Author's Note: This short story was written for my final project in Writer's Craft back in 2013. It was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's film Howl's Moving Castle which was based off the book by Diana Wynne Jones. :)
"Esther," the voice murmured.
Esther stirred and the soothing voice called out her name again. This time Esther blinked rapidly, her vision still blurry. A slender hand brushed her chestnut brown hair back and Esther instantly bolted up in her bed. She reached over to her night table to turn on her lamp and saw in amazement that her mother was sitting by her bed.
All sorts of emotions collected within her. Surprise, fear, confusion but the most dominant feeling was joy.
"Mammy!" Esther squealed, throwing herself out of bed and into her mother's lap. Her mother put her hands underneath Esther's armpits to haul her up onto her lap. Tears streamed down Esther's face as she balled her small hands into her mother's dress. "I never thought I'd see you again! I thought you and Pa were gone forever!"
Her mother rubbed Esther's back, whispering that she never truly left and had been watching Esther all along.
Esther sat upright. Her green eyes grew as wide as coins. "Al! We must see Al. He'll be so happy to see you!"
"Al!" Esther called for her older brother.
She squirmed out of her mother's lap when abruptly a hand snatched her wrist, causing her to stop and look back in puzzlement.
"Mama?" Esther peered down at the hand that was wrapped around her wrist.
What used to be her mother's hand was now bone. The bony fingers dug into her skin and Esther screamed, trying to wrench herself free. All her attempts were futile.
"Where are you going, Esther? Don't you want to be with Mammy?" The creature that wore the skin of her dead mother purred. "I'll never let you go again. That's a promise."