I don't remember how we got home, not in detail, not with anything more than a fuzzy guessing and flashes of pictures that may or may not have been real. I don't think Tabitha would have walked on her own. I think that Valerie and I would have had to drag her, that we would have had to haul her out by the arms. We must have left everything Val had brought into the forest behind, because I don't think that we would have been able to help Tabby and carry everything else too. I think that Valerie was talking, saying something to me over and over, desperate statements that were what she wanted to be true more than they were what she thought really was true, but I don't remember a single word that she said. I don't remember if we rode our bikes or walked, or if it was Val that got Tabby home or me.
But what I'll never forget is walking up the driveway of the house I had lived in all my life, with its perfectly trimmed garden lining its front and the flowers on the windowsill that Gran had spent so much time fussing over, babying more than she had ever done for Leila or me that I could remember. I will never be able to forget, even in sleep, when I know it will always haunt my dreams, walking through the open door that I knew my grandparents had locked tight that night, coming into the living room with all the lights on as my grandparents would never have allowed past nine pm, and seeing the bloody letters, still damp, scrawled six feet high, exactly, across the wall…letters written in the awkward scrawl of a young child.
It wasn't until later, much later, that I knew the words were Latin for "it is finished…" the last words of Jesus, before dying on the cross.
But beyond everything else, I will never forget walking in a daze down the hallway and finding the thing in my sister's body standing outside the open doorway of my grandparents' bedroom, smiling that jagged, merciless smile, holding her body in such a way that I could see past her inside. Inside, where my grandparents lay, eyes open and terrified even in death, only their faces left undamaged and free of blood.
I can't stop seeing it, but even now, I can't describe, can't talk about what I saw, about what it was that was done to them. I remember staggering back, unable to breathe, unable to even ask the single question in my mind- why had this happened? Why had she done this, why?
I never asked, but somehow, the thing in my sister's body knew, and it leaned close to me, its breath tainted with the scent of blood overpowering all my senses.
"Because I can," it whispered. "Because it answers your request. But don't worry…it's not your time."
I don't remember how it was that the police were called, when or how it was that they came and called for people to tape off most of my home, to look over and then take care of my grandparents' body. I don't remember, but I have heard that when they arrested what they thought to be my sister, she went willingly, without saying or doing anything at all to fight, still smiling that terrible smile.
They didn't know, and they still don't, that my sister wasn't there at all, that my sister too is gone, a victim as much as the others. They don't know, and nothing I say can make them understand.
They cleared me, eventually, of any connection or knowledge of what they believed to be my sister's crime. It was only her fingerprints and her DNA on the scene, and although she wouldn't give specific details to implicate herself, Valerie's and my story backed up what they wanted to believe to have happened- even though they dismissed most of our words as exaggerations, born of shock and grief and teenaged dramatics. I don't know what's happened since to Valerie or Tabitha, after their families' murders, and I have never looked. I'm afraid to find out that their requests might not have yet been complete.
Because in all honesty, the terrible truth of it is that the thing in my sister was right. Valerie had asked for freedom, to be set apart from the expectations of school and social services, to be out of the foster care system and on her own- and I have a feeling that after what had happened, this was exactly what had happened. Tabby had wanted attention, to be set apart- and certainly the death of her family had done this for her too. I had wanted to be set apart from my family, and in my survival, this had been accomplished for me too. And my sister? She had wanted power, strength, confidence, and this too had been hers- even if the cost had been the lost of all she had been in the first place.
We, the unwanted ones, had been given what we asked for, what it was we thought we wanted so much. And sometimes now I fear that it will know, even from its placement in the institution for the criminally insane, what it is that I now want so badly, for the pain I carry with me to be over. Sometimes I fear that it will come back to me, and grant my desire in an all too final way….