He threw with all his might, but the third stone came skipping back. It leapt out of the water and rolled across the sand, stopping at his toes. Bewildered, he picked it up, weighing it in his hand as he turned to his little sister. “Wow, did you see that?” The moment he saw her face, he gasped. Of course. No one can skip a stone and make it come back. No one. But maybe Ellie could. Her eyes were glazed white like golf balls, focused – almost dead.
Her powers had taken over again.
“Ellie?” Joshua whispered, holding the stone up to her face. “Was this you?” She didn’t reply. As always, she only stared. Her lips did not move, nor did her eyelids.
Joshua looked to the house across the beach, but there was no sign of their mother. She had been anxious about Ellie’s gift for some time now, fearing this thing would take over again and she would do something terrible without realising.
The last time her power took over, she had lifted the furniture into the air while everyone sat around the television. Grandmother was there too that time. She almost had a heart attack. Everyone was yelling Ellie’s name for close to a minute. Then, she finally blinked and everything crashed back down to earth. She had no idea what she had done, but it terrified her. It terrified everyone.
Mother didn’t know whether to turn to a doctor or an exorcist, but, in the end, took a risk with the doctor. Although he was hesitant to believe her at the time, he advised her – should it happen again – to leave the area if possible and leave her to it.
“She doesn’t seem to be in any distress,” he had said after watching some video footage. “She’s raising objects into the air, but doing nothing more than that. It doesn’t seem to last very long either.”
Joshua couldn’t help but feel the doctor was surprised at his own diagnosis, but it had comforted their mother ever so slightly. Still she kept a close eye on Ellie whenever possible. Except for now.
Usually Ellie’s symptoms disappeared within a minute. Joshua was sure it had surpassed that. He looked to the stone in his hand – never before had she summoned something, only ever had she elevated things. Something was different. Then he heard the sound of dripping. Drip, drip, drip. He turned back to the lake.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of stones had ascended from the water, now floating in mid-air. Every stone they had ever skipped across the surface must have been hovering before them, along with chunks of rock from the eroding cliff.
“Ellie, you’ve got to stop now.” He put a hand on her shoulder, (sssss!) but pulled away, palm burned red. She looked at him, gritting her teeth in disgust. Joshua stumbled backwards in horror, clutching his hand. His sister then ascended into the air as if raised by invisible strings. Her hair spread out like tentacles.
Joshua looked for a saving hand. No one anywhere. Where was mother?
The stones and rocks above the surface moved towards him. “What are you doing?” he asked. A rock then struck him in the back with such a force it knocked him to the ground. He looked to his sister, smiling down at him. But this was not her everyday smile. This was something else. It wasn’t even Ellie.
Another stone struck him in the leg. He winced, feeling blood well in his trousers.
Then another stone – flat, disc-like, bashed him in the elbow with a sickening crraaaccck! His arm hit the ground, twisted and bloody – no longer attached to his body. Joshua screamed. “MUUUUUUUUM!”
Stone after stone after rock after rock beat him into the ground, then buried him. It took a while for the screams to end. Most likely before one of the larger rocks dropped onto his head.
The water sloshed and the breeze blew. It could have been mistaken for silence.
Ellie landed on top of the newly formed rock pile. The colour came back to her eyes and she returned to the world. She didn’t know where she went when the blackouts happened, but always remembered the faces staring back at her when she did – fearful. This time there were no faces. Only a pile of rocks. And where was Joshua?
As the tide came in, water rushed between the gaps in the rock pile, then flooded out, red. Ellie felt her stomach turn. It was blood. She jumped to the sand and began frantically pulling the stones away. “Please, no!” she said, panting. It may have been Joshua’s burial, but what lay beneath it was beyond recognition. She blamed herself for scaring people. She blamed herself now – on her knees, hands stained with her brother’s blood.
Their mother never came down to the beach. Hysteric, Ellie returned to the house for help, arms outstretched. “Mum! Mum! Something terrible has happened! I’m really sorry. I’m –”
Mother lay on the kitchen floor, injected with every knife from the open drawer, blood pooling beneath her body. Ellie dropped to her knees, looked into her mother’s pale face. “Mum?” she said. Her eyes were glassy and unmoving. She would not reply.
Ellie fell on her side, screamed and sobbed. No one was coming to her rescue. It was just her… and this thing inside. What was it? Why would it do this?