Ariion Kathleen Brindley


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The Poster


The day at the park had been fun and both of the girls had managed to get some sun playing Frisbee while their mother read one of her romance novels. Now it was time to go home. Their father would be coming home from work and that always meant that they would spend time together as a family. That was their mother's idea and sometimes it didn't seem so bad.

On the way home, they stopped and got an ice-cream cone at a fast-food restaurant and were on their way, chatting and licking their treats.

Diane was the younger of the two, by eleven months, but sometimes she felt as if they were twins, even though they looked nothing alike. Jean was light in color with a sunburned hue to her skin and had blue eyes where as Diane had dark features, dark skin and hazel eyes. They were best friends, nonetheless.

The two girls sat in the back seat eating their ice-cream and telling jokes as the car quickly pulled over to the right side of the road and nearly skidded to a halt. Jean bounced forward in her seat belt and almost dropped her cone. Regaining her composure she scoffed, "Mom..."

"Sorry," came their mother's response, "I just saw a yard sale."

"Aw," the girls chimed in unison. They knew how their mother was at yard sales. She'd always find the ugliest clothes and tell them how cute they were or get something for their room that looked like rubbish. But they'd wear it or display it in their room just to make her feel better.

Putting the car into reverse, she slowly backed up the side of the street to stop in front of a house and turn the ignition off. "Do you guys want to stay or go with me?"

They searched each others faces before Jean said, "I want to stay here and eat my ice-cream."

"Me too," Diane snickered investigating the goods on the lawn but seeing nothing that was interesting to her.

"Okay, I'll leave the radio on and you guys behave," she said as she rotated the key to get power for the easy-listening channel that she was tuned in to. Then she left the car, hurrying over to the racks.

"Maybe she'll get you some green pants to go with the green shirt she got you last time," Diane teased taking a bite of her ice-cream and reaching up to change the channel on the radio to some 'real' music.

"Ha ha, very funny," Jean thought about the ugly green shirt that her mother had bought her the last time, announcing that she could wear it for her school pictures.

She was in the seventh grade and there were some really cute boys in her school. When her mother caught a glimpse her in the morning and saw what she was wearing, she wasn't pleased. Jean had to go back to her room and put on the green shirt because her mother said that it brought some color out in her face. She did change her top, but took a cute one to school with her wrapped in her sweater to change into before the pictures were to be taken. They hadn't got the pictures back yet, so her mother didn't know about the switch.

Jean licked her ice-cream thinking before blurting out, "What about that pair of boots you get to wear?" And then she started to laugh uncontrollably until her ice-cream began melting on her hand and she had to stop to lick it again.

Reminiscing about all of the things that they got from previous garage and yard sales, they realized that there wasn't one thing that they got they liked, but they felt good knowing that their mother thought about them while shopping.

Finally, Diane finished her ice-cream and started browsing through the merchandise that she could see. "Ooo, look at that fur coat. It looks like road-kill, doesn't it?"

"Thanks, now she's going over to look at it," Jean offered sounding disgusted and finally taking a bite of the cone.

"You sure do eat slow."

"I'm just not a pig like some people. Oh, here she comes. Remember to be nice."

Diane nodded her head in agreement.

Their mother got into the car wielding a large garbage bag into the passenger seat before climbing in herself.

"What did you get?" Diane said trying to sound excited.

"You'll see when we get home."

They're house wasn't too far away, just down the street a few blocks and around the corner.

Jean had finally finished her ice-cream as they pulled into the driveway.

Before the ignition was silenced, both girls clamored up the sidewalk to the front door while their mother wrestled with the large bag, her purse and her keys. Finally making it to the door, she inserted her key and pushed it open. Their father wasn't home yet, but he would be soon and the girls took off to their room to talk about boys.

"Girls, come here. Tell me what you think about this," their mother called from her bedroom after a spell.

When they appeared, they saw her sporting a neon-pink T-shirt. "Cool," Diane said and Jean nodded in agreement.

"You like?"

"Sure," Jean offered turning to leave.

"Wait! Don't you want to see what I got for you guys? You'll have to share because there was only one, okay?"

The girls waited in anticipation. Not because they were excited, just because they were curious.

Their mother picked the bag up from the bed and pulled a large rolled up paper from inside that was secured with an elastic at each end, handing it to Jean.

Jean pulled the rubber bands off and unrolled it. "Diane, look!" she cried happily showing it to her sister.

