The Girl Who Fell

By: S.M. Parker

I pick up the landline, dial Mom’s cell. It takes too long to connect. There is only the static silence of a dead line, and that’s when I know I’m not alone.

I drop the phone onto its cradle and eye the door, my car keys on the floor in my path. In seconds I calculate how my body will need to scoop the keys as I run from the house. I move just as a metallic snap echoes from under the house.

The breaker.

In the basement.

Someone has thrown the main switch, pitching me and this house and my escape into blackness.

Fear roils in my blood. Becomes me. I kick around for my keys but with each sweep, I am losing time.

I reach for the island, my eyes adjusting, carving light into the shadows. The smell of spearmint bleeds through the air, through my memory, as my senses conjure the last time panic joined me in this space. And how my fingertips reached for the knife set even then. But the block of knives is gone now. The counter cleared. I open a drawer, rifle for utensils, scissors. My fingers meet with the smooth wood of inner drawer and nothing else. I fumble around the sink, but even Mom’s pruning shears are missing.

The phone rings and I freeze from the impossibility of its sound. A second ring sears through silence. I wade across the black, remove the handset, place it at my ear.

I pray that it’s anyone besides him.

Terror climbs the ladder of my spine. My voice, reluctant. “Hello?”

Silence.

Then the dial tone cries beep beep beep and I hang up, quickly dial 911. But he’s quicker.

The line falls dead again.

He’s in the basement, where the phone line enters the house.

But then, no.

He could be outside. At the junction box.

All at once the woods outside feel too hungry, haunted.

My body tells me I need to flee, protect. My brain tells me to fight, engage. I tuck into the forgotten corner of the laundry room, quiet as my fear, and wrap my hands around the butt of my field hockey stick. I hold it tight against my chest, a weapon.

I try to reverse my breathing. Make it soundless. Make it so I cannot be found. The darkness is a comfort, a cloak. I blend into it. For anonymity. For safety. There was a time when I feared darkness. As a child. Alone.

Not now.

Darkness doesn’t have fingers that twist into my flesh. Darkness can’t stalk me. It can’t drive me into the shadows because darkness is fleeting. Not like the threat before me.





Chapter 1


The Beginning:


Three Months Earlier


I’ve got one foot in this world and one in the next.

Stuck in the limbo of being a high school senior. Here, but dreaming of next year, of college and freedom. Freedom from hall passes, curfews, field hockey pressure, and conjugating French verbs in a gray classroom on the most beautiful day of autumn. I twist a ringlet of my too curly hair and stare at the lone sugar maple in the courtyard outside room 104. It’s early October and most of the leaves have already fired into reds and golds. One mad burst of flame at the end of a growing season. Just like senior year.

A pale yellow finch settles onto a high branch and twitches its head nervously. I watch it scan for what? Predators? Its mate? An early acceptance letter from Boston College? Around me, the room fills with the muffled sounds of students shuffling in. Conversations hush and quicken. The metal legs of a dozen chairs scrape the floor as the teacher writes “Learning Target for Français” in flawless cursive on the whiteboard just as Gregg fills the seat next to me like he’s sliding into home plate. His chair glides a few inches closer and he’s in my face, all shoulders and cologne.

“Bonjeer, Zephyr.” He winks. “Looking good,” he tells me, like he tells every girl on the planet. Even so, a blush pushes onto my cheeks, like always. It’s embarrassing how easily I embarrass.

Gregg Slicer is my oldest friend and a legend at Sudbury High for being the best ice hockey player in the history of our school. And I mean The. History. Colleges from all over the Northeast have been scouting him since our sophomore year. Today he’s wearing his red mesh number 17 hockey jersey and even though I can’t see the back, I know it reads SLICE in oversize white block letters. Everyone in Sudbury, New Hampshire, calls him Slice because the boosters have invested a fortune marketing “The Slice on Ice.” We take our hockey seriously in these parts. So seriously that Gregg’s parents even call him Slice. Me? I’m the sole holdout for refusing to feed his ego.

“Did you—” I start, but he’s talking to someone on his opposite side, someone I don’t recognize.

Mrs. Sarter begins in hitch-pitched French, “Bonjour mes étudiants. Es-vous bien?”

Bien on a Monday? I don’t think so.

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