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       Miraculous: Tales of the Unknown, p.1

           Krystal George
 
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Miraculous: Tales of the Unknown
Miraculous: Tales of the Unknown

  A Paranormal Indie Author Anthology

  Compiled By:

  Krystal George and Amber Streed

  Featuring Stories From:

  Krystal George

  Amber Streed

  Amanda Alberson

  Kate Marie Robbins

  Cheryl Casey

  Heather Kirchhoff

  S Cu ‘Anam Policar

  Donna Kelly

  Lisa Marie Pottgen

  Illustrated by:

  Cheryl Casey Ramirez

  www.CCRBookCoverDesigns.com

  *Each story was edited by the individual Author*

  Formatted by: Krystal George

  For All of the Readers

  This is a compilation of stories written for you…

  Thank you all for your dedication and support of what we do!

  The Babysitter

  By: Krystal George

  ©2013 by Krystal George

  I hate babysitting. There was something about kids that really irritated me. They were smelly, loud, foul little creatures and there always seemed to be something sticky or soggy about them. So when my mom volunteered me to babysit the Anderson kids, I could have strangled her. There were three of them.

  Tessa was the oldest at eleven. She had short wavy blonde hair and big brown eyes. Next was Malcolm at eight. He had brown hair that he wore in a spiked faux hawk. Last was Priscilla. She was only four and the biggest brat I had ever seen. If you spent any time hanging out at the local grocery store, you had surely seen one of her tantrums. Her long blonde hair was always tangled, her face was always red and her eyes were always full of tears. It was enough to cause me a headache just thinking about them… and I was about to embark on an entire night with them… a Friday night… alone… with the Anderson kids… UGH!

  “Call me if you need anything,” my mom said as I walked out of the front door. I rolled my eyes, but she didn’t see me. I was just so annoyed at her for volunteering me like she had. Why would she even think I’d be interested in watching those little monsters?

  The walk to the Anderson house was actually pretty pleasant despite my bad mood. There was a crisp breeze and the smell of rain in the air. I loved the rain. I loved the way it made the ground smell earthy and musky. I am obsessed with dirt. I know that it’s strange, but it’s true, and there is just something about mud that excites me.

  My cell phone was tucked away safely in my pocket and I jumped when it started vibrating against my hip. Then I laughed for being such a sissy. When I pulled it out, I smiled because it was Ben, my boyfriend. “Hi there.”

  “Surrounded by kids yet?”

  “Ugh, not yet. So not looking forward to it.” I groaned.

  “Where do the Andersons live again?”

  I laughed, “no way Ben. It’s going to be bad enough without getting into trouble for sneaking my boyfriend in.”

  “Come on Shaina, live a little.”

  I rolled my eyes once again to myself. “I’ll see you tomorrow, promise.”

  “Ugh, fine.”

  I smiled when I ended the call. I was expecting that he’d be at the Anderson’s within the hour. He wasn’t the type of guy who took no for an answer, especially when it involved an almost empty house.

  It was just starting to get dark when I walked up to the front door. Before I even rang the bell, I could hear the fussing going on inside. Someone was screaming, someone was laughing, and someone was crying. I groaned. This was going to be a long night. I reached forward and rang the bell.

  Carrie Anderson opened the door with an exasperating sigh. “Shaina, thank God.”

  “Hello Mrs. Anderson.”

  She was dressed up in a slinky black dress and bright red heels. Her makeup was flawless and her hair was perfect… almost. There was a gummy bear stuck in the chestnut strands and I had to stifle a laugh as I picked it out and handed it to her.

  She laughed, “Come in, come in! Please come in!”

  It took every ounce of self-control I had to keep my composure. I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t appreciate it if I rolled my eyes or groaned at the thought of walking in to her house.

  “I’m sorry that the house is a little messy right now, but please make yourself at home.”

  The word little wasn’t an adequate description of just how “messy” her house was. There were toys scattered across the floor like a broken battlefield. Clothes were stacked in piles that looked as if at one time they had been neatly folded, but now resembled something along the lines of falling towers. There was a fresh red stain on the carpet by the steps and a bottle of carpet cleaner and a scrub brush lying next to it. Luckily, for now, the kids were nowhere to be seen.

