My sister, Clara, is six years old. As six-year-olds go, she is relatively normal. She plays with Barbie and dozens of coloured plastic horses sporting elaborately braided manes and tails. She plays with my old toys, Action Man and his truck with the big plastic gun - my favourite as a young boy. I'm now eighteen. The only truly striking thing about Clara is in six years of existence, she has never said a single word.
Mum and Dad tried everything: bribing, begging, scolding, grounding. It’s just an irrefutable fact, Clara doesn't talk to anyone.
It's Clara's birthday today. Her cake had a pink pony holding a bunch of balloons on it - now it lies in tatters, only the iced balloons have survived. Her gifts are laying in various stages of opening, she's asleep on Aunt Gloria's knee, sucking her thumb like a sleeping cherub. The gift Gloria gave her is the one thing she played with all day.
I hate it.
Looking at the thing makes me physically sick.
Aunt Gloria and Clara speak to each other. They never use words, they never make a sound when in direct company, but they can hold entire conversations through eyebrow wiggles and gestures. It can be pretty spooky sometimes, but even her favourite auntie is locked out of Clara's thoughts.
Gloria gave Clara an old grotty necklace with a locket on it. The necklace itself is pewter formed into minute links, a chain snaking elegantly around Clara's fine porcelain wrist, the necklace itself clutched in her fist. The hideous black stone set into the locket seems to suck the warmth out of the air. There is something really wrong with that thing, I'm sure of that.
Midnight. Something has woken me up, it's Clara, standing in my doorway, the moonlight illuminating her from the landing window behind her. She looks pasty. Unwell. That damned necklace is nestled in her nightdress. Every few seconds a small hand goes up to the locket and fiddles with the clasp.
'Whassamatta?' I mumble, groggy from the sudden disturbance. Clara holds her nightdress away from her body and shifts her weight.
"Did you have an accident?" I whisper. She nods. I climb out of bed and shuffle over to her, crouching down to her level I say, "Let’s go to the bathroom then."
A little white hand entwines with mine and we slowly walk to the bathroom at the end of the hall. I clean her up and put her in clean nightclothes, going to take off the necklace she's become obsessed and fixed with, but she renders a boiling glare and a vehement shake of the head.
I withdraw my hand and leave the necklace be.
Thinking no more of it, I take her to my room and put her in my dry bed. It can wait till morning before I clean hers. I eventually nod off, sitting up with Clara huddled in my arms, the steady rise and fall of her chest soothing and familiar.
Over the next two weeks the bed wetting continues, it gets worse too. Now she alternates between waking my parents and me. Nobody is sleeping, nobody can rest, she's losing weight, refusing to eat and drink, crying and curling into a ball when we try to make her eat. We've been to the doctors several times, none can find an answer, they say Clara is being difficult and it will pass.
It didn't pass. It only got different. Now, she's head-butting the wall at night.
Last night, I walked into her room and she was sitting, facing the wall. Behind her a circle of toys - letter blocks, dolly shoes and the somewhat disturbing sight of heads ripped off Barbies - and on the walls, a crudely drawn picture, definitely the art of a child. The picture was of nothing in particular that I recognized, so I just lifted her feather light body from the ground and put her back to bed.
She stared at me that night before I left, something she never did. I had only ever seen her make eye contact when she was hurt or scared; tonight, she grabbed my arm for a short second before dropping her hand back onto the bed and closing her tired little eyes.
Something doesn't feel right.
I can hear a voice coming from Clara's room. Sliding out of bed and tiptoeing along the corridor, I press my ear up to her door and jump back suddenly. The door is HOT.
Wrapping my hand in my shirt, I open the door and I'm greeted by complete and utter chaos. In the middle of the floor sits Clara. Around her is the entire contents of her bedroom, splintered like toothpicks and thrown around. She's kneeling in the centre as if in prayer, that infernal locket clasped in between her palms. The walls bleed, the ceiling is cracked and standing over her whenever I dare to blink is a shadowy figure.
Leaning her head forward so the jewel of the locket presses against her head, Clara smiles wearily then her head snaps up and she stares right at me again.
The shadow over her shoulder finally appears to my eye, and a hideous beast is staring at me. I want to scream but the sound won’t come.
Who... is the surplus human? whispers the beast in Clara's ear, cradling her chin with a razor sharp claw tipped hand, making me flinch. I clear my throat, ready to attempt an answer. Clara beats me to it. Touching the hand on her cheek and smiling gently. I think the demon must be able to read her thoughts as it retreats.
Unspoken one says 'brother', the demon rasps, a questioning tone in its voice. I nod. It disappears and reappears in front of me, standing up to its full height, the thing must be nine feet tall with serrated spikes along its spine and nails sharp enough to pierce steel, but I don't feel threatened. I feel like I have known this monster all my life.
Join the family of dark? it asks.
'I don't understand... what do you mean?'
The demon crouches and places a surprisingly tender hand on my chin.
For two lives, one guise, it says, the attempt at human language confusing it.
Clara pads over and holds the necklace out to me, indicating I take it. I want to hurl the revolting thing out of the window but instead I take a tentative hold of it. Upon taking hold of the locket, a red tinge comes over my vision, like a pair of tinted spectacles have been placed on my face.
Clara smiles, a genuine happy smile and taking the demon's hand, she offers her other hand out to me. I take it.
It's been eight months since the night with the demon. He visits almost weekly. My sister talks to demons, and since meeting one, I haven't said a damn word.
Written by Tiamat Storm