Blessed with Mother’s Kiss

📅 Published on April 20, 2021

“Blessed with Mother’s Kiss”

Written by Kitty “The Odd Cat Lady” Olsen
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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You know, when you hear the word ‘kidnapper,’ the most common culprit doesn’t come to mind.  You probably think of some creep with an unshaven face and sinister eyes sitting in a white van with dark tinted windows and the back seats ripped out, duct tape and rope in the trunk.  You think of monsters, monsters who just want to tear apart families and destroy lives.

You don’t think of the fact that most child abductions are done by the people that they love the most.

No one had ever told me that you could be kidnapped by your dad.

It was right before summer break in 1987.  I was ten years old.  My parents…well, they were good people.  They were just good people in the middle of a bitter and nasty divorce.  I’d find out as an adult that my mom’s plans were that, once she got primary custody of all of us, we’d be moving closer to her parents in Washington.  For context, at the time, we lived in Michigan.  My mom could afford to make that move; the company she worked for already had a position ready for her.

My dad wasn’t so lucky.  If he also headed to Washington, it’d be to no guarantee of steady work or a place to call home.  We’d be taken away from him, and he’d be lucky to see us more than a couple of times a year.  That wasn’t enough time for him to be a dad.  There were many late-night arguments that I’d only pick up every other sentence if I strained my ears to listen, and after a while, they became so repetitive I would just take my pillow and wrap it around my head so I didn’t have to hear it anymore.  Things like ‘you’re taking my children away!’ and ‘it’ll be better for them to have someone dependable around’ were thrown around nearly every time, and it’d never end in resolution or compromise.  My mom wouldn’t budge, and my dad was running out of options.  The courts were likely going to leave us with our mom; she was the primary breadwinner, and she’d struck a low blow by submitting into evidence my father’s struggle with alcoholism.  He’d recovered from it by then, but it was enough to tip the scales in her favor.

In my father’s eyes, he had only one course of action ahead of him, and it was not going to be a kind one.

I was pulled out of class shortly before lunch, which I remember thinking was a real bummer because it was pizza day.  My dad was waiting in the office with a smile on his face, something I’d not seen in what felt like a million years.  He and the principal exchanged some pleasantries while I rocked back and forth on my heels, waiting for an explanation.

Finally, my dad set his hand on my shoulder.

“Sorry to pull you out on pizza day, buddy, but we’re going on vacation.  Your bag’s already packed, and your siblings are in the car.  Surprise!”

An early vacation?  Now that was far better than pizza.  Odds are we’d get pizza on vacation anyway, so I practically danced out of the office as my dad escorted me out.  Sure enough, all my siblings were already piled into the van.  Even my little brother Shawn, who went to the same school as I did since he was in first grade and I was in fourth, was already chilling in the far back and flipping through some picture books.  My older twin sisters Valarie and Diana were taking up the middle seats, playing a guessing game about where we’d be going and gabbing on as 12-year-olds tend to do.  And finally, my oldest sister, Natasha, who was fourteen (and who I thought so mature and adult), was abnormally subdued as she sat in the shotgun seat, staring silently out the window.

I think she knew something was up, but when my dad slid into the front seat and told us all to buckle up and get ready for a trip, she did as she was told without a hint of argument.  She always was our father’s child, the apple of his eye.  She sided with him in every fight and said some truly vile things about our mother in the same breath.

I think she knew what was going on and just didn’t care.

We continued our guessing games about our destination all the way up until we pulled off to the side of a back road, and my dad told us all to get out.

I thought he just had to pee, but we just stood there for what felt like ages until an unknown black car pulled up alongside us.  More surprising was when our Uncle Gill hopped out, who I’d not seen in probably months since Mom banned him from the house.  She said he was ‘a bad influence;’ as I grew, I learned that meant he was an actual criminal, an ex-con thrown in prison for car theft. Which is probably how he got the car he met us in, now that I think about it.

My uncle and father nodded at each other before they began to unload our family van and load up the unknown car, leaving us kids to look at each other with confusion…well, most of us.  Natasha just started helping unpack the van so it could be repacked into the new car.

