by Sana Hameed, Age 15, USA
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
The fiction prompt for February required that the submission begin with this line: “The minute my eyelids fluttered open, I was aware that I was not in my own room.”
The minute my eyelids fluttered open, I was aware that I was not in my own room or in any room at all for that matter. Thickets of trees and the scent of sap surrounded me, and I could feel grass tickling my cheek. I felt someone’s gaze on my back, the hairs on my neck prickling in warning. I could not afford to remain dazed. I jumped to my feet and examined the premises, hawk-eyed as Father had taught me.
“Awake already?” I could hear Roe’s sugarcoated voice and resentment stirred in my gut. It all came back to me. The fire. The kidnapping. All of it.
She was the reason I was here.
“Where are we?” I glared at her, wanting to banish that self-satisfied smile from her angular features.
“Far, but not far enough.”
Nothing in that statement would help me decipher our whereabouts. How could I escape if I knew nothing of where I was, let alone where to go? I could distract her but Roe was intelligent. She would realize something was off if I didn’t question her behaviour, her rationale. From her eyes I could see how desperately she craved my attention.
“Why did you have to do it?” I could imagine the tongues of fire surrounding our home town, licking away at the memories, physical mementos and, worst of all, human flesh, leaving only charred remains and ash. Some had been able escape to a nearby village to seek refuge once the fire had first began to spread, I remembered. I had watched, my mouth gagged and hands bound behind my back, as the faint shadows of mother and father fled alongside several of our neighbours. Shrieks echoed in my mind.
“They were wrong. They deserved it.” Roe spoke viciously, eyes furious.
“Why didn’t you leave me behind, Roe, if you were planning to flee? I’m just extra weight.” Maybe I could convince her to let me leave.
“No. Kessa, you did nothing wrong. They deserved to burn but you’re innocent. You never tried to deny me the love I deserve. You gave it to me wholeheartedly.”
For a moment I could see my sister again, radiant and sweet, until I remembered the village folk we had known all our lives running to protect their lives.
“Roe. How could you? It was our home.”
“Their home. I took away their home. They were going to make me leave you, Kess. It wasn’t enough that they didn’t love me anymore like I loved them, but they wanted to deprive me of all love. Make me leave that place. But luckily I realized that they could never take me from my home because my home is with you. And we are inseparable.” She let out a maniacal cackle.
“We only need each other, Kessa.”
I could see the sickness in her eyes and it made my stomach turn.
I was the cause of the fire, the destruction. Somehow I had never noticed the formation of Roe’s unhealthy attachment to me. She had always been like any other older sibling in my eyes––overprotective, overbearing, but with good intentions. She had always been that way but things took a turn for the worse a few months before when the village medic declared she was not mentally fit to be a bride as of yet. Talk had recently emerged of sending Roe away to get her help.
“Roe.” I reached out to take her hand, innately praying that my sister, the one who would kiss away the pain and coddle me in my youth, was somewhere in there still.
“You claim you loved everyone. How could hurting the ones you love make you feel better?” I whispered.
Roe’s face scrunched in confusion before her eyes swelled with tears.
“I don’t know, Kess. I don’t know.”
I saw emotional distress prominent in those deep brown eyes and felt the urge to pull her into a hug. As my arms wrapped around her; she returned the favour, squeezing me tightly as if her life depended on it.
“Kess, I know nothing.”
“That’s okay.” All I wanted to do was comfort her. Before I left, I needed this last sweet memory with my sister.
“Nothing except that I know you. And I need you. And I can’t let you go.” It took a moment for the words to sink in but, by then, I felt a sharp pang on the back of my head and the world went black.
Sana Hameed is a teenage writer intrigued by sibling dynamics in writing.