Abigail Hargrove sat in her bed watching the rain hit the window. Thousands of little wet fists knock knock knocking at the glass. Her bedside lamp projected a dreamy reflection that hid the March storm. She saw her favorite rocket ship sheets and the model solar system that hung above her. She saw her midnight blue headboard and her fancy copy of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. She saw her whole bedroom reflected in lamplight, yet she did not see herself.
Another was in her place.
This Other's face was where Abby's should have been. And she knew that sad face. Each hair on her neck rose one by one. It was her brother. He died six months ago.
Her eyes pulled down the curtains and her world turned to black. He had not looked like a memory. It was Dale.
When she finally lifted the curtains he was still there. His stringy hair, the dimple on his chin, the eyes that were too big for his face, which gazed towards his feet. Abby's tears crested over her cheeks, curving around her nose, and pooled on her lips. She couldn't look away.
Finally his sad eyes met hers. They were moon silver instead of his normal mossy green. The 'I can do anything' glint was bricked over with a resigned hopelessness. And the leafless oak that shivered in the storm materialized faintly behind his face like black veins.
It wasn't until her father and mother entered to say goodnight that she broke from her trance and became aware that she was afraid. The tears stung her eyes and when she released her fists she felt her fingers wet with the blood from her palms.
"It was Dale!" the words fell like anvils from her lips. He was gone.
Abigail's father swooped down and pulled Abby into a hug. She shook, pulsing fear and grief. Her entire vocabulary was a spastic five syllable "why?"
Her mother eyed the window. She saw nothing. When she pressed her face against the glass and blocked out the lamplight she saw only the trees in the front yard.
Abby's father squeezed Abby's toes, "It's okay. You're okay. There's no reason to be scared."
But there were reasons to be scared.
The last time she saw Dale he was on the stage in the high school auditorium. That's where he was murdered. She watched him die with a hundred other people. But tonight he was in her bedroom window, lost somewhere in the glass between the frozen sleet and bedroom tungsten.
In her parent's bedroom the hours past stubbornly as she lay awake nestled between her mother and father. Since his death her older brother left an empty hole in her chest that was sometimes small and piercing and other times vast and amorphous. Tonight, somewhere in that void, amongst the fangs of fright and clouds of confusion was a strange hope.
A memory looped in her head. She floated in the scene like a ghost and watched it play out like old film. The memory was of a morning in August. Dale leaned over his breakfast plate and whispered "I have a surprise for you tonight."
The whole day she wondered what it could be. Her older brother was four years older than her. Sixteen may as well be a six hundred when you're twelve, but it was more than age. Dale was a star. She had seen an entire school cheer wildly for just him as he launched basketballs down the court. She watched as the community lined up to try their shot to dunk him in the dunk tank at the Hilltop Autumn Festival. Everyone loved Dale.
Abby wasn't like him at all. She liked science and never found conversations that easy. Dale was a swan and she was a spaz with elbows that knocked over glasses whenever they could.
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WATTY 2016 WINNER of the HQ Love Award! Strange Yarns is a ball of tangled tales. Twisted, knotted, and intertwined. Like Tales of the Crypt, the Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits. Strange Yarns is not just a collection of ghastly tales, these are...