Many Worlds Theory

Entry by: Briergate

16th November 2015
Many World Theory

And, it was uncanny. She looked at me when I asked the question - "Have you been here before?"

With solemnity,. her brown eyes upturned as she considered my question, she glanced around and then nodded. My four year-old girl, with her chestnut fringe and button nose, her innocence and audacity, was certain.

"Yes. Yes, Mummy - this is where I grew up. And this is where I died."

I gripped the steering wheel firmly. My knuckles showed white as I struggled for breath. I glanced across the road to the white house; the house which had been in the media so many times over the past few months. The house where the elder brother had indiscriminately murdered his family. My face stayed impassive as I turned to Erica and focused upon breathing steadily. I smiled; a twisted grimace, but enough to reassure my child.

"Wow! Erica, what do you remember about living here?" I asked, and I steadied my hands, gripping tighter as I looked at my beautiful, innocent child's face. She glanced back at the white house, and considered for a moment.

"I didn't really like it, Mummy. I didn't;t like my brother. He was mean, and even though I tried to be good - I really tried - my other Mummy and Daddy were always angry or upset."

I nodded nonchalantly, and looked over at the house across from where we were parked. An innocuous enough building, it faced the road with stony silence as if refusing to give up its secrets. In the passenger seat, Erica wriggled a bit and sighed.

"What's up, Baby?" I asked her. Even though she was my eldest, I had never stopped using that moniker. Though four children had been born after her, she was my first. The one who taught me how to parent. The one who lifted sunglasses up to her eyes and exclaimed that the whole world looked like 'gravy'. The one who showed me how to mother, in a series of steps with each one taking me further beyond my established abilities. The one who, when I buried my nose in to her bobbed brown hair, smelled of warmth and soap and potential.

"I just feel sad, Mummy. The house makes me feel sad."

I nodded, and thought for a moment. For the past month or so, Erica had begun speaking about memories which I knew did not truly belong to her. A white house, with a small garden. An elder brother who was violent and cruel. Parents who did not respond to her with warmth, but rather upbraided her for every misdemeanour like the custodians of a Victorian workhouse. This was not Erica's life, with her younger siblings, and a home filled with light and laughter. She spoke of altogether darker scenes, which made me ache. This was not her life. This was not her.

"Would you like to go in?" I ask her, and when I turn to face her, I am shocked at the combined emotions of yearning and dread she displays on her innocent face. She hesitates, and I hold my breath. Is this fallacy? A dream she's had? A cry for attention since her brother and sisters came along? My heart sinks when she glances again towards the house, and then nods.

I step out of the car, and walk to the passenger side. Erica slides from her seat and lets me lift her down from the 4x4. I'm struck for a moment at how light she is. My eldest baby. Taking her by the hand, I turn and face the white house, with the clematis clambering around the porch and the blue front door. The media have dubbed it 'The House of Nightmares', and the name resonates with me as I lead my daughter to the door.

"Mummy, I used to play out here. Once there was so much snow, and my other Daddy did a castle, and we sprayed it with paint to give it a name, and he lifted me up high so I could sit on the turret, and James pushed me down!" Erica says. My heart contracts. James. James is the teenager from the media. The one who slaughtered his family. The one whom they arrested, f9ur years ago, for the murder of his family. I hold Erica's hand, and keep my expression neutral. I do not want to guide her; to be responsible for implanting memories which aren't hers. I approach the white house slowly, rehearsing what I will say when the door is opened. In the windows downstairs, a think light shows, telling me that the residents are in.

Stepping up to the front door, I ring the bell, grasping Erica's hand so tightly that she pulls away. I hold my breath, but only realise when the inner door to the household opens, and light floods the porch. This is it. This is the moment when I will discover if my daughter is simply disturbed, seeking attention, or if she has genuine insight in to the events of four years previous.

A middle-aged blonde woman opens the door, hesitating at first but then more quickly as she sees a lone woman, and a child. Erica is grasping my hand again now, squeezing it.

"Mummy? I played here. I sat on this step and played with chalks."

I close my eyes for a moment, horrified. The media reported this - the youngest child had scribbled and drawn on the front step of the house, the day that the murders took place. I shake my head and focus upon the well-to-do woman drawing back the bolts to grant us access.

