Amber Fernie’s take on the Poe / horror story doesn’t try to emulate the supension of disbelief that a lot of horror requires. Instead, Amber takes everyday concepts – this is a short story of sibling rivalry and family – and presents them with an interesting twist.
This simplicity and clarity of writing is one of the Amber’s strengths. Instantly readable and powerfully relatable, enjoy this short story of sibling rivalry.
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A Story Of Sibling Rivalry
By Amber Fernie
He came at me. He grabbed my arm. There was a struggle.
Phone in hand, I pieced together a story.
I almost called, I swear it. But I’ve watched enough crime dramas to know that they’d figure it out.
The truth is that he did come at me, but I knew I wasn’t in danger. I was angry. And of course the goddam dog wasn’t any help, slinking away, whining, hiding. He could have barked. That might have snapped me out of it.
It was the finger pointing, and the spittle, and that damned necklace.
It was a gift for our mother. I saved up three months for it when I was eleven. I was so excited to see her open it, but all she did was smile politely, and put it back in the box where it stayed for twenty years.
Funny thing, memories. By the time she found it again, it was my brother who’d given it to her, at least to her recollection. She brought it out at a family dinner and told some story about it to the cooing and fawning of everyone there. I tried to tell all of them it was from me, but no one cared.
“Her mind is going. Don’t be so selfish,” they said.
And then when she died, it went to him. And, of all the nerve, he started wearing it!
That’s why I was there that night, to confront him, to ask him to do the decent thing and give it back, but he didn’t want to.
“She gave it to me. Would you let it go?”
No, I couldn’t. It wasn’t right. Three whole months, I saved. Three months of raking leaves and knocking on doors is a long time for an eleven-year-old, only for her to leave the damned thing in a box for twenty years and then invent some memory of him offering it to her “with all his little heart”, as she kept saying.
The damned necklace, the spittle, and the finger pointing.
And the screaming, of course. He was accustomed to screaming at me with impunity. They all were. Youngest of six, they were all accustomed to screaming at me, slamming me around…excluding me.
But not this damned time. This time, the world turned red, and that goddam necklace became the only thing I could see besides the damned dog slinking away, and the knife on the counter.
You wouldn’t believe how much blood there is in a body. Endless gallons, it seems. And you wouldn’t believe how heavy a body is, or how long it takes to dig a hole, or to find a place to dig it. That part’s not like on TV, where a couple of guys with shovels poke at the ground for a little while and a six foot hole appears. No, it takes hours and hours, and it takes longer with a goddam dog staring at you.
“Shut up. He came at me,” I say. But the goddam dog only stares. He knows. He knows I wasn’t in danger.
I should have left the necklace be. I knew nobody would be looking for him. He came and went, never called, never told us anything. Years would pass before we heard from him, and anything could happen on the road. It could have worked.
But everyone makes a mistake, and taking that goddam necklace was mine, and damned if the goddam staring dog wasn’t looking at that thing every waking moment. When I woke up in the morning, there he’d be, staring. When I sat down to a meal, staring. Any time I had a moment’s peace, staring. Oh, I suppose you would say that dogs always come around at those times, that they just want to be fed and petted. But I’m telling you, this one was obsessed with that goddam necklace.
I tried to be careful. I took it off and stashed it under a lamp in my bedroom whenever my sisters came around, like today.
Here they sit, surrounding my mother’s jewelry box, laughing and giggling together. And here I am, outside them as usual. Does it matter that it’s my house, or that they’re drinking my tea, or that I didn’t even want to go through her goddam jewelry?
Funny thing, memories. I’d always thought it was a dragonfly, but at the exact moment my eye fell upon something glinting in the jewelry box, a crash came from my bedroom, and I remembered, precisely then, that it was a butterfly.
One of my sisters went to check, but I already knew what she’d find.
I knew she would find my dog, sitting beside a broken lamp, holding in his teeth a dragonfly necklace that our murdered brother had given to our mother “with all his little heart”. And I knew as I reached for the butterfly necklace in my mother’s jewelry box, the one I had saved up for three months to give her when I was eleven, that I was going to prison for the rest of my life, and goddam if I didn’t deserve it.
Butterfly – A Short Story of Sibling Rivalry originally appeared in the JUST A POE BOY Short Story Contest