"I was seized by the stern hand of Compulsion, that dark, unseasonable Urge that impels women to clean house in the middle of the night." - James Thurber
“Wh—what do we do?” Janice asked quietly. She was playing the part of old Sara very well. You know, big watery eyes and wimpy behavior. Thank goodness we thought to dress her in loose, all-covering clothes. They might’ve noticed the lean body mass. And the fact that she looked like a boy.
That’s what I’m playing as. I’m the mysterious cloaked boy with enough knives to take down anything that comes in my way.
Sora and Kairi stared at the injured woman uncertainly. Her name was Maleficent. I don’t know what her parents were thinking when she was born. But then again, maybe I didn’t want to. The hulking Filipino guy that was supposedly Riku avoided looking at her by staring at the ceiling. Subtle. I glanced back at the limp woman lying on her stomach.
“Gawrsh, We can’t leave her here, the heartless are coming!” The talking dog reasoned in a very eloquent fashion, if I do say so myself.
Janice looked at me warningly, sensing the sarcasm. It’s not like I was going to voice my thoughts. I was the mysterious protector of Sara-the-Fucking-Useless, they all assumed I was mute.
I knew enough improvised sign language to explain my next action.
I cocked my hand back, exposing the rigged blade, and slammed my wrist into her neck. My blade was met with no resistence, which meant I cleanly severed her spine. She twitched and fell still. I straightened my hand, relishing the slick scrape the blade made as it returned into my bracer. Beautiful.
“What the heck did you do that for?” Janice screeched, playing her part perfectly. She even widened her eyes, leapt back, and covered her mouth. Everyone else just stared from the carcass to me in morbid silence.
I made enough obscure hand gestures to appear like I was actually communicating like that instead of through the psychic link. A quick summary of what I was thinking: wing it.
‘Sara’ sighed and patted my arm gently and whispered, “I understand your intentions were good, but you can’t do things like that. Remember? I thought we talked about this.”
“No, that still doesn’t make it right.”
“Wh—what’s he saying?” Sora asked, deftly positioning himself between me and Kairi. Those two should just have sex and get it over with already. This courtship thing is annoying. Riku inched toward Janice at Sora’s nod.
“He wanted to make sure she never hurt anyone ever again.” Janice lied. We both knew that I was just taking care of an annoying problem. “He thought that would make me safe.”
I had to think of broccoli covered in goopy cheese to keep myself from smiling at the idea of such a noble proposal coming from me. Riku caught the twitch at the corner of my mouth and stepped forward. “What’s so funny?”
Oh shit. Janice, think of something! I made more improvised motions.
She blushed and smacked my hand, “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!”
I smirked and put my hands in my pocket casually. The others just stared at her expectantly.
She waved it off, “Never mind.”
They accepted it, much to our relief.
We began to head out (finally), but Sora stopped me. The others kept going at his urging, and we were left alone in the room.
“Listen,” his eyes narrowed. “I appreciate you protecting my little sister. But if you make any sort of move on her, I’ll kill you.”
Without another word, he left the room.
Janice thought the irony was hilarious. I was just thankful.
Not even Sora recognized me.
Which was good, seeing as I’m his little sister.
TWO YEARS AGO
“Sara,” Mom walked into the room and crossed her arms. “What did we talk about?”
I didn’t look up from Modern Warfare 2, “Summer vacation is a time of rest and recovery. Being inside all day with my violent video games does not reflect well on my personality or help me with my plethora of anxiety and social disorders. At least I should sit out in the backyard and tan so I don’t look like Edward Cullen when they take my yearbook photo. Did I forget anything?”
“Fine,” I saved my game and shut off the TV. “I’ll be in the backyard de-vampire-ifying myself.”
“Why don’t you go to the islet with Sora?”
“Because nobody there likes me.”
“That’s because you don’t talk to them.”
“That’s because they don’t talk to me.”
“Maybe you should start the conversation.”
“Maybe they should start the conversation.”
“Sara,” she warned. “Go with Sora after lunch. Ok?”
