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"Abbie! I'm home!" Barry yelled as he stepped into the house. He hung up his jacket and went into the kitchen, and saw Abigail sitting there with their one-year-old son Thomas.

"It's about time," Abigail said with a look of relief. "You told me you'd be home twenty minutes ago."

"Traffic was a bitch, hon. Sorry." Barry knew that she got worried easily nowadays, especially since they had a son now. "I meant to call you, but it must have slipped my mind."

"Well, that's okay. You scared me is all. I don't want to lose you."

Barry smiled. Abbie's mind always went to the worst case scenario with stuff like this. “Trust me Abbie, I’m not going anywhere. You can count on it.”

“Alright.” Thomas started to fuss in her arms. “Hey, can you do me a favor and get his bottle ready for me?”

“Sure.” Barry walked over the cabinet and grabbed the stuff. As he was mixing everything together, the phone started to ring. “I’ll get it,” he told her. He walked over, shaking the bottle, and picked up the phone. “Greening residence, Barry speaking.”

“Hello, daddy.”

It sounded like a young girl’s voice. “I think you’ve got the wrong number there miss.” He went to hang up the phone.

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me already Barry? How’s mom, Abigail?”

Barry had a chill run up his spine. It was bad enough the Abigail always introduced herself as Abbie since she thought Abigail made her sound old. “Who the fuck is this? Is this some kind of a joke?”

The voice laughed. “Do you remember our little ‘camping trip’? Tillamook?”

He dropped the bottle.

“Barry?” Abbie asked, “you alright? Who is it?”

Barry felt his heart racing. He started to feel nauseous. “W-who the hell is this? Goddamnit, who the fuck are you!”

“Barry!” Abbie scolded him, “what have I told you about talking like that around Thomas?”

Barry looked back at her. “Sorry, Abbie.” He went back to the person on the other end. In a hushed voice, he asked, “Who are you, how do you know our names, and how the fuck do you know about that?”

“Oh daddy, you really do remember me! That makes me so happy. But not happy enough.” Her tone became cold and unfeeling. “I know that you moved, but now, I know where you are. I’m coming home, daddy. Aren’t you happy?”

Barry felt like he was about to vomit. He broke out into a cold sweat. His mind raced, trying to make sense of the situation, and then, all at once it hit him like a freight train. His voice caught in his throat, but he managed to squeak out, “Sophie?”

She let out a shriek. “Daddy, you even remember my name! Oh, the fun you, me, and mommy are going to have together.”

“No, wait, Sophie, listen you can’t-” Barry was flustered, trying to form a coherent sentence when he heard Abbie clear her throat behind him.

“Who’s Sophie?” She looked at him as if trying to read his mind.

“Listen, Abbie, I’ll tell you later, but right now I need to-” He was interrupted when she took the phone out of his hand and put it up to her ear. “Wait, Abbie, listen to me!” She put a finger up to her lips and opened her mouth to say something, but stopped, and had a thousand-yard-stare on her face. She turned pale, and her face slowly began to change from one of anger to one of horror. She slammed the phone back down onto the receiver. She looked at him, then over at Thomas.

“We need to leave.”

“Wait, Abbie, what did you-”

“Go pack Thomas’ bag and meet me in the van.”

Barry wanted to argue further, and find out what she was talking about, but decided that, given the circumstances, it would be best to just go along with whatever she wanted. He ran upstairs and grabbed the diaper bag, his stuffed giraffe, and then went back down into the kitchen to grab the formula. As he turned to leave, he heard a door creak open. Petrified, he slowly turned to face the source of the sound, and as he did, his heart dropped into his shoes.

Standing in the doorway to the laundry room was a face he hadn’t seen in seven years. She was wearing a tattered white dress with dirt around the hem. Her skin was gray, and in some places it was missing, revealing bone. Her blonde hair was knotted and had clumps of lakeweed strung throughout. Barry went against his better judgment, and looked into her eyes, hoping that they would still be the deep green they once were. He was instead greeted with milky white eyes, with very little color beyond spots of red.

