I've never been one for funerals. My mother passed while asleep, after battling leukemia for five years. I was destroyed when I found her eyes wide open, her body stiff and cold, the following morning. While I was asleep in the room adjacent to hers, she was dying. That was a tough pill to swallow.
But I couldn't grieve. I had to stay strong for my brother, who was a mere eleven years old. He was attached to our mother at the hip, so he took the news hard.
Luckily, our mother left us a will. The deed to the house was ours along with an inheritance, but I didn't want the money. I didn't want the house. I wanted my mom back.
Isaac, my little brother, wanted to move out of the house immediately after our mother's passing. He said it wasn't the same without her and it killed him to continue living in a place that death so easily reigned. Of course, being his older sister, I didn't want to act irrationally. We needed to sell the house first. Then, and only then, could we move out of the tomb that captured our mother.
So, we planned her funeral. I wanted Isaac to be as much a part of it as I was. Mom would've wanted it that way. My dad, that joke of a father, didn't even flinch at the news. He said it was bound to happen right in front of Isaac, as if, at one point in time, he didn't once love the woman lying in a freezer drawer somewhere, unable to ever draw a breath again.
I had a feeling after the funeral he would file for legal guardianship of Isaac. Sure, in the justice system he had every right to do so, but if you knew the monster eating away at his conscience, you would understand why he was no fit parent. He shouldn't even be allowed to own a hamster without supervision.
The entire time I stared at my mother's body inside of the coffin, I thought about how her pride and joy would be handed off to that monster. The one I was forced to call Dad. Isaac clutched at my dress as he cried uncontrollably.
My father didn't even come to the funeral. Why bother? It's just my ex-wife and mother of my children who died of cancer, right? No big deal. It almost clenched at my heart strings but... I didn't allow it. I couldn't allow myself to break down, especially not in front of Isaac.
After the funeral, we went back to the tomb. Isaac hurried off towards my bedroom, and I made my way down to the basement. Once I closed the door behind me, I fell to the ground. Everything I held back at the funeral, everything I kept locked up for years came spewing out of my tear ducts, down my cheeks, and onto my dress. The mascara burned my eyes as I cried so intensely I forgot to breathe.
Suddenly, my sadness became anger. I punched at the wall, not caring that I was hurting myself. I couldn't stop. Until... I heard laughing. I quickly looked around the room. Silence. Darkness. Nothing. Then, I heard heavy footsteps. They were coming from upstairs. Being that Isaac only weighed about 80-90 pounds, I knew it couldn't have been him.
So I ran up the stairs only to find the alarm still set and the front and back doors locked. I exhaled deeply, wiping away the mascara stained into my cheeks. Still, those footsteps couldn't have been in my imagination.
The following weeks passed by easier than expected. Besides getting a letter from the court, I had been dealing with my new role as guardian, easily. Isaac had begun sleeping in his own bed and seemed to be recovering from Mom's death. He seemed happy and even asked if we could postpone moving out of our mother's house. He had this idea that it would look better for us in court, sensing that I owned the house and had plenty of money to care for Isaac opposed to my alcoholic father living in a roach-infested apartment.
His idea was a good one, so I removed the for-sale sign from the front yard and hid it away in the basement.
Though everything seemed to be looking up for us, I started to notice Isaac becoming more and more of an introvert. He spent most of his days in his room with the door closed. I could hear him talking whenever I stood outside of the door, invading his privacy. I know kids his age have imaginary friends, but whenever I listened in on his conversations, I deemed it strange. Eerie. He talked about the court situation often, asking for advice from his 'friend.' I often, at times, would catch whispers of a voice that was not Isaac's. One that sounded a lot like our mother's. But I knew that was silly. Our mother was dead. Isaac more than likely spoke in a high pitched voice as a coping mechanism to deal with our mother's loss.
I was beginning to notice that days could go by without Isaac even showering or eating. He was so fixated on his room. It was to the point I sometimes had to burst into his room to find him sitting, cross-legged in front of the closet door. The door was always cracked open as if something had crawled back inside before I invaded the room. Isaac would always throw a tantrum, yelling at the top of his lungs that I shouldn't have ruined it. What was it?
Whenever I would prepare dinner, he'd no longer want to eat at the table. He claimed he had important stuff to do before he kissed me on the cheek, rushing up the stairs like a bat out of hell. I found it odd that he'd changed his mind about the house. He had always been frightened of the basement, but somehow he had overcome his fear. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and catch him walking down into the basement. He seemed to be arguing with his 'friend.' Isaac didn't want to go into the basement, but the voice kept insisting he come. Because I couldn't be caught spying on him, I followed from a distance into the darkness as I listened to his small footsteps descend down the stairs of the basement. As usual, he conversed with the voice that, without a doubt, was my mother's. I knew it was, though all logic would suggest it wasn't. I suppose Isaac could have been recording mother at some point... I mean, that's a bit of a stretch but what other explanation would be plausible? I didn't want to believe there was something else speaking in my mother's voice.
