On Ginkgo Wings
Jinny looked up from the hard packed dirt of the garden path. She glimpsed dark twisted branches, yellow swaying leaves and triangles of cloudy gray beyond. Ginkgo leaves twirled gracefully on their way down. The inconstant breeze sent them over her, around her, to her, so the golden leaves fell on her hair.
A crash sounded in the house. A scream.
Jinny reached up with one hand. Her eyes refused to focus on her dirty skin and blood caked nails. All she could see were the leaves. Happy yellow fan-shaped wings fluttered down to her, slipped past her fingers and landed on her sweater vest. She wanted to fly away on those wings. If she could collect them all she could fly up over the treetops and escape her headache.
Another crash and the sound of broken glass. Fast footsteps, both heavy and light.
A beam of sunlight filtered down through the clouds and leaves. Jinny squinted one eye and pushed herself up to her feet. She danced in a circle, freckled face turned up to the sun's stray ray, arms outstretched, ginkgo leaves swirling around and catching in her long hair. She closed her eyes and smiled.
"Jinny?" a voice whispered. "What are you doing?"
Jinny imagined she could hear the leaves falling. She could feel them fall on her hands, wrists, cheeks, and each one made a different sound as it lighted against her skin. A note from her mother's piano. A kitten's mewl. A bird's trill.
"We have to run. We have to run before they find us again!"
Jinny wanted the leaves to smell like summer flowers or strawberries. She didn't like the scent of dirt and blood.
"They already got Mom..."
A hand grabbed Jinny's arm and pulled hard. She shrieked and stumbled, eyes opened wide again, her heart in her throat.
"Bea?" Jinny frowned. She said her sister's name louder, but it caught in her throat.
"Not so loud!" Bea looked frantic and sweaty. Her dark hair stuck to her forehead as she tugged Jinny towards the gate. "What's wrong with your ears?"
Bea's lips moved so fast, but there were no words. Jinny understood well enough. There was no sound in the afterlife. Just golden leaves dancing down around them as they jogged, then ran hand in hand down the ginkgo lined path. Beams of sunlight filtered down like tiny spotlights and made Jinny smile again. She'd gather enough leaves to make golden ginkgo wings for both of them, then they could fly up to heaven and pretend to be angels.
Jinny let go of her sister's hand and stopped to catch her breath. She bent over, hands on her skirted legs, and was glad the scrapes on her knees had stopped bleeding, even if she wasn't surprised. Bea tugged at her arm, but Jinny waved her off. She hadn't yet caught her second wind.
Bea pointed frantically at the house while backing away towards the gate. They still had yards to go before they would meet the old fence.
The ground shuddered and Jinny finally looked over her shoulder. The two monsters who'd killed her and Bea hurried down the path, their wide feet striking the ground heavily. The ginkgo leaves pelted them. A warning from the trees. Jinny didn't understand how the monsters had followed them into the afterlife. She doubted their mother could have taken both of them down. They were taller, wider and stronger than any man she'd ever met. Little red eyes and bulbous noses were their most prominent features if she ignored their huge, clawed fists.
Jinny stared up at the monsters. They grinned at her. A display of jagged teeth. She knew they couldn't hurt her anymore. Not here.
The nearest monster swung its club of a fist at her head again.
Scrawny arms wrapped around Jinny's waist and pulled her forcefully. She tumbled backwards, taking Bea with her to the ground, and watched the monster swing its arm into a new beam of sunlight. The hulking limb turned from green to gray.
A smile brightened Jinny's face as she watched the monster lurch into the sunbeam. The weight of its arm was too heavy to hold up, and the monster turned gray wherever the ray of light touched it. The other monster ran off through the ginkgo trees.
Jinny crouched down and picked up every golden leaf she could reach. Soon Bea wouldn't have a reason to cry. There were no trolls in heaven.