By Jessica N. Arzola-Grissom
Danielle knew she would forget something important and ruin the day. She forgot to ask for hushpuppies with the cheeseburger order. Rushing to the line, she noticed her brother was almost finished placing the order. Slightly embarrassed, she yelled “Hushpuppies! A large side of hushpuppies! You know Dawn won’t eat that cheeseburger without them.” David grinned and added that to their order. Dawn looked up and smiled at him. She was too shy to vocalize what she wanted or needed and would mentally withdraw if things weren’t consistent.
Suddenly, Danielle looked behind her shoulder as she felt someone’s intense gaze. There were a lot of people in the crowd. The fair was always bustling with people going from one exhibit to the next and taking a break amongst the array of fried foods. Her eyes darted back and forth trying to recognize any of the faces bustling about. She could’ve sworn someone had been staring at her.
Danielle suddenly felt a bit nauseous from the range of smells. Maybe a bathroom break was next on the agenda. She looked ahead and her heart skipped a beat when she didn’t see Dawn. Her eyes darted around and landed on David. He looked just as panicked and said, “She was just here!”
They began calling her name. Danielle felt terror taking over. Their mother would kill them for letting Dawn wander off alone. Or what if she hadn’t wandered off? Danielle’s heart started racing and she said, “David, we must find her. You stay here in case she comes right back. I will check the women’s restroom.” He nodded yes and she quickly darted off. The ache in her stomach intensified when she called Dawn’s name with no reply. She wanted to throw up but didn’t have time.
As she left the restroom, she felt eyes watching her again. Whirling around, she saw a man with a circular tattoo around his eye. When he looked at her, the tattoo started dialing like a stopwatch. As it bursts of blue light moved around it, she felt a pain pierce her stomach. Suddenly, she knew this man would take her to the same place as Dawn. They wouldn’t be going home tonight. Their mother was going to spiral in the agony of their absence.
The family eventually held a funeral, but they weren’t dead. Danielle felt the screams erupting from her soul. Reaching through the darkness, her fingertips brushed against the word nadir. She must find a way out of the madness.
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Jessica N. Arzola-Grissom lives in a small Texas town with her husband and son. Her writing has appeared in various print and online publications including The Image, LogoSophia, Valiant Scribe, Reedsy, Digging Press, and Latine Lit. In 2022, her poem Adventura, won 2nd place in the Irene Emmerson Poetry competition. The Rainbow recently appeared in the anthology titled Scars.