The car was rolling down the highway. It stopped, all of a sudden. A girl was by the window, a beam of light under her face.
“Claire,” the man who found her, Benjamin Fillmore, declared. “Claire Fillmore. She will be my daughter.”
Lois Harvey gaped at him, but still he pressed on. The paperwork was completed, and he took the girl home. She remained like a statue, still-faced and unmoving. No, to Lois, she wasn’t alive enough for Claire Fillmore. She was an Obscura, Obscura Delusia.
The school was terrified. They locked their doors to her slow, menacing gait, her unblinking, bug-eyed stare. Benny raced to the school, and after a couple harsh words, secured her into a fifth-grade class. Lois glanced at the girl, feeling like a toddler in spite of her gray hair.
Lucy, Benny’s sister, grinned apologetically. “One of the many surprises about…my niece.”
Lois nodded over her coffee. “Must be a shock, for Mr. Irresponsible to suddenly be a dad.”
Lucy opened her mouth, about to say what Lois wanted her to say, but instead she uneasily agreed. A wave of energy pummeled the cafe, throwing the women to the floor. Scrambling out the broken windows, their vision swayed upon seeing the school.
Like black streams, people were flinging themselves out the building, the reaching orange clawing for them. Rushing there, they found Benny, desperately trying to rush past the tangle of arms trapping him. “Let me go!” he begged, “Let me go, she’s still in there! Claire! Claire!” Piles of soot-covered bodies fell all around; in the smoke, Lois’s heart turned bleak.
The fire raged for three days. A week later, a cabinet made of black cherry, barely even a singe on its surface, flew open. A little face, eyeless by the shadows her flashlight created, peered out.
Their houses burnt down, the Fillmores and Lois left to a little town in Illinois. The neighborhood was sleepy, its people even sleepier. They took one glance at Obscura, then nodded at their tea. Needless to say, it was admittedly a bit easier to live here in Benny’s opinion.
Trouble found them, though. One day, Obscura left for school, never returning. Benny called the school, then the police. Desperately, he roamed the streets, starting at every light beam, every sallow face.
He withered away. It hurt Lois to gaze at him. All hope, for Claire and him, was on the brink of vanishing, when a knock sounded at the door.
“Claire?” The plate Lois was holding crashed at Benny’s word. Peeking over his shoulder, she saw Obscura between two officers and a frowning woman. Her expression remained blank from above the light, almost bored, if Lois was honest.
Benny didn’t seem to notice. He rushed to hug the girl, when the woman stopped him. “We found her wandering in the woods,” she explained, voice tight. “Her ear was ripped off.”
“What?” He blinked.
The woman’s eyes sharpened, and she pressed a box into Benny’s hand. Shaking, staring at Obscura, he lifted the lid. Lois and Lucy crept over, stomachs already churning.
“What!” The woman grabbed the box from them, and her jaw dropped.
The officers’ grim expressions changed to one of annoyance. “Causing trouble again, Ms. Desmond?”
“Our apologies, sir. We’ll leave now.” Dragging Ms. Desmond with them, the officers drove off.
Checking her ears, Benny crushed her in an embrace. She showed no reaction. “You’re safe, Claire,” he whispered with relief, “You’re safe.” Passing by her that night, Lois swore that Obscura’s ear glowed through the gloom.
The following day, Benny decided to throw Obscura a surprise party, his culinary genius of a sister helping him with the food. That left Lois to keep her away until it was time. Not wanting to stress her friend, who’d already been through so much, Lois agreed, but grumbled on the inside.
“What am I even supposed to do with her?” she asked herself as she blindly tore down the road on her motorcycle.
She glanced at the perfect stranger sitting in front of her, so statuesque, unmoved. Even under the blinding sun, her flashlight was wide awake. Lois inhaled deeply, merging onto the highway.
Unnoticed, Obscura’s shoulders eased down. Her fingers loosened, her arms flew out. Something gentle crossed her face.
Her light switched off. In that moment, Lois noticed. She screamed, crashing.
Coming to, Lois heard a familiar voice wheezing by her. “No, no…”
“Benny!” She found him lying rod-straight, staring at the sky. “Benny, what’s wrong?”
“No…” he croaked, tears streaming as he was piled into an ambulance, Lucy and Lois sobbing.
Elsewhere, Obscura Delusia floated in darkness. Her scar glowed furiously. Like that week after the fire, Obscura waited, flashlight flickering.
By Sankavi Sampath
Grade 11, Southampton High School