The message was strange by any definition of the word.


A text that sent Mary Smithson out of her 469 Pellan Cul- de-sac home to check on her closest friend, who also happened to be her childhood neighbour. She matched across the small street and knocked on the silver door. She waited a little bit longer than usual before she heard footsteps hurrying to the door. She had mentally prepared a reprimand for Dylon Mathers for trying his usual attempts at Halloween pranks, but she was a little worried with the urgency of the text.

She had already opened her mouth as the door opened slowly when she stopped herself. A stranger with ebony hair and brown eyes was looking curiously at her. He was well built, and had tiny specks of greying hair within his head.

"Sorry, Nell. I was busy trying to make sure dinner didn't burn, what can I help you with today?"

He seemed polite and calm about his words and he had a welcoming smile that nearly disarmed her, but he had called her Nell, why? She took a step back to ensure she had the right house (directly across from her), then walked back to the man.

"Excuse me, have we ever met?" She asked trying to make sense the familiarity to which this stranger responded.

"Very funny, Nell. We have known each other for a long time."

His answer was short and matter-of-factly, like it was cemented in history, his probably. She was starting to get annoyed with this elaborate prank. She took a deep breathe and retrieved another figurative coat of patience to be worn for the moment.

"Can I speak to Dylon, please."

The man just kept staring at her as if trying to place the name, he was clearly a paid actor- one of the competent ones judging by how he stuck with his story.

"I don't know any Dylon I'm afraid. Maybe Jenny knows. Please come in," he invited her in the house that seemed filled with a blaring Television and a shrieking sound from upstairs.

"I have to make sure nothing burns this time round, excuse me."

He left her standing there in the living room, walking away smiling as if the burning of food was some joke between them. She stared at his receding back and started walking around the living room as soon as the stranger left. There were framed photographs of the man with a blonde haired beauty with an athletic frame, a Roman nose and tiny freckles on her cheek. There were similar photographs with a young girl with flaxen hair and brown eyes, the explainable resemblance of a daughter to the woman.

"The name Mathers does sound familiar but I can't seem to place it, Nell." The man in kitchen shouted at her while trying to cook.

Everything felt foreign and out of place, it was not the house she had been entering for eleven years. This house was a family home with toys thrown around the living room, crayons and papers on a small table meant for a child, and the noise of a happy child somewhere above her.

She had the pattern of little feet coming down the stairs as fast as possible and waited to see what was actually going on. The text had been sent ten minutes ago and this seemed a little too well planned for Dylon Mathers. The flaxen haired girl from the photographs stopped upon seeing her. She had an impressive outfit consisting of a ankled-length dress with an elegant maroon cape and a tiara on her head - a princess then.

She only took a moment for her eyebrows to rise before she came running at Mary and jumped on her leg in an elaborate hug.

"Aunt Nell, your here," she shouted in a pant trying to get her words across. "Mom says I'm almost ready, but your here now. Does that mean Abby is ready?"

She seemed crestfallen at the prospect of this Abby being ready before her, and Mary didn't know how to answer this question. She said the first thing that came to her mind.

"Not yet," she dropped to one knee in order to look the girl in the eye. "...but Dylon might help her get ready."

She had hoped for some reaction, some tell tale sign that all this was some elaborate hoax, but the girl looked confused at the name. No child could fake deception like this, if it was indeed a hoax.

"Who is Dee-lon?" she asked Mary hopefully.

The entire scene was beyond strange. She needed to collect names, that way she could find out their history and apparently, hers too.

"What's your name, little princess?" She tried to make it sound as playful as possible.

"Princess Ellen Richmond...the first. Now bow!" The little tyrant demanded with forced airs.

Mary played along dropping her head in a mock bow and thinking about any "Richmond" she may know from her past. With no apparent culprit in mind, she returned to standing by the princess who was apparently being chased by her mother who came running down the stairs after her. The woman stopped on seeing her.

"Hi, Nell. Tell me you're not already set for the evening of trick-or-treating?" She looked impressed and shocked at the same time.

Mary should have probably lied or made something up, but a glaring revelation had come upon her. The girl- Ellen- had asked if some Abby was ready, and her mother implied she would go trick-or-treating. The only reason she would ever need to do that was...

The revelation made her apologise as she left in a hurry. The neighbourhood still looked the same. She could name every family she saw along with their children, at least that much was unchanged. She didn't bother knocking on her door and walked in to a cruel shock. There were framed photographs on the wall next to the door, and she looked at them as she walked into the living room. 

In all the photographs there was a chestnut-haired man next to her. He was good looking but had a scar on his temple. His eyes were a teal shade that drew her attention and he looked happy-so did this Mary by his side. There was one photograph with a young girl with ebony hair and...