  “What time are you going to be home again?”

  She looked at her watch with panicked eyes. “I have to meet my husband in twenty minutes. We shouldn’t be later than one; I told your mom one o’clock. That’s okay, right?”

  I could hear the panic rising in her voice and smiled trying to look reassuringly. “Of course, I was just curious.” Crap I thought, six whole hours of these freaking kids.

  She looked down at her watch again and then smiled at me apologetically. “I guess I should go and get the kids and make sure that you all are alright together.”

  She said that, but I could tell she wanted nothing more than to just get out of here, so I let her off the hook. “Don’t worry about it Mrs. Anderson. I’m sure that we’ll be just fine.” Yeah and the pay better be worth my time, I thought.

  “Are you sure?” She asked, visibly sighing in relief.

  No! I wanted to scream, but instead I nodded and plastered a fake smile on my face. “Yup, I’ve got this.”

  She grabbed her purse and car keys off of a table next to the front door and smiled at me, “thank you so much Shaina. We really appreciate this,” and then she was gone.

  It was like they sensed the moment their mother was gone. The house exploded with noise. A radio somewhere in the house blared to life and someone started singing along with it at the top of their lungs. Somewhere else in the house, a television was turned up and an action scene complete with squealing tires and shots being fire echoed through the downstairs. Then to add even more noise to the already chaotic sound, someone started screaming.

  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and then began chanting to myself. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Six hours… I can survive anything for six hours.

  I chose to deal with the television first since I was already downstairs. Following the sound of crashing and glass breaking, I found my way into the rec room where Malcolm was standing on the couch and cheering for the bad guys. He had a stick of licorice hanging from his mouth and when one of the bad guys was shot and killed he started yelling at the screen.

  “What the heck you idiot!!! You so could have gotten away.”

  “Malcolm?”

  He turned and looked at me before pulling the sticky licorice out of his mouth after biting off a huge piece. Then with his mouth full, he asked, “who are you?”

  I smiled even though inside I was thinking about where I could potentially lock him up for the night. “I’m Shaina, the babysitter.”

  He plopped down on the couch cushions and sat his sticky treat down next to him… on the couch… on the fabric of the couch cushion. I wanted to scream at him for being such an idiot… but I didn’t. I kept my cool.

  “I don’t really need a babysitter, you know.”

  I looked around the messy rec room and raised my eyebrows, “oh no? Really?”

  “Nope, I’m sort of the man of house, actually.
My dad works a lot.”

  Before I could answer him, something sounding like a crash echoed upstairs. “I need to go and check that out. Do me a favor, would you, and turn down the volume on the TV?”

  He rolled his eyes, but grabbed the remote and turned down the volume.

  “Thank you.”

  See, that wasn’t so bad, I told myself… one down and two more to go. I can do this! I walked up the stairs and into the bedroom where I thought the crash had come from. Once there I stood in stunned silence at what I saw.

  I can’t do this…

  “It’s a slide! See,” Priscilla said pointing at her bed and dresser.

  She had pushed her dresser down onto her bed at an angle. I wasn’t even sure how she had managed it, but now she was using the back of her dresser as a slide. The front was facing the floor and the drawers that weren’t blocked by the floor or the bed had slid open and all of the clothes had fallen out of them.

  “Wanna try?” She asked.

  I closed my eyes and prayed for a little patience. I just needed enough to get me through this night. That’s all I was asking for.

  “We need to pick this up.” I told her slowly. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

  Those were the wrong words.

  Tears began spilling down her reddened cheeks, her lips began to tremble, and then a horrendous scream tore from her throat.

  “I… don’t… want… to…!” She cried.

  I took a deep breath. “Priscilla, I’m sorry, but we have to get this mess cleaned up. If you don’t want to help, you’re going to have to sit in the corner until I’m finished.”

  She cried, she pouted, she refused to help and in the end, she sat watching me from the corner with tears still streaming down her face and hatred blazing in her eyes. I allowed myself the satisfaction of the small victory that at least she was sitting where I told her to sit.

