Right now, I’m 81 years old, and had to ask my granddaughter for help to write this down.
You see, I have a confession before I go.
My name is Emma, and I had a sister named Elisabeth, or Lisa for short.
Having been born only one year apart, we were really close, and looked very alike. One could say we were fraternal twins.
Lisa and I had always been the best of friends. We shared everything. We slept together in the same bedroom until our early adulthood, and every night we would cheerfully tell each other about our day.
For the first 20 years of my life, Lisa was my whole world. When she was 21, my sister moved from home because she got married. I started working as a first-grade teacher, and both our worlds expanded.
But our friendship remained unaffected. She chose a house close to our parent’s, so we could still talk and see each other nearly every day. We shared all our secrets to each other.
That’s why I know how much Lisa and her husband Dylan loved each other. They were soulmates, a match truly made in heaven. Back then, men were way more violent and sexist than they are today, but not Dylan. Dylan was a sensitive man. Gentle, respectful and very good to my sister.
One could think I would be jealous of them, but I was tremendously happy for her. I was feeling pretty good about my own life too. I loved being a teacher and I had a lot of other friends and interests. Besides, I was still living with mom and dad to save money and buy my own house without depending on a husband, an old dream of mine.
Lisa and Dylan lived an absolutely perfect marital life for two years. He would waltz her through the kitchen when he got home, and thank Lisa for choosing him and being such an angel.
When Lisa was 23, she got pregnant. It was the cherry on top of their irreproachable happiness. Lisa had always wished to be a mother, and it was such a good fit for her. She was so patient and kind. I was sure that all her kids would be as nice as their parents.
By the time she was 30, she was already the mother of three beautiful chubby kids. She couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t be happier for her. Besides, I was where I wanted to be in my life too.
I don’t wanna say we grew apart, but we certainly were busier with our lives. I traveled the world, learned six languages and was even a bit of an intellectual.
We started a tradition to go apple-picking every year, using identical dresses. It was funny and silly, because we were two adult ladies, but we didn’t care. We loved funny and silly.
The year was 1966. Lisa was 30 and I was 29, and Dylan stayed home with the three kids as usual. I still remember him telling us to have fun. That he would make sloppy joes for him and the two bigger kids (ages six and three), and our mother would help with the baby.
We were the only ones in the field of apple trees that day. It struck me as odd, but I was too excited to catch up with my sister.
After 20 minutes or so, Lisa started to shake and sweat.
“Lisa, are you okay?”
“It’s been happening for a few weeks now. Maybe it’s some complication after my last pregnancy.”
“When we get back I will schedule a doctor for you,” I said.
But just a few seconds after, a darkness darker than anything came from both nowhere and everywhere. And it enveloped her. She screamed, but it was so fast that she sounded muffled and distant. The darkness retreated to the natural shadows of the trees, and I couldn’t identify it anymore, no matter how desperately I searched the whole field.
This was followed by an obscene wet noise of chomping. The thing, the dark thing, was eating my sister alive. In less than a minute, nothing of the sweet person I loved more than anything remained in this world. Nothing but the precious apples she had picked in a basket.
I was traumatized. Overwhelmed. Devastated. I don’t even have words for what I felt. But I knew what I had to do.
So I gathered the apples, drove home crying and cut my hair. From that moment on, I was Elisabeth.
* * * * * *
I knew what the consequences were for me.
My career and personal goals were over.
I was now a mother of three.
And married to a good man I respected, but obviously didn’t love.
But I had to do it for them. The kids can’t grow without their mother. Dylan would languish without Lisa. She was his whole world. She was the kids’ whole world. Hell, she still was kinda my whole world.
Lisa just shone brighter. You couldn’t even feel jealous, because she would welcome everyone in her light. I looked up to her every minute of my life. We had two other siblings, and I cared for them a great deal, but she was my beloved sister, more beloved than anything.
I would be less missed. People would suffer less. Giving up my life was a price I was willing to pay, so people wouldn’t have to go through the horrible loss of Lisa.
Even though I had already bought my own house, I instinctively drove to my parents’. I guess it still felt like home. While I was cutting my hair in our old bedroom, between sobs, my father showed up at the door.
“Emma, did something happen?”
The way I looked at him was enough for an understanding beyond words.
“Is Lisa gone?”
I lightly nodded.
“I’m taking her place. Please don’t tell anyone. People won’t miss me as much.”
He hugged me.
“Honey, what you’re doing is beautiful. I love you both so much. I’m so sorry I never told you that people in our family… well, they disappear. We are haunted by something I don’t even understand. It seems like a dark and powerful force. When it comes for someone, it’s impossible to survive.” He was crying too. “I wish I could protect you girls. I really do, baby. I can’t.”
“It’s okay, dad. It’s okay.” What else could I say?
After that, life went on. I told the police I saw a ‘shadow’ taking my sister, and they obviously interpreted it as someone stealthy kidnapping her. The search went on for months but, without a clue, it eventually stopped. The missing person posters started to disappear from the streets, replaced by new lost people, or advertising of some sort.
‘Emma’ started to fade from existence.
A year later, my parents held a symbolic funeral, since no body was ever found.
I mourned for a long time, and Dylan was nothing but comprehensive. I made an effort to learn to love this man. I obviously loved my nieces and nephew, but I never thought of myself as the motherly type. So I had to learn that as well.
I think I did a real good job being Elisabeth. I eventually started to love Dylan. I birthed two kids, and I loved my sister’s kids as much as I loved my own. I missed my house and my teaching job, but, otherwise, I was able to fit in my new life.
My father took my secret to the grave. When my mother was on her death bed, I confessed what happened.
But, other than that, no one ever knew who I really was.
I raised five children, and all of them turned out at least alright. They gave me twelve grandchildren, and I even have two great-grandchildren. Dylan died five years ago. I never told him. His life was too happy for him to find out it was built in a lie.
I’m now telling this story to my family and to the world because, after Dylan and I are gone, it won’t matter anymore.
Lately, I’ve been sweating and shaking every day, and a feeling of doom and heaviness started to take over me. It can be just because I’m old, but I don’t think that’s the case.
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