I hate things staying the same.

I hate wearing the same thing over and over and reading the same thing over and over and I hate doing things over and over and over and over.

So it made sense why my brother Mex and I took a different way back to our house as we were walking home from school.

Biggest. Mistake. Of. My. Life.


It was a nice Friday afternoon.

Perfect sky, nice breeze. Not too hot, not too cold. And I swear, I thought it was going to be a good day.

Of course, I was wrong.

So I was trying to catch up to my brother, Mex, when he said, "Hey, Saige, can we go this way instead?"

I ran up to where he was standing and looked to where his finger was pointing. We always went by this path. I had always wanted to go down it, but it's longer and all those times we had to be home on the dot. So it sounded fun, since Mom wouldn't be home until four thirty. It was three.

I nodded. "Sure."

"Awesome!" Mex literally jumped five feet into the in the air.

Mex is my seven-year old brother whose personality can be really annoying. Really annoying. But he's so energetic, it's kind of hard to get mad at him.

But even though we're brother and sister, we don't look like each other at all. While Mex has my dad's dark hair and eyes, I have my mother's strawberry blonde hair and also have dark eyes. And Mex is nice and tan, while I'm so pale I could be called a ghost. The only thing we really share is our long legs, but you still would think that we might look a little closer to each other than this. I just think that.

As we headed down the worn brown path, I thought to myself how lucky I was to actually have a brother. I was pretty lonely, with only one friend who's been sick for over a year with cancer, my father dead from West Nile virus, and my mother, who hardly was herself. She never has been herself since my father died. She's not depressed, not exactly, but it's just not fun to hang around her anymore.

Mex's voice interrupted my train of thought.

"Oh, man! I lost my ball! Saige, can I go get it?"

"Your ball?"

"I got a bouncy ball today from Tyler!" Tyler is Mex's friend.

"Sure, where did it-" I was cut off by splashing. Mex was running across a little creek. It was shallow, really shallow, not even ankle-deep. But still.

"Mex, get back here! Mex, you come here right now! Mom's going to be mad if you get your new shoes wet!" I stepped closer to the water and tripped over a root. Great, I thought.

"But it was red! And I've always wanted a red one!"

"I don't care. Get back here!"

I was answered with silence.

"Mex!"

No reply.

My anger faded and was replaced with worry. "Mex!" I got up and looked across the creek. Mex wasn't there.

Still no answer.

"Mex?"

When I didn't hear his voice, I sighed and splashed across the creek to get him. Most likely he found something and went down to check it out.

Great. Now Mom will be mad at both of us. Scratch that, furious at both of us. She hated it when we got our shoes wet. Probably the only reason she got mad these days, though.

After my feet touched the worn earth on the other side of the creek, found Mex's footprints leading downstream. I sighed. I was right.

I called Mex's name a few more times while following the footprints. They had to be his footprints, since they were wet and I recognized them.

Then I heard his voice. "Saige! Saige!"

"Mex!" His voice was closer and the footprints were starting to disappear. I gave up on them and hollered again. "Mex!"

"Saige! Come here! Hurry!"

If I focused hard, I could see him. I ran down and hugged him. "Mex, don't ever do that again!"

"I won't!" He said and pulled away from me. "But look!"

"What?" I turned my head and saw a cave.

"What's a cave doing here?" I asked, partly to myself.

Mex shrugged and said, "I don't know. But my ball went down there, so I'm going to go get it."

"What? Mex, are you crazy? What if you get lost?" But, of course, Mex was gone.

I sighed. I had to get my brother, even if he was stupid enough to run into an unknown cave.

"Mex?"

When I didn't hear him, I ran further into the cave, getting a sick feeling in my stomach. "Mex?"

No answer.

"Mex!" I literally screamed. That's when a chill grew over my arms and I shivered. Then the scariest thing of all happened-voices. Whispery, willowy voices.

"What's he doing here?"

"Must be punished."

"How dare he disturb us?"

"Punish him!"

I screamed and ran blindly further into the cave. "Mex! Mex!" My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst out of my chest. "Mex!"

"Saige?"

I turned around and saw Mex's figure in the dim light. "Mex!"

"I found my ball."

"That's good, but don't you dare ever run off again unless I give you permission, which I probably won't. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Saige. I want to go home."

I blinked. He sounded tired. I guess I was, too. "Alright then. Hold my hand." I reached and he grabbed it. "Come on, let's go."

As we headed home, I just couldn't get those voices out of my head. Especially the last one.

"Punish him!"


Luckily, we got home before Mom did. Mex headed for his room. I started doing my math homework.

When Mom came home from her job at the nursery (the garden one, not the baby one) I was done with my homework and was reading a book for my report.

"Hi, Saige," she said, softly in that voice that sometimes drives me crazy. "How was school?"

"Fine. I have a report due next Friday about the red panda. Hence this book I got at the library today at school." I waved my book around.

Mom sighed and leaned on the table. "You're growing up so fast. I can't believe that you research right away instead of just putting it off. You really are fourteen, aren't you?" She sighed. "No longer the little seven-year old I knew when Mex was born."

I squirmed in my seat. I hated to hear my mom talk about me like this. But I wanted to ask one thing. "Would of Dad been proud?"

Mom's green eyes misted over. A faraway look came into them.

"Yes, he would," she murmured, mostly to herself. She stood up straighter and walked away from the table. I watched her as she disappeared into the kitchen.

Dinner was quiet that night, like it usually is. Mex's chatter was a little less than usual, but he still blabbered on about school and a recent sleepover he had.

I talked some, Mom didn't really talk at all. I would of said more, but I just couldn't get those voices out of my head. Was it just the wind, or had it really been people? Hard to believe, but what if it had?

I pushed the thoughts out of my mind and tried to enjoy my dinner.

After we finished with dinner and dishes, Mex went to watch a movie and I was having a mental battle whether or not to tell Mom about the cave.

It's best if she knows, one side argued.

But what if those voices were dangerous? the other side reasoned.

Probably not. She'll think you're being ridiculous, the first side mentally replied.

She'll find out sooner or later when she notices your shoes. Best to tell her now. The second side cut in.

But I can't! That was my thoughts, splitting the other ones apart.

I just can't.

"Saige, you okay?" Mom asked gently. I realized my face must of looked weird.

"Yeah."

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. Mex went to bed early, saying he was tired. I don't blame him. I was too.

But even when I went to sleep, a pang of worry struck my chest as the voice continued to ring around my head.

"He must be punished!"