Uncle Gill did pause for a moment.  “You a hundred percent sure about this?  I have your back, but I want to be sure – this path you’re going down, you can’t come back from,” he said.

Dad took a deep breath, looking at us gaggle of kids.  “A hundred percent sure.  Thanks for all of this, Gilbert.”

“Hey, what are brothers for?” Uncle Gill laughed before tossing his head back to said gaggle.  “Come on, kiddos, get over here and give me a hug before you go.”

The new car smelled like a really bad air freshener that didn’t do a damn thing to cover up the nicotine smell.  It was a little bigger, but there was more stuff packed in as well – a tent, various survival supplies, things you’d take on a camping trip.

I remember watching out the back window of this car that wasn’t ours or Uncle Gill’s as our van grew smaller and smaller behind us until it vanished out of sight.  I think I knew then that something wasn’t quite right.

So, yeah.  My dad kidnapped us.  We drove for over a night.  I don’t sleep well in cars, so I just watched as the car went on winding back roads, each new turn taking us farther and farther off the beaten path.  I did end up falling asleep somewhere down the line; I remember feeling my father kiss me on the forehead as I drifted off to unsteady dreams.

When I woke up, the sun was up, and Dad was cheerily telling us we had to be on our way to get to our camping spot.  The twins were especially cranky, but Natasha helped guide them into loading up their bags.  Dad told us we’d have to make multiple trips over the next day, so just bring what we needed for now.

That especially sucked, since it took an hour to hike to the place we’d set up camp.  My feet were begging for relief by the time Dad finally said we could stop.  Diana practically threw herself to the ground, and although I was tempted to do the same, I was more taken away by how pretty this place was.

It was the perfect camping spot, tucked away in perfect isolation.  It was right next to a small creek that we could follow up to the lake, and there was also a small cave in the cliff wall that we’d end up turning into our refrigerator since it was so cool and low in the earth.  And probably the best part was the fact the ground was nice and flat, meaning no awkward rolling about in our sleeping bags when we went to bed that night.

Shawn was the happiest out of all of us; my little brother had managed to sleep through the whole night and now was running all over the place, filling his pockets with all the pretty rocks he could find.  Once his pockets were jammed full, he’d just throw them all over the place and start again, finding newer and prettier rocks.  His joy did help bring up the mood, at the very least.  We spent the morning setting up our campsite, which was two tents and a quite impressive fire pit.  We had hotdogs roasted over the fire for lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the woods.  We were so far out of the way there weren’t even any real hiking trails.  We had to carve our own way through the woods.  It felt like an adventure.  That night sleeping under the stars, I felt no fear or apprehension, almost completely forgetting about how bizarre this trip had been when it started.

The next day I was the one that helped Dad cover up our car with tree branches and other forest debris to keep it hidden.  Natasha and the twins loaded up on stuff to take back, and Dad asked me to stay back to help hide the car.  He said he didn’t want anyone to steal it, and I bought that…mostly.  I still had this gut feeling that something was off, but I didn’t question my dad.  Not ever.  During this whole experience, I listened to whatever he said and didn’t try to kick up a fuss over a little gut feeling.

After we got all the rest of our belongings at the campsite, Dad sat us all down and told us how this was going to go.  That, just for a little bit, we’d be taking a break from everyone else.  If something bad happened, like one of us got seriously sick or broke a bone, we would make the trip back to town.  Other than that, we’d be staying in the woods.  Once every two weeks, he would go to town and pick up supplies, so always be sure to tell him what we needed before he headed out.  Valarie made the mistake of asking why mom wasn’t here; Dad tensed up before carefully skirting around the question by saying she was part of the reason we were taking this break.  So when he wasn’t there, Natasha was to be in charge.

I remember seeing Natasha smirk when he said that.  I think she was happy to be in charge, to be Dad’s second in command.  I grumbled about that, but I didn’t really mind.  Natasha was probably my favorite sibling, since Valarie and Diana always seemed to be in their own little world, and Shawn was still so young.  This was just going to be a fun vacation for a week or so, and then we’d go back and tell Mom all about it.