  When the dresser was finally pushed back into place and the room picked back up at least most of the way. I turned on her TV and put in a movie to calm her down. With any luck, and I wasn’t really counting on any, she’d fall asleep while watching it.

  Once I was back in the hallway, I strained my ears to see if the TV was still turned down downstairs, but I couldn’t hear it over the blare of the radio coming from down the hallway. Two down and one to go, I told myself. I looked at my watch. I’d already been there for an hour. I can do this… I can do this… I can do this. I can survive anything for five hours.

  Tessa’s bedroom was at the opposite end of the hall as Pricilla’s had been. I knew which one it was right away because the stereo was so loud that it was practically shaking the closed door. I knocked out of courtesy but I knew that she couldn’t hear it so a few seconds later I turned the knob and walked in.

  Her room was decorated in true pre-teen fashion with posters of celebrities torn out of magazines papering the walls. She had a fuzzy hot pink rug covering the majority of her wooden floors, and her bed was covered with stars and peace signs. It was on her bed that I found her. Sprawled out on her stomach, chewing gum and flipping through a book. She looked up when she sensed I was watching her and rolled her eyes.

  “I don’t need a babysitter.”

  Without even waiting for her to hear my request, I walked to her dresser and turned down the volume of her radio. “Well your parents disagree.”

  The look she sent me was so angry and so full of attitude that I almost started laughing. I couldn’t help it. She was this little girl who was just coming into her own as far as starting to grow up and she thought she could out do me when it came to the ‘tude? I don’t think so.

  “I’m going to go downstairs and make something for your brother and sister to eat, are you hungry?”

  She shrugged and turned her attention back to her book, “I don’t know… maybe.”

  Awesome, I thought. “Okay well I’ll call up here when it’s ready so please leave your radio turned down so you can hear me.”

  Her only response was a thumb up. I took that as an okay sign.

  Back downstairs I was happy to see that Malcolm still had the TV at a decent volume, but Priscilla was down there with him and both were covered with gooey sticky licorice. There was read sticky residue from their hands smeared on the couch, and after stuffing a particularly long piece into his mouth, Malcolm had thrown up red stained vomit on the floor… and hadn’t bothered to clean it up.

  “That’s disgusting,” I told him.

  “Oh well,” he told me.

  I could have strangled him. Instead I grabbed the carpet cleaner and the scrub brush where they were lying by the first red stain, which I now assessed, was probably more licorice induced vomit, and handed them to Malcolm.

  “What am I supposed to do with this?” He asked.

  “Clean up your mess,” I told him, “or you can skip dinner.”

  He cried, he complained, and he told me his stomach hurt too much to clean. I stuck to my threat and eventually he got down on his knees and started to scrub. That was when my cell phone rang again. It was my mom.

  “I can’t believe you signed me up for this,” I told her in way of a greeting.

  She started laughing, “It can’t be that bad.”

  So I told her everything that had happened so far. “Wow, I guess it has been a little more than I expected.”

  I groaned. I was going through the cabinets and there was nothing to eat. “I guess you’re lucky because you only had me to deal with. I couldn’t imagine having three awful children.”

  “You weren’t always so easy,” she told me again laughing. “When you were about four I hired a specialist to work with you. It was amazing. Literally overnight you were a different child.”

  For some reason her statement gave me goose bumps. “I don’t remember that.”

  “Well you were still young honey.”

  I strained my brain, but nothing was there. No memory of working with someone at all. “Still, I have absolutely no memory of that.” Then I brushed it off, “maybe I should give Mrs. Anderson that same advice.”

  “I think I still have the company’s name that I used. I’ll text it to you and you can pass on the information. Be polite though Shaina, some people don’t like to be told they have awful kids.”

  “I know mom,” I told her before hanging up.

  A few seconds later and my phone lit up with her text message.

  CHANGED – 555-784-6589

  I smiled and decided that this was just what poor Mrs. Anderson needed. Then I jumped when there was a knock on the kitchen window. With my heart racing, I peered out through the blinds and… nothing. There was nothing there. Frowning, I started rummaging through the cabinets again until there was another knock, this time louder than the first.

