• Ciaran Burks


“Hello” was the first thing Lucy ever said to me, just “hello”. A meek, innocuous-enough word, difficult to say with any scorn, and certainly reassuring for a six-year-old.

I was playing with my brother in the park, and he was pushing me on a swing without enthusiasm. It was a cold, grey day, mist covering the yellowing grass in the park, and the swing was crying out with every push, a shrill screech piercing the quiet, like a baby’s cry in a solemn church.

“I’m going home Sarah, it’s too cold for this, I’ll make you some hot chocolate inside, come on” said Kevin, my older brother. He walked towards the house, a short distance away, down the foggy street.

I was six and wanted to play, was that so much to ask? I didn’t want hot chocolate, I wanted to swing, to feel the thrill of a lurching stomach. I wanted to experience the mixture of fear and exhilaration that came with hanging on tight to those cold metal chains and hoping that I wouldn’t slide off. Of course, I knew I wouldn’t, I never did, and I had done it a thousand times before. Still, there is some fear. There always is, isn’t there? But behind the fear, controlling it, there is the knowledge that everything will be just fine. I suppose that’s the difference between fear and excitement. Fear is not knowing that everything will be ok.

My brother walked down the road and I sulked, fat lower lip trembling as I began to cry. I don’t know why I bothered; Kevin never payed attention to my crying, unless it was genuine. If I was truly hurt or upset, Kevin would pick me up and smile at me and say something like,

“Hey sweetie, why don’t you and me go build a puzzle? No? Ok, how about we play some Legos? Yeah? Ok, come on angel.”

I was about to jump off the swing and sprint after him when a young lady walked towards me. Her lips curved up in the approximation of a smile.

“Hello” the lady said, “You can call me Lucy, if you like. Do you want me to play with you Sarah?”

“Yes please!” I remember saying, not bothering to ask how she knew me, only excited that I had made a new friend, and that I could continue playing on the swings for a few more minutes.

Before long, Kevin gave a shout, calling me inside. I told Lucy I had to go and she said that was ok, she would see me soon. I thought she was just being polite; the way people are sometimes. I didn’t expect I’d ever see her again. I ran up to Kevin, gave him a hug and jumped onto the kitchen counter, eager for my hot chocolate.

“The weather always seems gloomy on a Sunday”, mom said to Kevin.

“Hm” he grunted, not really paying attention.

“Please don’t leave your sister outside again, Kevin” mom wasn’t harsh, just worried, and worry filled her voice now, “didn’t you hear the news?”

Kevin said that he hadn’t.

“Some creep’s wondering around, stealing dead bodies from the morgue. They say there’s a missing body, it was in the morgue yesterday but it wasn’t there this morning. Probably a prank. Still, I don’t want your sister playing alone if there’s weirdos around, ok?”

“Ok” said Kevin, ruffling my hair with a grin. “And you best listen to me if I say we’re going inside little missy!”

I laughed.

When I told Kevin and mom about Lucy, they believed me. I had made a friend, and she had played with me on the swing for a few minutes in the park, probably someone taking a stroll, it was no big deal. As the weeks, months and years went by, they stopped believing me. I’ve never blamed them. They thought Lucy was my imaginary friend, I guess, and they didn’t make a big deal out of that either. Lucy would visit at strange times, in odd places, and only ever when I was alone, at least at first.

I don’t remember exactly when I started to fear Lucy, I don’t think it was a moment, it happened slowly. Lucy had a strange power of persuasion, a force that compelled me but never wholly controlled me. I did things I knew were wrong, that I knew I shouldn’t do, but that I wanted to, somewhere deep inside of me.

Maybe it’s that I’m an evil person. Maybe I just know what the worst circumstances look like, and I know what I really am. You don’t know what you really are. You should pray that you never find out.

One night I was sitting in my room with Lucy, who had climbed through my bedroom window on the ground floor. I couldn’t tell you why, but I thought that maybe that was normal. She grabbed one of my pet hamsters and held it in her hand, stroking it gently with her forefinger. She told me to grab the other one. I did. Lucy crooned at her hamster “Hey there, little guy” she said, her eyes unsmiling. “You little rodent” she said, “you dirty rodent”. The next morning, I buried my two hamsters in the back garden, a feeling of immense guilt consuming me one moment, indifference the next.

After that things got worse. I think Lucy liked the death, it fuelled her and made her stronger. After the hamsters, she started visiting me more often. Sometimes I could see her in a crowd of people.

Once, in the mall, I looked carefully at the passing faces, and one was Lucy’s. Her dark eyes stared through me, or maybe into me. Her head tilted sideward and she stared, eyes unblinking, with a smile that wasn’t a smile. I blinked, and she was gone. Maybe she wasn’t really there, but I knew she was.

Kevin and mom thought I was going mad, I didn’t disagree.

Once we went to watch a movie, and I sat next to Kevin. I don’t remember what we watched. Lucy sat next to me, in the chair that should have been empty, and watched me. Kevin could see me shaking, and his jacket did nothing to warm me. I wasn’t cold.

They never did find Kevin’s body. It disappeared from the morgue the day after they found me with him, a knife in my hand and a slit on his throat.

It was mercy, I tell myself. Lucy was coming for him, and death was better. But I was wrong. Lucy wanted me to do it. It isn’t death she lives on, it’s murder. Sometimes, at night, when my prison mate is asleep, I see Kevin staring at me through my bars. His lips curve up at me, in a mocking smile. Skin flaps from his neck where I cut him, and I can barely stand to look, but I do. I look, and I stare into those dark, unblinking eyes, into Lucy’s eyes, and Kevin stares back, and I remember the little girl I used to be, and I shiver.



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© 2019 by Ciaran Burks