I could've gone onto paranormal sites, looking up things that crawl in the darkness and coax little children into becoming antisocial, but that would've meant I was losing my sanity. To be honest, if I were to go to court and say Isaac had been talking to aliens, ghosts, etc they would've looked me up and down before throwing me into an asylum. And, most importantly, Isaac would've been forced into the custody of a sociopathic drunk. So, though I was curious about what was going on, it was completely logical to believe he was simply withdrawing from me due to our mother's recent death. Children do grieve differently.
Although I vowed to give Isaac the space he needed, something within me told me to check up on once I finished washing the dishes one night. As per usual, he hadn't been downstairs for hours. I just... I guess I wanted to know what was going on with him. If he had an imaginary friend... fine. But, what if something else was going on? I knew in my heart something else was going on. I could feel it in my gut. That voice... our mother's voice. It was impossible. And, with the custody hearing so close, I couldn't risk Isaac being antisocial and stoic. So I mustered up the courage to turn the knob to his room. As I creaked the door open, I realized how quiet it was. No laughter. No talking. Strange.
But, it all made sense once I walked into the room. Empty. No Isaac. No imaginary friend. Just... the closet. It was cracked open just as it had been the countless times I caught Isaac sitting cross-legged in front of it. I went into a panic, shouting his name at the top of my lungs. Frantically, I looked in every closet in the house, under every bed, and inside of every cabinet. Nothing.
Without any other options, I mustered up enough courage to call the police. Once the police arrived, they thoroughly searched the house. As predicted, they were unable to locate Isaac.
"Is there anywhere else your brother could have gone, miss?" the officer said.
I shook my head.
"I'm all he has," I answered, sadly.
I zoned out as the police officer continued asking questions concerning my parents and their whereabouts, as a cold sweat seeped from my skin. Isaac would've never run away, especially not to our sperm donor's house. He despised that man almost as much as I did. He wouldn't leave me to run into the arms of a man that barely wanted anything to do with him, would he? I continued questioning myself as the officers reassured me that they'd do everything in their power to find Isaac.
Once they left, I hectically scrambled for my cell. Reluctantly, I called my father, believing perhaps he had coaxed Isaac out of the house. But, once he answered the phone, I knew he wasn't the culprit. He was piss drunk. Too drunk to plan out anything but his next visit to the bathroom.
I didn't know what to do. I did everything a parent would when their child goes missing, and, having to wait for a response, only made my anxiety peak. Where would he go? Who took him? I couldn't help but think back to the footsteps. The laughter. The conversations. The open closet door. Perhaps some sick fuck preyed on Isaac. Though he was a smart boy, he was still a boy. Naive. Indecisive. Easy to manipulate. But, no one could get into our house unless invited. Isaac didn't know the alarm code; therefore, he couldn't have disabled it. No one could get in without the alarm sounding. No one.
So... they had to have been in the house. In the shadows perhaps... hiding in his closet. No. It wasn't possible.
With my thoughts scrambling to find an answer, I ended up falling asleep in Isaac's bed that night. When I awoke the next morning, I heard laughter. Instinctively, I jumped up, rushing towards the noise in hopes it would be Isaac. But the laughter was coming from a place Isaac was terrified of. The basement. I knew that it was unlikely that he'd stay down there by himself, but I had to look. For God's sake, he was my responsibility.
So I hurried down into the basement, flicking the light switch which barely lit a quarter of the room.
"Isaac," I called.
"Over here," he said.
I rushed towards the direction of the voice, realizing if were to take a single step forward I would be engulfed in darkness.
"Isaac, why are you in the dark?" I questioned.
An unrecognizable laugh threatened my ears. I stepped away, walking towards the stairs.
"Come get me, sister," he said, innocently.
I continued up the stairs slowly. I knew that was Isaac's voice, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was in danger. The atmosphere in the room was so thick that I could barely breathe. It was as if the air was on fire.
"You better not leave me, you bitch!"
The voice... it wasn't Isaac's. It was deep, threatening, and it startled me so much that urine trickled down my legs in response to it. I was so frightened that I stood still in shock, staring into the darkness a few feet ahead of me.
"I love you, sister," Isaac said.
"I- I love you too, Isaac. Just... I need to see your face, little man," I stuttered.
I closed my eyes as I listened to the heavy footsteps approach me. My body shook intensely... mostly because I knew. I knew it wasn't him walking towards me. Isaac was always light on his feet...
"You're right, I'm not Isaac," it said.
Slowly, I began to open my eyes.
Written by GreyOwl