I don’t remember the night my big sister went crazy, but I’ve been told about it. Mama said that Sissy didn’t have all the screws tightened in her head, and that’s why she attacked me. The only thing I can still recall is someone yanking all the hair out of my head and pinning my ankles to the ground. Oh, and the screaming. I still don’t know if I was screaming or if Sissy was screaming or if Mama and Baba were screaming, but I know it was loud and made me cry.
Sissy wasn’t like that all the time, though. She had good days. Like when we stood in the creek behind the back shed and squealed with laughter as tiny fish slithered between our toes. Or how we’d lie in bed at night and she would sing those folk songs that I loved so much. I wish those moments lasted forever.
She had bad days too. Like when Mama told us to set the table for dinner and she smashed all the plates. Or the times I woke up in the middle of the night to her scratching my arms and legs until I bled. She told me that her friends told her to do it. I never saw Sissy with friends. I’m pretty sure she has friends tonly she can’t see.
I’ve been in the hospital since the attack. Mama doesn’t let Sissy visit, but I know Sissy didn’t mean to hurt me, so I’m not mad at her. Sometimes she just can’t control herself. I hope my screws never come loose.
* * *
Years ago, when I was seven and Sissy was eleven, we were playing in the meadow behind the woods that led away from our house. The tall grass tickled our bare legs as we danced. Sissy’s two long braids hung down her back and glimmered in the setting sun. Mama would be getting things ready for dinner soon and probably was waiting for us to set the table.
“We’re going to play a game.”
“Oh but Sissy it’s getting late, and Mama is going to worry.”
“Ready or not, here you come.”
“We really should get back.”
“Ready or not, here you come, play with us, let’s have some fun.”
I hated when we played that game. Sissy would run into the woods and hide while I would lie in the meadow with my eyes closed and arms outstretched.
“One, two three…”
The air was getting colder and the sun began to dip beneath the hill.
“Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three…”
Mama would be worrying.
“Eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety…”
Sometimes I’d wonder what would happen if I just left Sissy in those woods. Maybe if she lived in those woods instead of in our house she wouldn’t make Baba cry or give me scratches that she told me to keep secret from Mama and maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about falling asleep before her. But I went to find her anyways. I always did.
As the tall grass thinned and the woods began, I scanned the tree line for her. I looked at the tops of the trees first because sometimes she likes to hang from the highest branches. She would swing in circles way up high and I’d be on the ground praying that those branches wouldn’t snap. My eyes shifted to the ground. It was getting dark.
“Ready or not, here I come. I’m playing with you, you’re having fun. Olly Olly Oxen free, show yourself, you’re scaring me. Come out, come out, wherever you are, you’ve taken this thing way too far.”
I wanted to be brave so I sang every word loudly because it made Sissy happy when I did, but the tune sent a tingle down my spine. I took slow steps and purposely snapped twigs and crunched leaves to make my presence known. My words rang through the forest and seemed to hang in the air. I sang and sang but heard nothing except the applause from the whistling leaves of the trees. She was nowhere to be seen.
“Olly Olly Oxen free. Sissy, please come out, you’re scaring me.”
I raced wildly through the woods. Long shadows melted into the ground and the sounds of creatures hummed from the darkness. The first few beams of the moon shone through the trees.
“Sissy! Please, I don’t want to play anymore!”
I heard a snap of branches behind me and whipped around.
“We have something to show you, I really hope you like it,” she said, eyes twinkling.
She skipped down the path, her braids bouncing. Her steps were light and airy as she seemed to dance around every rock and trunk and branch, while I trudged behind and struggled to follow. She stopped abruptly when we reached a break in the path. Legs rooted to the ground, she swayed in her spot for a few moments like she had done before.
She stopped and pointed at the ground. Five bloody rabbits were laid in a neat row. Their eyes had been gouged out.
“Do you like it?”
“Sissy this is not nice. We need to go home. This is scaring me.” But that’s when her eyes narrowed and her lip quivered and her cheeks flushed. I reached out a shaking hand to comfort her with, but she slapped it away and growled.
Sissy came home late. I was already in bed.
“I’m so glad we could play today,” she said. “We had so much fun, didn’t we? Let’s do it again, let’s do it again soon.
She rummaged around the room for a few moments, climbed into her bed, and began breathing heavily as her special Sand Man pills put her to sleep.
When I awoke the next morning I heard Sissy singing in the backyard. I sat up, and let out a scream as I saw five dead rabbits on the foot of my bed.
* * *
I’m still not sure why I can’t go home from the hospital and see Sissy. I miss standing in the creek with her looking at fish and I miss her folk songs. One time I asked one doctor when Sissy was going to visit, but he didn’t answer. He just gave me another shot and I got really sleepy.
Yesterday I heard the doctor talking with Mama and Baba. They talked about upping my medication, so I think that means I’m going to be sleeping even more now. I was hoping they’d mention something about taking off these things around my wrists that are binding me to the bed, but they didn’t say anything about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to go home soon.
* * *
Mama and Baba have stopped visiting. I think they’re scared of me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but it’s okay because I have friends to keep me company now. The doctor is really interested in my friends and asks about them all the time, but they don’t li
ke to talk when he’s there.
When the doctor isn’t asking about my friends, he’s asking me about Sissy. He keeps asking me if I remember killing her, why I killed her. Whenever he asks me this I just shake. I can only shake.
My friends tell me it’s okay I killed Sissy the night she tried to attack me. It’s okay, they whisper, because she killed those rabbits and she scratched my arms and legs and she made Mama and Baba cry and she scared me. She had it coming. Sometimes I can’t stop crying though, because I don’t remember anything about that night besides the yanking of hair and the screaming. But my friends always remind me that it’s okay. They tell me that she couldn’t control herself and I was sick of being sisters with someone who had loose screws. But at night when my friends get quiet and I get lonely, I miss talking to Sissy.
Olly olly oxen free, please come back.
Rachel Santarsiero is a at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, studying Civil Engineering and Professional Writing, and International Studies. She loves to combine the technical world with the humanities. She is the Executive Director of the non-profit Cross-Cultural Competence and is working toward a career in writing.
Photo Credit: EUROPEAN RABBIT. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/138_1024767/1/138_1024767/cite. Accessed 17 Jan 2017.