• Creaking doors, leering dolls, whispers from the closet. What is that strange shadow crossing the floor? All things dark and weird conspire to quicken your heartbeat and keep you... Awake at Midnight !

Charlotte by Fiona R. Burke

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River Midnight

“Merlin! The police are here!” My mom screamed, sounding worried. Did they find her? I wondered. I ran down the stairs so fast, I don’t even think my feet touched the steps. The police were talking to my mom. She had her hand over her mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut and bit my lip so hard, I tasted blood. Oh no! Please let Charlotte be okay! I prayed. My best friend Charlotte has been missing for three weeks, six days, seven hours, and five minutes. Not that I’m keeping track or anything. She has always been there for me. Even when I was a butt.

“Hello, Miss Mistlin,” I heard one of the police officers begin. I opened my eyes. Oh great, it’s the Chief of Police, Officer Malayen. She despised Charlotte. “We found an empty boat at River Midnight. And if we can’t find Charlotte by August 17th, we will have to close the case of Charlotte Clark.” Her words rang in my ears. CLOSE… THE… CASE. Is it time? Should I tell them? My mom would be so disappointed in me for not telling her the truth immediately. I’ve had it while now. Then my three-year-old sisters, Shayna and Shawna happily slid down the stairs on their behinds. When they saw the police, they burst into tears.

“Mommy! The big mans are gunna take Mer-Mer away!” Shayna wailed.

“Sweetheart! Merlin isn’t going anywhere!” My mom assured.

“Then they gunna lock her up in the busment!” Shawna realized, crying even harder.

“Um, it’s basement” My mom corrected. They tore up the stairs as fast as their little legs could take them. My mom raced after them.

“Now!” I solicited myself.

“She left me a note.” I murmured. It was a letter stuck in a golden envelope. To Merlin, it said in her beautiful handwriting. I used to be jealous of that handwriting, but now I would give anything to see it sprawl out of her pencil, her hand moving so fast! The letter said,

Merlin, I am running away. If you want to see me. I’m at the woods next to River Midnight. I’m so sorry.   Love, Charlotte

Officer Malayen ripped it out of my hand and stormed out. The other officers followed her, and so did I.

“No, Merlin,” she insisted. “You are far too young. This is a problem for the adults to solve,”
What? Everyone in my town of Raven Sky knows I plan on becoming the town’s greatest detective, and she was ruining my dreams!

“But I can help you guys! I know Charlotte best! I know where she would hide!” I shouted.

“Then where’s she hiding?” She asked.

“I– I would have to be there to know!” I sputtered.

“No!” Officer Malayen decided sternly.

“Merlin, sweetie, come here,” my mom called from the top of the stairs.

“Fine!” I exploded. “Go ahead! Don’t find her! Let her die! Let her unfound body decay! You never cared for her and you still don’t!” Tears rolled down my cheeks, my eyes filled with anger. Ughh! Why is life so unfair? I stormed up the stairs, stomping as hard as I could on each step. I sat on the edge of my bed, staring at my ceiling, thinking about Charlotte.

“Sweetie! It’s time for dinner!” My mom called a little later, like nothing had happened. I trudged down the stairs. For once, no one said a word, not even Shayna and Shawna. And you can’t ever get those two to close their mouths! My mom kept looking at me like she wanted to ask me questions, but she was too afraid. I silently chewed. When I was finished, I shoved my plate of half-eaten food away from me, and didn’t take it to the sink. Once upstairs, I lay awake, staring at my ceiling, thinking something I hadn’t thought of before. What if Charlotte really is dead? And the thing that killed her wants me too?
 

The Next Day
DEAD. Something dead was found when Miss Perfect Nira Malayen led her “brave” team of police to “search” for Charlotte. They found a “body”. I knew it had to be a fake. No one else believed me though. They all believed officer Malayen’s lies. Even worse, my mom bought me ice cream, like it made everything better. Not that I have anything against ice cream, but Charlotte is “dead!”

