Four year old Jason sat beside Shirley as she fed cloth into her sewing machine. As she sewed, his high pitched voice chattered away at her.
‘….and then me and Michael will eat sweeties...’
With heart pounding Shirley stopped her machine and turned to her son.
Michael continued, ‘mommy, you must take a new picture of us…’
His blue eyes twinkled with excitement as he bounced up and down.
‘Michael,’ he said, ‘let’s pull funny faces when mommy takes the picture!’
Shirley stared at the spot Jason was looking at.
A shadow etched a pattern within the silver dust floating in the beam of sunlight falling on the seat.
‘Michael?’ she whispered.
The shadow shifted. She pulled the camera from the sideboard and aimed it at Jason and the shadow. At the click of the shutter the camera flashed and Jason started screaming. ‘You chased him away!’
Shirley caught her bottom lip between her teeth, then, ‘Jason you have to get used to it.’ She tried to draw him into her arms.
‘No,’ he screamed, pulling away from her and shaking his head with a fury that made his hair fly across his face. The freckles on his cheeks seemed to dance with a dizzying speed.
Shirley put her arms firmly around Jason. She hugged him tight wincing as his bones stuck into her, reminding her of the concrete walls that must have scraped Michael’s body as he fell down the well shaft. Jason’s screams turned into sobs before he fell asleep in her arms.
Later, during dinner, Shirley watched Jason picking up peas one by one before eating them. He had woken up his normal self after the nap. Eventually she broke the heavy silence.
‘It happened again,’ she ventured.
Gary’s head jerked up from the paper he was reading. ‘What did?’
She took a deep breath, ‘You know….’
Gary stood abruptly and marched to the office muttering that he had work to do.
She was awake when he tip-toed into their room.
‘We have to talk about the twins,’ she said, sitting up straight and tense.
‘Not now…’ He shut the door to the bathroom and the buzz of the electric toothbrush filled the room like a tormenting bee.
Shirley threw the blankets off her and marched to the door.
‘We have to talk now!’ she shouted, turning the handle.
The door would not move and there was no reply.
‘Gary,’ she called. There was still no answer.
She rattled the door. The toothbrush was still buzzing. She banged harder with a flat hand.
‘Gary we have to talk!’
There was a thud as if he’d dropped the toothbrush on the floor. Alarmed, she banged on the door again and rattled the handle.
Everything went silent.
‘Mummy?’ Jason’s small voice came from behind her.
Shirley flicked him away with her hand, ‘Go back to bed….’
‘But mommy, Michael’s back….’
She gave a last terrified push against the door. It slid open…
Author: Sumanda Maritz (SA)