Today’s theme: seances.
The children wake up and no one is there to sing them back to sleep
The children self-soothe and fall, hiccuping, back into sleep
The front lawn crackles with frost
The paper doesn’t thud against the front porch
The kitchen is empty. Dishes piled precarious like Jenga
The car’s not in the driveway
The train doesn’t come.
The train doesn’t come.
The radio’s gone static.
Every TV channel is playing re-runs of Friends.
The Prime Minister makes an announcement. The press room is almost empty.
A national state of emergency is declared.
The remaining half of special forces are deployed to search.
The reports start to trickle in.
The reports are a flood.
The reports a deluge.
It is confirmed that on the outskirts of every city, town and locale the gatherings are growing.
Some eyewitnesses describe the scenes as raving naked women dancing covered in blood. Others declare it more of a peaceful gathering, more like a vigil.
They say they’re never coming back.
They say the changes seem so simple, so obvious.
They dance in wider and wider circles.
They sing softly.
They sing like it could break the sky.
They lit the candles out of deference to cliché, and the light was thin and frightened, the way they were, the way they had been for months. The Ouija board was a shitty one from Kmart, but they cleared off the tablecloth nonetheless, and sat solemnly with their shirts buttoned up and their skirts ironed. Dad nodded, and they all placed two fingers on the planchette and looked at him, big-eyed and small-lipped. Silence settled in the cracks between them and they breathed. It was Matthew who asked, in the end. Seven years old with cheeks that looked stuffed as a hamster’s, he whispered so softly it barely shifted the candleflames, ‘Mum?’ The planchette shot over to the ‘Yes’ on the board, so fast that they laughed, accused each other of pushing it, jostled shoulders, grinned. ‘Are you okay?’ asked Abigail, and this time the pointer swung across to the I, looped down to the M, the S, the O, the R, looped, R, Y, and they all fell quiet again. Dad’s eyes were down and his forehead was shining. Matthew shifted. ‘Where are you?’ And again, the I, the M, the S-O-R-R-Y, and Dad was breathing out through his teeth so they whistled, a vein pulsing next to his ear. ‘What’s it like there?’ said Matthew and the planchette darted so fast to the I that it hurt his shoulder and he started to grizzle and Dad’s eyelashes were wettening. The second the pointer hit the Y it started again at the I and kept snaking around, faster and harder. Abigail whimpered and looked at her father and said ‘Please’ and ‘Enough’ and Matthew pulled his chubby child hand away and she followed him, and then it was just Dad, his whole hand on the wood and snot running out his nose and him pushing so hard that the ball bearings creaked, I-M-S-O-R-R-Y, I’M SORRY, I’m sorry, ImsorryImsorryImsorryImsorryImsorry.