That was my assumption anyway.  In reality, we’d spend the entirety of the summer out in that forest.  I can’t even say it was a bad time.  Mornings we’d take baths in the lake; the day would be filled with playing in the woods.  Valarie and Diana picked up bug catching, bringing home jars of butterflies during the day and chasing fireflies at night.  The rock collecting never stopped for Shawn; he’d ended up building a special pile of his favorite rocks next to the door of our tent.  Hell had no fury compared to little Shawn if you knocked them over, too.  If Natasha wasn’t watching us, she’d be out at the lake.  Most of the time, she swam, but she ended up learning how to fish.  There were many nights we’d have a delicious fish fry for dinner, full of Natasha’s catch of the day.  She didn’t have to – Dad always made sure we had plenty to eat – but she had a lot of fun.

As for me, I did a little of everything.  If the twins let me, I’d chase bugs with them; I especially liked watching this anthill that was down the stream a bit of a ways.  If I wasn’t watching the ants, I was watching the birds soaring above my head or singing in the branches.  In a matter of weeks, I learned to identify nearly every bird in the area by their calls.  I’d go swimming with Natasha, although I’d also take a nap on the sand of the small beach.  Not that I’d ever admit to doing so, because only babies like Shawn took naps, but under the warm sun it was just too easy to catch a few Zs.  And speaking of Shawn, I’d even spend time with him, playing pretend out in the woods that I was a scary dragon and that he was a warrior sent to kill me and take my hoard of precious jewels, which in reality was just more pretty rocks.

It was peaceful out there.  I wouldn’t have minded staying forever.  Even with the bug bites and having to wash our clothes in the stream and sleeping on the ground, all those were just minor nuisances in comparison to being able to sit back and relax at night, next to a crackling campfire, hearing the crickets chirp and watch the stars up ahead.  I can’t count the number of times I ended up falling asleep out there and waking up next to dead coals in the morning.

I wish I could’ve been like that the whole time.

It happened at the end of June.  We’d spent about over a month out here now, and I’d adjusted perfectly to outdoor living.  The bottoms of my feet got tough because I wouldn’t wear shoes whenever I could get away with it, my hair was starting to grow shaggy and Natasha kept threatening to shave it all off when I slept.  I barely resembled the pasty boy I was earlier that year.  I barely even thought about my mom since every day was just jam-packed with more and more fun.

This night we’d all fallen asleep by the fire after a fantastic day of exploring the woods together.  We’d found this giant hollowed-out tree that looked like it had been ripped open, and the knotholes left behind in the bark looked like eyes.  We were all dead tired by the time we got back to camp, so I’m not surprised we didn’t even make it to the tent before we all fell asleep out by the fire.  Shawn was snoozing next to me, the twins curled up with each other, and I remember drifting off to Natasha’s quiet snoring.

I woke up to the snap of a twig.  I don’t know why this time it had woken me up; maybe I could sense something was different that night.  I opened my eyes and rolled over to see…her.

I think it was a “her”, anyway; to this day, I’m not sure.  I was frozen, watching this creature leaning over the still slumbering Diana and Valarie.  She was humanoid, but that was the only ‘human’ thing about her.  It was like someone had punched a hole out of the sky that was shaped like a woman, her coloration the darkest of blues with shimmering white sparkles scattered over her entire form.  She was a silhouette, meaning that although she looked like she had hair that went down past her waist, it wasn’t a distinct part from her, like it wasn’t actually hair.  It just gave her the shape of having hair.  She didn’t have any facial features, no eyes, just the soft dips in the skull where they’d typically be placed, and she just had the shape of a face.  Nothing really distinctive.

I just watched, too scared to scream as the woman brushed the hair out of Valarie’s eyes.  She stirred, and I heard her murmur something, but she went right back to sleep.  The woman leaned in closer, stroking my sister’s cheek before she leaned in and pressed her lips against Valarie’s forehead.

Valarie sighed and her head lolled over, completely ignorant to…that thing above her.  The woman did the same to Diana, who snuggled in deeper with her twin and remained just as unaware.

