The old fashioned radio in the sparkling white kitchen was blaring, just like it always was when Aggie's mother cooked. Aggie sat on one of the counter stools, just listening to the sounds – the tings that happened when metal touched metal.
You're going to die, Aggie Tate, you're going to… Aggie got up and shut the vile thing off and her mother looked at her with a peculiar expression. "You don't like Buddy Holly, dear?"
"That wasn't Buddy Holly, Mommy, it wasn't! The people on the radio told me I am going to die, they keep telling me that. I want them to stop it. Why do they want to torture me? The people are always following me, they won't leave me alone." To her mother, Aggie must have seemed in hysterics, though this wasn't the first time. By this cool September day, six-year-old Aggie had already been through countless occurrences, hearing things that no one else heard, seeing things no one else saw. Dark things. Evil things. They all started when she was no more than four years old, on her birthday, no less. Friends and family were singing the birthday song…
"Happy birthday to you,
"Happy death day to you,
"Happy birthday to Aggie,
"May your death be near you." Little Aggie screamed in fear. Whenever the bad verses came, the sound distorted and it was as though the notes were flat. Something bothered her, Why are they doing this? She asked herself, frightened by the sheer evil in the voices.
Aggie looked to her parents; everyone stopped singing at the little girl's scream. Her father sneered at her in disgust for disgracing him on her birthday. Aggie was just grateful of her mother's arms wrapped around her tiny shoulders. But then it was the cake. Originally, it had her and Dee's picture on it, now only showing a skull… her skull, with tattered hair much like her own and the shape so similar. Hunt was scribbled in bloody rough letters.
The guests looked around, slightly worried for the little girl's well being. No one could have guessed the images and sounds she heard. Not until she blurted it out, and her mother hushed her. Still they all heard Aggie say exactly what she saw. Down to the very detailed blood-like letters on the cake. Her father grunted and walked away, while her mother tried to reason with the guests that it was nothing more than a silly child's imagination, that Aggie watched a horror movie with her father earlier.
After that, the cake's picture returned to normal for Aggie, the way everyone else saw it. For the moment, it seemed as though the little girl had forgotten the event, brushed it off like nothing really happened, though in her heart, she knew it was something much greater. Something she could never forget. Something dreadfully, indefinitely evil.
Her mother was still hugging her. "It will get better, I know it will. Oh honey, I wish I could explain this to you. You'll understand when you're older." She patted Aggie's head when the six-year-old stopped spouting seemingly nonsense. Then Drake, her older brother by two years one month and three days appeared in the arch opening of the kitchen.
"Another one's been called, Mom," he said. Drake's voice held no sympathy for his sister and her mental condition. Mr. Tate had her see a psychiatrist, and diagnosing her wrongly with schizophrenia. She was not as ill as that so-called doctor led him to believe. Aggie was just a child, unprepared for the surprises. He smiled and knelt, staring straight into his little sister's plum eyes, and then he spoke. "Sis, there's something you really should take to heart. It's something that a famous person once said a really long time ago, 'Expected the unexpected because life is full of surprises.'"
Aggie nodded. Their mother sighed heavily and told Drake to watch the girl while she was in her meeting. Curious as the child was, she tried to follow her mother, but Drake restrained her. "Aggie, you mustn't. Mom's busy, she told us to play out here." She nodded.
"Drake," she started, and then went to get the bouncy ball from her room. "Why is it a skull?" The ball was bright yellow – the colour of dormant sun, still Aggie thought it a skull. "When I picked it up at the park it was a pretty ball. The man said I could have it. He said –" but her brother cut off what she was about to say with his oddly urgent words.
"What man? Did you know him? Answer me, Aggie." Drake was so demanding, so harsh. Too much. When she did manage to speak, Aggie's words were quivery at best, and she whispered. "Ah… I d… didn't know him. But he was so nice to me. H… he d… didn't hurt me… he did not e… even to… touch me. I… I found his ball, and… and he said… he said I could keep it, because… because I found it and I… I would take good care of it. Eh… it was pre… pretty and… and he was nice… nice to give it to me. I said 'Thank you.'"
