It was Friday morning; the busy shoppers were doing their last-minute errands for Halloween. The store was bustling with chattering people, enthusiasm was in the air. It was cold and windy outside but the warmth inside the grocery store provided a relaxing heat for a comfortable browsing of candies that would soon go on sale as quickly as the occasion was over.
One family got their carts full for the day. It was a cheerful lot except for one tall and pale-faced girl wearing a smug expression on her face, her full attention on texting. She was a very attractive girl of eighteen. Her brown eyes intently looking at her phone, her long nut-brown hair kept in a neat pony-tail. She scratched her small but pointed nose as she replied to a nasty joke her friend was sending her. She bit her heart-shaped lips as a particular text message from a male classmate found its way on her inbox. Other than that, she looked exceptionally bored; the evening could not get any longer for Emily Gilligan. She kept fixing her hair and checking her face at every remotely reflective surface she passed by. She was not paying the slightest attention as to what her father was telling her. She was practically glued into her gadget absorbed with the secret party she arranged with her friends later that evening. She could not hope more for her parents to leave for their anniversary so she could groom the house for the gathering. Only then can she start setting up the snack corner.
“so you better take note of that, andare you sure you can look after your sister?” asked Emily’s father, George Gilligan. He was wearing a suit from his job where he worked as a company lawyer. He looked like Emily except that he has blonde hair.
“huh? Sure.” She replied uncaringly while eyeing Cheetos on the third aisle, contemplating whether it would be good with ginger ale later.
Her mother looked reprovingly as her daughter spent the next ten minutes excitedly tapping away on her smartphone. Mrs. Gilligan was a short lady, with softer features than her daughter, and straight brown hair. Her ire was replaced with surprise when someone small tugged her coat.
“Mommy? Tell me again why you chose to marry daddy on Halloween?”
“Sure sweetheart, uh, that was a spontaneous idea. You see, we never win the local couple costume contest during every Halloween. We were so determined to be the champions for once. When your daddy proposed, we decided to get marry if we win the trophy.” she told her.
“I never saw your daddy so dedicated at anything before. He arranged an impromptu wedding at the same time of having his hulk’s skin so exquisitely sewn, apparently we won.” She finished, beaming with pride.
“I want my wedding day to be on Christmas day” Hannah bemused brightly.
“You do that if you want to celebrate your anniversary stressed-out on food preparation and gift-wrapping.” Emily interjected.
Hannah made face to her older sister and marched away with her mother.
The entire car-ride was full of Mr. and Mrs.’ Gilligan’s lively accounting of their awaiting activities. Hannah was on the back, pre-occupied with drawing stick figures on the window. Beside her was Emily, scrolling nonstop on her social media account.
Later that day, Mrs. Gilligan asked Emily if she was sure she could handle the house for the rest of the day, one last time. Emily decided that it would be better to show what a responsible worldly adult she had become. This was to hasten her parent’s departure. The clock showed nine-thirty in the morning, she was getting anxious to start preparation. She thought that, at least, she would spend a full three-hour deciding for her wardrobe needs.
“Mom, I can cook, you know.” said Emily.
“I’m sure that will be wonderful, dear. But I have already prepared food for the rest of the day.” replied Mrs. Gilligan.
Emily was excited to hear that her friends would be eating her mother’s best dishes instead of her planned chicken ala king which ended up looking like a heap of mud the last time. She remembered her goal and quickly recovered from looking ecstatic to neutral.
“That’s too bad mom, I have been practicing this whole time, and I think I can really take care of things now.” she added impressively.
”I am very happy to hear that. Also, thank you for lending your car for the moment. The auto repair sure took their time repairing ours.
Little Hannah put her out of reverie when she went to her for help.
“Can you please tell me the difference between ‘b’ and d’” Hannah wailed. “..I can’t answer this because I always get stuck with words including those alphabets.” She added pointing at her coloring book.
“That’s pre-school stuff, quit bugging—I mean, sure, bring me your crayons.” sweet Emily said in front of her mom.
At long last, her parents were pulling out of the driveway. Emily’s thoughts were all over the party that she could only nod at their reminders and goodbyes. As soon as their taillights were pinpricked balls of yellow, Emily smelled the honeyed atmosphere of freedom.
She happily slammed the door shut, shooed her younger sister, and raced at her room.
She thought of going as a full-blown villain and didn’t care of the mess she created in her bedroom. Stacks of shiny dresses were piled against each other. Random items like lipstick and pen were rolling in all directions. She was humming Bryan Adams’ ‘Heat of the Night’ as she put on generous amount of makeup.
