Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
My name is Emily, as in Dickinson, who is my mother’s favorite poet. My brothers are Lennon, as in John, and Eliot, as in T.S. My sister is Layla, after the Eric Clapton song. When we, the Spivey quadruplets, were finally conceived after years of in vitro fertilization, my mother and father agreed that they would each get to pick two names apiece. My dad, a high school music teacher, was a huge Clapton fan, and of course, the Beatles, and of all 60’s and 70’s music in general, resulting in Layla and Lennon. My mother, the librarian, quiet and intelligent, could read multiple books a day and was always typing away on her typewriter in the family room. Emily and Eliot were clearly more predictable choices for her. As for my parents themselves, they were Michael and Julie, after nobody special, according to them.
I knew how they felt. Emily, despite the origin of my namesake, always seemed so bland and common compared to Layla. She was a girl who brought men to their knees, for God’s sake, and Lennon and Eliot, while not bold or exciting, were at least unique. I was the third Emily in my class, known by my teachers and peers as Emily S. The others were Emily J. and Emily D. I once expressed my desire to have a more beautiful and exotic name, like my siblings, to my mother. She immediately stiffened her lip and told me seriously, “There is nothing wrong with being smart, Emily Ann! Never be ashamed of who you are!.” These words of wisdom were promptly followed with a lecture about what a wonderful woman Dickinson was, a true poetic genius, woman of grace, blah, blah, blah…
You may be asking yourself why names are relevant to my story, and I will simply say that who we are and where we come from are important and relevant in every aspect of ones life. When my sister, Layla, went missing, we certainly felt that her name was relevant to each and every person who could eat, sleep, and breathe.
I remember the morning we discovered her absence vividly. It was Halloween morning, my absolute favorite day of the year. The leaves, scarlet and gold, were crackling outside my bedroom window, and even before throwing back my thick woolen comforter I could feel a chill in the air. I sat up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked over to Layla’s bed. It was untidy and empty, which wasn’t unusual as she was always an earlier riser than I.
It was Saturday, which meant no school, which probably meant that Layla was downstairs putting the final touches on our costumes. We were going as Glenda and Elphaba from the Wizard of Oz. I had wanted to go as the wicked witch, craving to be different on the one day of the year I could be, but Layla had argued me down.
“Seriously, Em, you don’t even wear make up. How could you possibly wear a ton of green concealer all night? It’ll smear everywhere and you won’t look right. Be the good witch, you’re so much better at being nice and pink looks better on you than me.”
In the end, I had relented, even though we were thirteen and this would likely be our last Halloween as trick or treaters. She was partially right, the pink of Glenda’s dress would go much better with my pure golden tresses than her strawberry blonde locks, but mostly I agreed because nobody, even her own twin, had the energy or patience to feud with Layla Mae Spivey. Extroverted, popular, and determined, she was a force to be reckoned with no matter the circumstance.
Stretching and yawning, I rolled out of bed and into my fuzzy gray robe. I shivered again in the cold, making a mental note to remind Dad to buy more firewood. I walking downstairs and into the living room where Lennon and Eliot were sprawled out on the couch playing the latest edition of Tekken. I looked over to the comfy beige arm chair where I would usually find Layla texting, and then to the adjacent sewing room where our costumes were hanging, but she was still nowhere to be found.
“Hey you guys, has anyone seen Layla this morning? We were supposed to finish working on our costumes this morning so they can be ready for tonight.” I asked.
“Die, die, die!” Hollered Lennon. “Jin Kazama wins…” boomed the narrator from the background. “Yes!” he pumped a celebratory fist in the air.
“Man, you freaking suck!” scowled Eliot, throwing his controller down in disgust.
“Time for the Michael Myers marathon!” cheered Lennon, setting his controller aside as well.
“Did you idiots even hear what I said?” I repeated, annoyed.
From the top of the staircase, I could hear footsteps. I looked up expectantly, but all I saw were my parents, traipsing down the stairs, my mother with her usual paperback book in her hands and my dad rubbing her shoulders.
