The plan, as Lizzie had thought through it, was simple. Or at least, she seemed to believe it was; to Kimber, it seemed enormously complex, beyond her ability to do. And though she did not say it aloud to Lizzie, she hoped, very much so, that she was correct.
She and Lizzie would go downstairs and take a knife from the Casey kitchen, the sharpest one that they could find. Lizzie was sure that no one would notice. Nate was always glued to his phone or a video game, and even if he did hear or see them, Lizzie assured Kimber, he wouldn't care or tell on them if he realized they were sneaking out. He had threatened Lizzie into silence enough times when she saw him sneaking back in that he owed her that much.
Ms. Casey too should not be a problem, according to Lizzie. She was always too tired to pay attention to either of her kids once she had come home for the night. And anyway, Lizzie knew that she took sleeping pills most nights. It was hard to wake her up even if she tried. And she and Kimber would be quiet.
They would get Lizzie's and Nate's old bikes and use them to ride the distance to Kimber's house, wearing dark clothes of Lizzie's so they wouldn't stick out for any cars that passed by. Kimber wasn't allowed to ride her bike past the street she lived on in the day time, let alone at night, but she didn't say this. There were worse things she would be doing tonight.
"It's just a few miles," Lizzie had reasoned. "We both know the way by now."
And this was true. If Lizzie had not, then Kimber could have pretended she didn't either, even though this was untrue. But Lizzie did know the way, so this was not an option.
Of course, they would not be able to come through the front door to enter Kimber's house, even if Kimber had had a key. It would be too likely that they would be noticed or make noise, if they had to go through several rooms and the hallway to reach Kimber and Jasmine's bedroom. Instead, Lizzie planned for them to park their bikes beneath the window of the bedroom and help each other to climb through. As Kimber's house was only one story tall, Lizzie knew they would be able to come inside. Lizzie also knew that the lock on the window had broken long ago; it would not be very difficult to lift it up and use it as an entrance.
"Jasmine won't wake up," Lizzie promised, with more confidence in her voice than Kimber could remember ever feeling in her life, let alone in that very moment. "Everything will go like it's supposed to, Kimber. I have it all figured out."
Still, each step of the way, Kimber hoped she was wrong. She hoped that Lizzie wouldn't be able to find a knife that was sharp enough, or that Nate or her mother would be paying attention after all and demand to know what the girls were doing. She hoped that one of them would come into the living room and intercept them at the doorway, wanting to know where they thought they were going in the middle of the night. She hoped when this did not happen that Lizzie would realize that the wheels on the bicycles were flat or the tube was bent out of shape, or maybe they were so rusted that they couldn't be ridden. She hoped that Nate's bike was so big that neither she nor Lizzie could possibly ride it.
When none of this happened, and she and Lizzie mounted the bikes, Lizzie having carefully stowed the knife in a dark backpack she had settled on her shoulders, Kimber turned her wishes and hopes in other directions. She hoped that someone passing them as they pedaled at the edge of the road would pull their car to a stop and ask them where they were going, that they would insist on taking them back home of their parents. She hoped that a police officer would pass them, blue lights flashing, and tell them that it was illegal for twelve year old girls to be out in the dark on a school night. She hoped they would escort her and Lizzie into a police station to call Kimber's parents, and that maybe, just maybe, if she explained everything that was happening, what was making her and Lizzie so afraid, the police would believe her. Maybe, just maybe, they could protect them and their families. Maybe, by being stopped, they could still be safe.
But the only car that passed them didn't even slow, let alone stop. If they noticed two young girls, small even for twelve, riding by, they did not care enough to interfere. And when Lizzie and Kimber finally pulled into the grassy side area of Kimber's home, Kimber's final hope that her parents would still be awake, her home lit from the outside, she was devastated to see this too was not to be. Her house was dark and still, as was every other home around it.
No one was awake. No one saw them. No one would help, and no one would stop them.
Even the bedroom window posed less trouble than Kimber had thought it might. Although she and Lizzie were short and possessed little upper body strength, it was not all that difficult for her to step into Lizzie's cupped hands and use her as a boost to push up the window, then pull herself inside. Lizzie did make some noise getting herself in, because she had to lean Nate's bike against the side of the house, climb up to stand, barely balanced, against its seat, and then almost belly flop over the window sill, kicking to launch herself through. Several times Kimber glanced over at Jasmine in her bed, curled cocoon-style in her Sleeping Beauty bed covers, certain that her sister would stir awake, would sit up in bed rubbing her eyes and scowling in their direction, whining at being awakened.