The woman stood back up, towering so tall that I think if I was standing on my dad’s shoulders, I would’ve barely reached her shoulders in height.  Still almost entirely silent, she walked over to Natasha.  I begged myself to open my mouth, just do something, but all I did was watch as the woman did the same to Natasha – just brushed the hair from her face in a gesture so affectionate it really could only be described as maternal, and pressed her lips to Natasha’s head.

I shook in my sleeping bag as she walked over to us, stepping over the fire like it was not even there.  As she drew closer, I could tell her form was meant to be nude, but she didn’t have any sort of detail.  Again, just the outline of a human rather than the actual being.  She apparently ignored me, stepping over my prone form and right to Shawn.  She took the hoodie that was sitting on his lap and tucked him in, which actually had him awake, just for a moment.  I thought perhaps he might be able to break this spell over me and call for our dad so this screwed-up dream could be over.

Instead I saw a lazy smile on his face.  “Mom?” he murmured, eyes still blurred with sleep.

I heard something soft, like the echo of a laugh, before the woman placed a soft kiss on his head.  Shawn fell right back to sleep.  Her task now done, the woman got up and walked back into the woods, vanishing among the trees as all I did was watch.

It wasn’t until she was out of sight that I could finally draw breath, and when I could make sound, I screamed at the top of my lungs.  My siblings all shot awake, my dad flying out of the tent with his hunting rifle out as I pointed into the woods and babbled what I imagine came off as sheer nonsense.  When I finally managed to get anything out that was coherent, it was about the woman in the woods.  The woman made of the sky, that was just right there.  See, look at the footprints!  She was just standing right there!

It would’ve likely been more convincing if it wasn’t the middle of the night and we weren’t all just asleep, and if the campsite wasn’t filled with just as many bare footprints from the rest of us.  Diana and Valarie gave me venomous looks while Shawn literally just fell back asleep.  Natasha just sighed and shook her head.

“You woke us up for a nightmare.  Dude.  You’re pulling dish duty at all three meals tomorrow.”

No matter how much I insisted that no, I did see someone in our campsite, even my dad just patted my head and told me it was just a bad dream.  “Now come back in the tent, and let’s go back to sleep.”

With no one believing me, I retreated into the guy’s tent and hid in my sleeping bag, feeling incredibly embarrassed.  The next morning I didn’t even want to get up, I felt so bad for waking everyone up, but I couldn’t shake the feeling it wasn’t just a dream.  Even though Natasha’s dish duty threat was just empty words, I still ended up doing them all three meals.  Like I said, I felt bad.  And by the time the day was over, I had started to believe what my family had told me, that I had just a bad dream or night terrors, that the woman wasn’t really there.

But I wasn’t wrong.  What I saw was real.

And what I saw was the giving of a blessing.

A week later, Shawn started complaining about a ‘scratchy’ forehead.  A mosquito bite had sprouted right in the center of his forehead, and although Dad applied Neosporin, both I and Natasha had to keep telling Shawn to stop scratching.  By morning he’d scratched his forehead until it bled, and the bug bite had not shrunk in the slightest.

Natasha plastered his forehead in Band-Aids, tutting her tongue.  “You better stop trying to scratch that,” she scolded, using that motherly tone she’d mastered over our camping trip.

Shawn pouted, his fingers twitching as he did his best to hold them in his lap. “It’s all scratchy, though!” he complained.

“Itchy.  It’s itchy, you doofus,” Natasha corrected, putting one more Band-Aid on there for good measure.  “And if you keep taking your fingers to it, you’re gonna rip your whole face off.  I mean it.  Stop scratching!”

After a bit of grumbling, he managed to stick his hands in his pockets, but it was clear he was uncomfortable. Natasha chewed her bottom lip before getting up.  “I’ll see if Dad considers this an emergency,” she decided, striding away from us.  I watched her head down the path to where the car was before turning back around to see Shawn frantically ripping off the Band-Aids.

“Shawn!” I scolded, trying to grab his hands.  I only ended up getting smacked away as Shawn finally tore off the Band-Aid covering up the bug bite.