“Happy Halloween, quad squad!” My dad said smiling, using his favorite nickname for us.
“Well, dad, we’re a squad but not with quads this morning.” I replied. “I can’t find Layla.”
“Can’t find her? She isn’t still asleep?” he replied furrowing his brow.
“Nope. And she’s not in our bathroom or the sewing room either.”
“I’ll call her cell.” said mom, typing on her keypad. “Maybe she just went for a run.”
Behind me I could hear the faint chime of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” in the background. I followed the noise to the kitchen, where her pink iphone buzzed away on the counter. Beside it was a loaf of bread and an open jar of peanut butter, but no plate or napkin. That was the moment I started to feel uneasy. My sister never went anywhere without that phone glued to her hand. I could personally attest that she never failed to quickly answer my texts and she had never missed one of my calls unless sleeping. I picked the phone up with a quivery hand and paced back into the living room.
“Here’s her phone, but she’s not in here.” I said, looking back and forth between my parents.
My mother, probably thinking as I had, started to look mildly concerned and turned to my brothers.
“You boys, go upstairs and check the rooms.” she commanded, pointing. “Michael, go look around outside. I’m going to call a few of her friends.”
My brothers obediently bounded up the stairs as my dad pulled on his fall jacket and walked outside. My mother retreated to the study leaving me alone. I sank down on the couch and absent mindedly reached into the bowl of Halloween candy intended for trick or treaters. I unwrapped a chocolate and bit into it, immediately wincing. It was an Almond Joy, Layla’s favorite. I hated coconut but I finished the treat anyway, letting the flavor dance on my tongue.
Hours passed and nobody had seen or heard from her. Dad had checked with all the neighbors and had scavenged through what little wooded area our subdivision, Sparrow Hill, possessed. Lennon and Eliot checked all the closets, under each bed, and even in the attic we typically avoided due to rogue rodents and the occasional sneaky snake. Mom had called Jenna, Maggie, and Kara, her three best friends, but none of them had seen or heard from her since the night before when their Skype session had ended. Several police officers sat in our living room sipping black coffee from mugs my mom had carelessly prepared.
“Mr. and Mrs. Spivey, you’re sure that your daughter did not have a boyfriend? No kind of romantic relationship whatsoever?” The tall, thin, dark haired officer pryed for what seemed like the fiftieth time.
“Yes, we’re sure, as we’ve already told you. Layla was more involved in sports, fashion, and her friends, like an other thirteen year old girl,” my dad snapped. My mom just stared at her folded hands in her lap.
“Mr. Spivey, I’m sorry to pry, but I need to ask these types of questions. If she had been involved with an older boy there may be the possibility that she ran away or was even kidnapped.” the blonde lady officer, Fairchild, interjected.
My mother’s head snapped up at the word “kidnapped.” Her veridian eyes, so like mine, widened and she tugged at the ends of her flaxen hair.
“Kidnapped? Do you really think my Layla Mae has been kidnapped? Why is every one just sitting here? Why haven’t you issued an Amber Alert?!” She burst out frantically, tears finally escaping the prison of her eyes.
The officers both shifted uncomfortably and exchanged a look. The male officer, Deacon, his badge read, cleared his throat.
“Mrs. Spivey, please be assured that we are doing everything we can to discover what happened to your daughter. But right now at this stage in a missing persons case it is imperative that we talk to you, the family.”
“Meanwhile any serial killer, pedophile, or lunatic on the street could have my daughter but it’s more important that you sit here in my living room where my daughter clearly is not asking the same questions over and over!” My father thundered, a vein in his forehead bulging and throbbing. My mother touched his arm.
“Calm down, Michael. I’m sure these officers know what they’re doing. they’ll find Layla and bring her home to us. You will, won’t you?” She pleaded, eyes wet and wide, hope glistening in the corners.
“Yes mam, I assure you we will do everything in our power to bring your child home safely to you.” Officer Fairchild said reassuringly.
They didn’t. That day passed by without word or any sign. Then the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned into months. It’s been two years now since that day and not one single tip has ever been reported to the police. They never found any DNA, blood, fingerprints, or any other evidence linking someone to our home other than us, her family. It was as if she had disappeared without a trace, as though her very existance had evaporated into thin air.