But Jasmine slept, her mouth slightly open, breathing heavy and rhythmic, not quite a snore. One hand splayed across her naked baby doll, she didn't even twitch in acknowledgment of their presence.
Jasmine was not going to wake up. Every possible deterrence to Lizzie's plan had not occurred. This was going to happen, whether she wanted to go through with it or not.
As Kimber stood beside Jasmine's bed, staring down at her sister's peaceful form, she felt her legs start to shake, threatening to give way beneath her. Her lips too quivered, and she bit down on the inside of her cheeks, forcing back a sob. Even with these efforts her eyes filled, and she closed them, not wanting to look at the little girl any more than she had to.
She tried to remember all the times Jasmine had hit her or broken her things, every time she whined or cried or tattled on her. She tried to remember that this was for Jasmine's own good, that what she and Lizzie were doing was to save her, to save all of them, more than it was to hurt her.
But all she could really think of was how small her sister was, how her body barely made a lump beneath the blankets. All she could think of was how Jasmine's whole face lit up and squinched her eyes when she smiled, how she had named her favorite pony figure after Kimber.
She was saving Jasmine; she knew that. But that didn't make it any easier to have to let her go.
"Come on," Lizzie whispered, and Kimber jumped at the nearness of her voice to her ear. She had not noticed the other girl come to stand behind her, and she flinched again when Lizzie set a supportive hand on her arm. "We gotta do this, Kimi. Let's just get it over with, okay?"
She turned back towards her backpack, beginning to unzip it and reaching to extract the knife concealed inside it. She withdrew it, tightly grasped in her hand, and took a step forward, her eyes focused on the little girl in the bed, still oblivious to their presence, let alone their intentions. Kimber gulped, a sharp gasp half emerging from her throat, and reached an unsteady hand to stop Lizzie, uttering a frantic whisper.
When Lizzie looked at her with near impatience, hair half concealing her eyes, and tilted her head as though in question, Kimber swallowed again, coming up hurriedly with one more stalling point- but admittedly, one she did feel very much was needed. One that was deserved.
"We can't just do it," she whispered. "We…we have to pray first. Don't you think? For Jasmine, so it…so it goes okay. And for us. We have to…don't you think we need to explain to God, and tell him we're sorry?"
Lizzie's brow furrowed as she regarded her. She didn't seem to understand Kimber's need for this, and perhaps she didn't. Kimber had never questioned her on her family's religious beliefs or practices, and she very much doubted that Lizzie often, if ever, had gone to church. Kimber herself had attended Sunday school and vacation Bible schools with cousins and on holidays, just often enough to have a vague idea of what church and the Christian Protestant religion was. She had never thought through her own beliefs; she hadn't found it to be a very important way to spend her time. After all, she was twelve years old. She had plenty of time left before she had to worry about God and religion and dying. That was for old people.
That was how she used to think. Everything was different now, and the need to pray to a God she had only faintly believed in now seemed desperately urgent.
"Well, okay," said Lizzie at last, sounding doubtful. "But you do it, okay? And keep quiet."
Kimber bowed her head, taking a steadying breath, and then reached for Lizzie's hand, as much for her own comfort as because she thought that was what you were supposed to do, while praying near someone else. She noticed that her hand felt sweaty against Lizzie's cool skin as she tried to gather her thoughts. She had never been asked to pray before out loud, and this was the first time there had ever been a need. She had to get this right, if God would listen. Jasmine deserved that, even if she didn't.
"Um, God…or, Jesus, this is Kimber Knox. Um…please, please, uh, bless my sister Jasmine. Jasmine Hope Knox," she added, just in case God wasn't sure exactly which Jasmine in the world she was referring to. "Please, don't let her wake up, or be scared, or hurt. Just, um…please, bless her…and let her know…"
Her throat tightened then, and her eyes stung with suddenly threatening tears. She could hardly hear her own whispered words. "Let her know I love her, and I'm sorry. Please let her forgive me and Lizzie, because we're sorry. Please."
She couldn't think of anything else to say, nor was she sure she would be able to say it, if she did. Lizzie waited, making sure she was finished, and then pulled her hand out of Kimber's grasp, ignoring the other girl's reluctance to disengage from her. Two more steps forward and Lizzie was standing directly beside Jasmine's bed, close enough to touch.
This was happening. This was happening, right now, and even as tears continued to nearly blind her vision, Kimber numbly stepped forward at Lizzie's whisper.
"Now, Kimber, come on. You have to go first."
And so Kimber did. It was the plan, Lizzie's plan, and it had already come this far.