“Did you miss me, daddy? I missed you and mommy very much. Why did you leave me there daddy? Why didn’t you come back for me?” He could hear her voice in his head, but it was hollow and spiteful. Her mouth moved much slower than her words, and when it opened he nearly threw up at the smell.

“Sophie, baby girl, please listen to me. We didn’t mean to. We loved you.” He was trying to keep her occupied while he slowly inched toward the door outside. "We still love you.”

Sophie just put her hands up to her head and, grabbing at her hair, screamed, “Why didn’t you come back for me! Why did you leave me there! Why did you let me die!”

Barry was mortified. As she screamed, those horrid memories came flooding back. He began to remember that day.

It was going to be her first camping trip. He practiced putting up the tent in the yard with her a few days before they left. She had picked out a princess sleeping bag, one with a pillow shaped like a tiara. She was so excited, and so was he. Abbie was less enthusiastic about it since she wasn’t much of an outdoor person, but then Sophie begged her to come along with them and, after much prodding, she had agreed to come along. After ninety-nine bottles of milk fell from the wall, seven games of I Spy, and a flat tire, they finally arrived at the campsite. Sophie couldn’t contain her excitement as she ran out of the car and started looking around. Barry got the tent set up, everyone got unpacked, and once it got dark, they sat around the campfire, roasting marshmallows, telling scary (but not too scary) stories, and sang songs. It was a great day, and none of them really wanted to leave. As everyone laid down for bed, Sophie looked at them and said that it was the best day of her life. It was about three o’clock when Barry felt a tap on his forehead. He thought it was Sophie, and that she had to go to the bathroom. However, when he opened his eyes, it was Abbie.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I saw a lake nearby when I was walking around earlier.”

“Yeah, and?”

“Do you not remember what we used to do when we were younger? You know, at the creek?” She had a naughty tone in her voice, and Barry remembered what she meant.

“You really want to go skinny dipping at three in the morning? What about Sophie?”

“She’ll be fine. She’s out like a light. You really wore her out today.” Abbie smiled and gave him a pouty lip. “Pwetty pwease?”

Barry sighed. “If you’ll stop talking like that.” She thanked him and told him to get towels and meet her outside. Carefully, so as not to wake Sophie, he got up and grabbed the towels. They went down to the lake, and, after stripping down, jumped into the water. They both immediately regretted it when they realized how cold the water was. They began to splash each other, and after what felt like hours, they climbed out and laid on the shore. Abbie covered them up with a towel as they laid there, looking up at the night sky.

“I’m glad you guys convinced me to come today. It was fun.”

“Glad to hear it.” They laid there for a few minute before they drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly, the quiet of the night was broken by a loud scream. Barry and Abbie sat straight up, and realized it was Sophie. They both ran at a breakneck speed through the brush and finally came to the camp. Barry looked around the camp while Abbie ran to the tent.

“Barry!” she yelled, “she’s not here!”

“Sophie!” he yelled out. “Sophie, where are you baby!”

“Sophie!” Abbie began yelling too. They were starting to panic. Abbie told him that the tent was open and that her sleeping bag had been shredded. They both grabbed flashlights and went searching, calling out to Sophie as they looked. Barry had purposely chosen a more isolated area so that they could be as loud as they wanted to without getting complaints. They both regretted this decision as they became more and more discouraged. They had been looking for so long that the sun was already hanging low in the sky. The two of them met back up at the camp. They were heartbroken. Barry couldn’t believe what had happened.

“We can’t tell anyone about this.” Abbie murmured. Barry couldn’t believe what she said.

“What? What do you mean? Abbie, we have to tell someone. Sophie’s out there somewhere and we need to find her. We can’t just sit on our asses and do nothing.” Abbie looked at him with tears in her eyes.

“You think I don’t know that? You think I want to do nothing while our daughter is gone? Barry,” she sighed, “Sophie’s gone. She’s not coming back.”