Naturally, when all other options were exhausted, the police turned on my parents. Although the latter couldn’t link them to the crime either, my Dad crumbled under the pain, pressure , and accusations. Lennon, Eliot, and I came home one afternoon after school and found him hanging from a noose in the back yard. The song “Layla” was on repeat and his cold, stiff hands gripped a picture of the four of us on our first day of Kindergarten. He left a note that read:
Julie, Emily, Lennon, and Eliot,
Please do not be angry with me, for I do not mean to hurt you.I did not kill my precious daughter, Layla, although I am now certain that she is dead. Why else has she never returned home or sent word? I cannot believe that she has run away. Therefore I have decided to join her, so she won’t be lonely anymore. Can you imagine how frightened she has been without her family? Please rest assured that she will be safe now, and happy with me.
Until the Day We All Reunite,
We were not reassured. My mother spiraled into an even deeper state of depression that we never thought possible. There was no life insurance, of course, since suicide was not included in the clause. Layla’s case was turned over to the unsolved missing persons division and my mother was forced to get a second job to make ends meet. Even so, we’ve lost the house anyway.
So I suppose I am writing because this is my last night in my child hood home. I am lying on a pallette of blankets and pillows of mine and Layla’s old room, only four bare periwinkle walls surrounding me. There is a green light beaming into the window. At first I thought it was just a light from the neighbor’s house, but now it has started to blink on and off.
Knowing that I will not sleep tonight anyway, I rise up from the squashy covers and pad over to my window. I have to cover my mouth to keep from screaming. Floating in the green light, finally, is Layla. She looks just as she did two years ago, except a little taller, and her long strawberry locks touching her waist now. Her cerulean eyes are half lidded and her face remains blank, as though she does not see me.
I should call for my mother, or one of my brothers, but I can’t. I am frozen, shocked at the appearance of my twin for the first time since the night before that Halloween. Trembling, I open the window and climb into the cool night air. The grass is wet with dew and my feet squish in the mud, but I don’t care. I stumble towards my sister, reaching for her hand.
“Layla! Layla, are you okay?” I sob, my heart racing. Suddenly I stop dead in my tracks. The light vanishes and in it’s place are two monstrous creatures. I try to scream, but no noise comes out. The two creatures are at least ten feet tall, slick with a thick black tar-like substance, purple ooze secreting from their huge black lips. A bumpy plum colored tongue the size of a loaf of bread flops out of the side of one of their mouths and their six yellow eyes all narrow simultaneously.
“Hello, Emily. We’ve been waiting to meet you.” One of the monsters says, grinning, revealing several layers of sharp razorlike silver teeth.
“Y-y-you c-c-can sp-p-peak?” I stuttered, clutching my chest with sweaty palms.
“Of course we can speak. We speak every language. Except German. Ugly, disgusting sounding language, if you ask me. Even worse food. I’m Jane.” The other monster, apparently female, exclaims.
“And I’m John.” The other, apparently male, is baring his teeth in what I suppose is a smile.
“Th- th- those are pretty plain n-n-names for m-m-monsters.” I stuttered. I swear the only thing keeping me planted to this spot is my sister. She’s no longer floating, but her eyes remain unblinking and her chest is ever so lightly falling up and down, the only indication of her being alive.
“We are not monsters, ” says Jane, sneering. “We are extraterrestrial beings. Beings of far superior intellegence than those of Earth, may I add.”
“We do realize Jane and John are common Earth names, Emily. But on our planet they are completely unique…special.” He says it softly, hissing.
“What’s wrong with my sister? Why did you take her?” I swallow hard, struggling to remain upright. Their putrid stench, that similar to rotting meat, has started to waft towards me in the light March breeze. I feel dizzy.
“Oh, nothing. Layla is in perfectly fine condition. Her catatonia will fade as soon as she is returned inside your home.” John replies smiling, licking a trickle of purple goo from his chin.