  There was a door leading out to their back porch from the kitchen and I hurried over to it before I could chicken out. My heart was pounding, adrenaline was pumping through my veins, and I held my breath in fear. I pulled the blinds to the side and pressed my face against the cool glass. It was too dark to be sure, but I was almost positive that there was nothing out there, but again as soon as I turned away, the knock came again.

  Several options ran through my mind then. Did I call the police? Did I grab the kids and make them stay with me in case there was an intruder? Did I call the Andersons? Then I shook my head and laughed at myself. If there was an intruder, they wouldn’t be knocking, and it wasn’t like I believed in things that went bump in the night… so pretty much I was just freaking myself out over nothing.

  Strengthening my resolve, I flipped the switch for the back porch light and unlocked the door. Then, still trying to be brave, I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. It was cold without my jacket on and I hugged my arms around myself to try and warm up.

  “Hello?” I called tentatively. “Is anyone out here?”

  Then a thought occurred to me. “Malcolm? Thi
s isn’t funny. If you’re trying to scare me, it’s not working!”

  Arms circled around me from behind and a hand came across my mouth to stifle my scream. “Who’s Malcolm?”

  I elbowed him in the stomach and spun around to face him when the force of my attack loosened his arms. “Ugh! That wasn’t funny Ben!”

  He was laughing even though he was doubled over from the impact of my elbow. “If you saw your face you’d think it was hilarious!”

  There were two pizza boxes and a six pack of soda balancing on one of the deck rails. “Jerk.”

  He pulled me toward him and tried to kiss me but I turned my face away. “Aw come on Shaina, you know you love me.”

  I started laughing despite myself, “I love that you brought pizza, that’s about it.”

  He moved forward for a quick kiss and then we hurried inside when I started shivering. “So where are the kids?”

  He hopped up onto the counter while I pulled plates out of the cabinets and started filling them with pizza. “Malcolm and Priscilla were watching TV and Tessa was in her room.” Without even asking me first, he opened the kitchen door and screamed for them to come and eat. “Why did you do that?” I hissed. “You aren’t supposed to be here.”

  He smiled, “kids love me. They won’t say anything.”

  I rolled my eyes. Yeah right, I thought.

  A few seconds later, three kids slammed through the kitchen door. “Who is that?” Priscilla asked. “He’s cute,” Tessa whispered. “You aren’t supposed to have boys over,” Malcolm told me.

  “Told you,” I said to Ben.

  He held out a plate of pizza to Malcolm, “come on bro, I brought you some pizza.”

  Malcolm took the pizza from him, but gave him a dirty look, “you aren’t supposed to be here though.”

  A few minutes later and the kitchen was destroyed. Priscilla thought it would be funny to throw her pizza at her brother who then threw his back at her. The end result was one crying child, one laughing child, and walls covered with red pasta sauce and strings of mozzarella cheese. I looked at the clock. It was almost nine. I can do this… I can do this… I can do this… I can do anything for four hours.

  After screaming at the kids to get out of the kitchen, I sunk into a chair and rested my head on my hands while my eyes surveyed the damage. I had only been there for two hours and I had cleaned more here than I usually had to all month at my own house.

  “Wow, you weren’t kidding, those kids are awful.”

  I sighed, “I know. I feel so bad for their parents. My mom gave me some information about a company that works with bad children, but I almost feel guilty telling their parents about it. I don’t want to offend them.”

  “That’s weird. What’s the name of the company?”

  I pulled out my cell phone and looked at the text again, “Changed.”

  There was a computer sitting on the counter and he walked over to it. “Let’s Google it.”

  He typed, Changed located in Denver Colorado into the search bar and we waited while it loaded the results. There were about twenty different possibilities, but after reading the summary description of each one on the search page, we decided to try one about halfway down the second page.

  “Wow, this is awesome!” He exclaimed when the pictures came up, “they all look like wax copies of themselves.”