It was the poster of Vladamir Rhondique, the hottest movie star of the decade. Sweat was enveloping his muscular body as it saturated through his half-torn tank top, showing every curve and ripple in his body. His square jaw was accented by his curly brown hair and straight white smile but most of all, the thing which drove the young girls crazy was his champagne-colored eyes. They were huge and bright with dark lashes accentuating them.

"Let's hang it above my bed because I'm the oldest and when I move out, you can have it," Jean suggested to her sister.

"No way!" Diane was quite perturbed at this arrangement, "I always get your hand-me-downs. Besides, nothing will be left of it in five years. Let's hang it above the dresser."

"No, that's on your side of the room," she whined.

"Whoa, hold your horses," their mother approached them with a typical settlement, "Why not hang it by your light switch, that way it's where you both can see it from your beds."

The girls looked at each other and agreed that this was a fair compromise as they bolted out the door to go to their room. Their room was not gigantic, but large enough for their two twin beds to sit side by side. Jean's bed was directly in front of the door with a closet to the side, while Diane's was centered between Jean's bed and the window.

Shortly after leaving their mother's room, Diane reappeared asking for some push-pins to hang it with and she was obliged.

Later, they were called into dinner excited as could be, as they sat down at the table telling their father what a great find their mom had made that day and asked him if he wanted to see it.

"Sure, as soon as dinner's over and you two have cleared the table."

Even though they weren't that hungry, both girls managed to clear their plates long before their father, which almost never happened. They made sure that their room was sparkling clean in order for him to be thoroughly impressed.

After putting their pajamas on and waiting patiently on their beds for quite some time they began passing the time by talking. They talked about what they would do if they were the one to marry Vladamir Rhondique.

"Bedtime!" their father called from the front room.

The girls were stunned. He hadn't even come in to see the poster. What was he doing just watching television? They rose from their beds and rushed into the living room to see both of their parents casually seated in front of the television watching some late night movie.

Jean started in first, "Dad, you didn't see the poster."

Before Diane could open her mouth to say anything at all he was rising from the couch, obviously put out and following them into their room.

Diane turned on the light and motioned towards the poster with her hand, "See? I bet you wish you looked like that, huh?"

"Oh boy, I guess," he didn't sound very excited, "Hop into your beds and I'll turn the light out since I'm here."

The girls each gave him a peck on the cheek and climbed into bed.

"Sweet dreams!" he chuckled as he turned off the light and closed the door. The girls were quiet, each thinking their own fantasies through and ignoring the chatter in the front room. Instantly, they each fell into a deep sleep.

In the middle of the night, Diane woke with a start knowing that something was wrong, but not knowing what it was. Calmly she sat glancing about the room, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. Jean was sleeping soundly in her bed and rolled over, pulling her blankets up under her chin.

Thud

What was that? Maybe she wasn't all of the way awake yet.

Thud

There, she heard it again but still couldn't figure out what it was and she could tell that it was coming from outside her bedroom door. Quietly she pulled her blankets to the side and felt the carpet under her toes before she placed her feet firmly on the floor.

Thud

Tip-toeing, she made her way to the bedroom door, tempted to turn on the light but not wanting to wake her sister. If it was something stupid she was hearing then all day tomorrow Jean would make fun of her in front of everyone. She was going to check it out for herself, then if it was something she'd be the one to tell Jean what it was.

Her hand was clutching the doorknob as she cautiously rotated it around, being as quiet as she could. When it was as far as it would go she pulled at the door, opening it with due caution.

Thud

It sounded as if it was coming from her parents' room. Maybe they were doing something private that she shouldn't be concerned with after all, their door was closed tight.

"Well," she whispered to herself, "I needed to get up anyway." And she continued her light-footed steps into the bathroom, closing the door but leaving the light off so that her eyes wouldn't be irritated.

When she was finished, she opened the door and made her way back to her room. Passing her parents door she noticed that it was opened, just a crack. Had she thought it was closed before, or was somebody else roaming around the house as well?

Pivoting around she made her way to the living room and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. In the kitchen all of the dishes were stacked up in the strainer draining, but nothing was unusual so she continued back down the hall to her room. This time, their door was closed again.

Making her way to their door she waited, listening. Nothing.

No blankets rustling, no talking, nothing.

Everything seemed normal as she started back to her

room, until she made a realization. Going back to their door she pressed her ear against it listening for her father's snoring, which she never strained to hear before and was almost humored by trying to hear it now.

Nothing.

No noise at all.

Knocking softly on the door she waited for a response, but got no indication of either one of them being awake.