“Don’t say that!” Barry was in shock. Abbie was the last person he would expect to take such a pessimistic attitude about this. “We’ll find her, don’t worry.”

Abbie shifted in her spot. “Barry, I...I found...something,”

“What? What was it?” She reached into her pocket and held it there for a second. She pulled out a strip of cloth. She handed it to Barry. Upon further inspection, he realized that it was part of Sophie’s pajamas. It had blood on it. He looked up at her. “Where did you find this?”

“Barry, it’s no use, she’s gone.”

Barry was getting mad. “Damn it Abbie, tell me where the hell you found it! Where is my daughter!”

“Listen to me. Just calm down, and listen. If we go to the police, they’re gonna want to know where we were when it happened. What are we gonna do, tell them we were skinny-dipping at three o’clock? Whether they find her or not, we are going to get in a lot of trouble. They could take her away from us, and if she, well, you know, died, then what are they going to do to us? We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. If we just leave, we can move somewhere else, somewhere where nobody knows who we are. It’ll hurt, but we’ll be able to go on with our lives. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison.”

Barry couldn’t believe her. She was seriously suggesting that they leave their only child, in the forest, to die. He felt sick. He leaned over and threw up next to him, and Abbie tried to rub his back.

“Don’t you fucking touch me,” he sputtered. He finished, stood up, and walked away. After an hour of searching, he found himself starting to consider Abbie’s plan. He quickly pushed the thought out of his head and kept looking. Before he knew it, the sun was already high in the sky, and he was getting tired. The longer he looked, the more he thought her plan was a good idea. Eventually, when he thought he would collapse from exhaustion, he went back to camp. Abbie had already packed everything away, and was sitting at the campfire. When Barry walked up behind her, he noticed Sophie’s sleeping bag was fuel for the fire.

“Changed your mind?” she asked in a slightly smug tone of voice. “Or are you just coming back for water?”

“Listen to me, and listen to me good. If we do this, and I mean if, we have to agree on something right here, right now.”

“What is it?”

“No matter what happens, no matter what we’re accused of, we do not betray each other. We don’t tell anyone, not even each other. We push this out of our minds and never speak of it again. Deal?”

Abbie looked up at him, tears in her eyes. She took a deep breath. Her voice was shaky. “Deal.”

Barry took a deep breath. “Let’s go home.”

That was the last time either him or Abbie mentioned it. They moved across the country, settled down in a small town, and continued their lives. He hurt, but eventually, the pain was just a dull ache, and then, nothing. He repressed the memory and didn’t think about it anymore. But now, with his daughter standing in front of him, he felt a mix of emotions. He was overjoyed to see her, but hated that it was under these circumstances. He was angry at Abbie for making him leave her there, and terrified that his dead daughter is standing in front of him.

“How did you find us?” Barry wanted to know how his now seventeen-year-old daughter managed to track them down.

“The giraffe,” she echoed, “I used my giraffe.”

Barry remembered that when they had Thomas, Barry had given him Sophie’s giraffe as a present. Luckily, Abbie didn’t remember where it came from, and he told her he’d gotten it at a thrift store on the way home.

“Sophie I...I don’t know what to tell you. I wanted to keep looking but your mother she-” He tried to catch himself, but it was too late. “No, wait, Sophie, I meant-”

“What? What about mommy? She...She didn’t want you to look for me? Did she tell you to stop? Did she? Did you stop looking for me? You...you…” she looked down, and began to tremble. The lights in the house began to flicker. The cabinets flew open, and everything inside them shot out. Barry ducked, and looked at Sophie. At her feet, there was a dark mist billowing around her. It was getting thicker, and thicker, and thicker, until he saw streaks of white, and saw that there was something in the mist. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought that he saw spirits flowing within. She began to rise, and she looked up at him, her eyes glowing with a dark aura, and let loose an ear-piercing screech. It was so loud that Barry’s ears began to bleed. When he put his hand up to his ear and pulled back, the sight of blood, combined with his overloaded psyche, he blacked out. The last thing he remembered was the sound of the ghostly whispers surrounding him as the mist overtook him.

