This is bad. This is so, so bad. "Missy," I shout, as calmly as I can manage. "It’s cold. Let’s go inside."
Missy doesn’t even bother to tear her eyes away from the sky. "No way! This is the coolest thing ever."
Before I can argue, the yard lights up bright as day. A burst of heat and light streaks right over our heads with a high, keening sound, heading toward the patch of trees behind our house. It – something – lands there with a boom that I feel more than hear.
Missy squeals with delight and runs toward the glow. "Missy! No!" I shout, but it’s too late. She’s already disappeared into the trees.
The trees whine and crackle with fire. Smoke creeps through the trunks so quickly that soon I can’t see much at all. Running simply isn’t possible, so I call again and again, “Missy!” but my cries are chopped to pieces, powerless against the blades of helicopters.
I inch forward with my hands stretched out in front of me. They sink into thick smoke until they are nothing more than faint hand-shaped outlines, a dark gray against gray. If Missy isn’t hurt, she’s at least as lost as I am. Soon, even my cries are choked out by the smoke. I have to lift my shirt over my nose and mouth just to breath. My eyes sting. I stop and realize I don’t even know which direction I’m going. For all I know, I’m moving in circles, bending around tree trunks this way and that way without anything to orient me.
I cough. Struggle to draw another breath. Fear settles over my shoulders, slips down my back like cold water. I don’t know how to get out.
Heat rises. Another fundamental I’ve gleamed from class, so I kneel with one hand braced against a tree trunk. The air isn’t so thick down here and I manage a few deeper breaths of stuffy air. The sounds of helicopters and fire attack from all sides. I’m going to be smothered by smoke and sound, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
A hand slides into mine. Small, hot, and familiar. Before I can say her name, I see her eyes and stop.
They shine like stars; points of shimmering white surrounded by black.
“Tabby!” She tugs at my hand. “Let’s go, Tabby. We have to go!”
Once more she tugs, and I’m on my feet and running. I don’t know how we don’t crash into the trees, but Missy steers us around them without effort, moving faster than we should be able to in this haze.
The smoke begins to thin. I blink, and we’re out of the trees, running across the flat expanse of our backyard and straight for the house.
She’s so fast. My legs are nearly as long as her entire body, but she’s two steps ahead the entire time. I don’t know if we’re being chased, if there’s anything behind us but noise and light, but it feels like we can’t afford to be slow. Even when we’ve made it back to the house and slammed the backdoor behind us, it feels like something is so, so wrong.
Missy lets go of my hand and runs through the dark hallway ahead of me. The only sound in the house is the TV in the living room and the ringing in my ears. Mom and dad are still in town. Date night means they’re probably inside a movie theatre, unable to hear the sirens and oblivious to whatever it is that’s happening here.
I don’t feel my legs anymore. I only know they work because I manage to get myself to the kitchen sink for a glass of water without falling over. After two full glasses, I’m still thirsty.
“I made a wish, Tabby,” Missy says from behind me, making me jump. “I touched a fallen star.”
She sounds different. Not in the way I’ve come to expect. She sounds calm and still. I remember how strange her eyes looked in the smoke, and how quickly she ran through the haze. Another chill rushes over me, tugging at my skin and hair with thousands of tiny fingers.
“What did you wish for?” I ask. Setting the glass on the counter and turning around.
From the living room, a local reporter has broken into the regular program. She’s trying not to shout as she says, “Authorities are asking everyone to stay indoors. Wherever you are, stay put and if you’re near the site of any one of these…these fires, do not approach them. Authorities are asking for anyone caught close to a blast site, where we’re learning there are possibilities of toxic substances, to contact the police.”
Missy stands in the middle of the kitchen, holding a something small in her hands. Her fingers are stained black with it, but she smiles.
“What is that?” She’s never made me so nervous. I’m afraid to look into her eyes.
She takes a step toward me. I hear the TV turn to snow in the other room. There’s no sound of helicopters anymore, just static and the hissing of the fire in the distance.
“Are you ready, Tabby?” she asks. “You have to say yes. Oh, please, say yes.”
This is my sister, I think. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I force myself to look into her eyes and I’m relieved to find they’re the same hazel they’ve always been. More green than brown and as mischievous as ever.
“Okay, I’m ready, Missy,” I add her name to prove that she’s her. To ground her in our house and her small body. “Now, tell me what it is.”
Lights sweep through the house from the backyard. I hear engines revving and voices shouting and my heart crashes into my chest like a star falling from the sky. Missy grasps my hand in hers, pressing something hard between our palms. It stings or burns, I can’t tell which, but someone is pounding at the back door.
Missy just smiles up at me; playfully, excitedly, calmly. She’s not worried about the men at the door and I wonder what she knows that I don’t.
But then she says, “It’s an adventure,” and I know I’m about to find out.
Part 3, written by Lacey, will be up on Friday. Check back to see where the adventure leads!
"Geminid-Shooting-Stars" photo found here.