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Fantasticoe 2001 -  10th Anniversary Issue

 

The Children on Church Hill

Amanda Cloke

The lightning came with a warning. The thunder brought a threat. And only the children heard it. The message came swirling through the windows of all the sleeping youth, carried by the wind an autumn storm. A whisper, only a few words, settled in their ears, and took root in their minds. When the children awoke they remembered nothing of the mysterious voice that had haunted their dreams. But the next night, when thunder once again rocked the tiny town the children stirred. Not fully awake and not entirely asleep, they sat up, pulled back the blankets that covered their frail little bodies, and got out of bed.

The night was dark, as black clouds slid across the moon casting shadows on the angelic faces of the children, as they converged, pajama clad, behind the old church on the hill. The church, nothing more than a shell of what it once was, had been destroyed by a fire twenty years earlier. It had never been rebuilt or torn down and instead stood, a memorial to the priest who had died in the flames, looking over the small sleepy Midwestern town. A wind blew, stirring up the smell of charred wood and burnt flesh from so long ago, that still seemed to linger on the hill. Lightning crackled across the sky and they saw him. Clothed by a long black robe, just outside of tiny overgrown cemetery, he stood surveying the group. They will be the beginning.

The children didn't move or make a sound as the man approached. His eyes, set deep in his pale waxen face, glowed a startling violet. His thin red lips stretched across his face as he smiled. The children's hearts fluttered in anticipation, excitement, fear. He was the one who had called them.

He didn't speak a word as he circled them like a lion circling its prey. His eyes settled on each child, piercing them with their intensity. They fell on her last. A sweet looking child, small, with golden hair that flowed like silk down her back, huddling behind her brother. He beckoned to the girl and she stepped away from the security of her brother's back. The man stood before her and ran a finger, long and pale with a yellowed nail, along her chin. "Pretty girl," he said, his rich voice falling over the child like a thick velvet blanket. "Would you like to come with me?" The girl nodded, hypnotized by the man's penetrating violet eyes, and took his hand.

The next morning, when the children awoke they remember nothing of the night before. The man with the violet eyes was far from their minds when the announcement came. Lily Johnson was missing. Abducted during the night, no forced entrance, no clues. Her parents were sick with worry, stricken with guilt and fear for their child. Eric, Lily's ten-year-old brother hadn't spoken a word since the discovery. Everyone said that it must be shock. But he was silent for other reasons. He was silent because he was scared. He knew not where the fear came from, only that it was there, in his heart, in his mind, resonating through him.

A week passed with clear skies and silent nights. Lily had not been found. Eric had yet to speak a word. And his parents had been too preoccupied with finding his sister to notice. Darkness fell on the town, and time came for the children to go to bed. Parents were careful to make sure that all the doors and windows were locked fearing that their children would disappear too. That night, the thunder came once more, rumbling through the trees and across the fields until it slid into the children's ears. Precautions were of no use as the children once again left their beds and slipped unnoticed from their homes. They climbed the hill to the church for yet another meeting with man who had called them.

They waited, their hearts thumping, for the appearance of the man. He came from the shadows, holding on to Lily's hand who was now wearing a white dress that fell to her knees. She smiled sweetly at the other children as she approached them. She ran her hands along the children, as if playing a silent game of duck, duck goose. As her fingers passed over her brother they caught for a moment and recognition flickered across her face. But it passed and she went on with her game. Looking up to the man she asked. "Can I have one, Father? To play with?"

He nodded to her and she skipped around the group again. "You" she said pointing to a little boy with floppy brown curls. She peered into his eyes. "Do you want to play?" She offered her hand and he took it timidly.

The remaining children returned home, still under a daze. Eric entered his house to find his parents searching for him. Still in a state of confusion, he was shook awake by his mother.

"Where were you?" she cried over and over. Her hands upon his shoulders shaking him almost violently. Eric began to wake up, his mind still a jumbled mess. Only one thing was clear in his mind.

"On Church Hill with Lily," he said, not sure where the words came from.

"Lily is on Church Hill?" His father asked, "What is she doing on Church Hill?"

But Eric didn't answer. He did not know why he thought his sister was there and he had no clear memory of being on Church Hill. His parent pulled on their shoes and coats, preparing to check out Eric's strange revelation.

"Stay here," his father said. "Do not leave this house; don't answer the door. We'll be back in just a little while." Eric watched his parents leave, fearing that they might not return.

He waited for them, his eyes never leaving the window. It seemed as if hours had passed when they finally appeared. His heart leapt when he saw them walking toward the house. His family was finally together again. Lily, still in her white dress, holding the hands of her parent, looked as if she were ready for church. They entered the house and Eric rushed to hug his parents and Lily. It was like everything was back to normal. His family was safe, he was safe.

"Its time for bed," Eric's mother said, offering no explanations.

Eric started to protest, but was cut off by his father. "Eric, do as your mother said. We have been invited to church in the morning." Eric's heart stopped for a second, and he looked over at his little sister. Her eyes were glowing violet.


Acknowledgments:

I would like to thank Terry Heller and the rest of the class for all their help. I would also like to thank my roommate Adri for letting me bounce ideas off her, Klaus for not getting annoyed that I kept making him read it, my mom for listening to me whine about not knowing what to write, and Mt. Dew for keeping me awake.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

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