My Sister had a Wild Imagination – By MerryMagpie
From the time I was ten, my mother trusted me to look after my baby sister in lieu of a sitter. Living on a farm with our closest neighbor a good mile away, it was easier to give me some extra allowance money rather than hassle another grownup. Besides, I was a responsible boy, and my sister wasn’t exactly a handful.
Wendy was always an imaginative little girl. She could sit down and come up with such fascinating little stories about the world around her. Nothing ever was as it seemed; everything always had an alternate explanation.
Those scratching sounds in the attic come fall? It wasn’t squirrels. There were fairy folk burrowing in the walls, to keep out of the cold.
The fog that covered the pumpkin patches at nights was there so we couldn’t see witches and trolls stealing our vegetables.
There was even a sasquatch living in the woods surrounding our property. But, he didn’t like to come out. Apparently he was shy.
I always enjoyed listening to her stories. It was an escape away from the mundane farm life that we had to live. We’d set out on treasure hunts around the house, trying to find gold or some strange little men Wendy called ‘mole-people’. Our little adventures always made her laugh, and I’d feel like the best big brother in the whole world.
The end of June the year I turned twelve was when it all started to fall apart.
I was coming home with my dad after spending the afternoon with my friend Calvin. We’d had no homework, and I’d called home begging my mother to let me hang out at the arcade with Calvin for a few hours; promising I’d do all of my chores the following day. My mother said yes, and told me to wait for my dad at six-thirty.
School let out at three-thirty, meaning Calvin and I had almost three whole hours to play whatever video games we wanted. The arcade was the perfect place for a young boy like me. Being 2002 we didn’t really have cell phones or computer games, and I didn’t have an Xbox yet. My mom had been firm about not letting me have one until I was thirteen.
When we got home, my mother was in the kitchen. She handed my dad a beer and he went to go sit in his armchair. Once he was in it, he usually wouldn’t move until it was time for bed.
My mother smiled at me, “Hey, green-bean! Did you have fun?”
“Yeah! Thanks for letting me go.”
“Well, I think you deserved some free time,” she said, taking meatloaf out of the oven. “Can you do me a favour, green-bean? Call your sister inside and then go wash up? Dinner’s ready.”
The kitchen lead to the back porch and backyard. My dad had built the porch himself. I used to think it was a pretty neat structure, but looking back, I’m amazed it didn’t collapse on us. I walked through the kitchen to the deck, shutting the door behind me.
Right away, I knew something was off. Our backyard consisted of twenty-ish yards of grass, which abruptly ended into some thick woods. Some of Wendy’s toys were scattered just before the tree-line. I turned my head left and right, but I couldn’t see Wendy anywhere.
“Wendy! Mom says it’s dinner time!” I called, in case she’d gone around the side of the house. Nothing. No reply. A knot began to form in my stomach. Wendy always came when I called her. At the very least, she responded.
I jogged off the porch toward her toys. It looked like she’d been having a tea party with a few barbies. Nothing looked disturbed. I was worried. Wendy was a clever little girl, but she was also six years old and incredibly naive. Had someone coaxed her away from the house? I began to panic.
“Wendy!” I called again.
The long grass by the tree line rustled a bit, and out bounded my little sister. She smiled at me, running toward me full-tilt. I sighed in relief, picking her up.
She giggled, “Hi, Danny!”
“Wendy, Jesus. You scared me. What did mom and dad tell you about going in the woods by yourself?”
Her face fell, and she explained that she hadn’t gone past the big pine tree right at the front of the treeline. That she didn’t realize nobody could see her.
“Okay, but, lesson learned, right?” I asked.
Wendy nodded, “Right.”
I looked her up and down. She was covered in dirt and grass stains. “Christ, you’re filthy! You need a bath, ASAP.”
I turned and cartted her back inside. My mother took one look at my sister, sighed, and took her to the bathroom to wash her off. I went back outside and collected her toys.
At dinner that night, Wendy announced that she’d made a new friend.
“That’s great, sweetie,” my mother said, “is she in your class?”
Wendy looked at my mother, “No! He doesn’t go to school. He lives in the woods.” She pointed toward the kitchen door.
My mother and I exchanged a look. This was yet another one of Wendy’s imaginary friends. She had plenty of real ones, so there was nothing to worry about, but it was rather difficult to keep up with them all. I’ll admit, there was a downside to her imagination.
Deciding to encourage her, I asked, “What’s his name?”
“Is he your age?”
She shook her head, brown curls bouncing, “No, he’s nine-sixteen.”
