In 2008, my daughter, Lilith began complaining of something waking her up at night. She was 5-years-old at the time. I can’t remember how many times my wife and I would wake up to her screaming. One afternoon, on a weekday, I received a phone call from my wife.
“Lily, she’s gone.”
“What? Are you sure she’s not hiding in the house?” I asked.
“Dammit, the front door is open. She’s gone. I’m freaking out right now. I don’t know what to do. Come home, please. Right now. I’m so scared.”
She hung up and I left work to rush home as fast as I could.
Night came and there was no sign of Lily. The police sent out cars looking for her. We imagined the worst.
It was around 2 or 3 AM when Lily turned up on the front lawn. She was rubbing her eyes when we saw her. My wife and I ran over, thanking the heavens she was safe. We hugged her tight. I recall Lily smelling faintly of pine needles. We asked her where she had been, and told her we were worried sick. She shrugged. She had no idea. She said all she remembered was waking up from her nap and found herself on the lawn. She looked up at both of us and said she was hungry.
After an early breakfast, we took Lily to our bedroom and she slept between us. This time, she didn’t scream and we all slept comfortably. It was a relief knowing she was home.
Two or three days after Lily had reappeared, my wife started becoming violently ill. She began to have weak episodes, where all of her strength would leave her body. It was around this time Lily became lethargic and sickly, as well. The mornings would start fine, but as the day progressed, my wife’s mysterious illness would get worse and worse. This would repeat over the course of five days, until she couldn’t get out of bed anymore. Lily, too, was running a high fever, but was insatiably hungry. She ate and ate, and asked for thirds and sometimes fourth helpings. I called a doctor to diagnose both my wife and Lily, but he could come to no conclusion, explaining, they were both healthy, and there was nothing wrong with them.
I remember finding Lily in the kitchen, huddled up in her blanket, sitting on the floor with a box of brownies. She had devoured half the box. When I grabbed the box out from her hands, Lily flew into a rage. The expressions on her face seemed almost…otherworldly. I placed the box on the dining table and Lily climbed up on the chair and opened the box to resume stuffing her face.
If you don’t recall, 2008 was the middle of the subprime mortgage crisis, and our financial health was relatively alright — but as Lily’s appetite grew, we found that what we were spending on groceries wasn’t enough. Attributing her appetite to this sickness, I decided to continue spending our normal rate, hoping the sickness would pass. It didn’t.
My wife began going through episodes of convulsions, and she would scream obscenities at Lily every time she saw her. Fearing the worst, I had her hospitalized. While she was separated from us, I decided to work from home and take care of Lily. Miraculously, after spending not eight hours at the hospital, my wife recovered from whatever was ailing her. She surprised us at home and told us she was fine. She hugged and kissed us both, and everything seemed to be okay…except for Lily’s appetite for food and her odd fevers.
Two days later, my wife fell sick again.
“It’s Lily,” she confided to me.
“Every time I get near her, I get sick.”
“Don’t be crazy.”
“It’s not her. That’s not Lily.”
I looked at my wife with incredulous eyes.
“You’re nuts,” I said.
“No, no, I’m telling you, that is not Lily.”
She started having a coughing fit and I hurried downstairs to fetch a cup of water for her.
It was then I noticed Lily was missing. She wasn’t in the kitchen or the living room. I closed the front door and wondered where she had gone. I closed the front door. Lily left the house. I ran upstairs to tell my wife. It was happening all over again.
It couldn’t have had been more than an hour or two when the police knocked on our door, for the second time, when they took me and my now-recovered wife, to the hospital.
“Oh my god,” my wife said, putting her face onto her hands. “She’s gone isn’t she?” She started crying.
I thought about what my wife had said earlier, about Lily not being…Lily. Was any of this true? Or was it just her saying things?
The police officer broke my train of thought.
“We found her on a lawn not so far away from your house,” he said. “She was really confused as to why she was there. She knew who she was, but she didn’t know what day it was. Don’t worry, she wasn’t hurt or anything. Just a little hungry and really confused.”
Lily was sitting up on the hospital bed when we saw her. We ran over to give her the biggest — and longest — hug of our lives.
“Lily, where were you?” my wife asked, crying. “We were worried sick! I was so scared. Don’t ever, ever do this again. Promise mommy. Promise mommy…”
“Mommy,” Lily said. “Where am I?”
It turned out Lily had no recollection of the past week.
“All I remember is waking up from my nap and something told me to go open the front door…”