"Hurry up, Cressie!" The small girl hurried through the heavily misted wood, blonde hair rippling on the breeze. She bobbed ahead, in and out of sight, and eyes followed her intrigued. "Come on, Cressie! Stop being such a slowcoach." The girl's hair shimmered, almost magically, in the moonshine. Illuminating her sneering face. "Here it is! Here. I told you, stupid. Didn't I tell you it was here!" Blonde ripples disappeared into the clouded trees, ahead. "Jen! I can't see you, where have you gone?" The younger child, pursuing her, had stopped. The biggest, bluest most innocent eyes wide with fear. An elbow-length tangle of searing, red hair. And the charm, the silver rocking-horse charm around her neck.
"Stop lagging behind, Cressie. I'm over here!" Her voice rang through the heavy air; annoyed, exasperated that her sister could be so ignorant. But after all: she was only six. The smaller girl had heard her voice and, encouraged, she stumbled forwards to where the noise was coming from. Then, she saw her. The girl with wavy hair the colour of diluted sunshine, freckles and grey, steely eyes dry of emotion. Her thin lips curved into a smug taunt. She crouched by a wide gap in the heavy earth, full of murky water.
"It's my creek." Jen smiled, proudly. "And, if you want to play by my creek, you must do what I say."
"But, it isn't your creek!" Said Cressie, with as much defiance a child can muster in the face of her older sister. Jen's expression changed from a proudly, domineering sneer, to scrunched up and sour. "Do you want to be fed to the crocodiles?!" The small child's eyes widened, at the thought of crocodiles in the creek. She gave it a fearful glance. "N...no"
"Then, do as I say!" Jen spat, picking up a stick from the ground and prodding her in the back. When the small girl whimpered, she grinned her beautiful hair fluttering in the dense, lime-water and carbon air. "Let's play a game." Cressie shivered.
"But, I want to go home, Jen. It's getting dark and..." She glanced (again) over her shoulder into the depths of the forest. "... you said werewolves live in the wood, didn't you?" Jen smiled unkindly. "Yes, Cressie. And if I am not here, they will get you. They will creep around in the shadows but, when they feel most hungry and ferocious they will love to eat a little six-year-old-girl with hair the colour of blood. How could they resist?" She bent in so close to Cressie's tortured face, that her breath made the ends of the little girl's hair flutter. "And, they will go... RAHHH!!!!" Jen grabbed her her little shoulder, digging in her fingernails harshly. "Jen, let go of me. I want to go home. I want my Mummy..." But, she wasn't listening. "...Tear you limb from limb until there's nothing left except a pile of bones..."
"Jen! I don't like it. I'll tell Mummy, if you don't let go! I'll tell her that you are telling me scary stories, again." She tried to struggle free.
"You want to run away, Cressie?" Jen sniggered, as her sister turned on her heel to flee.
"Mummy isn't here to save you, now." Her face contorted into a twisted laugh, grabbing her wrist. "No!"
"Shall we play that game then, Cressie?" She jeered, ignoring the little girl. "I know. Let's play mermaids!" Pulling her struggling, whimpering sister to the edge of the creek, Jen said: "Why don't you go first? After all, didn't you know that mermaids swim? Little Miss Pretty, clever and perfect? Don't know everything now, do you? Not so clever, and not so pretty when you'll have a face full of stinking, filthy mud at the bottom of the creek where you belong..."
"No!!! Stop! Stop! I can't swim! Mummy thinks..." She teetered on the edge.
"I don't care what Mummy thinks..." Arms thrust her forwards, the girl's face full of savage triumph. A scream tore through the tree tops like a gunshot, in the night.
* * * * *
"Shit!" Struggling upwards, I grasped for the glass of water beside my bed. Head, hammering. "Alexis? Is that, you?" Marigold was leaning over the edge of her bed, bleary eyed. Chucking the stagnant water over my face, I spluttered and gasped for more water. I threw the glass to the floor, where it shattered into a thousand glimmering pieces, and careered towards the door. My head throbbed unpleasantly, my face dripped and burned. "Alex, go back to bed won't you?" Mari's groan followed me to the bathroom where, I turned the shower on cold and soaked myself in the blissful blast of icy water. Gasping, I realised I was hot and clammy with sweat.
A dream? A nightmare? Or, something else... it had been too real, too sinister and tearing to be just a dream. I gulped down the water, gratefully as I thought. There had been... two children, yes, two children playing a game. Were they sisters? Misted trees, rose ahead. Searing, red curls and those wide, blue eyes. Just a baby, just a child... Then, blonde, bouncing hair that shimmered silver in the moonshine, those grey, wicked eyes. Those eyes that felt no pain or hurt. The sneering girl, a murky, swirling creek. Jealousy, the game gone wrong. And... the screaming, the piercing scream that still rung in my ears. She was here, again. Her cold, white hand reaching to take my heart, her blue eyes, those blue eyes straining for me to hear, to see...
My eyes snapped back, open. I couldn't think straight, I was going mad in the fiery cold rain. But, all the same it felt soothing on my white skin. Throwing back my head, I felt it gush over me, freezing my insides. Then, the door was wrenched open. "Alexis!" the glacial waterfall was turned off and my mother pulled me out into the open. Milk-white, she stared at me."Alexis, what do you think you're doing?" I glared at her.
"Just cooling myself off, Mum."
"Why?!" She shook me, hard.
"Oh..." Her grip slackened. "Well, you'd better get back to bed." She handed me a towel on her way out. "Put some dry clothes on." And, with that, she left the room her slight figure small beneath her thin robe.