Vile spirits had targeted my daughter, people said. They’d latched on to her soul, fixated their energies on her, and that’s why she suffered constant night terrors. If we just moved from the house in Hopewell, Marie would be right as rain. That was the general consensus, at least.
After three months, I listened. At that point, it wasn’t the advice of my neighbors that I heeded, but the bruises and marks on my daughter’s face. That something just wouldn’t leave her alone.
During the first night in our new apartment, boxes still unpacked in the living-room, Marie bolted into my bedroom.
“Mommy, it followed me,” she sobbed. “We moved, but it found me.”
The evidence was there, in scratches across her freckled face. She cried all night, cradled in my arms. I knew then it hadn’t been the house in Hopewell that was haunted, nor was it our new apartment. It was my daughter.
Marie went to school the next day, her eyes puffy. I watched through the screen-door as she got on the school-bus.
“Perhaps those nutcases that suggested an exorcism were right,” I said to my mother, who was there to help me unpack.
“Laura, don’t be ridiculous.”
“You saw the marks on her, Mom. They’re all over her face. Scratches, bruises.”
“She had night terrors, that’s all. She did it to herself in her sleep.”
“You don’t know that.” I hesitated. “What if what happened to Robbie — ”
“Don’t.” Mom’s voice was like a razor. “Ghosts didn’t kill your son. A heart defect did.”
Robbie died when he was four.
He hated sleeping alone. Marie would allow him to climb into her bed, and I would find them both there, two warm bodies giggling beneath the covers. One morning, however, my smallest child didn’t move, and wasn’t warm.
The coroner determined that aortic stenosis caused his heart failure. I hadn’t really questioned it, but I remembered how Robbie had looked when I found him — bulging eyes, white like milk, and his little mouth agape. He hadn’t gone quietly — he had gone in terror. Had something come to him in the night? Something that now wanted his sister?
When Marie came home, she looked exhausted. “Mom, can I sleep in your bed tonight?” she asked, her face hollow.
“Sure, sweetheart.” I hugged her. “For as long as you want.”
We went to bed early. Marie fell asleep immediately, her soft breaths floating into the darkness.
I don’t know when I drifted off, but when I awoke, the room wasn’t dark anymore; light, cold like an icy flame, hovered over my little girl.
The light solidified, growing spindly limbs. It whined like an injured animal, stretching its arms towards my daughter. I tried to scream, and I tried to move, but managed neither. I could only watch in terror as its hand brushed against her cheek.
Marie awoke. She shrieked and batted at the creature, the sleeves of her night gown flapping wildly. The entity grew agitated, grabbing for her with greater desperation — reaching, wanting, demanding. I saw its fingers claw her face, draw her blood, twirl into her hair, grasp her arms, and finally, my scream broke free.
The creature turned toward me. I expected a hiss, a howl, some inhuman sound — but all I heard was a plea.
Mommy. Just wanna hug. Miss her.
Marie heard it as well. Her eyes widened, and she stopped fighting. The light snuggled closer to her. I saw a little pale hand grab onto Marie’s, its fingers interlacing with hers. The entity let out a contented sob — like a brother, missing his sister, wanting closeness. Then Marie cried, too.
I watched them all night, grief streaming out of me with my tears.
We would all be right as rain, after all.
Sylvia Hiven writes in Georgia, USA.