Oh, why? Why? This couldn’t possibly be happening! Out of all things, this problem had to arise.
You may be wondering what I’m talking about, and who I am. It’s a very long story, and it all started on that crisp autumn day. My younger sister Liz and I were running around, kicking up the beautiful leaves of gold, crimson, and fiery orange. It was an artist’s daydream. But that’s when everything started to fall apart.
“Kids! Kids come inside!” Our mother called. “Please hurry! Stop playing, and don’t forget to take your shoes off!”
I immediately knew that something was wrong. The way she had said it. It was stern, like a glare from a coldhearted stone statue.
My younger sister Liz looked at me, fear coating her eyes.
“Do you think?” She started. But she never finished, because she broke down in tears.
“We don’t know for sure. Let’s just hope for the best,” I told her, as we slowly walked up the old wooden steps that led to the mudroom.
“Ma? Ma?” Liz called sliding off her old worn-out shoes. “We’re here!”
We walked into the kitchen and saw a note that was laying on the edge of the island, with a red seal lying upwards.
The little sunroof from the window shown down on it, as if it were something important we couldn’t risk ignoring.
I carefully picked it up, fear spinning through me. I flipped it over, seeing if I could tell who it was from by the name, but there was no return address.
Liz stood behind me, chewing her nails, which she tended to do when she was nervous. “Well? What are you waiting for Michael? Open it!” She beckoned.
Tearing through the pure white paper, there was a small note tucked near the bottom.
I fished it out with my fingers, and once it was in my grasp, I pulled it out, unfurled it, and started to read.
Mr. and Mrs. Dunn and family,
We must inform you that this note is for your two children, Mr. Michael James Dunn, and for Miss Elizabeth May Dunn. Have them get ready, as they only have twenty-four more hours left before they are gone.
My sister’s eyes watered. It was happening. We had gotten The Note.
It was meaningless to most, yet something fatal to others. The Note wasn’t a parasite, virus, disease or something you could catch. No one knew how The Note came to be, and who wrote the letters, but everyone had suspected that it was the Queen. The Note would be given to the family, telling who’s last day it was. Sometimes it was even more than one person. No one knew where the people who had gotten The Note went. Yes, there were other ways to die, but rumor had it that getting The Note was the worst way of all.
Our mother rushed it, tears running down her face. It seemed that she was more upset about it than us. But she was our mother, so I guess she had the right to worry.
“Oh, Michael! Elizabeth! I’m so sorry! I should’ve known that this day would be coming!” She sobbed, pulling on my shirt.
“Ma, it’s okay. It’s not your fault,” I tried to comfort her. But it didn’t work.
“I hate this country,” Liz yelled. “They’re always so unfair, sending Notes to everyone!” She ran across the tile floor and into her room, slamming the door so hard I thought it would break off the hinges and explode into a million tiny pieces of wood splints.
My mother looked around. “I’ll go to the Queen. Ask her. Beg her for mercy. See if she’ll spare you two.”
“Ma, you know that it might not be the Queen right?” I said. “It’s just a rumor.”
“I know that Michael, but everyone says it’s her who gives The Note to the families. It’s her favorite thing to do. Keeps her entertained. When she’s bored, she’ll write up a note, and send it to a family, and chortle at them menacingly as the family cries out as they watch a loved one die.”
I knew not to respond. My mother was on a rampage, her eyes like daggers, her blood boiling, and her spirit feisty.
“But ma, what about us?” I asked. “Wouldn’t you rather want to spend your time with us while you can?”
“Listen to me, Michael. You two are my only children, and I know your father wouldn’t allow it. I can’t have him come home in a month knowing that both of you died and I did nothing to stop it,” she raged.
“Okay leave. I’ll make sure that Liz is okay and is taken care of, and I’ll do some things with her and try to keep her mind off of this.” I said.
“Thank you, Michael. But why are you taking this so well?” My mother asked me. “Aren’t you angry?”
“Oh yes, sure I’m angry. I’m furious ma. The Queen has no right to use us as her toys to make her feel better when she’s angry, by writing off letters that change people and families lives, but I need to stay strong for Liz so she knows that everything is going to be okay,” I said to her, holding her tightly.
My mother ran to her room and threw things in a few bags taking food and money with her as well, including her most prized possession, her ruby ring, in case she needed to barter with the Queen for our lives, but knowing our ruler, she wouldn’t accept it, and would probably end up sending ma home.
I waved goodbye, and she hurried out the door getting into her car and pulling out of the drive. She punched the gas and sped off, leaving noises of screeching tires against pavement ringing in my ears.
I walked back inside and knocked on Liz’s door.
“Go away,” she said. “I don’t want to talk to you. Just leave.”
I rolled my eyes. She could be such a drama queen sometimes. I knocked again.
“I said GO AWAY!” She screamed, throwing the door open. Her hair was a mess, and wet, most likely from tears. Her face was covered in what looked to be translucent paint.
“Now come on. Is this how you really want to spend your last day? Locked up in your room, looking at things you had looked at before, for over fifteen years?” I questioned. “Come on. Let’s go outside and take a walk, or ride our bikes into town, or go to the pond to hang out with friends.”
“You drive a hard bargain Michael, but okay. Let’s go,” she said reluctantly as I dragged her out of the dungeon that she had spent a lot of time in. I wish she hadn’t so I could’ve seen her more often.
I opened the garage and we got onto our bikes. Liz ran back inside to get her phone and some money and placed it in the basket our dad had weaved for her.
Our dad was overseas fighting in Torque, our worst enemy. I admired him for his bravery. I would never be able to do that sort of thing. Knowing that any day I could die. I bet the people of Torque wouldn’t know what The Note was.