“Why? So I can sit around and watch them fight while everyone drools over Riku? I’d rather pull out my toenails with rusty pliers.”
“You know, I’ll bet people your age will find you funny if you speak your mind.”
“I’ll remember that the next time I’m in a social situation and don’t have an anxiety attack…oh wait…”
“I’m home! What’s for lunch?” Sora bounded into the living room, cheerful as ever.
Mom brightened up (like she she always does when she’s not talking to me), “Hey Sweetie! How does grilled cheese sound?”
“Great, thanks!” Mom disappeared into the kitchen and he turned to me. “She gave you the talk again?”
“Yup,” I collapsed onto the couch, “Can you do me a favor and throw a fit when she tells you to take me to the islet?”
“No,” his brow furrowed, “You should come! I want you to meet Tidus. He’s shorter than you!”
“How old is he, seven?”
“Thirteen. You’re only a year older than him.”
“Or so he claims.” I curled up, “Please?”
“Come on Sara, it’ll be fun! You can hang out with all of us…”
“You know the chances of that are slim.”
“Riku’s been asking about you.”
“I’ll bet,” I hugged my knees.
“It’s weird, he’s been like that since the New Year Party. Have you noticed anything?”
“Nope.” That might be because I’m avoiding him. Just an idea.
“Huh. Where were you guys anyway?”
“I don’t remember anything, I got drunk.” A blatent lie. I remember making out with Riku on the back porch, but after that it’s a little fuzzy.
“Oh yeah…Is champagne any good?”
“The expensive kind definitely is.” I smiled, relieved with the safe topic.
“Sora, why don’t you take Sara to the islet today?” Mom suggested bluntly as she walked into the room with his food.
Come on Sora, come on man, please…
“That sounds like fun!”
“Excellent, then it’s settled!”
I cleared my throat, “Actually, I was planning on cashing my paycheck and shopping.”
“No you weren’t,” they chorused.
I rolled my eyes, “I am now.”
“Sara, it wouldn’t kill you to at least be in the presense of other people.”
“I am in the presense of other people, at work.”
“The coffee shop doesn’t count.”
“Why not? I hang out with hipsters and talk about the weather with senile old men. That’s more socialization than I’ll get at the islet.”
Long story short, I’m sitting on Sora’s rowboat while he jabbers on about how much fun we’re gonna have.
“Too bad I left my pretty ponies at home,” I rolled my eyes, “We could’ve had a tea party with them!”
“Sara, sometimes I wish you’d just shut up.”
“Fine by me.” I looked out at the mainland. “Do you mind if I swim back to shore? I want to buy this hoodie I’ve been keeping my eye on…”
“I promise I’ll take you shopping tomorrow.”
“I don’t want to go on some big outing. I just want to buy my hoodie and go home.”
“It’ll be fun. We can hang out downtown all day! And I’ll get a group together…”
“No, I’m out.”
“Sara!” He whined.
“Sara!” A sickeningly familiar voice called from behind me. I twisted in my seat.
The dock was much closer than I thought, and (as luck would have it) Riku was standing at the edge.
I’m serious, God hates me. Maybe I’ll start praying to Cthulhu.
Sora grinned, “I told you.”
I sighed, “Is it too late to attempt to swim back?”
“Fine,” I crossed my arms. “You suck sometimes.”
“Love you too.”
“I thought you hibernated during the summer months,” Riku greeted as Sora tied the boat up.
Come on Sara, say something sarcastic. Open your mouth and…darn. I quite literally felt my pulse speed up and my chest compress. So I just attempted to climb up onto the dock.
“Whoa,” Riku grabbed my hips and picked me up effortlessly. “You wouldn’t want to rip your dress, would you?”
“Guess not,” I mumbled. I looked over at Sora, hoping I could get bravery from him.
“Riku, get your hands off my little sister before I dismember you.” When it comes to threatening people, Sora is only serious when it involves me. Riku let go, knowing fully well that Sora wasn’t joking.
“Sora! Riku!” Kairi rushed forward, stopping when she saw me. “Sara?”
