Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | October 11, 2009

Old Fakey

The shadow is swallowing her big sister. Gilly reaches out, a scream trapped in her throat—

­—and blinks. It was nothing. Fern is safely on the other side of the puddle. It was just another fake vision.

“Go away, fakey!” Gilly shouts, stomping in the dark mass of water. Somewhere deep in there, something still lurks.

“Gilly!” Fern whirls around, her clean white shirt spattered with mud. “Now I have to change and we only have ten more minutes!”

Ten minutes until Dad comes back. Ten minutes, after a whole two months of waiting. Two whole months of Gilly and Fern and their middle sister June living by themselves in the trailer by the woods, across from the old Auntie’s cabin.

They’d done fine on their own, just as Dad told them they would. His business was important—one day his daughters would follow in his foot steps, and they needed to learn to be independent.

Fern pushes open the door and Gilly peers out under her sister’s elbows into a scene of utter chaos. June  perched in the middle of five huge, bubbling pots of sugared milk. White ooze covering the counters, chairs, and floor.

“It boiled over! I just wanted to make a special pudding cake, and…” June shrugs, a delighted grin on her face. “Look, the whole kitchen is like a winter wonderland!”

Gilly sticks a finger into the mess. “Yum! It tastes good!”

“That’s it! You two are certifiably insane.” Fern steps gingerly over the ooze and into the bedroom. “You two are on clean-up. I have to change.”

Gilly peers out the open window, watching for Dad’s car. The long dirt road was empty, but the Aunties are out, cackling to each other and gazing up at the sky.

“No rain no more. Nope, we done stopped it,” says the fat one.

“You mean I done stopped it. You ain’t done nothin’ since that angry old grizzly ate you up.”

“A grizzly’s a more honorable way to go than getting’ kicked in the head by a grumpy donkey!”

Gilly had heard the fight before. Each Auntie claimed to have been done in before, and it didn’t make much sense. Her sisters told her she was making things up—those batty old ladies were their Dad’s mother’s sisters. And that was that.

But now the ladies are peering into the puddle. The same puddle that maybe tried to eat Fern. Gilly leans farther out the window, sees them stirring up the water with a gnarled stick.

“Ho there, bogey.”

“Hey there, bogey.”

“Gilly!” June spins around with a bowl of brightly colored frosting. “Let’s just build the cake right here on the counter! We’ll just bathe it all with frosting, and no one will know any better!”

Ten minutes later, the door opens and Dad walks in. Gilly gets the first hug, just like always.

He looks the same as he always has; he smells the same and hugs the same and smiles the same!

“I love what you’ve done with the kitchen!” Dad tastes the pudding coating a chair. “Lovely! But we’d better get it off the floor before the guests arrive, hmm?

June nods enthusiastically. “Look. I’m building a counter-cake!”

“You’re ALL crazy!” Fern whirls into the room, piling into the growing hug.

“The tent’s here,” Dad says. “Let’s help them set up.” Gilly lets arms be unwound from around her Dad’s waist and troops outside to see the structure arriving on a truck. Two men get out to help set up.

Fern takes charge, grabbing a toolbox and directing the men around the back. Gilly follows, her eyes squinting slightly for that shadow from the puddle. Something isn’t right with the wooden frame the men are carrying. No, it isn’t in the wooden frame. The not-right thing is in the ground. In the old root cellar dug deep into the back yard.

They put the frame down square over the old cellar. “In case we need to go down to get a refill of last year’s cider,” Dad explains.

“Well, we’ll have to go down and make sure it’s got a strong ceiling,” says the shorter man.

“Ok, I’ll go down first with a light.” Fern runs inside for a flashlight.

“I’m going, too,” says Gilly, trying to feel brave. She’s the only one who could feel the fakey-thing. That much is for-sure.

Inside the cellar, it smells like old apples and fat, happy worms. The men lay a ladder against the side and poke around. Fern holds up her flashlight, looking important. Gilly wraps her arms around her chest and waits. It’s in here with them. The fakey thing.

She blinks, and sees: there’s no way out. The ceiling, the walls, the whole underground room has no exit – it’s all just black, black, and Fern is panicking. The men on the ladders don’t understand. The trap door was right there! Where has it gone?

“Heyyyyy!” she screams.

“Gilly, what’s wrong? Are you scared?” Fern swings the flashlight at Gilly’s eyes.

The vision is gone. There’s the trapdoor, right over their heads.

“No, not scared. But we need to go up.” Gilly tugs her sister’s arm. The men shrug. They’ve seen what they needed to see. With a couple bottles of cider and wine under their arms, they head up into the afternoon sunshine.

At the top of the stairs, the old Aunties are whispering back and forth, back and forth. Gilly eyes them closely, squints to see the feathery bogeys hovering around their feet like old smoke.

“Away, fakey!” She shouts at the top of her lungs.

Fern laughs, but Dad is coming out of the house with the first of the family guests. He only smiles at Gilly, and nods. “That’s right, my girl. Nice work.”

The Auntie’s scowl as Dad’s fingers flash in a complicated pattern. Gilly watches the smoke scramble for cover. Gone. Back below the earth where it belongs.

This post was based on an elaborate dream I had last night.



  1. […] Part 1: Old Fakey […]

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