While I was pumping up the tires, and oiling the chains, Liz started talking to me.
“I really wish that we didn’t get the note,” she said sadly. “Why couldn’t someone else?”
“Liz, instead of worry about things why don’t we just focus on how fortunate we are and how many memories and stuff we’ve made. Try not to dwell on bad things that have happened. Just think happy thoughts,” I said setting down the chain grease.
“Okay we don’t need some big cheesy poem about friendship and love and stuff right now Shakespeare,” Liz teased me. “I get it. I know we’re dying I just wish we weren’t.”
We set off, pedaling out of our garage and getting onto the sidewalk. We flew past neighbor’s houses, staring down that mean dog that had tormented us when we were younger each and every day. That surely wouldn’t happen again after tomorrow.
In town, we biked past the ballet studio that we had been in when we were five. Liz had hated it but ma made her do it, and she thought Liz was alone in the class so she put me in it too. We both hated it, and I didn’t know how to tell ma that we didn’t like it. But Liz was smart for her age and knew that she could get kicked out of it if she did something bad. So while the other girls were getting their leotards on she made me distract the instructor, and she grabbed a black marker and started scribbling ‘I hate dance’ all over the mirrors and posters in the warm-up room. Our teacher was furious and kicked both of us out.
The mall was one of my favorite places, as well as her’s. Each weekend we would go and get soft pretzels and drink slushies as fast as we could until we were rolling on the dirty floor with brain freezes laughing at each other’s faces.
As kids, we had thought that the escalators were secret portals that could take us back in time if we ran up them fast enough. We never made it back in the past, but it was fun trying.
We stopped at the park and bought some ice cream. Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry in a waffle cone, one for each of us, and sat down at a bench that had a few mysterious stains and moss growing on it.
“Hey, remember your thirteenth birthday gift that I made for you?” Liz asked me after we licked our cones in silence for a while.
My face broke into a smile. “Of course! How could I ever forget? It was probably the best birthday gift ever!”
Liz had taken up knitting when she was ten and was convinced that in three years she could make a sweater for me. So she locked herself in her room for a long time, refusing to eat dinner with the family for three years. Until my birthday came around.
A nicely wrapped package was laying in front of my face, covered in blue striped wrapping paper, with the biggest bow I had ever seen on the top of it.
I was so excited, as I tore into the box, revealing a very interesting neon orange and green sweater that looked five sizes too big.
“Remember how ugly and how big I made it?” Liz asked. “I wanted to die after seeing your face. I was heartbroken. I thought you would have loved it.”
“I still have it in my dresser,” I told her. “I never threw it out. I just liked it too much.”
“Remember school? And the hair cut?” She asked me.
“Oh yes. That was a very interesting time,” I said.
We’re fraternal twins and have always stood up for each other. In fifth grade, my sister wanted to get a pixie cut, so one night she decided to cut it. She didn’t do the best job and had to go to the salon to get it fixed, but I thought it was really cool. But apparently none of the kids in school thought so.
As we walked by in the halls, we always heard words like ‘freak’ and ‘alien’. It broke her heart. And I hated to see her that way, so that night I took some hair dye, and dyed my hair the ugliest color of yellow I could find. It was more of a yellow-green, and it looked as if my hair was going to be sick.
The teasing at my sister stopped and went towards me instead, but I didn’t really care, because my sister always thought my hair was awesome.
“Do you want to go back home?” Liz asked. “I’m getting pretty tired.”
“Sure,” I said.
After we got home we relaxed on the couch, and watched TV, bringing up more memories and throwing popcorn at each other until we were too tired to even move.
We brought our mattresses out of our rooms and laid them down in the living room, to have a sleepover which we had done often as little kids.
We stayed up talking till midnight and finally went to bed, dreaming about wonderful things.
I woke up fairly early that morning and started to cook french toast and eggs. The smell was heavenly and reminded me so much of our grandma.
After an hour Liz finally woke up, and I proudly served her breakfast. She loved it, and we talked for a while.
I was washing dishes when I heard something fall. Turning around, I could see Liz’s hand hiding around the corner.
I sprinted over and held her in my arms. She was cold and her skin was pale.
“Michael, tell mom that I love her,” she whispered, her voice scratchy and forced.
“No, please don’t go Liz. Stay here,” I cried, tears dripping off my face onto hers.
But it was all too late. Her eyes were glazing over, and her mouth was a straight line.
I watched silently as she took her last breath. She held it for as long as she could, reaching for my hand as she shook violently.
I grabbed for her hand just as she stopped moving, and her hand fell down on the hard tile.
My world was spinning. My twin was gone. Gone. I couldn’t get the word through my head, couldn’t comprehend what was going on. My little sister by three minutes and seventeen seconds was gone. I felt as if I were living in a fantasy, or being drowned in a pool of water. It just didn’t feel real.
I just sat in silence for a while. But my breath started to quicken, and I felt my legs go numb. I glanced at my watch. One minute and twenty-eight seconds had passed since I had lost Liz. Now it was going to be me. Yanking a paper and pen from my jeans pocket, I scribbled a quick note to my parents, say goodbye and all that. It was now two minutes and fifteen seconds that had passed. I crumpled the paper up and threw it on the island where only yesterday we had gotten The Note.
My bones felt brittle and I could feel my body shaking, and my hard strained breaths. Two thirty-nine. Breathing became harder as I exhaled more deeply and harshly. Two fifty-two.
I could feel my eyes going crazy, and I could see that my world was disappearing quickly. I desperately reached for Liz’s hand and held on. I couldn’t let go. I wouldn’t let go.
My sight was terrible, and I glanced at my watch one last time. Three minutes. Seventeen seconds. My world spun and everything went black. I was finally going to be reunited with my sister once more.