I love it when they roll out the red carpet of welcome for me. I waved meekly and stared at my feet.
More people equals more difficulty breathing.
“Kairi! Sora! Riku!” And Selphie ran forward (completely ignoring me). The dock was beginning to get a little crowded.
In… Out… In… Out… I silently coached myself through breathing as my skin started getting clammy. Inhale… Hold it… Hold it… Exhale…
All the halfhearted coping skills my therapist and I worked on completely dissolved into thin air. I think I’m supposed to challenge my comfort zone. Yeah, forget that.
“I’ll be in the tallest tree I can find,” I whispered to Sora, inching around the girls and walking as fast as I could toward the ladder to the tree house. I ascended it with ease, impatiently walking the winding trail up to the little hut. I stepped onto the milk box, then the window sill, and then climbed onto the roof. Within seconds, I was scrabbling up the branches.
I’ve always loved trees. I’ve been climbing them since I was four. Granted, back then my definition of climbing was hug the trunk, but it’s the thought that counts. Nobody was as good at climbing as I was. That was the one title that nobody could take away from me.
It’s so…lonesome up here. I absolutely adore it. The smell of bitter pine sap and the tickle of ants on my legs… Nobody here but me and the insects. And the insects don’t remind you that you’re a pale little marshmellow with a badger face.
Oh, and Riku’s severely acrophobic (and also terrified of needles). There’s a reason he never goes on the scaffolding. I remember the one time he used the zipline to beat Sora in a race. He won, but he didn’t stop shaking for at least three hours.
So I stayed in the tree until sunset. And when Sora came to call me down, he didn’t even get that mad. Sure, he gave me the old ‘you should at least try to socialize sometimes’ speech, but his heart wasn’t into it. He was too busy running his mouth about Kairi.
I don’t know what was so special about her. At least Riku tries to talk to me. She just assumes I don’t like her because I’m usually curled up in the fetal position whenever she comes over.
Hey, that’s because Riku’s trying to talk to me. Maybe I should fake a seizure the next time he does. Or suggest we play ‘let’s catch up on our vaccinations’.
“We’re going to have a movie night tonight,” Sora abruptly changed the topic. “I told Riku you’d come.”
“What about me pretending to be a spider monkey suggests I want to watch movies with people?”
“He was really excited about you coming.”
“No he wasn’t.”
Sora paused, “Well, he was ‘Riku excited’. You know how he is.”
“How do you know he was excited? That kid has two moods; neutral and smug.”
“He planned on buying Skittles and orange juice.” My favorite foods in the whole world. Tempting.
“Tell him I spontaneously combusted and couldn’t make it. Because I was on fire.”
“He’s not stupid.”
“Are you sure?”
He chuckled, “Arrogant, but definitely not stupid.”
“So we’ll play on his ego.” I bit my lip, “Tell him… I was too overwhelmed by his presense to come. That should work.”
“Sara, come on. We’re going to watch horror movies. I think he mentioned a slasher film.”
I paused, mulling that around in my head.
“Ok, but don’t expect me to talk to anyone. Or share the Skittles.”
He grinned, “Yes!”
I sighed and hugged my knees, already regretting this idea.
“Well I’ll be damned, Sara Cho graces us with her presense!” Riku announced irritatingly loudly.
“Is it bad manners if I strangle the host?” I murmured.
“Yeah, kinda.” Sora replied.
“If I did, would you be my alibi?”
“‘Ay, Sara!” Wakka rushed forward, “How you been?”
I shrugged. Sora (being the most fantastic twin ever) abandoned me to say hi to Kairi.
Ok, next time she’s over I’m breaking out the photo albums.
“Come on, don’ be like dat!” He nudged my shoulder, “It’s been fo’eva!”
“Yep.” Actually, it’s been two weeks and three days. That doesn’t qualify as infinity.
“You gotta meet Tidus. Dis guy is shorta than you!”
“Yay?” Why does everyone focus on my height?
Pretty much everyone looked at us while Wakka waved his arms like a headless turkey. I pulled my hood up.
A kindergartener sauntered over, “Wow Sora, did you get a sex change?”
