written by: Jenna Moquin
Cora Connors waited in front of the library for her son Jordan, he was inside with his grandmother. The library was an old castle built centuries before the town of Zillah even had a name. Jordan loved the library, not just for reading but the rows and rows of books. He said he could smell people in them.
Cora tapped her foot, not surprised that her mother was keeping her waiting. She glanced up at the iron weather vane that sat atop the library with the backdrop of gray sky, the little anchor spinning in the wind.
The sky darkened and the weather vane whistled as it turned. Dark wet spots appeared on the pavement at her feet, and Cora sprinted up the steps to the library. She walked in as a heavy clap of thunder rolled over and saw a picture of Amy Marshall on the bulletin board in the lobby, her blond hair tied in ribbons, smiling as she hugged a stuffed rabbit.
Amy Marshall was a girl in Jordan’s first grade class. A few days ago she’d gone missing, and Zillah was covered in posters with the same photo. She shuddered over what Amy’s parents were going through, and strode into the children’s room.
At the large round table in the middle of the room, Jordan sat with his grandmother Greta. Laid across the table were half a dozen picture books with trains and tractor-trailers on the covers, and a couple of Halloween-themed books.
“What are you doing?” Cora said.
“Relax, we’re just reading.” Greta smiled and shook her head.
“It’s half past four! I have to get him in his costume and take him trick-or-treating.”
“Jordan, your mother is way too uptight.”
Jordan glanced up from his book and smiled, and his big blue eyes sparkled.
“I made something for you, Mommy.”
He reached underneath the book and pulled out a wad of construction paper stapled together on one side. It was one of his flip books. He loved the slight changes in drawings on each page, and holding the bottom corner between his thumb and forefinger to flip through the pages, creating a cartoon.
Cora had boxes full of his flip books. The drawing on the cover of this one had a woman with dark hair standing in front of the library wearing a blue skirt and gray top. Cora glanced down at her clothes, it was the same outfit she was wearing. She flipped through the book. The cartoon action was the sky turning dark and rain falling as she ran up the stairs. She slammed the flip book onto the table and took a deep breath.
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like it?” Greta cocked an eyebrow and picked up the flip book.
“It’s raining outside, Mother.”
Cora took Jordan’s hand and led him out of the library. Greta followed them.
The rain had eased into a drizzle and the winds had softened. Greta trailed behind as Cora rushed Jordan to her car. She buckled him in the backseat while he peered around her and smiled at his grandmother. Greta looked into the car and returned the smile. Cora turned around to face her mother.
“I don’t like you spending so much time with him.”
“He’s my grandson. You can’t keep us apart. I don’t know why you would want to, anyway.”
“You know why.”
“He has the gift. We’re more alike than you know, my dear.”
“He is nothing like you.”
Cora turned and walked toward the driver’s side.
“You can’t pretend he’s an average boy forever.” Greta’s voice was heavy.
Cora got into her car and slammed the door. A mild clap of thunder rumbled as Greta turned and walked to her own car. She turned back once to look at Jordan. He stared through the window and waved at her as Cora tore out of the parking lot.
After Jordan was inside his ninja costume, Cora got his pumpkin shaped candy bag from the hall closet.
“Is Daddy coming with us?”
“No, he has to work late. We’ll just save the crappy candy for him.”
They giggled as Cora locked the door behind them. While they strolled through the streets Jordan’s pumpkin bag grew fatter, and Cora noticed that there didn’t seem to be as many children out trick-or-treating as usual. She wondered if it had something to do with Amy Marshall. The papers said she was last seen playing in the backyard of her parents’ house on Maple Terrace. She and Jordan crossed over to Maple, and up on the right the Marshall house stood dark amongst the other houses displaying orange lights and jack-o-lanterns.
“That’s Amy’s house,” Jordan said.
“I hope they find that poor girl.”
Jordan trotted ahead and ran up to the house next door to the Marshall place. She watched him hold up his pumpkin bag to Mrs. Moreni who gave him so much candy it spilled onto the porch.
Cora had known for a while that Jordan had something in common with her mother, she just didn’t want to admit it. Greta called it a gift of sight, but Cora considered it to be more of a curse.
Greta had known that Cora’s father was dead before the policeman arrived at their doorstep to inform them of the car accident. She’d also known her uncle Peter had passed away before the hospital called.
The superstitious people in town regarded Greta Evans as somewhat of a witch, and most people avoided her. When Cora began dating Carl Connors in high school, his friends teased him saying that Cora and her witch mother had put a love spell on him. Carl always ignored them, but he also never protested when Cora avoided spending time with her mother.
Cora recognized the signs in Jordan when he started drawing pictures of people who had passed away, particularly at the moment of their death. Things he couldn’t possibly have known, like the car accident that took Cora’s father that happened years before he was born. He’d drawn the blue sedan with the vanity plate, EVANSRE in a fiery crash with a dark-haired man screaming through the flames. The night she found that drawing was the night she began taking the tranquilizers her psychiatrist had prescribed.
