As I entered the house, I noticed that something was wrong. There were no cries of ‘Manda! Manda!’ coming from my twin 2 year old siblings as they rushed to greet me and hug my legs. No kiss from Mom to bat away as she took my backpack, saying, ‘Amanda, what happened today in school?’ No random advice or tidbit from my 15-year old sister Amelie ran out of our room and grabbed my hand to pull me in and show me something. She was a year older than me but we felt like twins. No whir of the overhead fan. The foyer was completely empty. This never happened. The last time was 2 years ago, when father got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was going to die. They had all rushed to the hospital, forgetting to tell me. It had been for no use though, he had died anyway. Oh No! I thought who is it now? Not Mom, right? Oh, not Mel, please. OH GOD, please let it not be one of the twins! If something happens to Gianna or Greggy, I don’t know what I’ll do!
I turned the corner into the living room slowly, bracing myself for what I might see. What I saw was not at all what I’d expected, but it was bad nonetheless. ‘The Green’ as we called it was gone. The Green. The center of our lives. It used to sit proudly on the mantle, visible from everywhere in the house but the foyer. Daddy had carved it by hand. For three years, he would sit by the fire after work, his hands nimbly molding the clay. Shaping something. We never knew what it was. Never will, since he’s gone. Our pride and life. Gone. What happened? Where is it? Who took it? When? Why? Why? Why? What will we do without it??? The thoughts rushed through my head, making me dizzy.
Somebody coughed and I turned. There, sitting on the couch, were my family members. First I was overjoyed that they were okay. Then, I remembered The Green and saw the expressions on their faces. Oh oh. What happened next, though, was the most shocking of all. They stood up simultaneously and enveloped me in a hug.
“Wha-what’s going on??” I cried, pushing them all away.
Amelie was the only one who responded. “Nothing, nothing dear. Just close your eyes. Just as we did. Give all of your prized possessions to the King. Surrender yourself to him, just as we did. You will attain true happiness,” she droned flatly. She never called me dear.
“What? Who’s the king? Are you okay? Blink twice if you need my help!”
She wordlessly pointed at the corner and I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. A man, dressed all in black with a hat over his face leaning on the wall. What? What was he doing here? How had he gotten in? Who was he? WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? What was going on? Amelie smiled, briefly. As did the man. But his was different. Amelie’s was a fleeting reminder of something normal. His was maniacal and murderous.
And then my world turned black as he lifted his hat, revealing, not a face anymore, but a black hole, swirling and gurgling. Hungry. My eyes started to blur, my body feeling limp. I started to run the other way, grabbing as many of my family’s hands as I could, when he spoke.
His voice was deep and rumbling, hypnotic. I turned to face him. I had to. There was a force pulling me towards him. “Don’t go. Stay. Don’t you want the truth? Don’t you want peace and happiness?” The kind words didn’t match the cold, calculating expression. The truth about what, anyway? But somehow, I couldn’t look away. Maybe it was his voice or how his gestures seem to be pulling me towards him or how he seemed sad- I could never refuse someone who was sad. So I stayed and I listened until I didn't even know what he was saying. I just knew that I believed it and I trusted him and that he would do what was right.
Then he snapped his fingers and I was shocked back into the present. I looked around me, dazed. I didn't understand what was happening. Then the Earth beneath me started to rumble and the bamboo floorboards (that Daddy had made years before, when he was apprenticing a handyman) cracked under our feet and we all tumbled into a black pit. All but him. He hovered above us, cackling, the black hole replaced once again by a face, though this was no comfort as the face was cruel and crazy.
My family had returned to normal and were crowding around me. He lifted his hands, and I saw a shimmer. I saw The Green, floating in the air in front of him. I reached towards it, trying to jump out of the hole, the pit of darkness and despair. But something was holding me down. I searched the eyes of the man, but they were emotionless, betraying nothing, like the trained assassins on a show me and Mel liked to watch. What was it called? I don’t know. But this was no time for such trivial thoughts. I doubted we’d even be able to watch TV after this was over, whatever this was. I saw our TV sitting right outside of the pit. The man, or the ‘King’, I suppose, noticed my gaze and pushed the TV in the pit with us.
Mom only had eyes for the green. She was sobbing, reaching for it, screaming, falling. Over and over again. Mom never cried. The only other time I had seen her like this was the week that Daddy died. Nobody made Mom cry. Nobody. Not even strange men with superpowers and black holes for faces. I screamed, a bloodcurdling scream, as Gi and Greggy would tell me later, their only memory of the moment. I leapt out of the pit, the evil no match for my sheer will. I reached towards The Green, thinking, foolishly, that once I had it everything would be normal again. I was too absorbed in my thoughts so I never noticed when the man's hand fell to his side and then, just as quick, drew back up pointing at me. I didn't notice the electricity shooting towards me. I didn't notice anything until it zapped me. Right in the forehead. I fell down into the pit. Down into the darkness. I vaguely heard somebody calling my name. I vaguely noticed my head crashing into something. Cement? I vaguely felt somebody feeling my hand for a pulse. All that I could see was daddy's face in front of me, like an angel, I guess, his arms wrapping around me. But not in the kind and loving way they used to, but like he was trying to choke me- like he was trying to kill me.
I opened my eyes after what felt like hours and everybody crowded around me worriedly, paying no attention to my queries of, ‘Where is he???? Where is he???’ Mom grabbed the twins. Mel and I huddled together for warmth. We were all unsure of what had happened, was happening and would happen. All we knew was that we were together. And we always would be.