XVIII. Something Terrible
“Hello, Piper. What can I do for you?”
“Hi, Mr.Freeman. This is far-fetched, but have you heard from Emerson today?”
“Nope. Did something happen?”
“Oh. No. No. It’s just we’re supposed to meet today, and he’s a bit late.”
“And you haven’t left? Who are you? Are you really Piper Lun? Emerson’s wife?!” Mr.Freeman is a nice man. He likes to joke around quite often.
“I was going to leave,” I said. My stomach curled again. “But, I have this bad feeling.” I look at the parking lot just in case Emerson pulls up.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll show up,” Mr.Freeman said. “He probably got into a minor accident, or the car broke down somewhere. I’ll call around and check.”
I gripped onto the phone. “Alright. Thank you, Mr.Freeman.”
I lowered the phone and looked at Dustin. He’s asleep.
A slight breeze rustles the leaves above us. One by one, it fell onto the ground. In the afternoon, the air felt warm. With the fallen leaves, people passed us. The children on the playground disappeared with their parents.
And steadily, the sun followed them.
I called Tyler.
“For the last time, Piper,” he said. “Emerson is probably just late. Chill.”
With each comforting word, I cried even harder. I didn’t know why I cried, but I did. I shouldn’t cry because everyone is right.
Emerson probably got a flat tire somewhere.
And his phone happened to run out of battery.
I wouldn’t pass that possibility.
But then there’s this feeling. This huge knot inside my stomach that tells something is wrong - something terrible.
One message passed after another, and no one heard from Emerson.
The mechanic Emerson sometimes hangs out with at the bar.
The cashier at the gas station.
The bagger at the local store.
I pressed my face further into my hands.
“He’s probably just changing a tire or something,” Tyler said.
“But, it’s been six hours. Who needs six hours to change a tire?” Sarah responded.
Mom placed a hand on my shoulder, “They’ll show up. Probably just late somewhere.”
The word of comfort didn’t stream into my ears. I only blocked it out.
During the wait at the park, I planned Emerson’s murder. Then, I got worried. And as time passed, the worry bloomed into something worse.
“Did you call the police?” Sarah asked.
“Can’t,” Tyler responded. “I tried, but they said that since Emerson is an adult. They’ll wait it out to see if he’ll return before sending out men.”
Then, it came.
I buried my face further into my hands.
“I got him,” mom said.
“Piper. How about something to eat? I may not be as good as Emerson, but I can whip up something. Anything you want,” Sarah said.
I look at the clock.
I shook my head.
“What should we do?” Sarah whispered to Tyler.
Tyler exhales softly, “I’ll go to their house to check if Emerson is back. Stay here with Piper. Make sure she doesn’t go anywhere.”
Sarah nods, “I’ll call the others to see if they heard from him.”
Tyler placed a hand on my shoulder, “Everything will be okay.”
The front door opened.
Then, it closed.
I didn’t know how much time had passed until it opened again.
“Did you find them?” Sarah whispered.
I couldn’t hear Tyler’s response, but the silence says it all.
Emerson and Crystal didn’t go home.
“Where is Piper?”
“Still in the kitchen,” Sarah responded. “I tried to tell her to get some sleep, but she’s afraid that Emerson may call her, and she’ll miss it.”
The longer I sit there, the darker my thoughts become. I couldn’t stop it—these images.
“Piper,” Tyler said. I turn my head towards him. “How about some sleep? I’ll stay awake and keep an ear open. Okay?”
My eyes cast back to the phone, and steadily, my shaky thumbnail went into my mouth. I chew on it viciously, all the way into the flesh.
“I promise,” Tyler said. “I’ll stay awake.”
Sarah sighed softly before she headed towards us. “How about this? You can sleep here on the couch. So, when Emerson calls, we can just give the phone to you.” Sarah smiled widely, “Okay?”
That isn’t a bad idea.
I should rest.
Emerson would want that.
Tyler and Sarah exhale softly before Sarah helps me walk to the couch. Before I could settle down, the phone rang. Instantly, I leaped up and rushed towards my cell phone.
With clumsy hands, I answered the phone. “H-H-Hello?”
I pressed the phone closer to my ear, “B-Baby?” My hand went over my mouth. “Baby. Where are you?” Moments like this, I should be angry, but I’m not- I’m scared.
Afraid I’ll lose my husband and daughter.
“M-M-Mommy,” Crystal cries. “I’m scared, mommy. I’m scared.” More cries.
“Baby, where are you?”
“Th-They took him m-mommy. They took daddy.”
“Who took daddy?”
“B-Bad man. They hit him, and they took him, and he told me to run and...and-” She’s hyperventilating.
“Baby. Listen to mommy, okay?” I pat my hand on my chest. I could feel it, the storm inside.
“Tell me about the last place you remember you went with daddy.”