Grasping the large, fuzzy pink pillow at the foot of Jasmine's bed, Kimber slowly came alongside Lizzie, shoulder to shoulder. She hesitated, hands trembling, every part of her wanting nothing more than to drop the pillow, hurl it across the room, and bolt out the bedroom door, screaming for her parents all the way.
But Lizzie's shoulder nudged into hers, a final, wordless urging. A final reminder. And so in one swift movement, Kimber pushed the pillow down, fully covering the five year old girl's face. She pressed it down hard, applying all the pressure that a girl under five feet tall and below 90 pounds could give, making certain that Jasmine's nose, mouth, and eyes were fully covered and blocked off from any possibility of getting air.
Jasmine came awake almost immediately, once the pillow touched her face. The little girl began to thrash, kicking out with her legs and pushing up with her arms, clawing at Kimber's arms. Beneath the pillow Kimber could feel her straining to roll away, to push her off of her, muffled whimpers and efforts at screams just audible to her as Jasmine fought for breath. And maybe, just maybe, Jasmine could have fought her off, if she had been given the time to try. Maybe Kimber would have weakened or given in, or been kicked or scratched hard enough that she would have to let go.
But that was where Lizzie's part of the plan came into effect. Because almost from the start of Jasmine's struggle, Lizzie climbed onto the bed, pinning the little girl's tiny legs and then sitting on them, preventing her from any further kicking. She raised the knife high, then with all the force she could muster, forced it down into Jasmine's chest.
Lizzie had gone over the plan with Kimber more than once, talking her through all the details, everything they would do and how they would keep it from going wrong. But Lizzie hadn't told Kimber how it would feel for her to hear her sister's breath get shorter and faster, how she would tremble and twitch and how sick, how terribly wrong, it would be to feel it all beneath Kimber's very own hand. Lizzie hadn't told her how much blood one little girl could have inside her, how it would spatter, sticky and hot and thick, staining the girls' clothes and sticking to strands of their hair. Lizzie hadn't told her how it would smell, that the strange, almost metal scent would stick in her nostrils until Kimber almost vomited. And Lizzie hadn't told her how Jasmine would wet herself, in the last few moments of her life, how when she stopped moving at last, when her chest fell and did not rise again, the terrible stillness of her body would make her resemble a horror mannequin instead of a once living child.
Lizzie had not told her that she would have to stab Jasmine not once, but six times, before Jasmine died. Lizzie had not told her that the final time her knife came down, Kimber would be sure that Jasmine was already dead, the effort unnecessary. And most of all, Lizzie had not told her that the entire, endless minutes it took for her sister to die, Lizzie would register no emotion on her face at all.
When it was finished, Kimber's hands fell away from the pillow, and she took a step back, nearly stumbling into Lizzie and tripping down to the ground. She didn't bother to catch herself, barely registering pain against her leg and backside. Chest heaving, tears streaking without sound down her cheeks and settling into the hollow of her collar bone, she watched Lizzie, waiting for her next move.
Lizzie had told her what to do. What she hadn't told her was what would happen after.
Lizzie didn't release the knife. She didn't turn back to look at Kimber, and although her hand shook, her voice was steady when she spoke, eyes still trained on Jasmine's inert form.
"He's going to come now. Moloch. He'll come now and take her as his sacrifice, and then he'll leave us alone, forever. It's all over now, Kimber. You'll see."
Kimber couldn't find the strength to even nod. She stayed on the floor, suppressed sobs shaking through her chest and back, and because there was no more she could do, she waited.
Five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. There was nothing. No shadowy form, no sudden voice or appearance. Nearly an hour passed, and there was nothing in the room but the two girls and the child they had killed.
"It's a test," Lizzie told her, but Kimber could hear the quaver creeping into her words. "It's just a test, Kimber. He's coming, he's coming soon. He has to be coming soon."
Two hours. Three. Soon it would be morning, with school the next day. Soon, Jasmine's alarm would go off, and if neither girl moved to silence it, or even if they did, Sharon Knox would come into the bedroom, checking that Jasmine was up and getting ready for the day.
But Jasmine wasn't going to do that. Jasmine would never have another day to be ready for again.
Four hours. The silence in the room had been broken long ago by Kimber's on and off stifled sobs, the near panicked whimpers that she could not quite keep trapped inside. Even Lizzie was breathing fast and audibly, her hand raised to her mouth as she gnawed her nails to bloody nubs. Because each girl knew, without having to say so, that any moment now, Sharon Knox would come.
And Moloch had not. Moloch, they realized, as night slowly shifted to day, was never going to come at all.