A few months ago, my sister passed away. Today is her anniversary.
Well, not the anniversary of her death. It’s her birthday, which we celebrate now as a kind of anniversary, even though it’s really not. Well, I guess it kind of is.
Sorry, I’m not really making a lot of sense.
My name is Lucy and I’m 15. My older sister, Janet, was 21 when she died. Although we had a six-year age difference, we were really close. When I was a kid, I absolutely idolized her. She was always so beautiful, so funny, so smart…. I wanted to be just like her. Sadly, I seemed to lack all of my sister’s grace, charm, and charisma. But I thought it didn’t matter, as long as I could be by her side.
My sister taught me everything, from makeup and fashion to Spanish and Calculus (the two subjects in which I was hopeless). She was there for all the firsts in my life: my first steps, my first pair of glasses, my first boyfriend, and subsequently, my first break-up (only a week later, how lame is that?).
I suffered a pretty bad breakdown when I got the news about her death.
It was the kind of thing that could happen to anybody, which somehow made it worse. She was leaning out of her dorm room window, shouting something at one of her friends, and then…she just…fell.
Just like that.
The night I found out, I screamed myself hoarse. I called her phone over and over, always getting the same chipper voicemail. I sent her texts, mean ones, too, telling her to answer her fucking phone, dammit, I was sick of her stupid fucking jokes.
It took a while for the news to really sink in.
You know, a lot of people say that when someone dies, you can still feel their spirit near you. Maybe they even come to visit you or something. Well, when Janet died, I didn’t feel anything like that. I couldn’t feel her hand on my shoulder while I cried at the cemetery. I didn’t feel her hugging me as I struggled to choose something among her things that I could keep as a memento.
How do you even do that, by the way? Choose just one or two things to help you remember someone for the rest of your life?
Anyway, I couldn’t feel her at all. She was there one day, and then she wasn’t. It was like there was a big hole missing in my life, a hole that wasn’t even aware of its own existence.
Of course, I did have some strange dreams after her death.
The first few weeks after her death, the dreams were all about the same. She would show up in them, much to my shock and horror. She’d quickly explain that everything that had happened was a nightmare, or a misunderstanding, and that she was fine, nothing had really happened. I’d always believe her, of course. And for a short time, we’d be together as normal, although there was always this undercurrent of pain and sadness that I didn’t understand until I woke up and recognized reality for what it was once again.
Slowly, the dreams changed. She would appear in my dreams as though she’d never died, but this time I’d know she was really dead. I always knew that I was dreaming. Still, I’d enjoy my time with her, despite the growing pain and panic in my heart as I felt my body waking up.
About two months after her death she stopped appearing in my dreams regularly. On rare occasions she’d be there, far off, talking to some of her friends. And I’d observe wistfully, knowing that she only existed in this dreamscape of mine.
As the dreams returned to normal, so did my life. Kind of, anyway.
I went back to school one week after the accident. A month after, I started going out with my friends again. Another few weeks and I stopped crying myself to sleep every night.
I wouldn’t say that I got better or I stopped missing her. It’s just that the torturous aspect of my grief had faded. I found healthy outlets for my sorrow and things were sort of okay again, as much as could be expected.
But Janet appeared in my dreams again last week.
I could tell right away that I was having a nightmare. There weren’t any monsters chasing me, I wasn’t entombed in a tiny coffin (a recurring nightmare from my childhood), but something about the dream was just… wrong. It was so wrong I could feel it like a worm in my heart.
I saw Janet standing off in the distance. The moment I saw her, my heart dropped and I felt sick. A weird, unnatural grin was pulled across her face. It was a dead smile, as though it had been sculpted out of clay, and it matched the lifelessness in her eyes. I noticed her chest heaving, as though she was panting. She was standing stock still, except for her hands, which were twitching wildly at her sides.
“Hey, little sis!”
Her mouth didn’t move, and the voice came from all around me. It was Janet’s voice, but it also wasn’t. Just like her smile and her eyes, this voice was dead, like Janet was supposed to be.
“Do you want to come and play?”
I guess I must have blinked, because all of a sudden she was right in front of me, that graveyard grin looming at me as a forceful wind exploded throughout the air and drove its way into my heart.
“Because I sure do.”
I woke up in a cold sweat, shaking as though I was having a seizure. What the fuck was that?
I tried to calm myself down. I tried to tell myself that nightmares were normal after a sudden death and that I shouldn’t concern myself too much with it. I tried to distract myself with a good book and a few episodes of Friends.
But somehow I still couldn’t shake the feeling that that wasn’t an ordinary nightmare. In fact, I was starting to think it wasn’t a nightmare at all, but something else entirely.
Every night this week I had this nightmare. Every night it was the same. But it felt like a new experience every time, as though I’d never had the dream before. Each time it felt more intense than the last, as though it was building up to something.
This morning it reached a peak.
I woke up around three am to the wind howling outside and a damp sweat glistening on my moonlit skin.
I was taking deep breaths when I heard it, clear and sharp next to my ear.
“It’s time to play!”
I always wished I could feel my sister’s spirit comforting me after she passed, but I never did. No, not even in my darkest, most painful moments. Now I’m feeling something following me everywhere I go, shadowing my every move, taking in my every breath.
I used to think my sister no longer existed in this world. Now I wish she didn’t.