I smile at her. "Hello, my name is Agnes, and this is my daughter, Erica. I wonder if I may speak to you for a moment?" I ask her, simultaneously willing her to deny me, and let me in so I can see how my child reacts. The woman looks at me for a moment, and then glances down at Erica, who instinctively moves behind me.

"What is this about?" the woman asks, and I swallow, wondering how to explain. I decide to be honest, and to hell what response we get. I swallow again.

"My daughter has been having dreams - bad dreams. Nightmares. She described this house, and the street, and garden. She seems to have memories of it. I don't believe in this - I mean, I respect my daughter and I want to find out whether what she is experiencing is real. Does that make sense? I'm sorry for the intrusion. If it's not convenient, we will just go. I don't want to cause any inconvenience, I'm sorry." I say, and the woman's eyes narrow as she takes us both in.

"Are you from the media? Because, if you are, you won't find anything here. We purchased the house last year. It's all been decorated since...that happened. It's all changed. We just want to settle down, here, without the intrusion."

I shake my head, and reach for her hand. "I understand. I didn't really want to do this. I know you're only trying to make a home for yourself, but-"

The woman sighs, and then steps back, holding the door open.

"Come in, then. But be quick. I'm about to serve dinner."

I breathe out, then, and I feel shocked when Erica surges forward, pushing her way past the woman excitedly.

"Mummy? Oh MY! This is where my other Mummy used to cook! And I cleared up the vegetable peelings and put them in the compost, and here is where James used to do his homework, and when I was in the kitchen and Daddy and Mummy weren't there, he used to hit me sometimes, and then I'd cry!"

I walked in tot he kitchen and looked around. A few saucepans bubbled on the stove in an unremarkable space. I looked at Erica. Her cheeks were red with excitement as she pulled away from me and ran in to the room adjacent to the kitchen. Ignoring a gentleman sitting in front of the television, she shouted to me.

"Mummy! This is where I played marbles and my other Mummy was always asleep here, and James was mean. And he wasn't my friend!" she exclaimed. Behind me, the woman of the household gripped the door to the living room and watched as my daughter turned around and headed for the hall. The gentleman looked up in consternation at the commotion. I shrugged apologetically and let Erica take me by the hand.

"Is this-" I started, as Erica pulled me through the kitchen towards the stairs. The woman shrugged and I let my daughter guide me. She turned instinctively towards the stairs, and I stepped through a hallway which smelled of recent paint. Erica charged upstairs, until the last few steps, when her gait changed. She became suddenly slower, as she approached the landing.

"Mummy? he came in to my room. My room is here -" She tugged my hand and I followed, helpless. I heard the soft footfalls as the owner of the house followed us. I let Erica pull me in to a small bedroom off the landing. She flicked a switch, her hand finding the correct position instinctively to flood the box room with light. She walked confidently in to the room, and looked about her.

"My bed was here!" she gestured to the corner, dismissing a walnut desk and chair. "My curtains were pink, with leaves on. James came in, once, and he held out his hand and there was a gun, Mummy. Not even a pretend toy one. A real gun. When he came in and pointed it at me, it was all red and it hurt. Mummy? It hurt me. He hurt me. I would have cried, but it went dark, then. I thought he loved me, before. Didn't he love me?"

I stood, frozen, as Erica walked around the room, tears flowing down her tiny face. I had nothing to say. Behind me, the woman coughed and touched my shoulder, to make me turn. When I looked at her, her face was damp with tears.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You have to go now," she said. I nodded slowly, and looked back to Erica, who was standing at the window, looking out at the street below.

"Erica? baby? We need to go now," I said. My voice sounded cracked and bruised. My little girl nodded, staring out of the window.

"I know. My name isn't really Erica, though. I'm Alice. And James is my brother, and you're not really my Mummy are you?"

I stayed silent, pulling my daughter by the hand, mumbling apologies until I got out of the house, and back in the car. I felt the wet stain of tears as I fumbled to put her seatbelt on and started the ignition. I let myself glance back to the white house, once, and saw the shaded silhouette of the owner standing in the outline of the top bedroom, staring out at us as I eased in to gear and set off for home once again.

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