He sighed with relief as his little fingernails continued to dig at the red, irritated skin.  “The Band-Aids hurt,” he said, as if that was a rational explanation to why he looked like he was trying to rip his head open.

I didn’t know what to do, since Shawn wouldn’t have listened to me anyway, so I just sat and waited for Natasha to come back.  I was a bit relieved that maybe we’d finally get to go home, since there was that bizarre woman wandering around the woods…but when Natasha came back, she just stormed off to her tent, trying to hide the fact her face was red and blotchy.  That happened when she was crying.  I tried to knock on the tent door to tell her what Shawn did, but she told me to leave her alone.  In the end I just went for a walk in the woods and ended up sitting at the lake for an hour or so. When I wandered my way back, Natasha and Dad weren’t speaking, and Shawn had even more Band-Aids on his head as well as on the tips of his fingers.  Apparently, he’d really started taking off a lot of skin with his desperate scratching and started bleeding everywhere.  Poor lil’ guy.  It was just a bug bite, Dad reassured us all, and he promised it would get better in a few days as long as Shawn didn’t keep scratching.

* * * * * *

That night, tucked in my sleeping bag, I could see how actually miserable Shawn was.  He was a tough little brother, but he looked ready to just break down and start bawling his eyes out.  His little face was flushed, and little pinpricks of red were starting to pop up on his cheeks and ears as well.

It was clear the following morning this was no bug bite. In a frenzy of desperation, Shawn had ripped off all his Band-Aids once more.  His entire head was covered in tiny red bumps cascading down to his neck, and the ‘bug bite’ had actually doubled in size, looking like a zit ready to pop in the dead center of his forehead.  His eyes were near swollen shut, and he had ripped up his fingernails desperately clawing at his face to make the itching stop.

Natasha took one look at the poor little guy when he ambled out of the tent and gestured him to come over.  “I’m gonna pop that,” she decided.  Either in too much pain to complain or too tired, Shawn plopped down next to her and Natasha took her thumbs to the bug bite to his forehead, attempting to squeeze it.

Her brow furrowed as she continued to prod and squeeze at it.  “Hey, come here for a second.  Something doesn’t feel right,” she said, gesturing me over.  I tripped out of the tent and sat down next to Shawn, who just looked blearily up at me as I poked the ‘bug bite.’  It felt hard as bone, not giving at all like how skin should.

Natalie frowned as she got up.  “Talking with Dad.  Again,” she said as she hurried away.

Thankfully Natasha didn’t need to yell at Dad this time for him to realize this was serious.  A quick temperature check revealed Shawn had a high fever, and when he complained of a sore throat, Dad forced him to open his mouth.  His tonsils were apparently the size of golf balls.

After putting Shawn back to bed with some children’s Tylenol, he looked at us nervous group.  “I’ll be going to get Uncle Gill and some help.  Stay here; I will be right back, I promise,” he said before putting on his hiking boots and jogging down the trail.

Watching him vanish around the bend, I had no idea I’d never see him again.

All of us siblings took turns taking care of Shawn.  We had some canned soup we heated up for him, we’d drape cold cloths over his head in an attempt to bring down his temperature, and the girls would all read stories to him. For most of this, Shawn was entirely incoherent, mumbling pure nonsense and occasionally calling for mother.

That’s something still strange to me.  He wasn’t calling for ‘Mom’ or ‘Mommy;’ he specifically said ‘Mother.’  I mean, he was six; a six-year-old that doesn’t live in the nineteenth century doesn’t call his mom ‘Mother.’  Especially not Shawn.

The sun set, the moon rose high in the sky, but there was no sign of Dad.  We ate dinner in silence when our stomachs were complaining too much to wait for him any longer.  Morning would come, but Dad wouldn’t.  I wanted to head down to see if the car was still there while Natasha minded the camp, but Natasha forbade it, saying that he was just running late and he’d be back soon.  She was in charge, and no one was to leave until Dad was back.

As I watched her struggle to get the fire relit, I wondered if she was just scared if I went down that trail, I’d disappear too.

