"October 29th. That was the last day anything ever happened. All my life, from then on, was just white noise..."
Quick reminder that this IS a horror story & does involve some creepiness & violence, more than anything I've ever written in the past.
Here is a link to the FULL story.
Shawn sat with Isabelle for a while; they kept looking at me. Staring at me. Their whispers drifted across the lunchroom, radio waves of hurt and rejection. Their glances stabbed me in the back and left my spine out to dry. Drip, drip.
Nineteen minutes after the lunch bell rang, I felt Shawn’s hand on my shoulder. My spine popped back into place. I sat up straight.
“Hey, lady,” he said softly. My heart beat faster, my cheeks pinked like roses. One word from Shawn turned me into the guileless heroine of a romance novel. I should’ve been mad. I should’ve been tough. But he melted me.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “Isabelle said she had to talk to me in private. She said it was important.”
“I under- I understand,”I said, heart in my throat, heart in his hands. Please don’t crush me, Shawn. I’ll stop breathing.
“So, my Halloween party’s tonight.” Shawn gave me his soft-as-butter smile, his milk chocolate eyes. I wanted to dissolve in them.
“I’m still invited?” My words stumbled out, shyer than I meant them to.
He laughed. “Of course; you’re my girlfriend, goofball.”
“I’m your girlfriend,” I repeated. “I don’t deserve you.”
“That’s only true if I’m saying it.” The bell rang. Shawn enfolded me in a hug when I stood. I loved having a boyfriend so soft and big, able to completely envelope my five foot frame. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Simone.”
And I disintegrated.
Shawn’s party was on October 29th, because Halloween was a school night. Shawn was the only high-schooler I knew who still had a bedtime on weekdays. But his was self-imposed. He had to get his energy from somewhere.
October 29th; the date still follows me around, a ghost on my heels. When I was discharged from the hospital, I marked out every date on my bedroom calendar and changed it to October 29th, because that was the last day when anything ever happened. The rest of my life, from then on, was just white noise.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. And while getting ahead on schoolwork and college applications is a good thing, getting ahead of yourself is not. You might get lost.
11:17pm, October 29th. I showed up at Shawn’s house, dressed to impress. My blue hair hung in Slinky spirals down my back, a silver circlet holding back my bangs. I wore bat-wing eyeliner, edges sharp and smooth, and smoky eyeshadow to highlight my dark eyes. Of course, I wore a little black dress, clinging to my curves, night sky against caramel skin. I was haunting, a spectre in blue and black. I was beautiful that night.
11:19pm. Shawn kissed me, my body disappearing in his embrace, I softened and fell into liquid shadow.
11:24pm. The fire crackled and spat like an infant dragon, and I huddled close, to warm my bare arms in the cold night. The stars were dull and faded and worn, like old jeans. If I wanted to tell a romantic tale, I’d say the stars gleamed in a stark sky. But they didn’t. They only twinkled weakly, as if to say, “I’ve given up trying, and so should you.”
Chillers in everyone’s hand. Everyone’s hand except mine. A scary story on everyone’s lips. Chillers of a different kind.
11:27pm. A boy I don’t know told a ghost story. It wasn’t very good, but the flashlight theatrics entertained me. Shawn started to emcee, announcing a contest: whoever comes up with the best spooky story gets half the Halloween candy in the front parlor. I smiled and scooted closer to the fire. The night kept getting colder.
11:45pm, and it was Isabelle’s turn. She was already de facto Queen of the Night. Her blue eyes seemed to burn violet in the firelight, and her face had a triumphant glow. I thought she was wearing wax wings, like Icarus, but surely they’d have melted by now.
“The beautiful Aberina,” she began, “was a witch. A witch who fell from the sky when she was very young. Aberina poured from the heavens like cold rain on a November day, the gray wind swaying in the bare trees.
The beautiful Aberina was lost in a world that didn’t care for witches. She knocked on every door, a little-kid lisp begging for a warm meal. They smelled the scent of magic, it’s impenetrable stink, and turned her away.
The beautiful Aberina was forced to climb a tree and live on the meat of squirrels and rats. This was vile to Aberina. She grew up in the sweet, endless sky, where she’d feasted on clouds, waterfalls, and moonlight. Her mother said eating innocent creatures was a sin, and now Aberina was forced to drink their blood.
The blood of God’s creatures will corrupt a sky witch. So will the scorn and contempt of the people in her new world. The beautiful Aberina’s silver heart turned black. She had love for no one, and for nothing, clinging to the top of an empty tree.
