MISSING PERSON

KEIRA KIERNAN

Date of Birth: 9/17/1982

Age: 17

Sex: Female

Race: Caucasian

Eyes: Hazel

Hair: Blonde, wavy

Height: 5'7"

Weight: 130 lbs

Missing From: Little Eveline, Vermont

Missing Since: 4/6/1999

Last Seen: Peter Cochrane Senior High School

Identifying Characteristics: Light eyebrows, vaguely heart-shaped birthmark behind outer left ankle

Our daughter Keira went missing two days ago on Friday, April 6th. She left the house at around quarter to seven A.M. to wait for the school bus. She was last seen around half past noon leaving a guidance counselor's office at Peter Cochrane Senior High School in Little Eveline that day, according to a student hall monitor. She was wearing a brown ribbed tank top with a pink butterfly design going up the left side, medium-wash flared blue jeans with embroidered back pockets, and emerald green thong sandals. She was also wearing a pendant shaped like a flower with cream-colored, gold-rimmed petals and a peach-colored center. If you have any information regarding our daughter's whereabouts, please call us at (802) 218-3641. We miss Keira dearly and want her home, safe and sound, as soon as possible.

Keira

I always thought the soul left the body when you died, and maybe it does for most. But not for me. I'm at the bottom of some sort of lake or pond and I can see up to the surface of the shallow water. My eyes must have been open when I died, but I still don't understand how I can see anything if I'm dead. I can taste, too. I've got water sitting in my mouth that tastes like mud, earthy but stale. There's a dead leaf sticking out of the chasm of my partly-open mouth. Half of it is resting on my tongue; it tastes like rot, and the stem is almost long enough to tickle my uvula, but not quite. I wish I could spit it out to get rid of the putrid taste and almost-gagging sensation, but I can't, and the water stagnating in my throat, mouth, and nose can't flush it away.

I've been laying here for a week or two now, and flecks of silt are beginning to settle on my body. I feel dirty, and I wish I could brush them away, but I can't move. I just watch the particles, some solitary, some in loose formation with others, floating around my head and body. Most just laze by, creating a heterogeneous smog as they wander slowly onward. But from time to time, a stray flake will lose momentum and begin to descend, drifting downward until it falls to rest on my body. The action strikes me as deliberate. I feel an itch each time one of the devious grains lands on my naked leg or chest, but there is nothing I can do to relieve the sensation.

Now and then, a little fish will swim up to me, staring with its protuberant eyes right into mine, and its lips will open and close as though it were chewing over something slowly. Then, I see it hover backwards to my cheekbone, where it pecks once with its dumb lips. This little kiss seems out of place; I never used to think of fish as affectionate animals. Either way, I welcome the gesture to an extent, because nobody and nothing else living has come to see me as of yet, and I don't expect them to anytime soon. So the company, if strange, is kind.

I begin to remember the way I look, or at least the way I looked. I don't know how long it takes for a corpse to begin looking like it's begun to decompose, but looking down the center of my recumbent form from chest to foot, I see no obvious change except for the slight brown-grey hue my skin has taken; it was neither pale nor tan before I died, but now it seems pasty and ashen, submerged in the brackish filth of the water. Sometimes I see my long straw-colored hair float in wide, slow ripples past my face. I see the the small smattering of birthmarks skirting the inner seam of my right breast that I always likened to an archipelago. I remember that I was thin and almost tall, all limbs, standing at five foot seven and weighing in at one hundred thirty pounds. I had lean, sinewy muscles, and I wasn't very strong, but I never really thought I needed to be. I wish I'd thought twice about that.

My memories from before I died have only just begun to trickle back into my consciousness. Every thought that occurs to me is dimly lit, so that even the realization that I must have been extremely vulnerable when I died doesn't quite register in any visceral way, as I'm vaguely sure it would have when I was alive. I recall being a rather private person, taking care to guard my inner thoughts and emotions. I spent a lot of time alone. I was physically reserved, not sharing my body in any way with most people; seeing my body stripped in this way, I know I must have struggled somehow in my last moments. Now I am so helpless, I can't even do that. Slowly, my first and last non-cerebral feeling since before I died, helpless weakness, sets in.

Then I think of my family. The image of my mom appears first in my mind: the perfectly flushed lips enveloping her pearly white smile, then the nutty brown, chin-length hair that often teased her cheekbones and jawline. I see the singular freckle that lies maybe a half an inch below her right tear duct. Then I stop at her eyes, which almost identically mirror my own: from a distance, they appear dark brown, absorbing and reflecting little light. Up close, they are earthy brown with a thin, muted corona of green radiating from the pupil. Crow's feet play at the outer corners of her eyes; she had a knack for smiling with every feature of her beautiful face, which I found rare occasion to do. I smiled with my mouth if I smiled at all, which she always teased me for. I remember that she was always laughing and that she was very affectionate towards me, my father, and my baby brother, Sam. I see how her brow furrowed ever so slightly, eyes widening, face riddled with concern as she read one of our own. My mom was always sensitive to our moods and feelings and took tender care of them.