“Maybe you should go to bed,” My mom suggested. I pretended to be asleep until the rest of my family conked out. I took a deep breath and slowly stood, my knees knocking back and forth, crashing into each other like I was a newborn calf. I opened my window and stuck my left leg out. When I lowered my right leg, my foot slipped, and my heart hammered against my chest. I tried to steady myself, but it was too late. I crashed to the ground. OW! My arms and legs were bruised up. But still, I shakily rose to my feet. I ran straight towards my destination: River Midnight.
 

Twisted Tree


When I finally arrived, I leaped straight into the water, which was as warm as soup and seeped into my clothes, weighing me down. Whatever you do, Merlin, don’t think about the creatures lurking in the water, waiting for someone stupid enough to swim in this icky river! I begged myself, so of course that’s all I thought about. I let out a sigh of relief when I finally reached the other side. I threw off my soggy shoes and hiked up my dress. I raced through the woods, not even noticing the pine cones I kept stepping on. Suddenly I froze. When Charlotte and I were little, we used to play here a lot. One of the trees looked different than I remembered. More specifically, one of the branches. I yanked on it and the tree opened, revealing steps leading downwards.

I nervously crept down the stairs. They led into a room with a single cloaked figure. The figure slowly turned around. A shadow cascaded off the hood and fell upon the stranger’s face keeping their identity a secret.

“Merlin?” The stranger sounded genuinely surprised. The hood slipped down and revealed… someone I didn’t know! She had long, curly red hair and shimmery blue eyes. Her freckles were sprayed across her nose and cheeks. They looked like constellations.

“Uh, how do you know my name?” I wondered. She smirked.

“Charlotte has told me so much. Gee, you are so much more scrawny than I thought!” I narrowed my eyes.

“You know Charlotte?” I asked, ignoring her scrawny comment.

“Oh yes, I imagine she’s on her way now!” The girl explained. My heart skipped a beat. Charlotte! Just then the tree opened and Charlotte spilled in.

“Millie, you can leave now.” Charlotte ordered facing the girl with the cloak. She looked really upset by that. My face burned with jealousy, Charlotte was right. We needed some time alone.

“But-”

“Go!” Charlotte insisted. The girl, Millie, obeyed, although unhappily. She scurried up the steps. Charlotte grabbed my hands. Her hands were freezing!

“Charlotte, what’s going on? I don’t… I can’t…” I couldn’t find the words.

“I knew you were the smartest in the village.” She smiled like she hadn’t heard me. Her hands weren’t getting any warmer. I looked into her usually shiny gray eyes, but saw glazed over, frightening eyes. I’ll admit, they were unnerving. She looked like she was trapped in a nightmare. Her eyes were void of happiness and filled with sorrow.

“I’m serious! Why did you leave Raven Sky?” I needed this information!

“For the same reason you had to leave Raven Sky. If you stay, you will suffer the same fate as I.”
 

Epilogue
The next morning Mrs. Mistlin, mother of Merlin Mistlin, went to wake her precious, well-loved eldest daughter, only to find an empty bed. Mrs. Mistlin was furious! Merlin was always playing disrespectful tricks on her dear mother! Afterwards, Mrs. Mistlin would wish if only it had been a trick. Instead, she decided to forget about it.

She spent her day as a normal one, dropping off Shayna and Shawna at daycare, busily working her way through work, talking on her phone with her dear friend Ravonya Clark, the mother of Charlotte; the usual. When Merlin didn’t come home from school, she began to worry. Maybe she’s at a friend’s house, She thought. She grew a little more happy, though a fear lurked inside of her.

Later, Mrs. Mistlin tried to call her. No answer. The poor, terrified woman called the police. The last known evidence of her daughter was a dried out pair of shoes, which Mrs. Mistin kept for years after like a stuffed animal. But it was official, Merlin Mistlin was gone. The same way as Charlotte. And she never was found.

The End


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