Again she knocked, more loudly this time.

No response.

Silently she opened the door as it swung gently on its hinges.

"Mommy? Daddy?" Focusing in on the bed, she could see what appeared to be them sleeping peacefully.

Not a sound.

Approaching the bed on her father's side she could see a dark shadow on his pillow behind his head as he was facing the other way. Tenderly she nudged him, getting no reaction at all. Diane was afraid she was losing her mind as she violently grabbed hold of his shoulder and pulled him towards her. His body was heavy as it finally lulled over and continued off of the edge of the bed making a wet smack as his head and body hit the carpet, taking the blanket with it. The dark spot remained on his pillow and a stream of it followed his head to the floor where he lay now, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling and creating a new dark spot on the floor that oozed from the back of his head.

"Mommy!" she screamed hysterically, but her mother remained motionless. Afraid of what she might see when she crossed the room to the other side of the bed, she proved herself to be right. Her mother lay with the same blank expression on her face with her eyes open as well, her mouth was frozen in a silent scream as thickened blood leaked onto her pillow.

"Jean! Jean!" she shrieked, knowing that Jean was alive because she'd just seen her moving as she left the room.

"Jean!" she continued calling her sister as she ran from her parents' room into her room and slammed the door shut, locking it even though her parents told her not to.


"Jean, somebody's in here!" she tried to keep it to a whisper, but she was somehow too desperate for that.

Finding the foot of the bed she felt up Jean's body until she got to her head. She could see her blond tangled hair on the pillow and wanted to shake her awake but refrained from that because of the screaming it might cause.

Leaning over her she whispered, "Jean, wake up!" She was afraid that she was too late. What if the killer had gotten to her while she was in her parents' room? What if the killer was still in the house? She didn't have a telephone in her room. She'd have to wait until someone came to check on why her parents weren't at work unless... she climbed out the bedroom window. At night it would be too risky. It would be noisy enough for the intruder to hear, but her neighbors would never hear it because it was on the back side of the house. It was too big a risk.

Wait a second she thought, maybe Jean's not dead. Jean was a pretty sound sleeper, in fact it was an ongoing joke about her being the last one to know that the end of the world just happened.

Creeping over to her own bed, she lifted her pillow and pulled out the flashlight that she kept for reading when the bedroom light was off. Sneaking over to her sister's bed once more, she clicked the light on. Jean's head was tucked down inside of the blankets. Maybe she's afraid, Diane thought. Maybe, I scared her with all of my screaming.

Reaching out and clasping the top of the blanket she pulled it down and shined the flashlight onto Jean's face. Her mouth was open with her tongue hanging out and her eye sockets were empty except for the red clotted tissue and the blood which trickled out of them.

Just then the light came on, Diane jerked her head up to see who the culprit was and there he stood. Vladamir Rhondique was smiling as he reached a closed fist out towards her, palm up. Glancing down at it, she almost threw up when he opened it. There were two blue eyeballs surrounded by blood and some raw egg-white-looking substance. Diane squeezed her eyes shut and when she opened them, the light was off and he was gone. The door remained closed and locked.

Running to her closet she scurried inside, closing the door behind her. Restlessly she moved all of the hanging articles in front of her and sat on the floor with her knees pulled up, in the corner shivering and waiting.

She waited forever, it seemed. Soon her eyes were getting heavy and she let them close. As they closed, she felt a hand on her shoulder, "Diane, are you ready?" he said as she turned around to face his dazzling smile and twinkling eyes in the closet with her.



"How much longer will she be gone?" Jean asked her mother concerned. She missed her sister so much, she wished that there was something that she could do to make things better for Diane until she could be with her again.

"I don't know," her mother sighed, wiping her hands on her apron, "I'm going up there right now, you should come too, if you think you can handle visiting her."

"I don't know."

"Jean, it's been six months. I think that you should make some sort of effort for support, don't you?"

"Okay, I'll be right out." Jean disappeared into her bedroom.

They both got ready and went to the Pepper Ridge Hospital to visit Diane. This was a totally new experience for Jean and she was frightened, but she knew that Diane would be excited to see her so she thought that making a little extra effort was the least she could do.

Diane was ecstatic to see her sister.

Jean was so happy to see Diane that she almost forgot to give her the gift that she'd brought for her. Picking it up from against the wall, she unrolled it for her to see.

All that Diane could see was Vladamir Rhondique smiling wildly as he held out his hand containing two bloody lumps of hazel eyes. He was laughing....

Diane screamed....





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