Tuesday, January 23, 2018
MAKE A WISH
MAKE A WISH
By Daniel Skye
Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest and came in third place. True story, though nobody can be sure of the date. This has absolutely nothing to do with the story I’m about to tell you, but I guess the moral is that anything is possible, no matter how impossible or unlikely it seems.
“Happy Birthday!” Greg and Cynthia cheered.
The cake was Black Forest, Hal’s favorite. And though he appreciated the thought, he was clearly in no mood to celebrate. But he feigned a smile for his children and thanked them for the surprise visit.
“Do you want us to sing?” Cynthia offered.
“Please don’t,” their father said with a chuckle.
“Blow out the candles and make a wish,” Greg said.
Hal Kramer leaned in and blew out the candles with zero enthusiasm.
“What’d you wish for?” Cynthia asked.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Greg chided. “He can’t tell us what he wished for or it won’t come true.”
“It never does anyway,” Hal sighed.
Hal Kramer had but one wish. To be reunited with his beloved Vanessa.
“We brought gifts, but maybe we should save it for tomorrow,” Greg suggested.
“Good idea,” Hal said. “I’ll feel better after I sleep a little.”
“Greg and I are going to spend the night if that’s okay,” Cynthia said. “It’s going to be so weird sleeping in my old bedroom again.”
“I haven’t changed a thing,” Hal told her. “Even the bedsheets are the same.”
“Well I hope you still wash them occasionally.”
“At least once a year,” Hal joked. “Well, I’m off to bed. Goodnight. Make yourselves at home.”
The smell of fresh coffee woke Hal from his slumber and lured him downstairs to the kitchen.
“I thought you could use some coffee,” Cynthia said. “Are you okay?”
“I heard you walking around at all hours of the night. Couldn’t sleep?”
“Actually, I slept like a baby.”
“Then who was moving around all night?”
“It was probably your brother. His insomnia was terrible back in high school. Used to stay up till three or four in the morning watching infomercials. I’m surprised that wasn’t enough to put him to sleep.”
“Greg left last night, after you fell asleep. He had an emergency with one of his patients at the hospital.”
“Then maybe it was rats. They sneak in and camp out in the garage every winter.”
“Rats don’t stomp through the house at all hours of the night.”
“Cynthia, I didn’t hear a thing last night. Maybe it was just your imagination. You’ve been working overtime, you’re tired, you’re stressed, and after your mother–”
“This has nothing to do with mom,” Cynthia said emphatically. “I heard someone moving around last night. I’m not crazy. And I didn’t imagine it.”
“Fine,” Hal said and shrugged his sagging shoulders. “Let’s take a look around the house.”
Cynthia was twenty-six, but she clung to her father’s side like she was five years old again and they were inspecting her closet for monsters and checking under her bed to make sure the boogeyman wasn’t hiding out down there.
The guestroom was untouched. Greg’s childhood bedroom was empty. They even checked the closets. The garage showed no signs of infestation, but they also didn’t find anything out of place. There was no evidence that anyone else had been in the house with them.
“But I could’ve sworn I heard…oh, never mind.”
Vanessa disappeared during Hurricane Sandy, never to be seen again. She should’ve been at home. But Vanessa was stubborn, and sometimes there was just no reasoning with her. If Vanessa had her mind made up, there was no changing it.
She told Hal that she just needed a few photos for her gallery, that she wouldn’t stray past the dunes. But at eighty-miles-per-hour, the wind was too much for anyone to bear. It ripped Vanessa off her feet and dragged her into the ocean.
The police did not take her disappearance lightly. They searched up and down the shore for her, they searched the waters when it was safe to venture out. But in the end, they found nothing and the search was called off.
Hal didn’t sleep for days. He wanted answers, he needed them. He needed to know if Vanessa went peacefully or if she suffered. A bit of research was all it took, though it did nothing to ease his grief or alleviate his suffering. Drowning in salt water is not the same as drowning in fresh water.
When salt water fill the lungs, it draws your blood out of your bloodstream and into your lungs. You don’t drown in the water. You drown in your own blood.
Hal went from not sleeping, to having nightmares every time he closed his eyes. He had visions of Vanessa standing at the foot of his bed, her skin coated in green algae, seaweed tangled up in her black hair, sea water leaking from hollow eye sockets.
Several years had passed, and so had the nightmares. But he never stopped thinking of her. Every day, he wished he could see her again, if only for a brief second. When Greg told him to make a wish, it was the first thing that popped into his head.
But it was the next evening, and his wish had gone unfulfilled. He sat alone at the kitchen table with the last piece of Black Forest cake plopped in front of him. Cynthia was upstairs enjoying a nap. Her father was right; she was stressed and overworked, and she needed rest.
Hal raised his head at the sound of a thump. “Cynthia? That you?”
A sound emanated from the hallway that sounded like a leaky faucet, the water dripping in a slow and steady fashion. Drip. Drip. Drip.
The floorboards creaked. A dark shadow fell over the kitchen, and the cold air followed it in.
The putrid smell of sulfur enveloped the room. He heard the wet squish of seaweed underfoot as the shadowy figure drew closer. He felt the cold, stinging breath on the nape of his neck, and a chill crawled like a poisonous spider down his spine.
His wish had come true. Hal was not alone. But he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to see what was waiting behind him. Hal shut his eyes, but he could not shut off the tears.
“Hal…” a voice croaked, corrupted and distorted. “I’m home.”