She watched Jordan skip up the steps of another house across the street, where an elderly couple passed out king size candy bars. She couldn’t recall if their name was Jones or Johnson but she thought the Snickers bars they were handing out would be the perfect thing to go along with her tranquilizer later.
As they walked home with half of Jordan’s loot inside the extra plastic bag Cora had brought, curiosity got the better of her.
“Jordan, when you said they won’t find Amy Marshall, what did you mean?”
“They’re not looking in the right place. She’s not in the woods, she’s in the ocean.”
A chill tumbled down Cora’s spine. She felt even more sympathy for Amy’s parents, because she wasn’t just missing or kidnapped. She was dead.
Jordan ripped open a package of candy corn and pulled down his ninja mask to chew on them. The sight of his blue eyes filled with joy and the pumpkin bag bouncing against his knees nearly brought her to tears. She didn’t want him to stop being a little kid who loved to draw flip books and trick-or-treat on Halloween, and that’s what would happen if it was revealed that he had the same talent as his grandmother Greta. His whole world would be turned upside down.
Jordan knew what happened to Amy Marshall, but Cora knew what sort of people resided in Zillah. She wanted him to enjoy his life for as long as possible before the freak label was stapled to him. She decided the police would eventually figure out what happened to Amy. She didn’t see the need to bring Jordan into the whole mess.
After he was tucked into bed, and a Snickers bar tucked away in her bedside table drawer, Cora straightened up the house as she waited for Carl to get home. Jordan’s playroom was particularly messy with crayons and paper strewn about the floor. She bent down and gathered up the drawings, relieved to see images of trees and clouds instead of death. She placed them inside the cubby drawer by the table, and saw a flip book lying next to it.
On the cover was a little girl with blond pigtails, whom Cora thought resembled Amy Marshall. She was curious to know exactly what happened to make the poor girl drown, so she held the corner edges between her thumb and forefinger and flipped through the pages.
The crudely drawn cartoon showed Amy standing on the highest cliff that overlooked the ocean, with the beach below. From behind her in the bushes, the face of a dark-haired boy with blue eyes appeared. He jumped out, and pushed her over the cliff. The very last drawing was the blue-eyed boy standing on the cliff with a smile on his face.
Cora threw the flip book to the floor. She paced around the room wringing her hands. Then she trotted to the bathroom and vomited in the toilet. After washing up she took the bottle of tranquilizers out of the medicine cabinet, shook out two pills and swallowed them with water.
She walked into Jordan’s playroom and grabbed the flip book with Amy’s face on it, went into the living room and started up a log inside the fireplace. She looked at the pictures on the mantle, Jordan in every single one. Standing outside the front doors at school on his first day of kindergarten. In his Halloween costume from the previous year when he’d dressed up as a pirate. Standing on the cliff overlooking the ocean, right next to the bushes he’d jumped out of in the flip book.
Cora picked up that picture and removed it from the frame. When the flames grew she tossed the photo into the fire. She went upstairs to her bedroom and went to the closet. She pushed aside blouses and trousers to reveal a wall safe. She unlocked it and took out a fat manila envelope that she carried downstairs and tore open in front of the fire.
Cora tilted the envelope, and a half-dozen flip books fell to the carpet. She picked them up and flipped through them. One showed Jordan pummeling a bird with a rock. In another, he took a goldfish out of its bowl and it thrashed about until it lay still. The goldfish had been a gift for his fifth birthday. Cora told Carl she’d found the fish floating in the bowl one day and just flushed it, but she never told him about the flip book she’d found.
In another one, Jordan impaled a cat with a stick. Until that night it had been the most disturbing one. Cora tossed it into the fire. Then the grating noise of the garage door opening announced Carl’s arrival home. Cora threw the remaining flip books into the fire along with the manila envelope. She grabbed the poker and prodded the remnants of paper deeper into the flames.
“Hey, I’m home. Happy Halloween!”
Carl walked into the living room. Cora stared at the fire and nodded.
“I didn’t think it was all that cold out. Why the fire?”
“I was just in the mood for it.”
“Sorry I missed all the Halloween fun. Did you have any good scares?”
Carl chuckled and Cora didn’t join him. Nor did she have the heart to tell him that she was constantly scared, and had been for quite some time. Halloween was every night for her.
“Hey, what’s this?”
Carl leaned down and picked up a flip book she’d neglected to toss into the fire. It was the one with Amy Marshall on the cover. Cora’s heart pounded as Carl looked through the flip book.
What frightened her most was that she would do anything to keep the world from knowing what her son truly was.
She raised the poker and aimed it at her husband’s head.
She would do anything at all.