traded Daddy and I’d hoped it would last longer than it did.” She knelt down beside me and put her face close to mine. “I wanted to trade Mommy, but if I did, then where would I live? Who would take care of me?”

“I take care of you, Lara.” I gritted the words out. I was practically foaming at the mouth. I was so angry. Scared. Shocked. Betrayed.

She frowned. “I don’t need you anymore, brother.” 

My vision began to blur. Lara’s face began to melt into the rest of what I could see. The lights in the court yard went out. I tried to scream out for help at the top of my lungs. 

Nothing came out. 

I felt like I was fading. Fading away. Into what?

Everything went dark.

It was like I passed out, like a blanket of darkness had been draped over me. I wasn’t sure what had happened, and when I woke up, I was hoping it had just been a bad dream before I even opened my eyes.

My pupils tried to adjust to utter darkness. The still warmth that surrounded me, the utter nothingness in the form of pitch black. I could see my own body; my arms, my legs, but nothing else.

Time didn’t seem to exist in this place. 

I don’t know how long I stood there in emptiness before I felt something tug me from a piece of string around my waist. I tried to follow the twine, but its length was unending. It went on forever.

Now, I’ve had time to think about what happened, and this is the best theory I can come up with:

Whenever Lara uses whatever she’s stealing from me, I feel a tug. It’s like my mortal coil is now connected to her and she can use my life force however she choses. I feel the tugs more and more often, and every time I do, I feel weaker and see less of myself afterwards. She’s using me up.

My father must have been here. I found another string like mine just laying around. There’s nothing to do here but wander and follow the coil. The red color of the twine stood out against the blackness I’m stuck in and that’s how I saw it. I called his name, but sound doesn’t travel here like it should. Nobody answered.

I wasn’t surprised.

I suppose when she’s used me up, there will be nothing left of me either.

I have to get out of here.

I’m too afraid to untie myself, I’m afraid it might be my only way back. I just keep following the length of twine, hoping that somehow, some way, it will lead me back home. Over time, I’ve become more amazed at the situation I’ve found myself in. Shocked that Lara would do this to me. That she would do this to anyone. Shocked that something like this is even possible. Resurrection of the dead, stealing someone else’s life force and transferring it as you see fit. 

It helps to not think of her as my sister anymore, to imagine her as something else. Something not human. 

It’s better than the alternative: that she is only six years old and that all she needed to pull this off was a few balls of twine.

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