“You really think I’m a hallucination, don’t you?”
Ian groaned without opening his mouth. There was something hypnotic about the voice, something that commanded Ian’s full attention.
“Close your left hand.”
Ian stared at nothing, unsure whether his eyes were open or closed.
“I said close your left hand.”
Ian’s fingers closed on something flat and solid. It was about the size of his palm. He ran his thumb along the back of it to feel the pin of the brooch. How had it got into his hand?
He must have blinked because suddenly the room was lit before him, but something was wrong. The mattress was on the camp bed, and there was a sleeping bag thrown over it. The door opened and a girl sidled in. Ian recognised Jack, but she was older than when he’d left, perhaps thirteen or fourteen. She turned and whispered to him. “Where’s Dad now, Ian?”
Dad must be out of the house, or she’d never dare to come in here. Jack nodded as though it was a reassuring answer and opened a cupboard. She pulled out the silver jewelry box and lingered over Mum’s picture. She opened it and held the brooch up to the window. Ian’s throat was tight with fear for her. He couldn’t bear to think what might happen if Dad found her. He could almost see Dad trudging back to the house after a search through a dozen empty rabbit traps, and silently begged her to get out of the room. Jack looked up as though she heard him and replaced the brooch in the box. She closed the box with a precision that told Ian that she’d done the same thing many times before and knew how to get away with it. She closed the cupboard, left the room and closed the door without making a sound.
The room faded to darkness. Ian was sitting in the dark, waiting for his air to run out.
Next week: The Promise
Cover by Manda Benson
Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online