“Samuel! This isn’t funny!”
Cynthia searched behind every tree and bush in the backyard, but Samuel was nowhere to be found. The pair had been raking leaves when Samuel had gotten tired of work and wanted to jump in the piles instead.
He had jumped. Cynthia had turned her head to avoid breathing in the cloud of dust. Samuel had never resurfaced.
“Call it off, Samuel! If this is some sick joke you’re trying to pull, I’m not laughing.”
She poked and prodded the pile of leaves with her rake, but only found ground. Cynthia fell to her knees and scattered the leaves around. Samuel was nowhere to be found. He had been swallowed up by the ground.
She called his name multiple times, begging him to return. The only response was the rustling of the few leaves that remained on the tree.
The sun set and turned the whole sky the reds and oranges of the leaves. Cynthia paced across the lawn, not enjoying the sound of leaves crunching under her feet for the first time in ages. What had happened? Where had Samuel gone?
He’d been an ass about practical jokes before, sure. But the thing about Samuel’s jokes was that he always knew when to knock it off. Cynthia was on the verge of tears now, terrified of what had happened to him. If this was a joke, he would have called it off by now.
With the light dying around her, Cynthia raked the leaves back into a pile. Maybe, the strange magic that had taken Samuel could be recreated.
She breathed in the smell around her – leaves, a little dampness, the smell of smoke from someone’s chimney – and focused on Samuel. The way his hands never stopped moving when he talked about something he loved. The way his hair was stick straight, except for the strands at the back of his neck that curled upward. How he always smelled of lavender because he shared a bathroom with three sisters.
Cynthia looked up at her house, knowing her family would be calling her into dinner soon. She loved them, but she would never forgive herself if she didn’t try to do this one impossible thing.
Saying a silent goodbye to her family, Cynthia took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and jumped into the pile of leaves.
Instead of hitting the ground, she fell.