Christmas Eve. The trees dripped with rain. Streetlights flashed through the water droplets and fragmented into a rainbow of myriad colours.
Cara ran, as fast as she could. She knew it wouldn’t be fast enough.
Nothing could ever be fast enough.
The night was still. No cars in the distance; no carollers plying their dying trade – just her blood rushing through her eardrums like the roar of the ocean from a shell. A fragile, self-contained ecosystem that would soon come to an end.
Behind and ahead of her, the sounds that should have been there – noises of both those she sought and those that sought her – were remarkably absent.
It truly was a silent night.
Rain fell, yet the sweat of exertion had already soaked her enough that she barely felt the droplets of water on her skin.
The urge to run faster filled her. She dredged up the last remnants of strength and managed to run slightly faster. Far ahead, in shadow and barely discernible, two small figures staggered along as though too tired to continue.
She didn’t dare glance behind her to check on her pursuers; she’d likely lose her footing and sprawl flat on her face. She just had to trust that her head-start was enough.
The silence was still absolute. Nothing but the pounding of her own heart and her gasping breaths.
The two figures solidified. Children. One small and stout, the other tall and lean. She was almost on them when one turned around and screamed, tripping and grabbing at the taller shape.
Two girls, one six or seven, and the other looked barely in her teens. Cara stumbled at the rush of recognition: she saw herself and her younger sister, Anna, all those years ago.
The night Anna died. The night she had almost died.
That night was nothing but a blurred recollection of blood and Christmas lights in the rain.
The silence was broken as she came to a stop over the two cowering children. The flashing Christmas tree in the nearest house, blatant through the front window, cast a multitude of colours over the scene; blues and reds and greens and yellows.
Behind, footsteps slowly approached, and the blue and red lights grew quickly in prominence.
“Sir, please put down the knife,” said a voice, strong in the now-shattered silence. “No one needs to get hurt.”
Looking backwards, Cara saw who had been following her, the men in blue uniforms with guns held high, aimed at her.
She looked down, surprised by the knife in her hand. It was large and appeared hideously sharp.
Where did this come from? Why am I holding a knife?
The questions made no sense to her, and she had no answers to them. The blade was red. So was the hand that held it. The male hand.
What? Whose blood is that? Whose hand is that?
Reflected in the blade, she saw the face of a familiar man, yet superimposed over it were her own features. She turned back toward the two children, both cowering from her. The older girl cradled the younger one in her arms and scowled fiercely up at Cara.
Minutes seemed to have slipped by, and now the younger girl was different, bleeding and limp in her sister’s arms. A vague memory of moving, stabbing, slicing, filled her mind.
“Anna? Cara?” As she stepped towards the two children, shots rang out and she felt something hit her from behind, knocking her to her knees.
As the pain began, the two girls became a blur. Her sight slowly faded, but not enough to miss the sly smile as the older girl spoke, softly enough for Cara to hear, but no one else.
“I am you and you are me, bitch, and now you’re both together, the way I planned.” The voice belonged to someone different, a voice as distant yet as familiar to Cara as her mother’s soft tone. It belonged to her father, the man reflected in the knife blade. The father who had killed Anna, and, with his dying breath, promised to return for Cara.
As an ambulance roared up to the scene, Cara watched as they helped the older girl to her feet. “You’ll be all right, miss.”
“Oh yes,” Cara heard her father as she spiralled down into darkness and silence. “I’ll live.”
WRITTEN BY GN BRAUN
ILLUSTRATED BY MONTY BORROR
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