Sunday, 1 February 2009

Flash Fiction: The Lying Sister

The Lying Sister
Nathan Ryder

The Friends of the Forest hold a fair at Royden Park on the first Sunday of July every summer. My Mum always insisted that we go and do our bit to help with conservation.
I remember Royden Park being really big when I was a little boy. My older brother Tom thought it was boring, but apart from a bit of hay fever I was really happy that sunny Sunday afternoon. I was constantly distracted by clowns, coconut shies and donkey rides, and I wandered off, too young to know that there is any danger in the world for children. The field that hosts the fair is bounded by a thick line of trees on three sides, and I found myself peering into the trees, having run out of money playing the 'ball in the bucket to win' game.
Just as it was occurring to me that I was alone and didn't know where my family was, I heard a voice.
I turned and looked among the trees, but saw nothing.
From straight in front of me I heard the same voice again: “Hi...”
It took me a few seconds, but then things seemed to come into focus, and I saw the outline of a little girl in front of me. It was as if the edge of her came from a pattern on tree bark, a flickering shadow from the breeze, and the subtle tones of green that made up the leaves on low hanging branches. I said hello back.
“Hi big brother,” she said, stepping forward slightly; as she moved the colours of the trees fell away from her, and there she was, a little girl, dressed simply in a pink dress, hair tied back smartly and a pleasant smile on her face.
“Oi! Billy!”
I turned and saw Tom running up to me. He was eleven, and his face was a mix of anger, boredom and smugness. It was an expression I recognised well.
“You little div!” he shouted at me, “Mum and Dad are looking everywhere for you, what are you doing?!”
I turned to point at the little girl, but she was gone, there was nobody there. I blinked, but didn't have time to think about it as Tom pushed me and told me off. By the time we got back to my parents, I had almost forgotten the little girl who came out of the trees. They were more relieved than angry, but it didn't stop Tom from being the golden boy for a few days.

I was ten the next time that I went back to the fair at Royden Park. Tom was old enough to get out of it by then. Royden Park was nowhere near as good as I remembered.
The vast expanse of green was just a small field, marked off with trees on three sides. Only one of those sides was really a forest, the others were just a thin line of trees and bushes separating it from other fields. The fair was rubbish too. I knew now that most of the games were just a con, even if I won a prize it wouldn't be worth the fifty pence I handed over to play.
Mum trusted me to wander off by myself and not get lost now. She still liked coming to the fair for the Friends of the Forest, she thought it was really important, said that the forest had a lot of history. I was wandering around the edge of the field trying to pass the time while Mum was off buying some handmade mirrors or bowls or whatever.
“Hi big brother.”
I turned to look at the treeline and a stray half-memory came to me as I saw the little girl standing before me, peering at me with curious green eyes.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I'm your little sister,” she replied, smiling and winking at me in a manner that wasn't right for such a young child, “I'm your little sister... Sally. I'm five years old and I've lived with you ever since I was born.”
“No you're not,” I replied, wrinkling my nose up with contempt, “I've only got a big brother, Tom.”
“And, me, your little sister, Sally. Stop playing mean games... Billy,” she said, reaching out and trying to touch me. I stepped back to avoid her hand. I noticed then that she was... vague. I could see her, but around the edges she was less distinct, especially at the ends of her arms and legs.
“I don't know you,” I said, stepping back again and avoiding her grasp.
“You do too!” she screamed suddenly, lunging for me and grabbing my wrist. Her hand was warm, but I could see my arm through it as she held me in place. It was like a vice, and despite being a much larger child I couldn't pull free from it.
“Say you're my brother!” she spat out; her eyes were red around the edges, and her hair was no longer blonde but turning brown and green, woodland colours blending together. “Say you're my brother and I'll let you go you miserable pig!”
I called for help, but I was too far away from anyone, and she was impossibly strong.
“Let me go!” I shouted at her, finally resorting to hitting her; I brought my hand across her face, but it was like I had slapped a wall and I cringed with the pain.
“Say it!” she shrieked, and I felt her nails digging in to my arm.
“I'm your brother, Billy!” I shouted, and then shouted it again turning and screaming at her now mottled and dark features, cunning great green eyes that stare back into mine, satisfied. I lose myself in them, the pain fading.

She can't hear you. No one can. Hmm, maybe a child could, but you're no more than a child yourself, which is why we need you...
I see my mother, frantic, looking for me.
She'll forget soon. We'll make her forget. You won't be missed. We're not cruel that way...
“Let me go! Please! MUM!”
I see her – but I don't know how – and she is less certain of what she is doing; a momentary panic that had her is fading; she reaches in to her handbag and takes out the car keys.
A second of hesitation, and something like my heart dares to hope, but then she wanders off back to the car park. Time passes and I see the fairground people take their stalls down. I keep calling out, desperately hoping someone will hear me.
You'll get used to it, says the little girl's voice, I did. This is the way it is.
Time passes as in a dream. Water flows into me, and sunlight makes me dizzy with satisfaction. It is a long time before the others get through to me, and tell me what I have to do. They do what they must. I tell myself I will have no part of it, that I am still something else, that I'm not supposed to be here.
And then one day the fair comes to the park, and somehow I know what I will do, even before I see the child running around, coming closer and closer to the edge of treeline.
It isn't so bad here, reminds the voice of my lying sister, a voice that I now hate and love as kin. And it isn't. There is no other way. We all have to do our bit for the Friends of the Forest.

Creative Commons License
This short story is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License. Feel free to repost and share it with others, so long as you credit me (Nathan Ryder, 2009) as the original author and link back to this page. It would also be nice if you dropped me a comment!

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