July 1999 San Jose, California
Molly Samuels felt strange. It wasn’t the heat or the fact that her aunt Flo was in town. Molly felt strange because of the two children standing at the edge of the lawn, staring at her and her friends with blank expressions. She shrugged them off at first, thinking they were just some weirdo kids playing a prank. But after twenty minutes of trying to ignore them, they were still there. They hadn’t moved. They hadn’t blinked.
“Do you guys know them?” Molly asked. She pointed towards the two children, and a shiver ran up her spine. She quickly dropped her hand to her lap and looked away. Jude turned towards them, her long black braid falling over her shoulder. She turned back to Molly, her upturned eyes wide and questioning. She shook her head.
Willoughby turned to face the children.
“Ew, no,” she said. “They look creepy. And what the hell are they wearing?”
Molly scowled. The girl was dressed in one of those drop waist dresses that her grandmother had. Her hair was in pigtails. Her skin was as dark as Willoughby’s, a contrast to the pale boy who stood next to her in similar old-timey clothes.
“Who are they, Molly?” Jude asked. Molly shook her head. “What do they want?”
“I don’t know, Jude,” Molly whispered. The longer they stood there, the faster Molly’s heart beat. What did they want? Were they just trying to scare them?
As though reading her mind, the boy spoke.
The children took a step forward, moving in perfect unison. Jude whimpered.
“What do you want?” Molly asked. She stood on wobbly legs and placed a hand on Willoughby’s shoulder to steady herself.
“We’re lost. We need to call our parents,” the little girl said. Her voice sounded hollow, like wind blowing through barren tree limbs.
“You don’t have a cell phone?” Willoughby said. The kids looked at each other then turned back towards the group. Willoughby stood and crossed her arms, popping her hip out to the side. Though Molly didn’t know her very well, she’d only been going to Sakamoto Elementary for a few months, having her around always made her feel better. She was a contrast to Jude, sweet and shy Jude, who always looked to Molly for direction. Willoughby moved in front of Molly and Jude, taking control of the situation. “We can’t help you. You need to leave.”
“But we need your help, Molly,” the children said. Molly took a step back and the children took one step forward. Jude whimpered again and ran behind Molly.
“Sorry I can’t. My folks -”
“We miss our parents, we’re so lost,” the girl said. “We need to call them on your telephone. I’m sure your parents would want to help us.”
“They’re not here,” Jude squeaked. “Go away.”
“We know your parents won’t mind. If you let us call our parents, we can help you take care of Jenny.”
Suddenly Molly was sweating. Her stomach churned and she was unsure of how much longer her legs would keep her upright. How could they know about Jenny? How could they know that her eight year old brat of a sister was inside playing dolls with her own friends?
The kids took several steps forward. Now they were close enough for Molly to really see them. And when she realized their eyes were as black as inkwells even in the sunlight, her left leg buckled. Jude reached out a hand to steady her. The girl seemed to giggle, but when Molly looked at her, her mouth never moved. Molly pushed the girl back, then grabbed Jude’s hand.
“Get the fuck away from here!” Molly said. She ran towards her house, and once she, Jude, and Willoughby were inside, Molly slammed the door. She slid the lock and then the deadbolt in place. For a moment, the only thing she could hear was the sound of her own ragged breath.
But then Jenny trotted down the hall.
“What was that?” she questioned.
“Nothing, just go back to your room,” Molly replied. Jude and Willoughby stood with their shoulders touching. Molly turned towards them. Jude’s eyes were glassy. Willoughby was tight-lipped and staring at the ground.
“But, like, you totally just slammed the door. You know mom always says-”
Jenny was silenced by three slow, deliberate knocks on the door.