This flash story comes as a follow-up to Sunflowers , one of the 100 words stories I wrote for the blog anniversary game. The extended version of it, which is included in the link, caught the interest of Steve Green and Icy Sedgwick, and so here goes the follow-up!
Sunflowers – Lullaby for Lily
On Monday, March 11th 1985, Lily Cobbins was walking home from Locklee Elementary school. At approximately 14:35 PM she disappeared off a crowded street near the school. Lily was 9 years old.
On the day of her disappearance she was dressed in a light blue jacket, Locklee school uniform, yellow wellingtons, and was carrying a backpack with a sunflower embroidered on it. When she didn’t return home, her parents contacted local police. In the morning a search was launched.
A man taking out his garbage found the backpack alone in the alley beside his home, dumped next to the trash can. Nothing was missing except for the sewed sunflower. It had been ripped off. Later that day police released a statement from Lily’s parents in front of dozen reporters. They begged their daughter is returned safe. The police advised anyone who has information to come forward.
On the end of week one of Lily’s abduction, leading the investigation Inspector Terrance Thorley announced that the grounds outside the town will be searched. Almost all residents joined the search party. By the end of week two the police had interrogated all well-known pedophiles and druggies from the region. They came out clean. At the beginning of week three, Alan Pelzer, neighbor of the Cobbin’s approached the police, saying he saw a man “wrapped in darkness” taking Lily. His information was considered unreliable due to the heavy medical treatment Pelzer was receiving at the time.
Three weeks later, on the 31st of March, two boys playing in the old Asen house, located four blocks from the Cobbin’s house, stumbled upon a body.
Forensics identified it as the missing Lily Cobbins. In the coroner’s report the cause of death was pointed as asphyxiation. Time of death was established – March the 12th. On the crime scene no fingerprints or DNA other than Lily’s were found. There were no signs of a second person being in the house. The police was baffled.
Michael Asen, only alive relative was brought in for questioning. He confirmed the house has been uninhabited ever since his aunt and uncle died, four years ago. He was written off as a suspect. Later he sold the house to a real estate agency that keeps it as a tourist attraction sight. Ghost hunters, mediums, kids filming YouTube videos – they all search for a thrill in Asen house.
The case was left opened and to this day it still is. The Asen murderer remains unknown, the reason…a mystery.
I remember the day Lily disappeared and I remember the day her death was announced on the twelve o’clock news. I was sixteen, knew Lily from the park. I couldn’t believe someone had killed her, and left her to rot on the moist floorboards of old Asen house. Her little body was exposed on purpose, put there in the middle of the living room, to be seen, to be found. Her beautiful hair tangled with dirt. Her eyes, white and cold gazing in the nothingness.
After all these years I finally get to breath in the odor of the old and dusty furniture. The horrid buzz of flies welcomes me as the door of Asen house closes behind me.
“Evil lived here long enough to grow seeds.”
The house is quiet, sunlight breaking in from the cracks on the barricaded windows. Mold creeps on the walls, an ill color, dark green. Dust erupts as I walk, the tiny particles glimmering in the light. I take my time before entering the living room. The toy drum keeps playing. It’s in every room, around me, before me, behind me. Pushing me forward.
I never liked Asen house. It erected at the end of the street, somehow clinging in the periphery, isolated. As a child I never dared go near it. I watched its massive structure from afar and I thought that if I go there I might become invisible, or disappear. The people who lived there at the time, Saulius Asen and his wife Elinor were never the friendly type. They mostly stayed in their house. I’ve seen Saulius only once, at the grocery store. His grey eyes never left me as I crossed the street. I think he knew I was afraid of him.
I don’t know what others found here. The old man said he saw many running out, fear written on their faces. But for me…
The drum stops. This is where Lily laid for weeks. The carpet has faded, eaten through by mice. The spot is still cold, vibrating with an inconsistent echo, growing in its volume then falling week. It will be enough for me to grasp it. I kneel, my hands caressing the material. My eyes close as the feeling of being absorbed by the paranormal world kicks in.
The house shifts, past and present merging together, 1985 colliding with 2012. Colors become brighter, more rich and alive. My vision blurs, distorted. I am looking through a mirror of water, constantly trembling, pulsating with the years that have passed.
First I hear things. There is wind coming through a window somewhere behind me, but I hear it loud in my ears. A sense of familiarity pervades the air.
There is no body before me that much I can see. The house is calm. The outside world is far from reach; all that exists and matters is between the walls, here with me. The events are reversing and Lily’s memory is taking me to retrace the minutes before she was killed.
I get up on my feet and slowly make my way out of the living room. Everything spins as I walk; it’s a bit like being drunk, carefully trying to navigate your next step not to fall.
The sound of my footsteps is disturbed by that of someone else’s, heavier, coming from upstairs. It overwrites mine, becoming all I can hear. I try to stay calm; Lily’s killer is here with her, coming towards me. In a flash, in a speeded scene, which I can’t follow, a tall figure passes next to me, slowly, brushing my shoulder. I turn to see him, but my eyes fall on little Lily Cobbins, lifelessly lying in his arms, as he carries her to the living room. He sings to her, his voice muffled by something. But I recognize the words.
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
I feel the vision slipping away from me and beg Lily to hold on a little more. I need to see his face, even if that brings her pain.
But then he looks over his shoulder, still humming. I scream, and my cry is that of a child. He knows I’m here.
To be continued….