It’s been half a second and I already hate this kid. New record!
“Tidus, dis is Sara. Sora’s twin sista.”
“Sara, dis is Tidus.”
He very rudely grabbed my hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you. Any friend of Wakka’s is a friend of mine!”
But I’m not Wakka’s friend. And I don’t even know you.
I nodded, putting my hands in my pocket before he could tear them off.
“Ah Sara!” Riku’s large hands clapped onto my shoulders. “She’s a regular social butterfly, isn’t she?”
“Bite me,” I mumbled.
“What was that?”
“No seriously, I want to know what you said.”
I glanced at Sora, which usually helped when I was having trouble breathing. My palms were beginning to leak (thankfully they were safely tucked away) and I was pretty sure I’d faint if anyone else joined the conversation.
I shrugged again and stared intently at my feet. You know, I really do have nice socks on today…
“So, how’re you doing Sara?”
“Can you do anything besides shrug?”
“Riku, thank you so much for inviting me!” Selphie skipped over, drawing Riku’s attention away from me. I’ve never been more appreciative of that annoying little bubble of feminity in my life.
“I’m gonna get some Skittles and hide in the corner,” I told the other two and headed for the snacks.
They laughed for some reason. Boys are weird.
I ate another Skittle as blood splashed onto the screen. Pretty much everyone around me screamed.
I offered a Skittle to Riku, who chose to sit next to me. I’ve been bribing him to move away (because this is supposed to be a one person chair) (I don’t care if the others ones are taken, he can have the floor). It hasn’t worked.
“How can you be so calm?” He hissed.
I shrugged and ate the Skittle. His loss, everyone knows the purple ones are the best.
“God, you’re so weird,” Selphie squealed from my other side. I offered her the Skittle bowl to make her feel guilty for being such meanie. Aren’t I a great person sometimes?
She accepted a handful and mumbled her thanks without looking at me. I smiled as I took it back. I am good.
Everyone began screaming again, completely drowning out the plot development. Come on, I totally thought Cindy was the murdering cheerleader! I mean, she was the only ginger on the team! When you’re the ginger in a group of blondes, you tend to get psychotic. Now I was back to square one.
I took another Skittle and chewed thoughtfully. It was Clarence (the captain of the chess team). He was the second person on my list. Sure, the killer looks female, but Clarence has a really imasculine figure. It’s either him or the science teacher. My money’s on Clarence.
“Oh God,” Riku breathed. It was a heroin scene. He flinched as the needle sunk into Jeffery the Jock’s elbow.
Please let him be the next victim. I’d kill to see how someone high reacts to painful murder at the hand of a masked madman/woman wielding a chainsaw and sulfuric acid.
Yep, there’s the slasher. Coming out of the corner…
Something completely strange happened. I guess Riku was getting tired because he yawned and stretched. But for some reason he was too lazy to move his hand back, so it just rested on my shoulder.
I scooted forward so it would be easier for him to put it back.
Nope. Still there.
I stretched my spine, hoping it would slip off.
I offered him a Skittle, which he accepted with his other hand.
Wow, that’s so rich kid of him. Too lazy to move him own arm after stretching. You know what? It could just freaking stay there. I’m not going to move it for him, no matter how much he wanted me to.
Selphie stretched too, her fist knocking his hand off. I nodded my thanks and offered the bowl to her as a reward. You always have to encourage helpful behavior. I try to think of her as a puppy-in-training.
Riku huffed (temper tantrum) and crossed his arms.
Well, if he was going to throw a fit, that’s his loss. I’m not giving him any more until he drops the attitude.
My jaw dropped as the next scene featured Clarence walking through the parking lot after the big chess tournament (he won first place). There was no way he’s the next victim. I don’t care if he’s walking through the lot at midnight! He’s my main suspect!
“It’s ok,” Riku whispered in my ear, rubbing my lower back gently (and ridiculously awkwardly). “If you’re scared…”
“He was so the killer,” I interrupted. “He can’t die, he has to be the guy! Who else has access to both dangerous chemicals and shop tools?”