Uh…okay. That was weird. I looked at my mother, but the look on her face told me she had no clue what that meant either. She asked Wendy what she meant, but all she said was:
“He’s nine, but he says he’s been nine for sixteen years.”
That just left us with more questions than answers. But my mother and I shrugged it off, Wendy had said equally pequliar things before, so we paid no mind to it.
As the weeks went on, Wendy talked about Oliver more and more. He was a regular boy, but there was green stuff growing all over him. He only had one shoe, and his clothes were all dirty. He liked to kill bugs and run fast. But he hated the water. His mummy and daddy were very mean to him, so he’d run away to live in the woods with his friend Grover (who my sister never met personally, but according to Oliver was eleven-sixteen years old).
She would play with him after school, and then all day when summer began and school let out. I’d look after her during the daytime, and she’d beg me to take her into the woods so she could play with Oliver and not get in trouble. More often than not, I gave into her requests. I liked the woods, and I liked to paint when I was a kid. So, I’d take a canvas, easel and paints to a spot, and Wendy would talk to Oliver up in the trees.
One day I asked her, “Why doesn’t Oliver come down here, so you can talk to him easier?”
“Oh, Oliver doesn’t want you to see him,” she said.
“He thinks you’re a asshole.”
I asked her where she learned that word. Can you guess what she said? Yep, Oliver, of course. I told her that that wasn’t a nice thing to say, and that our father would wash her mouth out with soap if she said it again.
Things continued to get weird. One night my father came home from work really late. When he came upstairs, he heard giggling from Wendy’s room. It was several hours past her bedtime, so my father went to check on her.
When he entered her room, he found Wendy standing next to her open window, just staring outside. When my father asked he what she was doing, she said with a deadpan expression:
“Talking to Oliver. But you can’t see him, he’s gone now.”
My father put her to bed without another word. Years later he would admit to me that that incident gave him chills for days afterward.
The last time I heard her talk about Oliver was in mid-August. I came inside from throwing a tennis ball against the wall of the house to find Wendy crying quietly on the couch. My big brother instinct kicked in, and I asked her what was wrong.
She looked at me with sad brown eyes, sniffled and said, “Oliver’s being mean to me. He says he wants me to come live in the woods with him. But I don’t wanna go, Danny! I told him I couldn’t because I’d miss mommy and daddy and you too much, and he got really mad. He said I was a bad friend and that he’d make me live in the woods with him if it was the last thing he did. I’m scared, Danny.”
At this point, I’d had enough of Oliver. My sister was letting him get out of control, and now this was ridiculous. I was done. As calmly as I could, I took her by the shoulders and told her, “Wendy, Oliver isn’t real.”
She opened her mouth (probably to yell ‘he is too!’ or something) but I didn’t let her. “Oliver is all in your head. You made him up. You know what that means? That means he can’t hurt you, because he’s not really there. I’m real, you’re real, he isn’t. You understand?”
Wendy reluctantly nodded, and I felt relieved. I hoped I’d never hear about him again, and I could just enjoy my last two weeks of vacation before starting sixth grade.
Two days later, Wendy disappeared.
My mother went to wake her up, and was given the shock of her life when she opened the bedroom door. The place was a mess. There was dirt and grass everywhere. The sheets had been torn up like paper, and the window was wide open. But perhaps the most disturbing part were the muddy handprints on the walls. Dozens of them.
I don’t remember much else about that day. Police were called. They took statements. No, we hadn’t heard a struggle. No, we didn’t know anybody who wanted to harm us or her.
I remembered what she told me a few days earlier. Deep down, a part of me thought Oliver made good on his promise, and that he dragged my sister into the woods. I actually thought about mentioning it to police. I didn’t.
A large search party combed the woods on our property. Dogs caught her scent, then lost it again. The only thing they found was a dirty scrap of her nightgown. As the months turned into a year, then two, the case went cold. To this day, Wendy is still missing.
I grew up with a void in my home after that. I still feel it, still long to see her smile, hear her stories. My mother turned to alcohol to cope with the loss. My father distanced himself from everyone, too heartbroken to care. I did poorly in school after that, and it was a miracle that I got my shit together in order to go to college.
I’m twenty-eight now, and I have a family of my own. My little girl, Emily, is five now and is just like her aunt. Full of imagination and stories. And as I sit here typing this, I’m starting to wonder if she’s imagining things at all.
She told me something today that chilled me to the bone. Said she made a new friend named Wendy, who lives in the park behind our house. And that Wendy is six-sixteen years old.