  There were a series of before and after photos on the main page. In each one of the before photos, there was a messy and emotional child, and all of the after ones showed a well behaved, well dressed, smiling version of themselves. It was actually almost creepy.

  “Look there’s a place to put your information so that someone will contact you. Why don’t we fill this out for the Anderson’s? That way they won’t know that it was you who referred them to the company.”

  An uncomfortable tingling sensation had begun to buzz in my head, but I pushed the feeling aside and took control of the keyboard. Almost as if my hands were more excited than the rest of me, they began flying over the keys and filling in the information. When I was done, I almost felt guilty, but then I looked around the kitchen and that guilt just dissolved right out of me. Then the doorbell rang.

  Ben and I both looked at each other and then the computer screen. He started laughing first. “That’s weird.”

  I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be right back.”

  Despite the fact that there was no possible way that it could be the Changed people at the door, I couldn’t stop my heartbeat from accelerating as I walked to the door. There was something tickling the back of my brain, some unrecalled memory just begging to be remembered, but every time I tried to grasp on to it, it slipped away again.

  Tessa and Malcolm were fighting by the door when I got there; both of them screaming and taking swings at each other. Tessa was older and stronger, but Malcolm was smaller and faster so the fight wasn’t really going anywhere, but the screaming was becoming loud enough to wake the neighbors.

  “What the heck is going on out here?”

  Immediately they both turned toward me and began yelling.

  “Malcolm isn’t supposed to be answering the door,” Tessa screamed.

  “Tessa is a big fat meanie head!” Malcolm screamed back.

  I pointed to the stairs. “Both of you go to your rooms right now!”

  After they both stomped up the stairs, I turned back to the door and opened it. Standing on the stoop with a smile on her face was the shortest and strangest woman I had ever seen. Her hair was brown but there was a strange texture to it that sort of reminded me of tree bark. Her eyes were moss green and she smelled sort of like fertilizer. I had to stop breathing through my nose to ensure I didn’t gag.

  She held out her hand for me to shake and I had to bend down to reach it. “Hello dear. My name is Acadia Brown. I am here on behalf of the Changed group. Is now a good time to talk?”

  This had to be a joke. There was no way that this could possibly be happening. I looked past her, half expecting my mom or Ben to be standing off to the side laughing at the stunned expression that I was sure was on my face… only they weren’t.

  “I’m sorry; who did you say sent you again?” Maybe I wasn’t the only one who had referred this company to the Andersons.

  “Why you did, dear. We always respond quickly when it’s for one of our own.”

  That tingling sensation started working its way back up my back. “I think you have the wrong person.”

  Just then, Priscilla came running up from behind me and kicked me so hard in the back of the leg that it buckled and I fell against the door.

  “You can’t tell us what to do! You’re just the babysitter!”

  The lady, Acadia Brown, smiled even bigger. “Oh no dear, I am exactly where I need to be. If I can just come in for a moment, we can get this all sorted out.”

  “No, really, thank you but there must be some mistake.”

  I closed the door and then backed away from it shaking. This was beyond strange. Something wasn’t right and I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach from the stress of what I had set into motion. Who were these people and what had I done by giving them the Anderson’s information? How could my mom have possibly used a service like this on me? It had to be a different company.

  We always respond quickly when it’s for one of our own…

  No. No way. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed my mom’s number. “Hello?”

  “Mom, do you remember anything else about the company you told me about? I just want to make sure I give Mrs. Anderson the right information,” I lied.

  “Shaina? Is it really that big of a deal?”

  “Yes!!!” I practically shouted at her.

  “Wow, calm down. It can’t be that bad.” I heard her sigh “I don’t remember a lot, just that the lady I worked with had a strange name.”

  A strange name. I tried not to panic. There were lots of strange
names in the world. “Anything else?”

  “I remember that she was tall and I think she had blond hair.”

  I let out the breath I had been holding and started walking back toward the kitchen where I had left Ben. “Thanks mom. I just wanted to make sure that I had the right place.”

  “Okay honey, just calm down. It’s almost over.”

  “Okay, I guess that I’ll talk to you later.”