She went down on her temporary clothes to fix the food. It was a lavish arrangement of her mother’s cooking on the dinner table; white spaghetti, chicken and tuna sandwiches, plates of dumplings and strawberry shortcake. Some snacks, which she bought out of her own allowance, were unpacked and lined up next to large bottles of soft drinks. She set up the table to a pumpkin theme, grabbing her sister’s orange bed sheets as a table cloth.
While quickly chucking unwashed plates to the dishwasher, she thought of the music she would provide. It was a good opportunity to show her cool selection of songs to the public. It would surely boost her reputation in school, she thought grandly.
“Em, what happened to your face? Are you hurt?” Hannah asked.
“Go away and make sure you brushed your teeth” snapped Emily and ushered her back to her room.
It was two in the afternoon when she finished the snack section. She thought of the main attraction, her father’s newly built play room complete with billiards and dartboard. A good entrance it would be if her schoolmates enter and dozens of lights would greet them, she thought smiling. She started setting up the Christmas lights on all walls of the room.
The entire evening was exhausting for Emily so she plopped down on the couch to watch the television. The party would start at seven o’clock and she thought of relaxing first before getting ready. Residents should expect dust and chilly night for Halloween the reporter on the news said as Emily dismissively changed the channel to MTV.
She felt tired and sleepy but fought it off. She didn’t realize the time until it was five-thirty and she needs to glamour her costume. She went to Hannah’s room, but nobody was there.
“Hey, grab a plate so I can change my clothes” she called to her little sister but nobody answered. She searched the entire house including small cabinets where she could crawl into.
“Hannah?” Emily called again; her heart drumming and rising steadily on her chest.
“Oh my God.” She started getting flustered and picked up the telephone. It was dead. She jammed the receiver back and it rang.
“Hello, my sister is missing, please speak up!” it went dead again.
She ran to her room upstairs not seeing anything except visualizing where her sister might be. Her cellphone was off; she forgot to charge it with all the scheming of a splendid party. She fumbled for the charger among the many detritus underneath her bed.
She peered outside and saw a blur of snow and gust. She felt a surge of panic when her phone didn’t charge. She realized the power was out.
She grabbed her winter items and braved the streets. She was no more than three feet away when a nasty blow of wind almost knocked her out. Each step felt like a gamble for a frost bite. She changed directions and went for the neighbor’s house for help.
She rapped hard on the door and screamed for help. Nobody was inside. She could not believe the luck she was having and tried for a different house. Emily thought of all the times their neighbors were not home, was the one-time her parents were gone for the day.
She felt confused and her hands were getting numbed and turning purple, she went back inside the house.
‘Hannah,’ she tearfully thought as she checked the phone again for signs of life.
She opened her parent’s closet to wrap herself with more sweaters and jacket. She decided to go out again and look for her sister. As she was heading out, electricity came back on.
Kriiiiiiiiiiing! She jumped at the shrill sound of the telephone in a silent house.
“Hello?” Emily pleaded.
The voice she heard raised hair all over her skin. It was a piercing scream of a woman. She had no idea who. Then the woman shifted to silent crying. Without warning, the caller laughed hysterically which made Emily slam the phone shut.
A sinking feeling of terror took hold of her. She wanted to hide and wait for her parents to come back. Thoughts of her sister jerked her back into action. She searched for a flashlight and for something to arm her outside. She went inside the play room to grab one Pool Cue. The Christmas lights started to flicker. The electricity seemed to have gone erratic once more. It went on and out again while her choice of music played loudly, with the lyrics read backwards. It created a chilling Latin-like orchestra echoing in the house.
She almost threw up because of fright and quickly grabbed the Pool Cue and went for the door. She thought the blizzard outside was nothing compare to the haunting she was experiencing inside the house. She stumbled out grabbing a sharp sheet of ice. With fresh blood snaking its way down her hands and around the Pool Cue, she headed straight for any house. The snow showed trails of crimson shade from her hand injury.
She desperately made her way out of the alarmingly rising hail. She was trudging the knee-high snow when she looked back and saw a shadow of Hannah from a window. She was inside the house, at her parent’s room.
Emily shivered at the prospect of going back inside the house. Her brown waist-length hair was on total disarray and her tiny figure was cloaked with numerous garments of her and her parents’ clothes. A violent wind whacked her Pool Cue clean out of her grip. She didn’t care.
