by Sam Tapley
A woman is caught by surprise on an unsuspecting day.
Marina of the Orchard
I saw her shadow first. I was standing in the tea aisle at the grocery store when I felt a presence. I looked around just in time to see her shadow standing at the end of the aisle. I tried to act unbothered and continued to read the different labels. I finally settled on my go to brand, and made my way to the register. Once again, I felt someone, this time I physically felt her. I turned around to face her.
“Excuse me, you’re a little close.”
“What was that?” I heard the cashier ask. The girl didn’t budge. She wouldn’t turn around, it seemed she was staring at the magazines.
“Excuse me,” I said a little louder. She began to walk away. I began to feel a little nervous, but mostly annoyed. Who was this person and why was she acting this way? I took my bags and walked outside. It was late July, the air felt stuffy and heavy. The sky was becoming darker and more ominous looking. There was a storm on the way. Since moving to the Midwest, I had come to love the Summer storms. Something about the warmth and the rain together, and the way the rumbling of the thunder made the house echo and shake, it felt almost cozy.
I was finally home. As much as I hated the forty-five-minute drive home, I enjoyed it. It gave me time to listen to my favorite music and think about my day. I also didn’t mind the scenery. Most people describe the Midwest as boring, but in the summer, I think it comes to life. The green trees, the different birds calling out, and with the humidity it almost feels tropical. I grabbed my bags from the passenger seat and made my way inside. I heard the thunder in the distance. Once inside, I pulled out the tea kettle and put water to boil. I went to my calendar and crossed out yesterday’s date. Today was July 15th, 10 days until my 26th birthday. I couldn’t wait, I was going on a two-week-long vacation from work. Until then, every day felt long. I just wanted to sit on the couch and binge watch reality tv reruns. After putting the kettle on the stove, I went and lied down on the couch. I closed my eyes, as big clap of thunder sounded out.
I was running down an orchard. I wasn’t running as fast as I thought I was, and every time I tried to go faster my legs felt heavier. I ran all the way up to my front door. As I walked up the steps I heard a voice call to me.
“Marina! Come get your breakfast before it gets cold!”
Who was that? And who’s Marina? I opened the door and turned to the kitchen. There was a tall woman standing there, with long blonde hair. “Marina!” She yelled again. “I’m right here,” my voice sounded small and weak. She whipped around, “When I tell you to come inside, I mean it! When are you gonna learn?” She said through gritted teeth as she grabbed my wrist, it hurt. She shoved me into a chair. The kitchen was different. The cabinets were white, but mine are cherry. I have a tall black table, this one was a farmhouse style table with seats for six. This is my house, but it looks so different.
“Eat your damn food! Stop looking around with that stupid look on your face!”
“Yes Mommy” Mommy? Who was this woman?
“And what did I tell you about being in that orchard? How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of there? I can’t wait until it’s gone. Today’s the day, they’re finally tearing it down, and once it’s gone, all of my problems will go with it. Now eat! I don’t have time for your messing around, you need to eat!”
I looked down at the plate. Bacon, scrambled eggs, and Oatmeal? Why wasn’t the oatmeal in a bowl? I didn’t want to get yelled at again so I grabbed my spoon and began to eat. The eggs were too salty. Mom never really cooked, but I was glad she is trying. I took a bite of the oatmeal to wash the saltiness down. I stopped right before I swallowed. I gazed upwards when I saw her staring at me. “Is something wrong with the food Princess?” Princess? She never called me that before. I shook my head and swallowed, the food almost making its way back out. My tongue and throat felt numb. I took another bite of eggs, this time almost gagging. I quickly took another bite of oatmeal, I swallowed it fast. I glanced around for a drink.
“Can I have some milk mommy?”
“You know how I feel about drinks at the table, just eat already damn it.”
It hurt to swallow now. But I took one more bite of the oatmeal. My throat got tighter after that bite. My vision started going blurry. My head started feeling light. I heard the woman one last time.
“That’s it. Good girl. Close your eyes.”
