Before she died
You’re trickin me, it’s a joke, right? Miranda asked, and she’d laughed briefly and sheepishly like a live stage actor pretending to comprehend a scene she’s never been in before. Her mascara and dark eyeliner had crumbled because of the showers outside and had given her light eyes a flaked and hollow look, making her seem lit from within like a jack-o-lantern when she grinned.
No, I ain’t kiddin’, you’re stayin’ here, they’re out there and they’ll get you, Gabe’s mother had told her, igniting another cigarette with the bitter end of the one she’d just finished. You can’t go home tonight, not through there, she’d added, And Gabe and all the boys is too drunk to drive you home.
I can’t stay here, Miranda had said pathetically in a voice with faint tremor, Mikey’s alone, I have to go back. He can’t be alone anymore! What if he wakes up and I’m not there? I timed it this way. He’ll feel so alone if he wakes up without me. He’ll cry. He’ll look for me and I won’t be there.
For an older, stouter woman, Gabe’s mother was as fast as a high school sprinter. She was never wont to shoving young girls she liked into bedrooms and locking the doors behind them, but she had to protect her. She’d pushed Miranda into the mouth of Gabe’s room, watched her get swallowed up into the dark throat of it, and heard her fall back onto the rickety dresser. She’d heard a few neglected bottles that had once lived there on top vaguely teeter, plummet, and bounce off of the thinly carpeted floor and thankfully not bust open. Then she’d heard Miranda rise up and go for the door before she locked it from the outside and started sticking a stained foldable chair underneath the knob just to make sure she couldn’t get out. Miranda was hysterical, begging, sobbing… and then everything went quiet on the other side of the door.
Trust me, Gabe’s mother said in the seam with a sigh of relief, you can’t leave. We’ll do the wedding ritual another time. Mikey will be fine. Please, just stay here. Wait till the suns up.
The sound of it was a wire in the blood; a noise that sent an electric, chemical signal to the leftover reptilian part of the mammal brain. The howling was a call and the call sounded through the thick bodies of the trees; the sound reached in, and somewhere in the gut it dazzled, mesmerizing, wailing, tumbling through branches, digging up dirt, rustling the leaves.
Miranda? Gabe’s mother had asked.
But when she’d opened the door the window had been opened. And Miranda was gone.
to be continued …