This story involves the death of a child. If that is something that troubles you for any reason, first I offer my condolences for whatever you experienced, second I felt it was very necessary to the narrative and the structure of Sprite’s Universe.
Mom wasn’t supposed to be able to have any more kids after me. The doctors all agreed I did too much damage to her body. A kid shouldn’t know these things. The guilt associated with that information was enough to drive me into my current state of reclusive introversion. Then a miracle happened, Carrie Ann was born.
Even as a baby she would cry when anyone other than mom held her. It got worse when she was older.
She was taught life lessons the same way I was, think about others’ feelings, don’t be rude to adults, and the value of a good heart. They just didn’t stick with her the same way.
“I can show you an easier way to do that.” Carrie Ann said while leaning against my bedroom door.
I was only putting a model together, besides what could a seven year old teach me about models. I was building them five years before she was born. “No thanks, I think I have it covered.” I said. I was doing my best to stay polite. She always seemed to know how to push my buttons and I worked extra hard to not let her.
It didn’t help the creepy feeling I got anytime we were in the same room together. If she didn’t know she was getting to me, maybe she would go away.
Please don’t get me wrong I loved my sister, I loved what she represented even more. The doctors were wrong, I wasn’t responsible for hurting my own mother. It just seemed like every time she offered to help me, there was a catch of some kind. A bargain she wanted to make.
Sometimes I just got in trouble for letting her do something my parents thought was too dangerous for a kid her age.
Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I would let a seven year old help me clean out the gutters of the house. It just seemed like an honest attempt from her to help out. Did I mention how hard it was to tell her no?
Anything she did usually came in three’s. She would directly ask to do something, then she would try to beg you to let her, and lastly she would inform you she was going to do it anyway. It really was hard to keep her from doing something she wanted.
“I really want to be as good as you at building models when I’m your age. Please?” she said. This time her dark brown eyes looked like a cartoon characters. Round and glassy from tears. She completed the look by tucking her black hair behind her ears to frame her face with the obligatory ponytail sticking out of the back. Her pudgy cheeks making her eyes even more morose looking.
She broke so many of my models when I was younger and I hadn’t forgotten the gleeful look on her face when she was discovered sitting in a pile of plastic doors and wheels ripped from their homes. We never figured out how she got them down from the high shelf in the first place.
“Not yet kiddo, I tell you what, the next time I go to the store I’ll get you a beginners model of something cool and we’ll work on it together.” I said still holding the door to my Ferrari model. All this talking meant the glue dried and I was going to have to lightly shave it off and do the glue again.
Carrie Ann looked at the door in my hand with the dried glue along the edge. “I will at least help you fix that door, the glue’s all dry.” She started to take a step into my room. How did she know what was wrong while standing that far away? As far as I knew she never put a model together before.
I looked at the door for a second and looked back up to find her already standing next to my desk. It was my model. I spent too much time painting it already to let her mess it up. She could help me with something else, but I was almost done with my car. I grabbed the model knife before her little hands could reach it and pretended she wasn’t there. I whittled the smallest amount from the door that I could so it would still look good and the glue would hold. “I got this. Thanks anyway.” I didn’t look back up but I heard the frustrated exhale and stomping of her feet. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until she was out of my room and I let it out in equal frustration. I won awards for my models. I was good at it already.
At dinner I got chewed out by both mom and dad for not being nice to my sister. I knew better than to respond. In my peripheral vision, I could see a wry smile on her face as she pretended to be focused on eating. I had a bad feeling I would find her in a shredded pile of all my best models
When I went back to my room, I found all of my models destroyed and piled in the middle of the floor just as I feared. Every model was there. I knew it had to be Carrie Ann, but there was no way she could have done it. She was with us at the dining table the whole time. My dad came to give me a more stern talking to about treating my sister better. He saw the model pieces in my floor and looked back at me with his eyes more crinkled.
“Why would you destroy all of the models I bought for you, just to spite Carrie Ann?” Dad said in his I’m not yelling voice.
Didn’t he realize how stupid it would be for me to destroy my models after spending hundreds of hours getting every detail right. He bought the hunk of plastic in the cardboard box, but everything else was me. Destroying them hurt me more than his wallet. I knew not to argue though. If I did it would be ten times worse and anything I said would get twisted and used against me. I just stayed quiet looking for any of them that I might be able to salvage.
My grounding was severe, the extra chores were worse. My mom found jobs for me to do that had never been done since we bought this house. Seeing Carrie Ann sitting at the kitchen table putting a model together all wrong while I did my chores was an extra special hell.
