PART I- THE KNIFE
Eshe was a girl living in upstate North Dakota. She had an older sister and a pet cat. She was a junior at her local highschool. Eshe's family was intact. Eshe got good grades. Eshe's older sister treated her well. Eshe was well liked at school and had many friends, despite being slightly chubby. She was reasonably good-looking. She had more money than she knew what to do with. By all accounts, Eshe should have been perfectly happy. But she wasn't.
Eshe, you see, had a secret.
It started in the winter of 2007, the winter of her 8th grade year.
She had just gotten back from her gymnastics practice and returned home a bit sweaty and out of breath. Eshe's older sister, Olgineah, was at a friend's house studying for a midterm exam. As Eshe walked in the front door of her mansion, she saw her mother rushing around, wearing her good pearls and dressy silk dress.
As Eshe walked to the kitchen looking for a snack, her mother called, "Eshe.....oh Eshe....I'm sorry to do this to you. I know you were planning on going to your friend Katherine's house tonight, but would you very much mind watching the baby? Just for a few hours. We were invited to a play last minute, and you know we would ask your sister Olgineah but she is sleeping over at her friend Remy's house studying, and we are all so terribly concerned about her grades...hmm, she hasn't been much around lately, I wonder what she's up to...Oh, where did I put my purse!'"she said as she scrambled throughout the house.
"Mom," Eshe interrupted with a laugh. "It's OK. I can watch Nathaniel for a few hours. Besides, I don't even like Katherine that much anyway. All she does is copy my geometry work."
"Oh, sweetie. Thank you so much. I don't know what I'd do without you," Mara exclaimed with a smile. "Now remember-"
"Yeah, yeah," Eshe said. "I shouldn't open the door for any creepers. The police are 911. And I should call you or dad if I have any questions. I can have Nathaniel in bed by 7. I think I can handle 1 baby and two cats for a night. Jesus, you'd think I was 5 instead of 13."
"You're the best!" Mara said, blowing Eshe a kiss. "Hopefully, we'll be back by 10. 11 at the latest."
Eshe waved as her mother and father left the house.
"Heeey, Natheniel," Eshe cooed. "What do you want? Grapes? Are you hungry? No, wait, Mom just fed you dinner half an hour ago. How 'bout some Baby Mozart then? Experts say it's good for brain development." Nathaniel stared adoringly at his big sister, with his fluffy brown hair strewn across his face and sparkling blue eyes. "All right'" Eshe declared. "Baby Mozart it is. We will ELECTRIFY yur brain with waves of musical beauty."
Eshe queued up the baby mozart DVD and played it on the Tele-vision. Getting bored after a few minutes, she decided to put Nate in his playpen and go upstairs to look for a good show on the spiral in her parents' bedroom. She lay down on the bed with her tabby cat Thea. Hmmm, Gilmore Girls was usually on Fridays. If not that, at least America's Next Top Model. Scanning through the channels, Eshe let out a squeal of glee. YES! Her all-time favourite movie, Titanic, was playing. And it was just starting. No one was even on the boat yet. And to think Eshe had almost gone over to Katherine's house.
Reassured by the Nate's frequent cooing (thank you, baby monitor!) and warmed by the fuzzy fleece blankets, Eshe allowed herself to slooooooowly drift off. She watched the TV intently, staring especially at Leonardo DeCaprio. Rose didn't even know how lucky she was, finding someone like that. And on a cruise ship of all things. Somewhere around the scene where Rose goes to the belowdecks party, Eshe started to drift off. She fell asleep.
2 hours later...
Eshe awoke to the sound of a telephone ringing next to her ear. For a second, she mumbled quietly and tried to return back to sleep. Suddenly she sat bolt upright and grimaced. Shit. SHIT. Nate. She had forgotten about him, left him in the playpen and never put him to sleep like her parents had asked her to. The Titanic was over, and the television glowed with the bright light of the Oprah Winfrey show. hmm, Eshe didn't remember changing the channel. Eshe glanced over at the baby monitor in the corner of her room. It was silent.
She reached over to the bedside table and snatched the phone."Hello?" Her voice was rusty from lack of use.
"Am I speaking to Eshe Garrihan, daughter of Marabelle and Michael Garrihan?" an unfarmiliar female voice rang out.
"Er, yes," Eshe responded, flummoxed. "Who's calling please?"
"My name is Luiza Fields. I'm a nurse at Morrison Country Hospital. Eshe, I'm afraid we have some bad news. You parents, Mara and Mike, got in a car crash this evening."
Eshe felt her head start spinning.
"Don't worry, it's nothing too serious. Definitely not life-threatening. Your father has a broken collarbone and several broken ribs. Your mother has a snapped elbow a ruptured spleen and some spinal cord damage. " Definitely sounded serious. "Your father said that you had a neighbor, Mrs Cassandra Whitsworth?"
"Yes," Eshe replied.