  “Oh wait, Shaina? I think her name was Acadia. Acadia Brown. Call me if you need anything else.”

  The phone went dead at the exact time that the lights went out.

  “Ben? Tessa? Malcolm? Priscilla?” I called. No one answered.

  There was a flashlight application on my phone and I tried to access it with my hands shaking. I ended up fumbling a few times and almost dropped my phone in the process. Then I remembered that it was dead. I headed toward the kitchen in the dark. If there was something going on, something strange and creepy, I wanted Ben beside me.

  “Ben?”

  I’m not going to lie. The sane part of me knew that it was strange that he hadn’t already come looking for me. The sane part of me began to shiver and cower in fear of what I would find when I walked into the kitchen. The insane part of me wanted to run into the kitchen, out the back door, and then down the street without looking back. Maybe I had those two parts of me confused.

  The only light spilling into the kitchen was from the moon outside. I was so focused on not freaking out that it took me forever to realize that the reason there was so much moonlight was because the back door was open.

  “Ben?” I hissed again. Nothing.

  Then there was a bump from upstairs. I jumped and inhaled sharply in fear. Then there was a scream from upstairs.

  I looked at my watch, with my phone dead and the electricity out, it was my only source of time. From the moonlight I could just make out that it was just past ten. I can do this. I can do this. I can do anything for three hours. There’s nothing in the house. Everything is fine. I can do this.

  The screaming stopped abruptly the moment I put my foot on the first stair. The silence that followed was broken only by the sound of my own heart beating in my head. Thump. Thump. Thump. The door to Priscilla’s bedroom was slightly ajar and I crept toward it.

  “Priscilla?” I whispered. No answer.

  I opened the door further and slipped inside the room. The blinds on her window were drawn so there was absolutely to light filtering through. It took me a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the dark interior. Once they did I was able to make out shapes in the darkness. Her bed, her dresser, the television stand; all were darker masses in the unlit room.

  “Priscilla? Are you in here?”

  Two beady little eyes rushed forward to me in the dark and I fell backwards onto the bed. The door to the room slammed shut and I had to hold back the scream that was threatening to tear from my throat. It was then that I felt the hand on my arm.

  “Shhh… it will hear you.”

  Relief flooded through me. “Tessa? Is that you?”

  “Yes,” she hissed, “Cissy is in here too.”

  “Thank God,” I whispered. “What about Malcolm?”

  Priscilla started whimpering. “It got him,” Tessa said softly.

  Fear seized me and acid began to sizzle in my stomach. “What do you mean ‘it got him’?”

  “That thing,” Priscilla whispered, “the monster. It ate Malcolm.”

  “It’s not a monster idiot, it’s a troll,” Tessa informed her.

  “You aren’t making any sense.” I climbed down off of the bed and kneeled beside the two of them cowering in the corner. “There are no such things as trolls or monsters.”

  “It told us that it was going to take us away and give our parents the type of children they really want,” Tessa said. “It said that they were going to eat us.”

  Okay, so this was definitely spiraling way out of control. It was time to get out of this house so that I could call for help. “Listen, we have to get downstairs so that we can go next door and call the police. I know that you’re scared, but we can do this together.”

  Priscilla started crying again, but Tessa hugged her, “it will be okay Cissy. We have to get help for Malcolm.”

  “I want mommy and daddy,” she cried.

  I sighed. “I know. We are going to get your mom and dad, but we have to get out of this house first.” I stood up and waited for them to stand with me. It was amazing how well my eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness. It was almost like it wasn’t dark at all.

  Together, the three of us tiptoed out of the room and down the hall. Downstairs another door slammed and Priscilla shrieked. “It’s okay, Shaina’s not going to let anything get us.”

  I smiled even though our situation was grim. It was sweet to see how caring they were of each other when in a dangerous situation. It almost made them more bearable. It almost made me regret thinking they were horrible children in the first place… almost.

  We were just about to the stairs when Priscilla screamed, “Malcolm! You’re okay!”

  I spun around and saw to my immense relief that Malcolm was leaning against the door of what I could only assume was his bedroom. He smiled when he saw his sisters, “Of course I am.”