First it was the gutter incident, then the models, after that it just got worse. The dents on moms car were blamed on my driving even though I hadn’t driven anywhere in a week. Every time I got in trouble, it came after telling Carrie Ann no. Every time I was punished she would be somewhere in my line of sight with that weird grin on her face.
The night Carrie Ann died wasn’t normal either. I was lying in bed and dreaming about something random. Then the shadows in my dream all piled together and the hands of the big shadow reached out and wrapped its hands around my throat. I woke up feeling like something was choking me. I thought I was still dreaming when I saw the shadow on my wall gripping my shadows throat and blinking red eyes at me. The shadow had a ponytail. Just like Carrie Ann.
When I rolled out of bed there was no light for a shadow on the floor. I could finally breath. I crawled to Carrie Ann’s room, afraid to get back in the light. I stayed as low as I could and I could hear a deep giggle from her room. That’s when I saw him.
Carrie Ann’s room looked like any other seven year old girls room. Posters, extra fluffy pillows, and clothes everywhere. I could see the man standing there. He was wearing black pants with a white button down shirt. He looked like he belonged in a board room or high end restaurant. He was tall with an olive complexion and long slitted eyes. Carrie Ann was standing within a few feet of him. Her ponytail perfect, and the deep giggle was coming from her.
“You shouldn’t be here, this isn’t a natural state for you. You’ve upset the balance.” he said in a booming voice that should’ve woke the entire house. He put his hand on the floor like he was bowing. Carrie Ann just fell like a rag doll. She didn’t twitch and the lights in her room dimmed as dark trails of smoky shadow flew around the room in a tornado of light and dark.
I tried to scream. No sound would come out just a hard exhale. The man turned and looked at me. I wanted to remember his face, anything that would help the police catch him. I was also terrified that I was next. He bowed towards me as I cringed away but he just disappeared. Real people don’t disappear. Shadows don’t choke people. What the hell do I tell the police? They won’t believe me.
My parents wouldn’t look at me. They were sure I had something to do with Carrie Ann dying. What else could have happened? I found her dead on the floor in a locked house, hours after yet another of her magical mystery vengeance’s’.
I spent the better part of a year in juvie before the police decided to accept the coroners report that her heart just stopped. They took their sweet time with the paperwork and released me as quietly as they could. They never wanted anyone to know they were wrong.
My parents never accepted the coroner’s report. The lack of a break in and me finding her body when I should have been sleeping was too much for them. Their mental versions of what happened were as firm as concrete. I tried to talk to them. It just didn’t do any good.
I never told anyone about the shadow choking me or the weird Chinese man in Carrie Ann’s room. I couldn’t explain a shadow torturing me anymore than I could explain anything else that happened around Carrie Ann. I should’ve been mad at her, but she was my sister. She was just a kid.
I didn’t hear from my parents for ten years. I knew better than to call them or drop by. Somewhere in their heads I was back to being the one that took mom’s baby chances away. That wasn’t a good place to start a conversation. I’m pretty sure they still thought I hurt my baby sister too. Why else would they ignore their only child for ten years.
I hadn’t ignored them completely. I heard from some of the only friends I still had back home that my parents went to her grave every Sunday. The rumor mill of the neighborhood didn’t let them stay there. The whole city was convinced they let me kill my sister and the police just messed up the investigation. Going public and showing them all proof that she died from a heart attack would just make it worse, no matter how much science I waved in their face. It was easier for me to move. I didn’t have much left to stay for anyway. I could do my job from anywhere in the world. I tried to call mom twice but I chickened out.
I had to hear through friends that my parents committed suicide together. I guess they finally got me to go to Carrie Ann’s grave. They were being buried next to her. The lack of a matching plot available anywhere near theirs let me know their real dying wish about me.
Not many people showed up. Even after all this time, the people that remembered us believed the first story they heard on the news. They didn’t want to be that close to a kid killer.
Father Michaels put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. For some reason he could always make me feel better.
“Remember, you are loved. No matter what people in this city say or do, you are loved.” He said and just walked away. I didn’t even get to thank him for speaking when others wouldn’t.
I went back to my apartment in Bangor, I didn’t like being anywhere near Atlanta anymore. If you didn’t leave your apartment for six months except for supplies in Atlanta it drew attention. When you did it in Maine, you were just being weather wise. Fewer shadows were a plus in my basement apartment. I didn’t really need lights anyway, they just ran up the bill.