"Great," Luiza responded. "Right now, I'm going to give her a call and she can't come over and look after you kids for the night. I'll call you right back as soon as I get ahold of her. You'll be OK Eshe, I promise. You seem like a great kid. Just hang tight until I can get Mrs whitsworth on the line." She hung up before Eshe could say a word.
Eshe slumped against the wall in a daze. Her parents...car crash...need to stay for overnight observation. Damn. And to think, today had been a perfectly normal day, up until now. Eshe felt desperately lonely for a moment in her dark mansion until she remembered Nate. Of course! Nate. She'd never put him in bed like she'd told her parents. By now he had probably fallen into a peaceful sleep in his downstairs playpen.
Eshe threaded her way through the halls of her house, flicking on light switches as she went. She sheilded her eyes with one hand to adjust to the sudden burst of light. Finally she reached the massive living room. Eshe didn't want to turn on the lights so as not to disturb a sleeping Nate. Squinting, she viewed the dark room. First, she saw the outline of the 72-inch LED the family had gotten for last Christmas as a gift from her mothers' parents. Second, she saw the bright red velvet couch resting by the door and the rocking chair by the fireplace. Finally she saw the playpen sitting in the corner, with all its rattles and squeakers. Empty.
Frantically, Eshe searched underneath the couch and behind the TV, as though Nate might be playing some sort of stupid baby game.
"Nate?" Eshe called. "Nate? Nate? Where are you? Mom and Dad are hurt. This isn't funny. Stop doing this, goddamnit."
Under normal circumstances, Eshe prided herself on being a very rational person. But now, she felt her throat beginning to constrict. Tears pressed at the corners of her eyes and her vision went black around the edges. No, she willed herself. Do not pass out. What ever you do, you will NOT pass out.
Counting backwards from a hundred, Eshe's vision went back to normal. Now, what to do? Fact #1: Baby Nathaniel was missing. Fact #2: Her parents's couldn't help. Because they had gotten in a car crash. And were in the hospital. Injured. Fact #3: Eshe was in deep, deep shit. What could she do what to DO!?! She began pacing. Who could.....Olgineah! Yes! She was at a friend's house, but Eshe could call her on her cell phone. Surely this was more important than studying for a midterm exam?
Sweating cold sweat Eshe rushed in to the kitchen to call Olgineah. But as she was walking, a speck of movement caught her eye.
"Nate? Nate?" She exclaimed hopefully. Maybe he had just fallen out of his playpen and was crawling around, trying to find her....
Then it got dark. ALL dark. Super dark. Can't see your hand when it's-three-inches-in-front-of-your-nose dark. Frickin' power must have blown out. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Eshe sat on the couch. Or rather, her legs gave out and she fell on to the couch which happened to be right behind her. Now Luzia couldn't even call back.
Eshe sat on the couch and waited for one minute. two. In the corner of the room, she thought she saw the slightest trace of gleaming light. She rubbed her eyes and it was gone. and Eshe was alone in the engulfing darkness once more. My mind's playing tricks on me again she thought. Maybe I'll wake up and this will all be a dream. It wasn't.
Unbelievably, Eshe must have dozed off because when she woke up again, still in pitch darkess with her contact lenses plastered to her eyeballs. No, wait. Not quite Pitch Dark. In the corner was a definite but faint green twinge of light.
Eshe stood up and walked over to the tall mahogany cabinet in the corner. As she watched, the flickering green light turned silver, then purple and finally red. The light strengthened. what Eshe saw then would scar her for life. On top of the cabinet was Nate, but not Nate. This- this beast- had none of Nate's fluffy curls or sparkly blue eyes. Instead, it was bald with had 2inch long razorsharp claws and deep red eyes like molten lava. Worst of all, he was carrying a knife. A ten-inch hunting knife the housekeeper, Esme, used to gut fish.
"Hello, Eshe. I have been waiting for you, " a deep, rasping voice said, and Nate-but-not-quite-Nate smiled. Like nails on a chalkboard. An evil smile filled with pointed, yellowed teeth. " A long time. A very long time."
Eshe tried to scream. Her mouth opened, and she tried to yell but no sound came out. She tried to run, but her feet were glued to the carpet.
When her voice started working again, it came only as a whisper.
"....Is this supposed to be a joke or something?" Eshe said desperately. "Olgineah? Real good one. What, did you have someoneone call me pretending to be a nurse at Morrison? Did you steal Nate to make me flip out? Did you cut the power lines? 'Cause if you did, it worked. I'm scared shitless." Eshe tried to inject some sarcasm into her voice, but it was marred by the tremor and the fact that her entire body was shaking. "Real genius.Do you have any idea how angry Mom an dad will be when you fail biology again?"
Not-Nate smiled, displaying again those awful teeth. This time Eshe noticed that not only were the teeth yellowed, they were also flecked with red chuncks of what looked like flesh. "You fool. I am not your brother."
"I am the devil."
Eshe felt like she was going to faint.
"Yes, the devil. Strange, isn't it, how I can control others' bodies? Your brother Nate is gone. It is only me."