When he came to, the kitchen was fine. Nothing was broken, the door was closed, and his ears weren’t bleeding. He sat up, and realized that he was holding Thomas’ giraffe. He clutched it close to his chest, and looked at the clock on the microwave. Had it been two hours? Suddenly, he remembered that Abbie had taken Thomas to the van and was supposed to wait for him. He got up, and ran outside. Abbie was pulling up in the van, and when she saw him, she got out and ran over to him. She threw her arms around him in a tight hug.

“What the hell took you so long?” she asked him.

“Sophie, she...she…” Barry couldn’t finish his thought. All he could do was fall to his knees. He began to sob, and Abbie bent down next to him, and wrapped her arms around him. Soon, she began to cry, and the two of them sat there for a while, just crying.

They stood up and wiped their eyes. Abbie grabbed Thomas out of his carrier and they went inside. Barry went into the kitchen to make sure that Sophie wasn’t there. When everything looked okay, they sat down on the couch after putting Thomas in his playpen. They sat there for what seemed like hours, the only sound being Thomas’ babbles as he played with his toys. When dinner came around, they ate in silence. Barry was mentally exhausted, and Abbie could tell. After they put Thomas down to sleep, they went to bed themselves. Barry laid there for a while before he rolled over.

“Abbie? You awake?”

“What do you think?”

“When I came out of the house, you were pulling into the driveway. Where did you go?”

“That?" She sat up. "Well, I was sitting there with Thomas for the longest time before I heard the scream. I panicked and drove off. I remembered that at the thrift store, there was a woman in the parking lot. She came up to me and told me that I would need a warding charm in the near future. I turned her down at the time, but I drove down as fast as I was willing to, and when I got there, she looked at me, and handed me one, saying that I needed it and that I needed to go back home because you were in trouble. I tried to pay her, but she just told me to go. When I got home, you were coming out of the house, and I ran over to you.” She reached into her nightstand and pulled out what looked like a piece of wood that was tapered at the end with a metal ring around the broad end. He took it and noticed that it was also covered in strange markings.

“So how’s it work?” Barry was sure it was just a little trinket, something to calm her mind.

“You just touch it, and then it’s supposed to cast a ‘ward’ on you or something. I didn’t really pay too much attention when she told me about it.” She shrugged her shoulders, and put it back in the nightstand. They laid there for a while, when all of a sudden, Thomas started fussing on the baby monitor. Barry looked at it, and then at Abbie.

“You gave Tommy a touch, right?” Abbie’s eyes grew wide. “Right?” She shook her head. They threw off the covers and tore down the hallway to Thomas’ room. Barry couldn’t believe it.

Standing over Thomas’ crib was Sophie. She looked over at them, her hair was now black, and her eyes were like marbles. She looked back at Thomas.

“This is who you replaced me with?” her voice echoed in their heads. Abbie gasped since this was the first time she’d seen Sophie since the trip. She covered her mouth in horror.

“Sophie?” she choked out. Sophie turned toward her and smiled.

“Hi, mommy. Nice to see you again.” She turned back to Thomas once more, and the mist returned. “Thomas, I’m Sophie, your big sister. Not that you would know that of course.” She was speaking so that Barry and Abbie could hear her as well. “I want to… show you something.” She looked back towards Abbie, and opened her mouth much wider than it should have, then shot into the air. She pounced on Thomas and disappeared into smoke as she did. Abbie screamed, and when the mist dissipated, she ran over to the crib and burst into tears. Barry ran over and saw that all that was left was a black stain where Thomas used to lay. He put his arm around her, and as he began to try to comfort her, he thought he saw something. He pushed it out of his mind and went back to Abbie. As he did, the thought came back to him. He was sure it was just nothing, but he thought he saw that mist, swirling around the giraffe.

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