He sighed and leaned back, “Of course. She’s upset, not scared.”
I scowled as the slaughterer jumped from behind Clarence’s car. Ok. It’s the science teacher.
Clarence began to say something that probably would’ve given me a clue as to what the monster’s identity was, but everyone had to start screeching again.
You know, some people are trying to watch the movie. I knew we should’ve put on subtitles.
I tried to read his lips. That failed miserably. Stupid braces.
Much to my dismay, thirty minutes later the science teacher was grading papers all alone in his classroom when the lights went out.
“Was she your next suspect?” Riku asked.
“It’s Clarence’s girlfriend Amber. That teacher marked down her Chemistry experiment, the cheerleaders made fun of her, Jeffrey played that prank, and Clarence beat her in the preliminary round of the chess tournament.”
It all came together at that moment.
“You’re good.” I sat back and offered him a Skittle for being smart for once.
Uh-huh, Miki (the heroine) entered the abandoned warehouse on the waterfront… And there’s Amber. No freaking way.
Miki asked those pathetic ‘why did you do it’ questions. Amber replied with the exact same thing Riku just said.
They fought. Miki won. Mass relief amongst the audience.
“Can we watch the Sound of Music now?” Kairi asked, still shuddering (even though she had Sora’s jacket over her shoulders).
Riku nodded, and I immediately lost interest in everything. I spent the next two hours staring off into space and keeping my back against the cushion so Riku didn’t get lazy again.
“How was the movie night?” Mom asked on the car ride home.
“Horrible,” I replied, “They kept screaming every time the slasher came on screen. I couldn’t hear any of the vital dialogue. And then Riku solved it, which really hurt my pride.”
“Uh,” Sora turned in the passenger seat. “Riku’s seen that movie three times already.”
“That meany-face,” I growled. “See if I ever share my Skittles again!”
Mom shook her head, “So you talked to someone besides Sora?”
“A little. Riku kept asking if I was scared, so I had to tell him the truth.”
“Were you scared?”
“No, just annoyed that they killed off all my perfect suspects.”
She sighed, “Of course. Sora, did you have fun?”
He grinned, “Kairi was so scared! She kept hiding her face in my shoulder!”
“I hope you shoved her off gently.”
He glared at me, “I didn’t shove her off. That’s why a guy sits next to a girl during a horror movie, so she’ll snuggle with him when she gets scared.”
“No way,” I shook my head, “Riku sat next to me because there weren’t any seats left.”
“I’m going to kill him,” he mumbled. Mom laughed.
“Sara, I think Riku has a crush on you.”
“Mom, have you been in the car all day? The carbon monoxide must be doing some weird things to your brain.”
That made her laugh harder and Sora get angrier.
“Humor me, did he put his arm around you?”
“What do you mean ‘not really’?” Sora twisted in his seat, visibly angry.
“Well, he stretched and then he sorta left his hand on my shoulder like the lazy meanie-face he is. Thankfully, Selphie took care of that.”
Mom snickered and Sora faced forward again, “He’s dead. I’m going to murder him.”
“Ooh,” I bounced in my seat. “Use sulfuric acid and a chainsaw!”
Everyone got really quiet after that.
I swear, everyone’s dumb but me.
I started hearing voices when I was playing Fable 2 (not that violent). I was torn between giving up my master axe and equipping the legendary hammer, or adding a few augments to the axe instead.
Use the bewitching augment on the axe. It makes people think you’re pretty.
I froze. Oh my G—Cthulhu. Mom was right! All these video games have messed with my sanity!
Oh, and everyone knows the bewitching augment’s a piece of crap.
You’re a voice in my head. That’s a little hard.
I saved my game and quit. This was very unnerving. It’s not like I could tell Mom I was suddenly schizophrenic. And I couldn’t tell anyone else about a voice in my head. Well, darn.
Calm down, I’m only here to give you a warning.
So warn me and get the heck out of my head already!
Fine. Seven days. That’s all I’m giving you, figure it out yourself.
“Ok, maybe I will. Bitch.”