Annie

Saturday, April 21st, 1999

John and I are planning to drive to St. George after morning mass tomorrow to drop Sam off at my mother's for the week. We had asked Heather if she would be available to babysit for three hours or so every afternoon this week while John and I put up more fliers, but she starts April vacation this week as well and she told us that she's leaving for a trip with her Field Biology Survey class on Monday and won't be home until Friday night. Sam is being a good sport about staying with his grandma for the week, but I know he would rather drive around with us and help put up fliers. He's always liked to be helpful, and since his sister's been missing, he's been restless, because John and I haven't brought him with us most days we've gone out to work on spreading the word about Keira. We've wanted to make sure that he doesn't get distracted from his schoolwork, but I know that being idle, especially right now, drives him crazy.

I've noticed that he has been working especially hard at school since Keira disappeared. He hasn't asked either of us for help with his homework for the past two weeks. At school, Sam has always done especially well in math and history; I've never seen him study for either subject, but he's never earned less than a B+ on any test or quiz. He always used to get so embarrassed when I put his A+ papers up on the refrigerator. He would blush whenever I congratulated him on working so hard, and he would retreat to his bedroom whenever he heard John boasting to his friends about his success at school. Earlier this year, he stopped showing us most of his graded assignments. Sam is almost fourteen now, so I can understand that he's getting too old for our coddling, and I see that he's becoming more private, much like his sister. Naturally, he wants to feel more independent, now that he's getting older. John and I agree that he's just about ready to be on his own without a babysitter (of course, Sam's insisted for years now that he can take care of himself when we're not around), so we've decided that we'll surprise him on his birthday by telling him we'll let him stay home alone after school. He's going to be ecstatic, and I'm sure Heather will appreciate the break as well. -Annie

Heather

It's twelve thirty four, and the Kiernans should have already dropped Sam off by now if mass ended at noon, as it typically does. It's unusual for me to babysit on a Sunday. Mr and Mrs. Kiernan usually only ask me to watch Sam during the week when he has school. Yesterday they asked me if I would mind staying with him for an hour or two today while they buy groceries to send with Sam to his grandma's in St. George, and I told them I'd be happy to. Mrs. Kiernan has been asking me to watch Sam every day after school for the past two weeks, since Keira went missing. Before that day, she and Mr. Kiernan only asked me to babysit maybe a couple of times a month—usually, days Mrs. Kiernan would keep her flower shop open late-and even then, I almost never had to stay past five thirty. Lately I've been staying with Sam from three thirty in the afternoon until eight at night while Mr. and Mrs. Kiernan have been driving around Chittenden County asking about Keira and putting up fliers. I don't mind staying late with Sam; he's always pretty quiet and he's never given me any trouble. He seems quite mature for his age.

Right now I'm writing the rough draft of a three page report on the functions of the human brain for my Honors Anatomy and Physiology class at school. The paper was assigned to us today and isn't due until the Wednesday of the week we get back from April vacation, but I decided I should get a head start, especially considering that I'll be away with my Field Biology Survey class most of this upcoming week. We're spending the week hiking along a trail that starts in Bolton. We're supposed to collect plant specimens such as leaves, pine cones, mushrooms, and moss to bring back with us to discuss in class when we return to school. For extra credit, we can bring insect specimens, and as long as we're careful to use sanitary collection methods, we can even bring feathers, fur, and bones from animals in the forest. On Thursday, we're going to a maple sugar house in Williston to learn about the process of tapping the Sugar Maples, and I hope to get a few drops of sap before leaving. I'm excited for this trip. If the data I've collected in my Meteorology class is accurate, the weather is supposed to be beautiful all week.

Randall

Child has wet the bed again. It makes me angry when Child wets the bed. I will move him to a new bed tonight because he has ruined his old one. When that one dries again he can sleep in it, but it's always going to smell because he's pissed in it. He's going to get the itches again. He's going to get the itches like last year because there are bedbugs in his new bed. It makes me angry when Child wets the bed, because I have to put Child in the itchy bed to punish him. When he has a big rash I'll know he's ready to sleep in his old bed again. His skin is so sensitive. He always gets a big red rash on his sensitive, sensitive skin. I have to take care of it when the rash gets big. I know how to take care of his rash when it gets big and red like it does. Father told me how. I learned a secret way to do it, though. Father would be very proud because I learned a secret way.

Mr. Gartner

I'm going to drain the pond tonight to get a head start on the cranberries. The weather has been perfect this spring, so the bog's ready to be flooded a little early this year. I'm anticipating an especially good yield in the fall. Last year's berries were a little smaller than I would have liked; I harvested a little too early, it seems, because they weren't quite ripe yet. I have to admit, since Jeanette passed, I haven't been keeping up the farm as well as when she was here with me. She always said she wanted to raise our children on a farm—"a real farm," she always said—and I told her our ("your") farm is a real farm, just not the kind that keeps chickens or pigs or cows. I told her our farm is special, because it produces the sweetest cranberries in all of Vermont and has since my grandfather started taking care of this little bog. What luck, I always think, that he happened upon it walking in the woods that day on his way home from work at the mill. He really must have had a natural green thumb to know to harvest those cranberries when he did. It's really a wonder that they survived on their own for such a long time, considering no one ever seemed to notice them before he did, let alone care for them! I intend to keep working on this cranberry farm until the day I leave this Earth to be with Jeanette again.