At the first sound of thunder, Cassie's in my room, wide-eyed, jingling the bell on her necklace, and carrying towels pilfered from the bathroom. She tiptoes through the creaky hall so Daddy doesn't hear her and toss things at her head like he usually does this late, but I know when she's coming and I turn my light on as soon as the rain starts.
Cover mirrors in a thunderstorm or you'll attract lightning.
"You're late," I tease her, and take the towels from her little hands and cover all the mirrors in my room. She snuggles in the bed with me, tucking an acorn into my palm (carry an acorn for a lucky, long life) and we listen to the patter of rain and low roll of thunder with the lights on. "That's a nice one," I say, about her good luck charm. She's remarkably calm as she strokes the smooth nut with careful fingertips. "Where'd you find an acorn now that Daddy cut the oak down?"
Cassie says nothing, but I don't expect it. In five years, she's never said a word, only points and grunts or cries. I try to be her voice but even I don't know what's going through her head; she doesn't think in the proper order. And sometimes she acts out riddles. She runs on superstitions, fed by Gramma's visions of bad luck and evil spirits. I didn't listen to all of Gramma's old wives' tales, but Cassie couldn't say no, and soaked them all up into her own maze-like mind.
The power splutters out and Cassie shoots out of bed to stand in the middle of the room. "What is it?" I ask. I don't know this one.
She rocks in place, a shadow oracle waiting for an ill omen. Lightning brightens the room as she points to the towel covered mirror on the dresser and stares at me with big brown eyes. Thunder booms right on top of us 'til the house shakes and the towel falls from the mirror, catching the next bolt of lightning in its silver surface. The house shakes again with the thunder, and the mirror falls and shatters on the floor.
If a mirror breaks, someone in the house will die.
Cassie screams and climbs out the window before I can grab her. I follow her out into the pouring rain. Vacant trailer plot dirt has turned to sticky mud and I squish about in bare feet, calling my little sister's name. I hear the bell jingle and run toward the sound. On the rise two trailers over, she appears out of the night and grabs my hand.
Cassie points at the sky, and I follow her gaze, to three spooked seagulls crying overhead, illuminated in another flash of lightning.
Three seagulls in the sky, someone is sure to die.
"Gramma was just telling stories, Cassie," I tell her, and scoop her up in a hug. I try to carry her back home, hoping Daddy won't have heard any of this, but she fights me. Cassie grunts and bites and flails about until she wriggles out of my grasp and knots her little fist in my nightie. She pulls me toward the rise. "It's ten at night and pouring rain. Now is not the time for this, Cassie!"
Cassie hands me the bell and shakes my hand for me. "To chase away evil spirits, I know. But did Gramma ever tell you there're more evil spirits out in a thunderstorm than inside the house?" She shakes her head and runs away, forcing me to chase after. The tinny ringing is nearly drowned out by a boom of thunder, and another sound I can't place. Everything is so loud and the rain stings my eyes. "Come on, Cassie! This is ridiculous!"
Running up the rise and a slippery hill, my little sister is a pale flash of soggy footie pajamas and bobbed hair, weaving around trees as I close in on her. She leads me on a short uphill pursuit, but she stops suddenly and I bowl her over.
"What the hell, Cassie! It's time to go back home before Daddy-"
The strange sound overpowers the thunder, a mechanical shriek and splutter overhead and behind us. We both stare up into the sky and see fire and flashing lights. Engines roar, and a jet skips over the rise and crashes into the trailer park in a fireball that engulfs the valley.
I can't hear a thing over my own screaming, but Cassie holds my hand in the rain until the police, ambulances, and fire trucks come and find us on the hill overlooking the remains of our home.
Note: This was written for the Review Game Forum's December Writing Challenge Contest. Check out the other entries and vote for your favorites the 8th-14th. The prompt this month was: "And we are the nation of dreams. We are seers. We are wizards. We speak in visions. Our letters are like flocks of doves, released from under our hats. We have only to stretch out our hand and desire, and what we wish for settles like a kerchief in our palm. We are a race of sorcerers, enchanters. We are Atlantis. We are the wizard-isle of Mu. What we wish for, is ours. It is the age of the oneiric culture. And we, America, we are the nation of dreams." from Feed, by M. T. Anderson
I tried so hard to not name her Cassandra. ._.