She cautiously made her way back inside. The house looked normal. The music was off, the lights were simply on, and no creepy phone call at all. She hurried for her parent’s room. Nobody was there. She reduced to a tearful slump on the floor.
The music loudly played again, but the singer sounded like the woman who called earlier; it was spouting the lyrics of the song slowly and mockingly. In her pure horror, Emily thought of jumping out of the window. She was about to open the frame when she heard something else, it sounded like a car pulling over. The doorbell rang. She swiftly got up and run down the stairs amidst the chilling voice of the old woman.
She opened the door, but there was no one. The phone rang again, this time, high-pitched and insistent. The woman began including cackles of laughter with her singing. Emily pulled out the plug to the player. It stopped for a while but played again.
“What do you want?!” sobbed a terrified Emily.
There was knocking at the backdoor, then at all of the windows. Somewhere in the house, she heard her sister calling. She called out to her.
“Hannah! Pleasewhere are you,” begged Emily.
“I’m just here, silly” said a small voice, Emily was stunned.
She followed the sound; it was coming from the cellar. She was trembling with fear as she mustered the strength to descend the stairs one by one.
“Please, I can’t do this anymore.” Emily spoke more to the house than to her sister.
“Emily” somebody whispered.
She saw her sister standing. Her skin was paper white, her eyes were all black. Hannah’s face cracked into a wide ominous smile and started heading her way. Emily’s scream filled the entire household.
She woke up with a start. It was five-thirty in the evening. She had fallen asleep while watching a music video.
“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” piped up a familiar voice.
Emily turned to see her sister dressed up as a yellow bug. Emily got up and held her sister and cried while trembling with relief. She didn’t remember happiness as overflowing as that one moment.
“Are you hungry? Do you want to eat now?” implored Emily.
“Actually, I was sneaking food when you were cleaning the play room, and I also removed one strawberry on one of the cakes.” Hannah admitted guiltily. Emily can only comprehend her sister’s presence. The Halloween party was cleaned off her mind.
“There was a woman hiding behind the curtains,” said Hannah pointing.
Emily’s heart did a flip. She held her younger sister’s hand tightly and grabbed a pan. She approached the shadowed figure and said;
“I will call the policeI’m warning you, I will beat you to death.”
The figure stirred and tripped on the curtain. Emily took the chance to attack and hit the intruder to all possible places she can reach. She was determined to kill. The ruckus made Hannah hide behind the sofa. The covers came out and Emily got a good view of who the person was. It turned out to be her classmate, Dan, on a wig. He was clutching his chest because of bruises. He looked at Emily. His plans to scare her initially backfired before it even started.
“I didn’t know you hit like a pro, Happy Halloween.” He told her squinting. “Guys! You can come out now” He called. One by one, Emily’s pals started to come out.
Emily was not amused but allowed them to continue with the party. She grabbed her sister’s hand and instructed them to leave as soon as they’ve finished.
Hannah was led to Emily’s bedroom. Emily turned on the television for her sister to watch. She headed downstairs and loaded two plates with spaghetti, cake, and some beef dumplings. She went to Hannah’s room and got some thick blankets. They watched the television together while sinking their teeth to their mother’s excellent cuisine while the party was on-going on the first floor. Emily cannot remember why she looked forward to such a party.
The sisters decided to clean the house after Emily’s schoolmates bid their farewells and apologies to Emily. She and Hannah swept the floors and wiped the countertops the remainder of the night. Emily knew it was a dream, but, what a lesson it taught her.
Her parents came back the next morning to a spotless house. It was a breath of fresh air for Mrs. Gilligan to see her daughter not engrossed with her phone for once. Instead, she was helping her younger sister improve her writing skills.
The experience made an impact to Emily that she promised herself of straightening her priorities at home, and paying more attention to the sister she thought she lost forever.
That night, her father was telling a curious story in the dining hall.
“We will now have the chance to make use of the pool table.” George said to his family.
“But dear, didn’t you mention that you cannot play that game this afternoon?” asked Mrs. Gilligan.
“Daddywhere are you going?” inquired Emily.
“Finish your food, George, before you show us anything.” requested Mrs. Gilligan, but Mr. Gilligan left and came back instantly.
“Nope, just a jiff, I found the missing Pool Cue at the staircase on the cellar. It got red paint though. Do you think it will come off with some thinner?” he told them.
Emily almost fainted at the sight of her own blood on the stick. She heard a familiar cackle and her sister’s invitation to her to come down to the cellar. With heart twanging in her ribcage, she looked at her hands to see a curiously forming scab.