Waves of gossip fled through the crowded streets. Even the horns felt subdued by a more raucous noise. While walking down the street, on every corner stood a white glistening sheet of cardboard that seemed to radiate a poor “SHE’S BACK! THE IDOL OF THE CENTURY HAS RETURNED! GET YOUR FREE LILITH HAT NOW!” with an extra arrow pointing toward a rather unflattering top hat upon a slim pale mannequin.
It was a contrasting town. The gray buildings stood small and faded, with brown dusty lamp posts at far off corners, disappearing in its own distant light. Streets were bigger, but boringly stretched forever into the horizon, if there even was one. Apartments unusually jut out from the oppressive invisible ceiling, reaching quite tall. If one looked closely, they could see the children blowing raspberries through the stained windows, disregarding their own equally miserable life.
Figures briskly walked. Heads tilted down dragging top hats like they were stepped on, a scarf snaking around the neck, and a long coat, no matter the weather completed the triage. But today there was an added bonus. A bunch of bouquets and glaring cards that seemed like they were the only sort of life in people’s entire aura. Some said, ‘Welcome Back!!’, ‘We missed you!’, ‘Good to see you home!’ and a bunch of other cheery phrases, all meaning the same thing. The funny thing was, there was absolutely no iota of compassion. Faces still looked gloomy and nervous as though they could be doing better things, typical.
Talk had spread since Monday. She had come and there was officially no doubt. If one had not heard of Lilith, well they were definitely going to hear about her now. No one really knows why she’s so infamous. Everyone has a different story. But one thing has ringed consistently, she seemed to always be associated with some sort of catastrophe. An alarming and eerie one, but alas, she was one of great gossip who had finally returned from who-knows-where, and this town needed something.
Colors flooded the supposed-lobby with all sorts of donations all accompanied by a ‘heart-warming’ message of welcome. Lilith strode out of the poorly made rusty brown elevator. She didn’t seem more than an overly-grown child. Her hair was tied into a bun with a couple strands sticking out as though she had just politely ransacked her moving boxes. She wore a flowery dress that flowed fluently bouncing up and down as she skipped merilly to the edge of the lobby. Her feet were close to bare with only sandals protecting her from the dusty ground.
“Good morning Lilith! Good to have you back!”
“Ohh! Hello! Good morning Mr. Winston! It’s great to see you after such a long time.”
“You as well my dear,” Mr. Winston said, in a very old and broken speech. “I must ask though, why did you come back dear, after all I’m sure everyone from this town would rather, if i might say, spend as much of their life as they can away from this place.”
“Oh I know Mr. Winston, but after living here for so long, you do come to miss the place after a while.”
“I suppose so. Anyways, it is good to have you back Lilith. Oh yes, and I heard the caretakers at the rehabilitation program saying your mother is waiting to see you again. After you left, she became sort of insane and it was best to transfer her from the apartment. They said she’s been mentioning you in her sleep along with some other gruesome things. You should go see her sometime soon.”
“Oh yes. Thank you Mr. Winston. I will.”
“Same to you darling.” He cracked a smile that made even the deepest wrinkles stretch. She smiled back with wide eyes, picking up some flowers and cards from the lobby to take back with her.
လလ Left. Right. Back. Right. Left. Straight. Left… Black… “Mommy. Mommy, I wanna show you something.” “Wait one second sweetheart, I’m doing something right now.” “Mommy please!” “Seven thous- God…” “Mommy?”
“Yes! Sweety, what? I told you I’m in the middle of something right now. The bill and the house… your dad…and everything’s just…”
“Just once.” “Fine. What happened?” “Close your eyes.” “Do I have too?” “Please just close your eyes.” “Ok ok. There. What happened.” “Come.” “Ok.” “Open your eyes.” “Ohh wow! You made this?” “Mmm hmm. It’s for you. You can keep it.” “Oh my! Thank you sweetheart, but you know I’m doing ok right? We’re all doing ok. Everything will be ok.” “I know.” “It’ll be fine.”
“How are you today Mr. Winston?” “Quite wonderful my dear! It’s a very beautiful day outside, don’t you think?” “It sure does.”, Lilith managed to spit out.
She walked right out the doors, skipping up and down humming along to ‘Pop! Goes the Weasel’, receiving a bunch of glares in return. Her head swiveled back and forth along the street, trying to come up with a decision and ultimately crossed the street, not missing a beat in her skips. “Hello! Hello! Hello! Good day isn’t it!”, she smiled at the folks hunching up and down the sidewalk. None of them replying with true words, rather a forced smile and a tip of the head. After a while of skipping, she approached an intersection. At this point she turned her head left, then right scanning the brown sidewalks vandalized by people’s shoes. She turned her back to the intersection and approached the nearest building. Rust grew along the edges and dirt lay resting peacefully upon the walls.
The words could be faintly seen looming tall above, “BRITTNEY’S BEACHWEAR”. Lilith looked up at the words then into the clear glass. She could see her face white with a few brown freckles splotched in no specific order, only half of it though. The other side was hidden by a glaring reflection of sunglasses, black as night. Inside were a couple stands holding surfer tropical print t-shirts and a hat tilted upon the top for some holding a small white card written ‘$5.99’ in fine calligraphy. So Lilith brought back her hands from the glass and walked through the door, enjoying the little ring the bell brought from absolute silence.
