In My Reality
By: Cameo Renae
“Lizzy, will I go to heaven?” Annie asked, standing next to my bed, twirling a strand of her long blonde hair.
I looked into her wide blue eyes and wished I could hold her in my arms and comfort her. But I couldn’t. Because Annie was dead.
“Of course you will,” I breathed.
“Then why am I still here?”
“I think it’s because your parents need to know you’re okay, and you need to know they’ll be fine once you cross over,” I tried to explain. “That’s why you were sent to me. I’m going to help you find them.”
She nodded, sorrowfully. “Do you think they miss me?”
“Of course they miss you. I’m certain they’re heartbroken, and wondering what happened to you.”
Her hands fisted the sides of her frilly pink dress as she twisted side to side. “Do you want to know what happened to me?” she murmured.
No, is what I wanted to say.
I didn’t want to relive the gruesome memories that transpired before and during her death. Having witnessed Michael’s death, through his eyes, nearly killed me inside. The thought of what that sick bastard could have done to this beautiful eight-year-old girl made my stomach turn.
But he was still out there, and if there was any way I could help to put him away, which included witnessing the events which led up to her death…I would do it.
I accepted her offer, and when I fell asleep, Annie showed me what happened.
We’re in a parking lot, and I watch as Annie walks next to her mother, who’s pushing a cart full of food. After they load the trunk of their car, Annie’s mom pulls the cart toward a return area, nearly twenty steps away.
“Annie, wait right here. I’ll be right back,” her mom says, hurrying toward the return stall.
“Okay, Mommy,” Annie replies, fixing her doll’s dress while humming a tune. She has on the same pink dress she wears as a spirit.
From the right, a black Ford Mustang GT with dark tinted windows speeds through the lot, coming to a screeching halt next to Annie. The driver opens his door, yanks Annie in, and peels out of the parking lot.
I’m shocked at how fast it happens.
Annie’s mom screams, running after the car, but in seconds, it’s gone. She drops to the ground, wailing, before frantically grabbing her purse and dialing 911. The parking lot fills with people trying to console her.
My body leaves the scene at the parking lot and is thrust forward, until I’m sitting in the backseat of the kidnapper’s car. It’s filled with cigarette smoke, and beer bottles are carelessly tossed all over the backseat and floor.
Annie is screaming, calling out to her mother, but her cries fall on deaf, murderous ears. The asshole drives into an empty parking lot and threatens her. Spittle flies from his mouth as he screams at her to shut up. His eyes are dilated and bloodshot. His arms are riddled with track marks. He’s obviously a junkie.
When Annie doesn’t stop crying, he roughly grabs her and duct tapes her arms behind her back, and then her mouth shut. I want to vomit, knowing exactly what she was feeling. I could see it in her eyes. An indescribable fear.
After binding and silencing her, the man speeds away, down the highway, heading out of Anchorage. He looks young, in his mid-to-late twenties, with clean-cut, jet-black hair.
I don’t notice any tattoos or piercings, but he is wearing an onyx ring. In the center of the ring is a symbol, outlined in silver. After closer examination, I realize it’s a goat head in the shape of a pentagram.
He turns down a dirt road and continues to an area concealed by trees, somewhere near Eagle River.
I woke up, sobbing, my face soaked with tears. The rest of the nightmare had been all-consuming horror. I wanted to kill him, and I wanted to do it slowly. He didn’t deserve to live or breathe the same air that Annie once did. He deserved to suffer horribly, for the rest of his life and then some more in the afterlife.
“Don’t cry, Lizzy,” Annie whispered, standing beside me. “He can’t hurt me anymore.”
“I’m so glad, sweetie,” I said, wiping the tears from my face.
Every time I thought about what that son of a bitch did to her, I started bawling all over again. The only thing that kept me going was Annie…knowing she no longer felt fear, pain, or sadness.
She had come to me because she needed my help, and I promised her I would find her parents and help locate the murderer.
Because Officer Cross trusted my gifts, after what had happened with Michael’s murder, the next morning I went down to the police station and gave him every bit of information I had. The type of car, what the man looked like, his ring, and the location of the crime.
I barely held myself together during the interview, but Annie was with me, urging me to go on. Officer Cross assured me he would look into it, and would let me know if he came up with anything.
Over the next few days, they located and exhumed Annie’s body from a shallow grave, and began the search for her murderer.
Officer Cross called Annie’s parents and shared the news. There was no easy way to tell her parents that their child was brutally murdered.
Her mother took it especially hard and was nearly inconsolable. I could hardly blame her.
Annie’s family lived in Oregon, and they only happened to be in Alaska for a mini-vacation when it happened. I couldn’t imagine the pain and emotion that must have been running through them, having to return to Oregon without their daughter
Officer Cross also explained who I was, and arranged for me to meet with them.
The next day, I was driving down to Portland, and when I arrived at their house, my stomach twisted in knots.
First, I had to explain who I was—a complete stranger who had specific details on their daughter’s kidnapping and death.
I was terrified that they wouldn’t understand, but instead, they invited me in and listened. Annie was with me the entire time, standing right beside me, giving me information. Details only she would know.
The longer I talked, the more I saw the walls of doubt and distrust around them slowly crumble away.
They had tons of questions and so much they wanted to say to their daughter. And by the end of the visit, both of her parents wrapped me in their arms, tears streaming down their faces. Although their worst fears had come to pass, they now had answers. I was able to give them the one thing they were desperately searching for since their daughter’s disappearance.
I was glad to have been a part of their healing process. Now, they could try and move on, knowing Annie was at peace.
Annie spent one final night with me. She was afraid of what was on the other side, and I did my best to reassure her it was a beautiful place, filled with light and love. Especially knowing that Michael was there.
When the time came, and she was finally ready, her grandmother, who’d passed a few years before, appeared to help her with the transition. Before she left, she stood in front of me and smiled.
“Goodbye, Lizzy. I’ll never forget you.”
“And I’ll never forget you, Annie.”
With tears streaming down my face, and my heart aching, Annie finally crossed over. It was a beautiful moment, and I cried for days afterward.
I couldn’t help but grow attached to the little girl, especially since we’d been together for a few weeks. She kept my mind busy, and now that she was gone, the loneliness weighed heavy again.
I was exhausted and weak, mentally and physically.
Being in the presence of spirits was draining, and although I was happy with the outcome, Annie depleted me.
I wished I was Sleeping Beauty. That I could prick my finger on a spindle and fall into a deep, death-like sleep.
At least for a month.
Three years later
“Get your lazy ass out of bed and start packing,” Emily said, her bright voice blaring through the receiver. “Tyler and I are coming to pick you up this weekend and bring you down to Cali for spring break.”
“What?” I squeaked, rolling over to check the time and wipe the sleep from my eyes. “No, I—”
“You know I don’t know the meaning of that word.”
“And, you know how I am around crowds.”
“Only since Michael passed, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen my bestie. You need to rejoin society, Lizzy. It’s been three years. Live a little.”
I pulled the covers over my head and let out a huff. There was no way she’d take no for an answer. Em was more stubborn than an earthbound ghost on a mission.
“How am I getting home?”
“You’ll be flying. And before you go all drama llama on me, I’ve already got your ticket and the spare bedroom ready.” She squealed loudly. “I’m running out the door for a quick appointment, but I’ll call you later. Kiss, kiss.” Hanging up the phone, she left me spinning.
The introvert in me panicked. Spring break in California sounded like an absolute nightmare.
I pictured a bunch of drunken college students, pressed together, with loud music blaring…and there would be me, desperately trying to claw my way out of the middle, gasping for air.