“You’re bringing her back? But why did you take her in the first place?” I ask, anger flooding my voice for the first time. “Do you realize that my father killed himself? That my mother and brothers and I have been struggling and living in misery for the last two years?!”
“We do regret that, Emily. We’ve never wanted to cause you any harm. You see, our capture of your sister was a grave mistake. We specifically asked for the blonde child. The one with the poet’s name. Unfortunately, we had sent Bill, the rookie, to capture you for us and he took your sister instead. We would have returned her sooner, but unfortunately it takes two years time to travel between our world and yours. She has been well taken care of and will have no recollection of this incident happening.” John explains, somewhat apologetically.
“No recollection? But what about my family? What about their recollection? My dad will still be dead, you know, and we still have lost the house. How do you plan on wiping that away? And as for the blonde twin, if you think taking Eliot is going to make things any different, you’re wrong! My family will be devastated no matter which child goes missing! ” I say hotly, my blood boiling and my stomach churning.
“Eliot? What would we want with him? He’s not special, Emily. Not special like you. That’s why we’ve formulated a nice plan. Your family’s memories will be modified by this lovely little serum we concocted. They will not remember anything about you. As far as your mother knows, she had triplets. Your brothers and sisters will not remember you either. As far as your father goes, he died in a tragic automobile accident. Your family’s bank account has also been adjusted so they will be well taken care of.” Jane is smiling now, and John is siphoning a flourescent blue liquid into Layla’s mouth.
My head is spinning as I try to digest what they have just told me. My stomach is heaving now and I wretch into the grass.
“There, there, Emily. You’ll be happy now. You’ll be special with us. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?” Jane says soothingly, touching me for the first time.
I recoil in utter revulsion at her sticky black grip. Hot tears stream down my face and I make a grab for my sister, who is now floating back into our open bedroom window.
“The neighbors!” I gasp. “You haven’t thought about my neighbors! Or my teachers! How are you going to make everyone forget?” I was really getting hysterical now and I had absolutely nothing to defend myself with.
“Emily, Emily. Nobody will matter once we’ve started our seizure of Earth. We’re merely protecting your Earth family as a courtesy to you. Once we’ve established our kind here as rulers of your planet, then they will be allowed the truth.” said John, his yellow eyes a glow with excitement.
“But if you’re just going to take over the planet anyway, why do you have to take me to do it? Why do you keep saying I’m special? I’m boring! I’m ordinary! I’m Emily! I’m just Emily!” I am sobbing now, pleading on my knees, which is definitely not where I want to be, but I am paralyzed with fear, shock, and confusion.
“That’s where you’re wrong! You are so special, Emily. In fact, you are the only one like you. I know you’re only thirteen and it’s hard for you to understand right now. But we need you, Emily, simply because you’re you. You’re our daughter. We had your mother carry you for us. We knew she was the right surrogate the minute we laid eyes on her. She was so smart, and we wanted you to grow up to be that way too. We loved how beautiful she was too, Emmy. We had to manipulate your DNA so you would still have our blood but grow up to look like her. Otherwise you wouldn’t have fit in. She never knew that we slipped an extra fetus into the petri dish when she underwent her in vitro fertilization. You alone have the power to help us conquer Earth. It’s in your blood, sweetheart. You are one of us!” Jane is rubbing my head now, her slick greasy paw sticking gently to loose strands of my hair.
“No!” I slur. “It can’t be.” There is no way that these aliens are my parents. I can’t believe it! I won’t! Any minute I am going to wake up, and my life is going to go back to normal. I am going to be plain old Emily Spivey, daughter of Michael and Julie and sister to Lennon, Eliot, and especially to Layla! I curse myself for ever envying her!
I feel my jaw being wrenched open, and a lukewarm fuschia colored liquid slides down my throat. It tastes like strawberry jello. I suddenly am feeling so relaxed and very drowsy. I keep trying to fight it, but my eyelids are closing. I am rising up into the green light, powerless and lucid. As my eyes flutter for the last time I hear one final sentence:
“To our Emily, and her homecoming. May it be the most special one of all.”
Credit To – AnnaRexia