“The one with the giant candy ring. D-Daddy got me one. I’m sorry. Did they take d-d-daddy because I didn’t listen? Is it because I kept crying until he got me a c-candy ring? I p-p-promise I won’t cry for c-candy anymore.” This isn’t good. She’s self-blaming.
“No, baby. No. It’s okay. Mommy told daddy that you can have one.” I can taste the saltiness. “So, can you please tell mommy what you see right now?”
“T-Trees. There’s a lot of t-t-trees.”
I look at Tyler, “Trees?”
“The forest,” Tyler said. He turned towards Sarah, “Call the cops. Tell them we have a lost child.”
My nails clawed into my cheeks. I need to think. We can’t send out a search party blind. Trees surround MistVille.
Then, it happened.
“GPS!” I screamed. I’m an idiot, I know. I should’ve thought about that earlier, but it didn’t cross my mind. I stood up, “Listen, baby. Stay on the phone with mommy, okay?”
“M-Mommy. The phone is beeping.”
It must be low on battery. I told Emerson to charge Crystal’s emergency phone earlier, but he never listens. When I find him, he’s going to get the beating of his life. For buying Crystal more candy and not charging the phone.
I closed my eyes, and the tears drilled down, “Unicorn. I need to end the call.”
“No! Please, mommy! I won’t be a bad girl anymore. Please, don’t leave me a-alone. I’m scared. I’ll eat all my veggies. I-I-I-I’ll go to bed on time. Please. Please. Please, don’t leave me.”
“I’m not going to leave you, baby. I will never leave you.” I leaned against the table and chewed inside my mouth until it bled again. I didn’t want to end the call. “Mommy is going to go get you now. I can’t talk on the phone and drive at the same time, remember?”
She didn’t respond.
“Remember how daddy said mommy is so clumsy, and she should never drive and talk at the same time?”
“So, you understand, right? I’ll be there really...really fast. Wait for me, okay?”
She’s still crying. Of course, she is. It’s terrifying out there. “O-Okay.”
“I love you, Unicorn.”
“I love you too, mommy.”
Immediately, the sirens arrived in front of our house—perks of living in a small peaceful town. Quickly, Tyler explained the situation and gave the GPS location to the police. We entered Tyler’s car, and he drove us towards the area with police escort.
I wanted to go earlier, but Tyler refused to let me go. He said that with my state, I would run multiple red lights or off a cliff.
Tyler pressed his hand into my shoulder, “Everything will be okay.”
Those were the exact words everyone kept telling me throughout the day. But I’m still anxious. I covered my mouth. I wanted to throw up. My eyes would flicker towards the GPS and wait for the number to go down. It’s too slow.
When we arrived at the location, I grabbed my phone and threw myself out of the car. The hair scattered over my face, and with my clumsy fingers, I switched on the light then rushed into the forest.
“Piper!” Tyler shouted. “Wait!”
I waited enough inside the car. With each step I took, the storm in my brain escalated - it’s painful. It’s different from a typical headache. It felt as if someone tore open my brain and swallow their hands inside, then squeeze it firmly.
“Crystal! Emerson!” Tyler shouted with the other policemen.
The woods were ominously quiet, almost as if it swallowed my baby whole. And all I could hear was the leaves in the gusty wind. “Unicorn!” I screamed.
I looked around, only to see darkness. “Emmy!”
The calmer the forest sound, the more anxious I got. “Unicorn! It’s mommy!”
My toes dug deep into the soil, and I cupped my hands towards my mouth. “Unicorn! Emmy!”
Tyler grabbed my elbow and pulled me back, “Piper. You’re bleeding.”
My feet were a deep shade of red. Whether it’s because of the cold or the fact that the branches dug deep into it. I don’t know. “I need to find them. They’re out there. It’s cold.” I tugged away from his grasp and moved forward. “Unicorn! Emmy!” I wiped the tears from my eyes. I shouldn’t cry. It will only cripple me from the search. “U-Unicorn!”
When I heard a small voice, I rushed towards it.
I didn’t bother to stop at the trench. Instead, I dove into it. The branch scratched against my forehead, and the rock scraped against my shoulder. “Unicorn? Unicorn?”
From inside the tree, a small figure crawled out.
“M-Mommy!” Crystal rushed towards me, and she sobbed into my chest unceasingly. Her hands clutched onto my shirt. Her body- it’s cold.
I held her in silence and rocked her back and forth. “It’s okay, Crystal. Mommy is here. I’m here.”
“They took daddy! They t-t-took daddy!” she cried into my shirt. Crystal looked up at me with her glossy eyes. One of them was blue.
I held her cheeks, “Baby what-”
Crystal coughed violently, and the blood spilled from her pale lips. The lapse pulled her away, and she blinked heavily with tears. I held her limp body close to my chest. “Help!” I shrieked from the top of my lungs, “Help! Please! Someone! Help!"