  For some reason, his reassurance wasn’t reassuring at all. There was something off about him; something off about the way he looked and the way the words had come out of his mouth. However, when the sound of glass breaking came from downstairs, I didn’t have time to dwell on it.

  “Come on, we have to get out of this house,” I told them all.

  Priscilla took the hand of her older brother and pulled him along with us. Even though he seemed to go willingly enough, there was still something off about him. I just didn’t have a clue as to what it was.

  Downstairs seemed even brighter to me. The lights were still off, but I found no difficulty at all in finding my way around. The sound of glass breaking came again and I could pinpoint that it was coming from the kitchen. I turned around to tell the children to go out the front door, but only Tessa was behind me.

  “Where are Malcolm and Priscilla?” I asked her.

  Her face filled with fear when I asked her and she began looking behind herself frantically. “I don’t know. Are they gone? I can’t see anything.”

  “What do you mean you can’t see anything? It’s clear as day down here.” Only it wasn’t. The lights were still out. It was just clear to me. That uneasy tingling feeling began in the pit of my stomach again. “Look, let’s just get to the neighbor’s house. We will call the police and they will come back here for the others.”

  “No,” she insisted, “we can’t leave my brother and sister. You’re crazy.”

  I let out a deep breath. “Tessa, we don’t know what we are up against. It isn’t safe in here,” I whispered.

  “Shaina! Thank God, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

  I turned at Ben’s voice. He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen and I frowned. “Did you just come from in there?”

  He nodded, “there’s glasses broke and chairs overturned. What’s going on? I tried to call the cops but my phone is dead.”

  “You didn’t see anyone?” I asked suspiciously.

  Tessa pulled on my shirt. “He’s one of them, Shaina,” she cried, “let’s just go. We’ll go next door like you wanted to.”

  I backed away from Ben and his eyes widened in what I guessed was fear. “You can’t just leave me here alone.”

  “He’s one of them Shaina, he has to be!” Tessa cried.

  Too late I saw my reflection in the glass of the front window. Too late I noticed that in the light of the moon my chestnut hair took on the appearance of tree roots and branches. Too late I saw the hungry expression in my eyes that were glowing slightly in the dark.

  Too late I saw the figure mo
ving behind Ben and devouring him… but it wasn’t too late for Tessa.

  She screamed and threw herself in my arms shaking and whimpering. “We have to get out of here, Shaina.”

  It was too late for me though. I remembered everything that my mind had been trying to block from me. We let those memories stay lost so that it was easier for us to remain unknown amongst the humans… but I was not one of them. I was one of the others. I was a troll… and I was hungry.

  It was just before one o’clock when the Anderson’s drove into their driveway. I was waiting for them.

  “Welcome home,” I told them when they walked into the house from the garage. “How was your night?”

  “Oh it was fantastic. Thank you so much for watching the kids Shaina, I hope that they weren’t too much trouble for you.”

  I smiled at Mrs. Anderson. “Oh no, they were fine. In fact, we had a long talk and I think that you’ll be surprised when things begin to change around here.”

  She frowned and Mr. Anderson laughed, “Well I’m sure you did your best, but I wouldn’t count on it.”

  I smiled back. If only he knew.

  He handed me a hundred dollar bill. “I know how my kids are,” he told me with a wink.

  I smiled and accepted it. Then I grabbed my jacket and walked out the door. Ben was waiting for me. Of course he wasn’t the other Ben. That Ben was gone forever… but that was okay with me. This Ben didn’t know what he was; he only knew what memories we gave him.

  Somewhere in the Anderson house tucked away in the darkest of corners was a troll who was particularly good with memories. After all, changing places with the Anderson kids had been a big job. Four humans in one night is like a buffet for us. There was no need for me to be there, no need for Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to be harmed. We rarely ate adults. At his age, Ben was sort of a stretch for us.

  “Is it just me or do you get prettier in the moonlight?” He asked me, holding my hand as we walked.

  I shrugged and thought back to the moment my memories awakened. “Everything looks better in the moonlight,” I told him.

 
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