I heard a sound outside after mother and father had kissed me goodnight and left my room for theirs. I slowly crept from the bed to the window and peered out into the garden. There, beyond the row of stunted beans, I could see my father digging in the ground with the big shovel he kept for gardening.
The moon shone down and even in the darkness everything was lit with silver. I saw him pick something up from the ground and hold it for a moment as he wiped sweat from his brow.
The stuffed bear! My blood ran cold and sweat pricked at my skin.
He dropped it into the hole he had dug. He bent down again, stood upright with a container in his hands and poured some kind of liquid into the hole with the bear. I realised it was oil when he lit it and watched it burn. His hand made the sign against evil in the air in front of him and fear gripped my heart.
Acrid smoke rose into the sky and I wanted to choke when the smell reached me. It seemed unclean, not like the homely smell of the wood burning in the kitchen stove. As I watched, father made another sign in the air and the smoke dissipated, bright blue flashes of light following unseen lines in the sky. As the blue light died away, he shovelled the dirt back into the hole, covering the burnt teddy bear and smothering the flames that still licked at the stuffed toy. He nodded, then, as if to say to himself ‘job well done’.
As he turned and started walking towards the house, I ducked down out of sight.
I crawled back into bed shivering and drew the covers over my head, creating a cocoon where my fearful tears would be hidden. A fitful sleep overcame me even as my limbs still shivered and tears wet my pillow. Always the plane’s wreckage loomed in my dreams. But this night, there was something — someone — else. Someone who wore my face but was not me. Someone who laughed and held the teddy bear father had burned in their arms.
“Who are you?” I demanded, but the me-not-me only laughed. He reached out an ice-blue hand to me and, before I could pull away, touched my chest.
I woke up screaming in the darkness.