I heard the screeching of the kettle. “Crap!” I jumped up and ran to the stove. I pulled the kettle off. There was barely any water left. How long had I been asleep? Such a weird dream too. I still felt a bit dazed. Marina. The name stuck with me. I had seen it before, but I couldn’t remember where. I gave up on the idea of tea, and pulled out a beer from the refrigerator. The rain was still coming down, the thunder died down, but now there was lightening. I sat at the table, and tried to make sense of my dream. As I sat there I felt like I was being watched again. I looked to the stairs when I saw a wisp of hair around the corner. I almost fell out of my chair! I ran towards the stairs and was about to run up them. This time I came face to face with her. She was a little girl, no older than ten years old. I glared at her, I couldn’t help it. “Who are you?” But, I already knew. I tried to relax. “Marina?” I asked in a quieter voice. She turned her head to the side, almost like a puppy. She never spoke out loud, but I knew she was wanted to know how I knew who she was. “I…I think you were in my dream just now…was that you?” She nodded. She was pretty, she had big brown eyes, and curly blonde hair past her shoulders. “So, what? What are you here for? Am I supposed to figure out how you died? Where your body is? What?” She turned away from me and walked to the top of the stairs. She was waiting for me. I walked up, and she started walking away. When I got to the top of the stairs, she was standing in front of my spare room. “Was this your room?” I asked. The door opened and we walked inside.
It was weird, I wasn’t scared. I was curious. I knew there was something up with my house. An old farmhouse, with no farm. Just a creaky old, cheap place. I loved it, although everyone thought it was a weird place to live. I never knew why it was always empty, but I assumed something was off. I never noticed anything weird until today. I just loved the house. Big open rooms, big windows, high ceilings; I loved adding my modern furniture to the old style of the house. I had a guest room, but hardly ever had guest. Marina walked towards the closet.
She stood in the closet. She was waiting for me. Now I was a bit scared I’ll admit. Reluctantly I walked to the closet and turned on the light overhead. She sat on the floor. I looked at her confused, were we about to time travel? Or go to a different dimension? I watched too many movies about spirits I think. I sat down across from her. Suddenly, the door closed. “Please, whatever it is, I’ll help you.” Now I was scared. But, the lights didn’t shut off, or flicker. She just reached over and tapped on the wall next to her. Then, she pointed at me. Was I supposed to copy her? I reached over to the same wall next to me and knocked. It sounded hollow. “Oooh. Ok.” I looked around at the wall where I found a small tile that blended in with the wall, but wasn’t flush. I pushed it in, tried to lift it, and finally, slide it. It slid open. There I found a small book with flowers printed all over it. It was a journal! “You want me to read this?” She nodded. I began to read. There weren’t a lot of pages, so it didn’t take long to read through. What I read made me sad. The final page, was written on July 15th, 1975.
“Today when I woke up my back still hurt. I don’t know if mom meant to push as hard as she did yesterday but it hurt. I’m upset that she didn’t even say sorry. She was mad that I talked to Cassidy yesterday. She said she would come visit me soon. I miss my sister sooo much. It’s almost her birthday too! She’s going to be 22. I can’t wait to be 22. Mom’s been talking about moving. But every time I ask her about it she says I’m dumb and that that’s not what I heard. She’s been really mean since she met Andy her boyfriend. One nice thing is that she’s been making me breakfast all week! Maybe she feels bad. I’m going to play in the orchard right now. Before they cut it all down. That’s what Andy’s been saying. He says if people are smart they’ll get rid of all the stuff they don’t want once it is all torn down, since no one will go looking at a torn down orchard for anything special. I’ll miss it. I love being in there and climbing the trees and collecting the apples that fall down. That’s why I’m going back one more time. I’m gonna get going now before mom wakes up and yells at me.”
Marina wasn’t in front of me any longer. I set the journal down. I tried to think about what I had just read. Suddenly, my dream made sense. Had Marina projected me into her past? Well, not projected me, but you know…made me see. It was no coincidence that her last entry was on the same date as today. Had she decided to finally come out to me? I wondered why. I reached up for the door knob to the closet and crawled out. It was dark now. The storm had picked back up and was raging. The thunder was rumbling the house. I went and laid on the bed. “Was this your room Marina? Was this the day you were killed? What happened to you?” My phone vibrated in my back pocket. When I looked at it I had no notifications. I knew what I was supposed to do. I searched for Marina’s first name, along with my home town. A few old articles came up.
“10-Year-Old Marina Vanishes. Mother Distraught, Had Plans to Move.”
“Family Still Seeks Answers. Older Sister Questions Mother in a Rage.”
“15 Years Later Officials Finally Call a Cold Case: A Timeline of Marina and Her Mysterious Disappearance.”
“Marina, please let me know what happened.” The journal slid out of the closet. My heart was pounding, I got up and reached out to get the journal. I instinctively opened it up to the last page. There was written: “I miss my sister. You remind me of her and how funny and nice she was. I just want my sister to come here and visit me like she said she would. I just want my sister, she’s all alone. But she is too scared to see me. I think she forgot she was supposed to come. Please talk to her. Bring her here. And if you can’t bring her, you can come here. You remind me of her so much. I’m lonely, and you seem lonely too. You would love it here. We could be best friends!”
A flash of lighting lit up the room. Now I was scared.