There's a saying that floated around town a couple of years ago. Like any other kid I barely paid attention to what it meant. It was lucky to even go in one ear much less through one and out the other. But as I think about what happened I can't help but realize how perfect it fits in. Hindsight is twenty, twenty.

Looking out the kitchen window the barn stands bathed in shadows from the morning sun. It will be in there that I find peace of mind for what I let happen. In a couple of hours mom and dad will be home, back from my aunt's funeral which was what started this whole damn mess in the first place.

We really weren't close to her but she was the only relative we had left and my dad believed family deserved respect. For as long as I can remember he has always said that. If honesty was Ward's motto, the guy from Leave it to Beaver, than my dad's was family needed not only love but respect. And for some reason he would always add especially ours at the end of his speech. Now that I know the full story I can see why he tried to burn the idea into our brains.

I have two other siblings, a brother and a sister. Twins to be more precise. I wanted to stay home, therefore they wanted to stay too. In the end I was given the ultimatum of either going to the funeral our babysitting the twins. I told them yeah, anything to keep from traveling two hundred miles with the whole family in a small car.

When they started out the door, dad told mom to go ahead and get in the cab. "I'll be there in a minute," he said looking at me.

Mom looked at dad's face. She must have seen something there that told her not to say anything because she turned around and walked out. She turned around and waved at the twins who had their faces pressed against the bedroom window upstairs. Dad waited until she was in the cab before he turned to me.

"I'm going to leave you alone son and I expect you to take care of the twins. You're old enough and I'm not worried about that, but you do remember what I told you about our family?"

"Yeah sure," I replied trying hard to keep my eyes from rolling. The man standing before me was about as serious as they came. It was a rare moment when he cracked a joke and even more scarce when he tried pulling my leg but I was almost certain the idea he was talking about was bogus.

Dad reached out and grabbed my shoulders his fingers digging in. "Dammit, son. I'm not joking. When my pa told me the same thing, I thought he was an old senile fool. The look in your eyes tells me you're thinking pretty much the same. Just do what I told you to, that's all. Even if you don't believe me I want you to quit thinking you know everything and do it."

"Okay. I'll lock the doors and windows and I'll be sure to stay inside the house after—"

"I'm asking you to listen. If you were by yourself I'd leave and let you learn about it the same way I did, but we're leaving Nicky and Aaron here too. If it was for anything else I wouldn't do this but I have no other choice. One with our blood has to be there at her funeral. I'm counting on you to protect them Jake," Dad told me. His hands were squeezing my shoulders harder now. If he didn't leave soon, he'd leave some pretty big bruises to keep me company.

Before I could reply he went on. "I'm hoping it won't happen with her. Being so far away, surely she won't find you but I don't want you to take any chances. After tomorrow night you can do what you want but for the next two nights stay inside."

I nodded trying not to wince from his fingers burrowing deeper in my shoulders. He stared back for a few moments then nodded. Picking up his luggage case, he walked halfway to the waiting cab before turning around.

"Don't disappoint me son."

The first day passed with no incident. I spent most of it lying on the sofa watching the TV. The only time I got up was to take a leak, grab a snack, or to check on the twins. When nine o'clock rolled around I tucked them into bed, not without a little pouting on their part. I would've let them stay up later but I didn't want them awake bothering me.

I was going to find out if my father was crazy. I tried to stay up all night but around one, my eyes couldn't stay open. I was deep in a dream about Sally Mohanna, from school, when something woke me up. I was beginning to think it was just my imagination and was drifting back off when I heard it again.


It was coming from the kitchen. I stood up and was walking into the kitchen when it happened again. This time I not only heard where it was coming from but I saw it.

The door.

Someone or something outside was hitting the door. With every noise the door rattled. I tried calling out but whatever was on the other side didn't answer me, just went on hitting the door. I was reaching for the door handle to open the door before I knew what was happening. It was like being hypnotized. I know I would have opened the door if Aaron hadn't spoken from the entrance hallway.

"Jake? What's that noise?" he asked rubbing his eyes. He was still halfway asleep.

"Nothing Aaron. Just the wind banging the door, but I locked it," I lied. The noise stopped the second Aaron spoke up so I saw no reason to scare him. After tucking Aaron back into bed I returned downstairs and waited for the noise, but it never came again that night.

The next day, dad called from Abilene and after talking with the twins he asked me about the night before.

"Well? Did anything happen, son?"