But the beautiful Aberina still remembered her mother’s recipes. She could still taste the feasts her mother laid out on their starlit table cloth.
Lavender, sunflower seeds, sunset, licorice, nickels, apples, cinnamon toast.” Isabelle said this list of flavors like a monkish chant. "Nickels, apples, cinnamon toast. Sunset, lavender, licorice."
My heart panged, clanged against my chest. A strange foreboding feeling ran through my body. I looked around, and everyone was spellbound; enchanted by Isabelle’s story. To me, the story was bizarre - and those words sounded familiar: lavender, sunflower seeds, sunset, licorice, nickels, apples, cinnamon toast. There was smoke in my eyes and lungs, and I was dizzy, and tired, and I couldn’t place exactly why.
Isabelle took a deep breath and surveyed her enthralled audience; she smiled and continued.
“The beautiful Aberina concealed her witch-scent with perfume, so she smelled less like magic and more like flowers. Now that she smelled like a girl, the world let her cook in their kitchens. The beautiful Aberina was quite good at pretending her heart was filled with love, and she became known for her kindness, and her wonderful recipes.
But Aberina harbored an endless sea of hate in her heart. Her hatred for the world was bottomless, and her anger could never be satisfied.
But she let the world taste her recipes.
Strawberries, limes, lightning, blackberries, dark storm, pine.
And the world loved her dearly.”
The cadence of Isabelle’s voice was like music, a lullaby, and I was falling asleep. Dimly the words registered in the back of my mind: Strawberries, limes, lightning, blackberries, dark storm, pine.
T he awake-part of me felt cold and afraid, but the sleep-part of me was warm and content. And so I drifted deeper into unconsciousness, still hearing Isabelle’s voice in my ears.
“The beautiful Aberina never forgot about her home in the sky. The squirrel blood she’d been forced to eat, lest she starve, still pulsed in her veins, withering her from the inside out. If only she could be pure as silk, Aberina knew, she would be free again. Free to go home, and eat at her mother’s table.
To be pure, she must punish those that had forsaken her. She must make the world bleed. She must leave skeletons in her wake. Then, the balance of the world will be righted. A death for a death - repentance.
Aberina imagined the feast her mother would prepare for her when she returned.
Smoke, ocean, cigarettes, flax, vanilla, forest, rose, air.
Ivory, blueberry, silk, citrus, chai, cotton, sugar, seafoam.”
My heart leapt back into my throat, and lodged there, a piece of popcorn stuck in my airway. Cotton, sugar, seafoam…
The Chiller she made for me.
You’re my best friend, Simone, but you don’t trust me enough to drink this, and I made it specifically for you.
Cotton, sugar, seafoam.
She must leave skeletons in her wake. A death for a death - repentance.
“Aberina brewed and boiled and made the world love her some more. Her mother’s recipes never failed.
And tonight, under this mirror-glass sky, she is ready. She is finally coming home.
Her mom used to call her Bree. The beautiful...beautiful...Bree.”
I jumped to my feet. “I know what you’re doing, Isabelle!”
She laughed - oh, the candyfloss rain. I had to brush it away. “Oh, really? Do you?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Shawn raise a mason jar to his lips. “No!” I screamed. I knocked it from his hands, the glass shattering on the ground.
White blood. Ghost blood. Cigarettes and flax, cotton, sugar, seafoam.
“It’s too late,” Isabelle giggled.
“I don’t feel good,” Shawn moaned.
Isabelle choked out her words between bouts of laughter. “I’ve gotten this whole school hooked on my secret recipes. I only need one more skeleton before I can go. And it’s you.”
I backed away, hands up. “Isabelle, please…”
“I really don’t feel good,” Shawn said.
“He feels sick.” Isabelle said, her face lit up like a Christmas tree.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said, borrowing lines from movies, things the hero might say to make the villain change her mind.
“Don’t you want to help your boyfriend feel better?” Isabelle edged nearer and nearer me.
“Simone, I feel dizzy,” Shawn said. “Simone-”
Then his face froze and his voice stopped.
And he keeled over and died. Eyes wide as dishplates. Eyes empty as glass.
Same as everyone else at the party.
Fifty people crowded ‘round the firepit. They all just fell over, their drinks smashing on the ground, ghost blood, white blood, red.
They died; they died; they died.
I later heard a few people who weren’t at the party died, too. Like Grace McGuthrie; she kicked the bucket playing video games alone in her room.