She stopped dead in her tracks by this one. The girl had ebony hair...just like her, and despite the blue eyes, her facial features like her upturned nose, her eyebrows, and the shape of her mouth...they were too familiar to her. It was like looking at a slightly altered version of herself as a child.

This was becoming too strange. The new neighbours she now had could be explained away as actors (convincing ones and probably well-paid) but this little girl was an impossibility. She had no children, not yet anyway. She had planned to maybe have one in the future, but the man in the photographs with the beautiful eyes was clearly a stranger. She wanted to find out where Dylon was but he wasn't picking up his phone.

She walked into the living room to find the man in the photographs. He was watching a basketball match on a 42 inch flat-screen television which was clearly not hers. She looked around the room and could see certain things that were clearly foreign.

"Honey?" He asked as he turned around. "Did you get a timeline for Jenny and Ellen?"

These be the names of the woman and her child in Dylon's house, the ones she was supposed to go trick-or-treating with...along with Abby, her daughter.

"Hmm, they said there almost ready. Probably ten more minutes."

She was trying to stay afloat in a sea of new information and what seemed to be a different world than her own. She wanted to interrogate the man for some answers without seeming oblivious if this was still a hoax. She had to see the little girl, the one who was supposed to be her daughter. Seeing her would solve her conclusion to whether it was a hoax or not. No one could fake such a child, at least not that she knew of.

"Where is Abby?" She asked hopefully as she tested out the name on her tongue. She found that she rather liked the feel of the name and saying it.

"She's waiting for you in her room," answered the man who was still watching the television.

With all her hopes hanging on the existence of a little girl, Mary climbed the stairs in a rush. She knew this house and knew only one other room would house a child. She rushed to the room next to her...well their bedroom. 

From the door she could see it was painted pink with coloured paper butterflies on the walls. On the bed, wearing what must be a blue outfit with wings on the back, was the girl Abby. Mary was stunned by her presence despite preparing herself mentally for it. The girl seemed to be fidgeting in her dress making Mary smile despite her shock. She walked up to the little girl and knelt in front of her. She ran her hands through the frilly ebony hair and was about to touch her face when the girl backed up.

"Stop you'll ruin my fairy face," she protested in a nervous voice.

Mary smiled at the reaction, smiled at the choice of outfit, and also on the entire situation. 

"Why are you crying, mommy?"

She traced the wetness around her eyes and laughed lightly as she wiped it on her dress.

"I just think you look beautiful, Abby."

She wanted to say more but an idea came to her.

"Abby, could you tell me your full name?"

The girl looked at her curiously.

"Abigail Kent."

"...and your parents' names?"

"Mommy and daddy."

She realized the girl might not know her name, but she had given the name Kent

"Can I carry my wand now?"

"Where did we put it?" She asked playfully trying to mask her ignorance.

"It's on your bed, mommy." Abby seemed delighted at knowing this-meaning she probably wasn't supposed to know where the wand was. That thought drew another smile from Mary...or whatever her name was now.

She promised to get the wand as she left the room, and hurried into her room. She ransacked her purse on the bedside table and removed her driving licence along with another phone.

Nelly Reed!

The name was foreign to her, but the picture on the licence was definitely her. She scrolled the contacts on the phone and found her husband's number. The name on the information was Aaron kent, and she could not find Dylon's name or number on this other phone.

She quickly picked the "wand" that was on her bed and was about to leave when the book on the table caught her eye. She walked to the bedside table and picked it up. She couldn't tell why the book had drawn her or whose it was.

She flipped through the pages and stopped on a page with a marker highlighted word.

Mary Smithson! 

She nearly dropped the book, but decided to jump to the synopsis on the back cover. She read it carefully and gasped at her findings. Mary Smithson, her entire life, was a character in a book- a tragic drama. There was a perfect description of the protagonist's neighbour, who was named Dylon Mathers. A character who'd died in 2009, ten years ago. She looked up the name Dylon Mathers on her phone's internet and confirmed that there was a Dylon Mathers who lived at 472 Pellan, across from her. Just like in the book, Dylon Mathers had died ten years ago in a car accident with his mother, when he was fifteen years-old.

She sat on the bed trembling with equal amounts fear and uncertainty. She was certain of her life. She new her name and that of her parents, but this entire situation was testing...no, breaking her foundation and beliefs. She would have stayed on the bed like that indefinitely if not for the sweet voice of Abigail Kent calling for her wand. This "Nelly Reed" seemed to have a good life, but it was a foreign one to hers. She would have to play along and hope she can get back to her world. It sounded even more promising that it meant getting to know Abby.

Nelly Reed-Kent stood up, put on her best smile and went to help her new daughter get ready for trick-or-treating.

November 01, 2019 11:07

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