Left. Right. Back. Forward. Left. Right. Left. Back. Left. Right. Left… Right… Black… “Mom! I - I don’t know what happened. I just was there-” “I know, calm down.” “-and then the whole thing just happened. I swear I didn’t do anything.” “I know. Calm down. Calm down.” “The kid just…” “I know.”
“ I don’t even know? Where’s dad?” “Calm down. Calm down. It’s all ok. He’s… out.” He told me. Death is coming. He’ll get m- “Oh… Mom? Did he do this, right here?” “No, he was just confused. It’s ok, we’re all ok.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I know. We’ll talk to some people. Come here.” “Ok. ok.” It’s coming. “Shhh. I don’t know either.”
He had just visited the girl, a sweet one she was. Asking for just a book to read. What a shame she had to leave her poor parents like that. Just one day. Booking a ticket to who-knows-where and never even mentioning a possible return. But she had come. No need to reminisce. He had heard gossip about where she went for more than a decade in this old worn out town. ‘She earned a scholarship. Smart lady she is.’ ‘She ran off with an unruly boy. Ruffled hair and no sense of politeness.’ ‘She had a dream to travel the world. Courageous.’ Nothing could be stranger than the conversation he just had. She had definitely changed, changed a lot. Her fingers twitched obsessively. Her eyes seemed a darker color with no glint and her hair seemed unnatural, pure and invulnerable to reflection. Perhaps a feature he had forgotten of her younger self. She was unnatural as a child as well. It was rumored, one day she killed a child in her school. A seven year old boy named Culver. No one’s quite sure if she really did or if he just ran away but it was rumored she lured him into a storage room and did it. Her mother and father never had the perfect relationship either. No one ever knew what happened in the house, but their situation was never good, everyone would say. But, he knew not to go by rumors, so he never did.
“She’s here. She’s here. She’s here. How? She’s here. How? I killed her. She haunts me. Day and night. Dreams. Dreams. Maps in dreams. All lead here. How? She’s here. Dreams. They haunt. Maybe not. Not reality? Is it, but no. I feel her coming. I loved her. That I did. Tears. I loved her. I loved. I still do. But I killed her. I didn’t mean it. He made me. She’s coming. She haunts me. I know she will come. My swe-ee-ee-sweet-sweetheart.” “Dear? Are you ok, would you like one of our volunteers to take you to the balcony?” “No. Not outside…” “Alright dear.” “She’s here. Love. Dreams.”
Lilith stared at the bathroom mirror. And saw nothing but a pale ghostly face hidden by her perfect smile. Cheeks stained by transparent tears and scars of rough hands. She looked down to her hands, shaking like a leaf in still air just waiting until the glass shatters inside and the secrets flow out. Like a tsunami of sin. Passed down by generations and all given to one little girl who danced under the trees. She slammed her hand down onto the sink. Then waited, feeling her pulsing veins.
She slowly brought her hands to her hair and tied it up into a perfect bun. Dead strands choked into a circle. And waited. Waited. Waited. For the sheep to sleep.
Left… Right… Left… Right… Left.. Right.. Left. Right. Left, right, left, right. Black. ‘Mom! Mom! I can’t find my earrings! Can you come!’ ‘They’re in the closet!’ ‘They’re not there! Can you just come!’ ‘Ok, coming!’ He told me to kill her. She needs to leave. Go to college. He’ll get me. Death is coming. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘I can’t find my earrings.’ ‘Aren’t they in the closet.’ ‘I already checked there.’ ‘Check in the drawer.’ ‘I already did.’ ‘Check again.’ Lilith. Waiting. Love and death blur. She’s gone. Doctor can’t save me. I can’t save her. ‘Nope it’s not there.’ Kill her now. Kill her. ‘Uh check the cabinets.’ The pin. Shaking hands. Sweating face. Gasping. ‘It’s not in the cab- Mom? Are you ok? Is it dad again?’ South. North. East. West. The pin. East. West. Left. Right. Left Right. The pin. ‘Uhh uhh no sweetheart, check the cabinets.’ ‘Ok…’ Wide eyes. Pulsing… Pulsing… Pulsing.. Pulsing. Pulsing. ‘Mo-’ Pulse. Silence… Tears. Secrets.
‘Lilith!’ Mr. Winston wheeled himself into the elevator as quickly as he could, punching the numbers with his bony fingers. Impatiently fidgeting with his clothes until he couldn’t feel nauseous anymore. ‘Lilith! Lilith!’ He scrambled down the aisle, panting heavily, until he reached room 21. ‘Lilith! Lilith, it’s your mother. Lilith!’
Bones rattled determined against the gray door, but no one responded. ‘Lilith! Are you there?’ Mr. Winston pulled down on the handle and he pushed on the door. ‘Lilith?’ And he was met with only the dripping of distant water droplets and silence.
Writer Anya Wardhan is a 15 year old girl from the state of Arizona, USA. Born in Chandler, she loves writing fictional stories. Having gone from winning literary competitions in school to writing poems for loved ones, she anxiously awaits the future and its possibilities. Apart from books, she also has a unique love for singing and enjoys helping others in her free time.