Shawn emerged from the tent when it was time for lunch, his fever broken but hardly looking the same.  The red spots on his face and neck had darkened to a dull brown, but the bump on his forehead was now protruding out more than an inch in length and was curving up like some sort of horn.  Natasha nearly dropped the plate of hotdogs when Shawn took his seat next to the fire.  “Shawn?  Are you okay?”

Shawn looked up at us with this blank look on his face, his once dark brown eyes now this sickly yellow-green shade with pupils shrunk down to pinpricks.  It was like we were all strangers to him.  Valarie took Diana’s hand and the twins backed into their tent, not taking their eyes off of our changed little brother.  Shawn just pointed towards the hotdogs, and Natasha gave him the whole plate.  He ate voraciously, finishing off the entire packet before getting up and going to play with the rocks beside the tent.

During the day, Shawn did start talking again, but he still acted like he didn’t know either me or Natasha.  The twins just stayed in the tent all day; I figured at the time it was because they were even more creeped out by the new Shawn.

Day two without Dad came and went, and by day three I knew something had to be wrong.  No way would Dad have left us on our own this long, especially because our rations were starting to run dry.  Shawn’s appetite had tripled, and nothing Natasha did could stop him from ripping open whole bags of crackers, eating himself near sick, and throwing away what he didn’t eat.  She ‘wasn’t the boss of him,’ in his words.  The horn on his forehead was now three inches in length, his ragged fingernails sharp as little claws.  He looked like a tiny monster.

A tired Natasha ended up asking me to force the twins to come out and help us manage the wild child that used to be Shawn.

I headed over to the girl’s tent and poked my head in without knocking, and before I could ask them to come and help with our brother, I got punched in the face.  Hard.

I fell flat on my back, stunned for only a second before I scrambled back and away, gripping onto my bruising cheek.  I’d never been hit that hard by my siblings; sometimes Natasha would smack the back of my head, but that was more in an affectionate ‘quit doing that’ gesture.  This was violent, and it hurt.

The twins stuck their heads out of the tent, their expressions identically angry.  They hadn’t changed clothing from the day before and were still holding hands; I doubt they had let go since the day before.  When they spoke, it was in perfect unison.

“Leave me alone.”

The tent door was zipped shut, and I scrambled back to Natasha, unable to stop from crying as I clung to my sister and pointed towards the twin’s tent.  I felt stupid, crying like that at my age, but I was reaching my breaking point.  Natasha got up and walked over to the tent, where I could hear the softest mumbles coming from inside, presumably from the twins.

She unzipped the tent and barely dodged getting whacked herself.  “What is wrong with you two!?  We need help with…” She trailed off, and I saw her face go white as a sheet before she let the tent door be zipped back shut.  In silence, she walked back to me, sitting on the ground next to me.

“Their…their hands…I don’t think they can let go of each other’s hands,” she managed to stammer out.

That sentence and the fear on Natasha’s face were what broke me.  I sobbed, clinging onto my big sister, asking again and again what was going on and where our daddy was.  She just stroked my hair and told me it was all going to be okay.  Dad was going to be back soon, we’d find out what was wrong, and we would all go home.  I wanted Dad back so badly, just so he could swoop in and fix everything, save the day.  Have everything go back to the way it was, back to this little paradise in the woods where there weren’t women made of stars and my siblings were changing into something I didn’t know.

That night I didn’t want to go back into my tent with Shawn, and Natasha was locked out of the girl’s tent, so we just curled up by the weakly sputtering fire, snuggling up as we tried to get some sleep after a truly exhausting day.  Natasha was humming a made-up lullaby, and I tried to squish up next to her as close as I could get, like I used to cuddle with our mom.  I reached up to touch her hair, since I always did that with our mom too.

My finger barely brushed those blonde locks before a clump of her hair fell out, landing on my face.

Sputtering, I jerked away from my sister, brushing her hair off me before I realized just how much hair had fallen out.  My heart dropped into my stomach as I looked up at Natasha.

