This is my audition piece for Ten by Darkliquid.
Michele stood at the fence of the playground where it had happened. Her bloodshot eyes locked on the playing children. Gripping the cold bars separating her from them she wanted to scream to the mothers there.
It could happen to you. Never turn your backs. They could disappear; vanish.
She turned before the parents began to think she was crazy. Her hand ran across the bars as she walked alone. Three years ago it had happened. Three years ago her life had unraveled.
Her children had been on the swings, when Roberto had taken an unexpected dive. Michele had raced over to comfort him. Another mother had called 911. In the chaos that ensued, Alexis had disappeared.
Michele stopped, tears now flowing down her cheeks. She looked back through the bars at the swings. The blood from her son’s head had washed away long ago. Yet Michele could trace the shape of it on the ground or describe exactly what Alexis had been wearing, if anyone asked. But no one talked to her any more.
Blinking back the tears Michele was surprised to see a young boy looking up at her. “Y, yes?” her disused voice managed to answer.
“Alexis asked me to give this to you.” He passed a plain white envelope through the bars.
“Alexis? Where?” Michele’s heart skipped a beat as her hand gripped the offering.
“Right there,” the boy indicated the swing set that Michele had just been staring at.
Michele’s eyes latched onto the girl who had not been there just moments before. Her dark brown curls pulled back into a pony tail. Her bright brown eyes laughing as she swung higher and higher. She drank it all in; the pink and white shoes, the pink leggings, the teal dress with pink flamingos. Everything was exactly as her daughter had been on the day of her disappearance. Alexis looked at Michele, jumpped from the swing then ran off laughing.
Michele’s cry did nothing but make the playground occupants stare at her. Alexis was gone. Even the boy who had delivered her message was gone. The envelope, crushed by Michele's hand, was the only thing that hadn’t vanished.
Turning away, ashamed at her own imaginings, Michele walked the remaining block to her flat. It was the only thing she had left. Enrique had taken their son, Roberto, when they had divorced. Michele hadn’t contested it. She had failed as a mother once; she didn’t want to fail again. They had moved to the suburbs, while Michele stayed in the apartment. She saw them once a month, when she was up for it.
Now, seated upon the ancient couch, she turned the envelope over and over. A year ago Michele would have called the detective in charge of the case about it. Now, having been told to ‘go find a hobby’ in not so pleasant terms, she would have to take things into her own hands; the same hands that slowly opened the letter. Michele let the envelope fall to the floor as she unfolded the paper.
Would you like to play a game? We think you might, because we can give you back your daughter. Just as she was. Just as you saw her today. All you have to do is kill the following people:
1. Godfrey De Vries
2. Elias Heikkinen
3. Tony Blake
4. Kamali Ncube
5. Ebisawa Hitomi
6. Alexi Bogdanov
7. Mei Yu
8. Thiago Torres
9. Vahide Younan
If you can, Alexis shall be your daughter again.
It was not a ransom note. Michele blinked to clear her vision. It was not what she expected, but; Michele stood and began to pace. But, if she played the game she could get her daughter back. She could prove she was a good mother. She could redeem herself and return to the life she knew.
Michele looked back at the letter. First she would have to find these people. Then she would have to kill them. Finding them would be the hard part, she convinced herself. Killing them, she pulled a six inch serenaded switch blade from atop the china hutch, should be easy. Then, she looked down the hall at the bedrooms, her family could be reunited.
Michele smiled for the first time in three years.