The boy bit down on his lower lip and asked what he looked like. "Well," she began, elongating the single syllable word as she thought back to the park. "He was taller than I was… maybe as tall as Daddy, or taller. And… and… and… umm… I think he had red hair… Yep, red hair cut like yours. And, sparkly blue eyes. Yep-yep, he looked like you, and Daddy, and Mr. Humphrey the neighbour." It took roughly forty-two seconds for Drake to materialize a mental picture of the man who gave Aggie the ball. After that time, he raked his hands down his face and uttered an oath very few nine-year-olds, or for that matter anyone, should say. "But, Drake, why is my ball a skull? It's still shiny and fun, but it isn't a ball anymore." She waited a second then huffed out a puff of air she used to hold her breath. "Don't tell me you can't either! You're just like Daddy. Neither of you believe me."
"Aggie, there's nothing there. It's just a ball." Drake said, trying to deal with it without calling his mother out of the meeting. But then Aggie's arms started to shake violently, her rage mounting to a never ending peak. Suddenly, the little girl threw that ball more forcefully than a six-year-old could. More forcefully than he could. Even more forcefully than the combined power of a star quarterback of a varsity team and the captain of a profession basketball team.
Graciously, it missed Drake – or more accurately, he dodged in the nick of time. Though, where the ball hit the wall was now a perfectly circular tunnel the same diameter as the orb of rubber yellow. The ball itself had fallen to the ground in the living room on the other side of that wall; that was exactly how holey that hole was – through and through. Aggie was breathing quite raggedly, exhausted after using all her energy in that throw and shocked at just how much energy it had been.
The door to their mother's office flew open with an anxious and panicked aura leaking out of it. "I leave for ten minutes and you two break the house down? And look at poor Aggie, passed out she's so tired!" Their mother picked up the little girl and held her like a baby. "Drake, you should be ashamed of yourself, taunting her like that, she's special."
"He came for her," Drake said in that stone cold voice of his, then left for his room.
"Impossible," Mrs. Tate muttered, and then clearer, "He does not pursue children." She started off toward little six-year-old Aggie's room, the entire time muttering to herself, "He does not pursue children," like a mantra, forcing herself to believe something almost true. Hugging her baby close to her chest, tears started leaking out, but she never failed to say those five simple words.
Mr. Tate sat at his desk at the office, looking at a framed picture of his daughter. All he ever truly wanted her was happy, with a perky little smile on her face. He could not even face her if she was not happy that way. But, even as her father, Mr. Tate did not have the slightest clue what gave her that smiled; what would make her happy.
"Yo, Tate, how's your girl today?" Marvin the Mail Delivery Guy always asked about his daughter. He used to talk about Aggie every second of the day that he was allowed to. Marvin had picked that up over time, over the same time that it took for Tate to stop talking about his kids.
"She's doing well, getting better, I think."
Marvin laughed almost diminishingly. "You really don't get it, do you? She is only sick to us because she isn't exactly normal, Tate. I mean, look around you, this is normal. Maybe she's not meant for normal, man. She's just a little kid, and it is how her brain operates. With those meds, she's not who she's supposed to be. Take her off them, man, and then maybe she'll be as happy as you've always wanted her to be."
Tate sighed with the inner struggle. "But the visions scare her."
"Ever thought that maybe what you fear can make you stronger?" Sometimes Tate thought that Marvin never left the 1960s counterculture and hippie state. Marvin plunked down a stack of enveloped and moved on, letting Tate mull over the things he said.
Sighing, Tate couldn't help but wonder what would change and picked up the phone, dialling home. "Julie, I want to see something, take Aggie off the medicine for a while, I want to see if anything happens."