Her hands were folded in her lap, her head bowed as I noticed there were several bald patches in her hairline, the worst chunk being the one that just fell out.  Bald pink scalp was now being overgrown with what I can only describe as fish scales, faintly lavender in color.

I scrambled up to my feet and was about to start running when Natasha reached for me.

“Wait!  Please!  Please, please don’t leave me too!”

I stilled at the sound of Natasha’s voice, her mature composure finally cracking.  Natasha sniffled, and for the first time since we started out on this camping trip, I saw my sister as a kid like me instead of a mature figure of authority.  She wiped her eyes.  “It started last night, from here.”  She poked the center of her forehead.  “Like what happened to Shawn.  And it’s the twins too, there’s like…it’s a splash of pink on both of their foreheads.  But not you.  Why’s it not you?”

I slowly returned to my sister’s side.  “I don’t know,” I said, leaning against her side.

“Did the woman…the woman we said was a dream, did she do something to us?”

I swallowed and nodded.  “She kissed you.  Right there,” I poked that part of her head that was now overcome with those pale purple scales, eerily smooth to the touch.

Natasha took a deep, shuddering breath. “Please, please stay with me while it’s happening,” she said, gripping onto me.  “Tomorrow I…I think we’ll all be done.  Then you have to go back to the car.  Follow the path; you’ll get to the road.  Tell them Dad’s gone and don’t say what Mother did to us.  It’s her secret.”

“Who is Mother?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  I just know she’s given this to us.”

We sat under the moon, Natasha humming me to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, the fire was out, and Natasha was gone.

Even though I remembered her telling me to just go right to the car, I followed her footprints, finding her tennis shoes a short distance away. Her footprints meandered towards the creek where they vanished into the water. I just rolled up my pajama pant legs and started striding along in the creek.

I got halfway to the lake when I found Shawn, Diana and Valarie sitting on the creek bank.  The horn on Shawn’s head was now almost half a foot long and stone gray in color.  Each of his toes and fingers ended in a point, like the end of a thumbtack.  He lay across the twin’s laps, and I came to a stop when I saw that Diana and Valarie had fused together.  Diana’s right and Valarie’s left sides were now completely conjoined.  They were so pale their skin was practically translucent.  Their heads turned in unison to face me, and their orange butterfly wings flapped once.  “Yes?” they asked, their voices in chilling harmony.

“Where’s Natasha?” I asked.

Valarie pointed with her remaining arm.  “At the lake,” they said.  Shawn cracked open one of his sickly colored eyes and bared his jagged teeth at me, warning me what would happen if I got too close.  I stuck to the other side of the creek as I continued on my way.

I supposed Valarie knew I wouldn’t have left, because she was waiting for me at where the creek fed into the lake, swimming in circles.

All of her hair had fallen out, from all the hair on her head to her eyebrows and eyelashes.  She came to a stop when she saw me approach, poking her head entirely above the water.  Slits lined her neck, gills flapping uselessly in the air.  She had to duck back down for a moment, I suppose to catch her breath, before she rose again.

I stood on the bank, staring into the eyes that were now glassy and flat.  Her lips parted, her webbed hand reaching up to brush against my face, before she closed them and shook her head.

“I’m gonna miss you,” I said, trying to catch even the smallest glimpses of what was left of my best sister.

A translucent set of eyelids blinked over those flat golden eyes, and a tear coursed down her scaled cheek.  Then her tail flipped above the water, a deeper purple compared to the scales on the rest of her body, slapped against the surface, and with that, she dove below the surface.

I called for her, screamed her name for what felt like forever, but she never returned to the bank.  I sobbed, I begged, I just wanted to have a few more moments with my big sister, but I didn’t see Natasha again.  When I finally did tear myself away from that lake, I kept looking back every few steps for a glimpse of her, but the waters of the lake remained smooth and undisturbed.

I hoped that I’d find my dad along the way, but my heart sank when I reached the car and found it was still there, only with a set of score marks down the side like something had slashed it with its claws.  I didn’t waste my time there any longer.  It took me until nightfall to reach the road, and I’m sure I spooked the hell out of the elderly couple that found the dirty child only wearing pajamas and no shoes in the middle of nowhere.  I was immediately taken to the police, where I was identified quickly as one of the kidnapped kids that went missing months ago.  I tried, of course, to explain we were just camping with our father, but well, that didn’t exactly fly.