“I knew all these violent video games were a bad influence on you! Next thing I know, you’ll be killing people and engaging in premarital sex.”
“What about premarital sex?” Riku entered the house without knocking. “Hi Mom.”
“Hi Riku.” She grinned. “Sora’s in his room.”
“Cool, thanks!” He turned to me. “Hi Sara.”
“What are you doing?”
“Practicing acupuncture. Care to be a patient?”
He was gone in a flash.
Mom sighed, “Don’t be mean to him. He likes you.”
“No he doesn’t.” I finished my orange juice and stood up to get more.
“Whatever you say,” she filled my cup for me. “Just be nice, ok?”
“I’m always nice,” I insisted jokingly. She just shook her head and put the cookie sheets into the oven.
“Why don’t you go play with Sora and Riku?”
“I’m fourteen Mom, I don’t play, I hang out. And no, because that would involve me being in the same room as them.”
“But you love hanging out with Sora.”
I shrugged, “He’s having guy time. I don’t want to interrupt that.”
“What’s wrong with Riku?”
I rolled my eyes, “Uh…he’s an arrogant rich kid?”
A door slammed down in the hall. Mom glared at me. “He heard you.”
“He shouldn’t have been eavesdropping!”
“Go to your room.”
“Oh my G—Cthulhu!” I finished my drink and stormed down the hall and into my room.
It’s right next to Sora’s room, and the walls aren’t too thick. I sat down on my rocking chair and did some eavesdropping of my own.
“…called me an arrogant rich kid!”
“You are an arrogant rich kid.”
“Yeah, but she said it like it was a bad thing!”
“Come on, Sara has no social skills. She’s just uncomfortable around other people.”
“She doesn’t have a problem with you.”
“And she likes Selphie.”
“No she doesn’t, she’s trying to train her. She’s convinced Selphie’s a dog.”
“Look, just don’t take it personally. She’s blunt. It’s her thing.”
“Why is she like that?”
Oh G—Cthulhu… If Sora answers that, I’ll kill him.
“She’s scared of social situations. It’s like you and needles.”
I’m rubbing rat poison in his pillowcase. Just you watch.
I put on my headphones and blasted my walkman (yeah, I don’t own an iPod, deal with it), not wanting to hear the rest of the conversation.
There’s a reason I don’t like people.
As I listened to jazz, I thought about the voice.
Seven days. It was giving me seven days to figure something out? Maybe I murdered someone and forgot about it, and my subconscious is trying to get me to confess!
No. That’s not it. I’d remember killing someone. That just seems like an important concept. You know, like SAT vocabulary. You’re not going to forget it anytime soon.
Am I psychic? Maybe some sort of natural disaster? I should call the police and tell them to keep an eye on the weather.
Wait, the last time I did that they called Mom and made her promise to keep me away from phones. Darn.
How long am I supposed to be here anyway? Maybe that’s what the seven days thing is about.
Naturally, when I become a schizophrenic and have a threatening voice in my head, it warns me about my impending seven-day punishment. Man, I wish it was at least something cool, like the islands blow up or something.
The door opened and Sora stuck his head in, I held up a finger and turned off my music. “You really hurt Riku’s feelings.”
“You’re the one who decided to kill him.”
“That doesn’t mean you can be mean.”
“I wasn’t being mean! I was talking to Mom! I thought he was in your room!”
He sighed, “Just…just don’t go near him for the next few days.”
“Fine by me.” I reached for a book.
He just stood there, watching me ignore him. Finally, he spoke.
“What happened to what?”
“What happened to you?” He sighed, “You…you’ve changed. Ever since Uncle Mitsuo…”
“Get out,” I pointed to the door.
“Sara, you used to be popular! People loved you the way you were!”
“And then you shut yourself away after…”
“GET OUT!” I shrieked. Without thinking, I hurled the book at his head. He leapt back and I slammed into the door.
“I miss you,” his muffled voice just didn’t know when to quit. I covered my ears and slid to the floor, keeping my back to the door so it couldn’t be opened.
I hugged myself and cried into my kneecaps.