"No. Everything went good. We went to sleep pretty early," I said lying to him. I hated doing it but I didn't want to explain what happened. I didn't want him to know that he was right after all.

"Good," I heard him sigh then chuckle a little. "I guess she either couldn't find you or didn't want to. From what I hear she was a bit like a loner."

Then the twins came in wanting to talk. I gave them the phone, and stood next to them waiting for them to finish. When Nicky, the name Aaron had given her because he couldn't pronounce Nicole, finished she handed the phone back to me before running after her brother.

After giving me another warning to stay inside, just to be safe, we said goodbye. I was in my room preparing for that night when Nicky and Aaron walked in.

"When's mommy and daddy coming home?" Nicky asked. This was the longest that she had ever been away from our mother and I could hear the worry in her voice. I walked over and crouched down in front of her.

"There'll be back tomorrow, Nicky." I started to tell her not to worry, when an idea hit me. I could use the twins help tonight. It would at least take their minds off our parents. "I have a job for you tonight. Do you think you can help me?" She nodded. I could see the trace of a smile on her face.

"Can I help too?" Aaron asked. He sounded hurt that Nicky was going to help and he couldn't.

"Sure. Do you guys think you can stay up until eleven tonight?"

"We get to stay up late?" Nicky and Aaron both said at the same time. They looked at each other, smiled then looked back at me with questioning eyes.

"You bet. In fact, why don't we order a pizza for supper?" It was the twin's favorite food. I wanted to calm them as much as I could before the night, and the mysterious visitor, came.

Anyway, after pigging out on pizza and ice cream I left the twins at the table and went into dad's study. I grabbed the twenty-two I used when we went hunting and went back into the kitchen. We talked over the plan and were ready when the first noise sounded. The twins flinched at the sound but they held their ground. I glanced at the clock. It was only nine thirty. Was it the same thing from last night? Why was it so early? Shaking the questions from my head I picked up the gun. It was now or never.

"Are you guys ready?"

Aaron looked at Nicky. He nodded once, then turned to me and whispered one word, "Okay."

The plan was simple. Nicky was to open the door and quickly jump out of the way, while Aaron stood on the other side of the door with Dad's Polaroid camera. A picture of whatever was visiting would put away any doubt I could have about our family's history. I was going to stand directly in front of the door with the gun, ready to shoot if needed. But the second she turned the knob, the plan went straight to hell.

Instead of jumping back Nicky was thrown into me, when whatever on the other side slammed the door open. When I fell, with her on top of me, I heard three distinct noises. The first was the loud thud of the back of my head hitting the floor. The second was the flash of the camera. And the last thing was the worst of all three. It was Aaron screaming. From pain or terror, I couldn't tell. All I knew was that this wasn't the way it was supposed to go. I fought against the darkness, but I lost. I passed out and when I woke up I was alone, just one picture on the floor.

"They want company, son. The dead don't want to be alone. This is the curse on our family. For centuries, when a Caine dies near a full moon, the body gets the urge to grab a companion. I don't know why but it's always a relative. My great grandfather had to tell my grandfather who had to tell my pa. When I was about you age I heard about it for the first time. Now it's my turn to pass it on to you."

My father's words echo through my mind as I stare at the barn outside the window. I can't even think straight anymore. He trusted me to keep the twins safe and I ignore his wisdom and loose everything. There is only one thing that I do know. It's the only thought that rises above my father's warning.

I won't, and can't, let this happen to anyone else. Nicky and Aaron are both gone, forever doomed to God knows whatever hell awaiting them. The curse will end with me. Maybe I'll find redemption for what I let happen or maybe I can even trade places with the twins. I don't know, but I plan to find out.

Leaving mom and dad a letter on the table explaining what I plan to do, I walk out closing the door behind me. With each step I get closer to the barn, the calmer my mind becomes. When my hand opens the door, it almost feels as if I'm watching myself in a movie. The rope is exactly where it always is, on one of the hooks inside the barn's door. I grab it and climb up into the hay loft. After securing it to the center beam I tie the other end around my neck.

As I step out from the loft and as my feet swing over the floor and the rope forces out the last breath from my lungs, the picture fills my vision. It's fuzzy and out of focus but it isn't hard to see someone dragging the twins out the kitchen door. Their mouths are twisted in the screams that I heard before passing out. I cried when I first saw the terror on their faces.

The last thought before the blackness overtakes me is the picture of dear Aunt Teresa taking her company with her.