I didn’t have time to process the shock. I had to act. I stuck my hand in the pocket that held my phone and secretly dialed the emergency number. Maybe they’d save me, and even if they didn’t, at least they’d find my body. And everyone else’s.
Isabelle lunged at me, took her fingernails to my throat. “You’re a goner.” Her breath was in my ear. It smelled like strawberries.
Blood dripped down my throat. She clawed at my forehead, tore deep gashes in my skin. “That’ll scar,” she whispered. When she was satisfied with my disfigurement, she threw me to the ground with a force indescribable, a strength almost inhuman.
I thought my spine might’ve cracked, or fell out onto the ground, but I wasn’t sure, because I couldn’t feel down there anymore - my whole body went numb. The infinite black called for me. I fought wave after wave of dizziness, struggling to keep awake. I heard sirens in the distance, then they grew closer.
I heard voices. I heard loud, anguished cries; they had discovered the bodies. I heard someone shout, “She’s still alive,” and I saw a face hover over me. I was lifted up by feather-soft hands.
The last thing I saw before I drowned in darkness was Isabelle, flying away, into the faded stars on wax wings.
The headlines were endless. “HALLOWEEN PRANK ENDS IN MASSACRE.”
“222 SANDERSON HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DEAD. SEARCH CONTINUES FOR THE KILLER.”
“THE FIREPIT DISASTER: A SURVIVOR SPEAKS.” Me, being the only survivor, I knew this one was fabricated.
“THE GIRL WHO POISONED HALF HER SCHOOL: THE MYSTERIOUS ISABELLE SPREE.”
They never found her parents. They never found her files. Like she’d totally disappeared; like she’d never been real in the first place.
I don’t know if the first responders saw her fly away on her Icarus wings; if they did, they kept it to themselves.
I laid, submerged in Jell-O, in a hospital bed, for half a year while the doctors stitched me back together. I was awake, most of the time - if you can call it that. I was lost in a thick, jelly-like stupor. They called me a vegetable, but I knew I was dessert.
Mom and dad read me the news stories; I committed the headlines to memory, but I still couldn’t make it make sense. Nothing made sense anymore, and nothing felt real.
Their faces never left my mind. Freckled Grace McGuthrie, eye-roll Henley, red-red Larissa. Shawn.
They surrounded my bed, never speaking, only staring, only wondering.
Why couldn’t I save them?
Why wasn’t I a hero?
Why didn’t the bad guy lose? Where did the bad guy go?
Was she really a beautiful sky-witch with a heart full of revenge? Or was Isabelle Spree just a crazy, lost, broken, twisted - in other words, human - girl?
I wasn't sure which truth I preferred.
When I got better, my body made whole, nothing changed. October 29th was still the last time anything ever happened; I was still lost in its void.
I was still there, by the fire, watching Shawn die. No matter how much time passed, the day never changed for me.
Isabelle forever flew into the moon on wax wings.
We moved to Salem a few months after my release from the hospital. I never spoke to the press; they’d only think I was crazy. Which I am.
Sanity is a far-off notion. I’m not sure if any of the memories are real. I know some of them are; Shawn is really dead. That reality will never leave me.
But I have to sift through memories of candyfloss rain, and Slinkys hanging from my head, and disintegration and Jell-O monsters and separated spines, to find the truth.
What, you thought those were metaphors? No, those are my memories. My spine is dripping on the cafeteria floor. Isabelle fleeing on candlewax wings.
I know it isn’t real. At least, some of it isn’t. But how do I tell? How do I know what is real and what is fake, when Isabelle really was a witch (she was, right?) and Shawn died anyway? If witches are real, than what else is? Am I crazy, or is everybody else?
But I stuff down the questions and ignore the memories. I wear my sweatshirts and my leggings and my makeup. I go to school and do my homework and work at Starbucks. I speak normal and dress normal and have normal friends, and I don’t talk about Sanderson anymore.
I’m not real anymore. I just fool everyone into thinking that I am.
The only day I ever let the facade slip is October 29th. Last week was the one year anniversary of the last day of my life. I hid in my room, popping candyfloss bubbles and fighting Jell-O monsters, and watching Shawn walk hand in hand with Isabelle through the distant mist.
And then it was October 30th. I got up again, went to school again, did math and history and science and it was like nothing ever happened.
Nothing ever happens. Not to me. Not anymore.
But I know someday I won’t be able to pretend. I’ll totally break, and no one will know why.
And no one will ever tell them, because I’m the only one who knows.