The night before Thanksgiving, I went to bed a little earlier than usual. I wasn't particularly tired, but I was worried, and I didn't want to hang around my parents any more than I had to because I was certain they would be able to tell something was bothering me. Cadence had sat around the house most of that day, trying to act inconspicuous, but I could tell by the way she twisted the ring on her right hand that she was anxious. I wanted to ask her why she had agreed to go to this festival if she knew it was a bad idea, but she had no idea I could overhear her conversations with her friends in her bedroom, and I was still under the impression that breaking her trust would be worse than just letting her go. For the most part, my sister has good judgment, and I still expected her to find a way to talk her friends out of going.
Ever since I'd heard Drew use that wordEidolonI'd been doing some research. I thought if I knew more about where they were headed, maybe I could come up with some sort of a way to trick them into not going. But no matter how much searching I did using the keywords I'd overheard from their conversation, nothing came up. Even though I had heard enough to know this Eidolon Festival in Villisca was supposed to be the night before Thanksgiving at the witching hour, which is 3:00 AM, I couldn't find any more information. I considered asking Emma to help me because, when it comes to computers, Em's a whiz, but I didn't do it. I was still thinking I was overreacting, though somewhere deep down inside, I felt a stirring, like this night would be a turning point of sorts. I played it off, because that just sounds ridiculous. I wish I would've listened to my gut.
We were eating dinner, chicken casserole, one of my mom's specialties, and the table was mostly quiet except for the clatter of silverware. I could tell my mom was going over her list for Thanksgiving dinner in her head, and my dad was probably thinking about the football games he'd be watching the next day. Cadence was much quieter than usual, and I wanted to ask her to stay there with me that night, to watch a movie, but when she was done eating, she cleared her throat and said, "I'm heading over to Drew's."
"Oh?" my mom had said, clearly not expecting that.
"Yeah. She's having us all over to watch movies. I might just sleep over at her house. I don't want to come back in the middle of the night and wake everyone up."
My sister wasn't looking at either one of my parents. She was looking right over their heads, like she couldn't meet their eyes. And I wanted to yell out, "Liar!" But instead I shoved a forkful of noodles and overcooked chicken in my mouth.
Dad looked at Mom and shrugged. "Okay, honey. Just be back plenty early in the morning."
"I was hoping you could give me a hand in the kitchen." My mom managed a small smile, but she didn't protest. Now, I wonder if perhaps her intuition had kicked in, and she'd somehow sensed her oldest daughter was in danger, but like me, she'd chosen to ignore that voice in the back of her head.
"Sure. I'll be back in plenty of time," Cadence had said, a nervous smile on her face. She'd scooted her chair back, the legs screeching across the surface of the oak floor beneath our feet, and took her plate into the kitchen. I wanted to follow her, to confront her. I'd taken another bite of my dinner now, tasting nothing.
The break in the silence started a conversation between my parents, and my mom started talking about the sales on Friday. She has friends who go Black Friday shopping, and while she's not much of a fan herself because of the crowds, she seemed to be considering going this year.
"May I be excused?" I asked, interrupting their conversation.
"Sure," my mom had said as if she wasn't expecting me to be so polite. I'm not sure why I asked eitherit's not a rule at my housebut I was in the kitchen a few seconds later, practically running into Cadence as she came around the corner of the counter by the dishwasher.
"Oh, Cass. You scared me," she'd said, clutching her chest.
I'd wanted to say if she scares that easily, perhaps she shouldn't go out tonight, but I had just stood there, holding my half-eaten dinner. I remember noticing she wasn't quite dressed like someone who was going to her friend's house to watch movies. She was wearing knee-high brown boots, thick tights, and a skirt. I'd seen her bring down her brown jacket, which I assumed she'd toss over her brown cashmere sweater. I didn't comment on the fact that sleeping in that outfit wouldn't be very comfortable, and maybe she should consider taking an overnight bag. Instead, I just muttered, "Sorry," and stepped around her to scrape off my plate.
"You got plans tonight?" she'd asked. My sister was always trying to figure out whether or not I had a secret boyfriend. I could see the twinkle in her eye as she hinted that this is what she was really asking.
"No," I'd said, thinking now would be the perfect time to tell her I know more about her plans than I was letting on. Instead, I turned on the tap and rinsed my plate before sticking it into the dishwasher next to hers.
"Well, you should call one of your friends or something. You never have any fun, Cass."
I was thinking, At least I am not sneaking out behind Mom and Dad's backs, but I just looked at her, wondering why we were so different. I would have never considered doing such a thing, and my sister was supposed to be a good girl, too, though I know that wasn't the first time she had lied to our parents.
I must've been staring too intently, because her forehead furrowed. "You okay, Cass? You feeling all right?"
"I'm fine," I managed, trying to force a smile, but my face was frozen, and I am guessing it came across as a grimace.
She did not look convinced. "Okay. Well, I hope you find something fun to do." She smiled at me and headed toward the kitchen door.
"Cadence!" I hadn't meant for my voice to be so loud, but she stopped and turned to face me, still puzzled. I'd taken a few quick steps over to her and wrapped my arms around her. It took her a moment to hug me back, and at the time, she probably thought I'd lost all of my marbles. "Be careful," I said into her shoulder.
A nervous giggle escaped her lips. "I'm just going to Drew's," she reminded me.
Somehow, I managed to regain my composure and stepped back, releasing her. "Right."
Cadence continued to look at me like she thought I might need to be professionally evaluated before she said, "Goodnight, Cassidy," and backed out of the swinging door into the dining room.
"Goodnight." Only she hadn't heard me. She was gone by then. I could've run after her, grabbed ahold of her, and not let go until she promised me she wouldn't go to that stupid festival, but I didn't do it. I stood in the kitchen, fighting back tears, wishing I'd been strong enough to speak up. While I was certainly unsettled, even then, I had no idea that was the last time I'd ever see my sister alive. She'd come back to the house later that night, but by then, I'm pretty sure the change had already started taking shape, and she was already undead.
Whatever the reason, I'd gone to bed early that night, thinking there was a shift on the horizon, something bigger than anything I'd ever known before. Eventually, I dozed off, but my suspicions that all was not well were confirmed when I awoke sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 AM to the sounds of an unfamiliar voice coming from my sister's room, an engine outside, and footsteps on the roof.