I imagine my mom broke a few speeding laws when she got the good news that I’d turned up, but when she asked me where the rest of us were, I just broke down crying.  I couldn’t say it.

My dad never made it out of that forest.  They combed it looking for the rest of my MIA family, but they only found our abandoned campsite.  Not a sign of my siblings-turned-monsters or my father.  They determined that the only thing that could’ve made the claw marks on the car would be a bear, but since I never even saw a bear that whole time when I was out there, I seriously doubted it.

Uncle Gill obviously went to prison for aiding his brother in the kidnapping of his children, but he swore up and down he didn’t hear from my dad on the day he disappeared.  Even my mom, who was infuriated with my dad for just taking us like that, admitted she didn’t think he’d abandon us like that.  Something had to have happened to him.

We did move to Washington, just the two of us, almost two years after the incident.  My siblings didn’t turn up, not hide nor hair, and the closest to evidence the cops found for my dad was a scrap of his flannel shirt on a branch that had blood on it.  His blood.  My mom declared him dead after that, and she never tried to ask again what happened to everyone.

She still hasn’t declared my siblings dead, though.  Which is accurate, I think.  I doubt they’re gone already.

It’s been so long.  Decades have passed.  I’ve grown up.  Up until now, I thought I was the unlucky one.  My siblings were the ones who got Mother’s blessing.  Why didn’t I?  Why did she choose to leave me behind?  Why did she ignore me?

It’s been eating away at me since.  I’ve been married.  I’ve been divorced.  I’ve gotten good jobs, and I’ve also been fired from them.  My therapist tells me I tend to sabotage things for myself, but I told him to stuff it.  I just don’t care.

But last night I had a dream…or well, maybe more of an unearthed memory.

It was the night we arrived at the woods.  My father had put the car in park and opened up the side door, so there would be a nice breeze in the car.  I could hear my brother sleeping next to me, the faint sound of playing music from Natasha’s Walkman.  It was probably Bon Jovi, now that I think about it.  Didn’t really care for music at the time.

I only opened my eyes when her face was an inch from mine.

Mother’s.  I don’t know how she’d gotten so close without me realizing it, and she had to be almost half bent over in order to get her head into the car.  Her featureless face was still somehow so sweet and kind as she brushed her hand against my cheek.  I didn’t feel afraid like I would during our second encounter.

With a soft exhale, Mother kissed my forehead, and my eyes fluttered back shut.  My heart content.

It had always seemed funny to me that I thought my dad had kissed my forehead; he wasn’t that sort of person.  He was more of a ruffle the hair kind of dad.  When I woke up this morning, my head was reeling, wondering how I’d forgotten her blessing, or why it hadn’t shown up.

When I reached the bathroom, I saw there was a patch of dry skin on my forehead.  I didn’t hesitate; I immediately scratched it away.  It hurt to tear a bit of the live flesh away, but underneath were scales.  Green scales.

The change is happening fast.  Shreds of my skin are coming off with each scratch, revealing more green scales.  I’m not turning into what my sister did I think, though; my fingers are becoming more clawed, and I can feel something on my back, just below the skin. Something forming, growing.  Thank God I moved back closer to those woods we camped in so long ago; although there is a commercial campground there now, there’s still plenty of forest for me to hide in.

When I parked my car on the side of the road, taking with me only a backpack of supplies, I saw someone in the forest, high up in the trees.

I don’t think he quite recognized me, but it was impossible not to recognize that pointed horn.

Shawn cocked his head at me, and although he didn’t wave back when I waved at him, I saw him smile before he took off, jumping from branch to branch and hooting like a wild animal until he was out of sight.

I’ll never be leaving these woods.  I have come home.  And I can’t wait to see my family again.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kitty “The Odd Cat Lady” Olsen
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kitty “The Odd Cat Lady” Olsen

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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