by Mariel Newley
“Lily’s gone terribly psychological. She bites the heads off her dolls.”
Emma jokes about it on the phone to her friend. Classic sibling jealousy. It’s normal, apparently. Nothing to worry about. In time, Lily will accept her new baby sister, then she will come to love her.
Emma does worry about it, though. Her life feels like the opening scenes of a horror film. The characters are unsettled and confused, but don’t yet believe in the supernatural. The audience do, and they know that terror, blood and death are coming.
She ends her phone call and walks over to Lily, who’s in a corner of the kitchen. While her mother talked, Lily built a barricade of toys. Now she sits hunched behind it, staring up at Emma. She doesn’t raise her head, she raises just her eyes, so Emma sees mainly their whites.
“She looks evil,” thinks Emma. Low-culture archetypes have a lot to answer for. When your three-year-old has an appalling few weeks, when there are hurricane-force tantrums and sulks as deep and dark as mineshafts, when you see that hatred fills your child so full you think she’ll burst, then you expect to find the Mark of the Beast, black and undeniable under her soft silk baby-hair.
Emma speaks gently, keeps her tone friendly and fond. “What’s this you’ve made, sweetheart? It looks like a wall. A wall of dollies.” Most of them with tooth-marks. Surrogate little sisters.
No answer. Lily’s glare doesn’t waver.
“It’s a gorgeous day. Would you like to go to the park? It will be nice there today, won’t it? We can feed the ducks and you can go on the swings.”
No answer. Lily looks down at last, shakes her head.
“Come on, darling. You love the swings.”
It’s important to show them that they haven’t been pushed aside. You mustn’t switch all your attention to the new arrival. You have to give the older child lots of your time. Emma does this, but it’s not working.
Lily has been possessed since Rosie was born. She glares, that’s what she does. She stares and glares, she concentrates her loathing, boils it down until it’s maximum strength and she shoots it from her eyes
Rosie has taken half of what’s hers, and Lily wants her gone.
Emma doesn’t know what Lily knows. Does she know you can kill babies with pillows, water, knives? How much is real danger, and how much is just that blasted low-culture archetype?
Emma isn’t taking any chances. Rosie goes with her everywhere. She won’t leave her for a moment. She won’t leave her alone with the demon. Just in case.
Mariel Newley lives in London, and after many years spent thinking about trying to publish her work, finally began submitting stories at the beginning of this year.