Mark Duplock

I Wish

I was twelve years old when the world ended.

I grew up with my sister Abi, who was a little younger than me. We were best friends, and we did everything together. Mom would call us “The Terrible Twins”, but we weren’t really twins, we just liked to pretend. I guess mom thought it was fun too.

Sometimes Abi would get into trouble or do something she wasn’t supposed to, but I always covered for her. I was her Big Brother, and I promised her that nothing would ever hurt her.

We lived on a farm with nothing around us for miles except tall grass and trees. We would go out on long walks through the woods at the back of our house and look for snakes and spiders. One day, we were in the woods. I was looking under a log when Abi screamed. She was standing next to a tree with her eyes and mouth shut tight.

“Abi, what’s wrong?” I shouted as I ran over to her. I was looking around in case she had found a dangerous snake, but I saw nothing.

She didn’t move or speak, she just stood very still, and it wasn’t until I got closer that I saw the yellow jacket crawling around her mouth.

“It’s okay, Abi,” I said breathlessly. “Stand still, don’t move.”

I lowered my head a little and gently blew on the wasp as it moved around on Abi’s lips. She made a muffled sound through her closed mouth. I blew again, a little harder this time, and the wasp flew away.

“It’s gone!” I yelled happily. “Open your eyes, Abi. The wasp is gone!”

Abi slowly opened her eyes and rubbed her face with her hands, making sure the wasp had really gone. “Where did it go?” she asked, looking around nervously.

“Don’t worry. It’s gone.” I was feeling courageous and added, “You’re safe now.”

Her face suddenly burst into a smile, and her eyes lit up. “I never worry where you’re around!”

We spent the rest of the day looking for bugs and swinging from trees, and it was nearly dark when we got home. Usually, this was okay. Mom didn’t mind that we would stay out late, but this time, something was wrong. She yelled at us for not coming home sooner. She told us she had been out looking for us. I think she was crying. I don’t remember seeing mom cry before.

It was still dark when I woke up the next day. I think the sound of the TV woke me.

Mom was sitting on the couch when I went into the front room. She was watching something on the TV. There was a smell in the room, like fruit but rotten. There was an empty bottle on the carpet and it looked like it had spilt. When she saw me, she grabbed the TV control and turned it off. She waved me over to her, and I cautiously stepped towards her. The smell was really strong, and it made me feel sick when she hugged me. I don’t know why she hugged me; she didn’t say anything.

I wanted to wake up Abi, but it was too early, so I went out of the house into the backyard. It was still very dark, so I sat on the grass and watched the stars. Mom always said we were lucky to live on our farm. She would tell us about the people in the cities that never got to see the stars at night because the sky was so bright.

“The stars are the prettiest things you will ever see,” mom would say. “And all you have to do is look up.” I felt sad for the people in the cities that never saw the stars.

I must have fallen asleep on the grass, but it was still dark when I woke up again. Abi was sitting down next to me.

“Sorry for waking you up,” she said.

I rubbed at my face and sat up. “Are you okay? Did the TV wake you up?” I asked.

Abi nodded. “Mom is acting weird.”

I was about to agree when Abi’s head suddenly turned to face the sky.

“I saw it first!” She pointed excitedly at the part of the sky that the shooting star had briefly lighted up. “I wish for a hundred more wishes!” she giggled.

I looked up, eager to play my part in the game, and saw the flash of another shooting star as it burned out.

“I wish for a thousand more wishes!” I yelled, pointing at the spot where the glowing trail had ended. We both laughed, got up, and played in the yard until the sun came up.

Mom was still in the front room, and she turned the TV off as she heard us come into the house. It still smelled of rotten fruit in there, and I felt Abi’s fingers grip my hand.

Mom got up from the couch and stood there for a minute, looking at us before she said anything.

“I love you both,” she whispered. “You know I love you, don’t you?”

I nodded, but I don’t know if Abi did.

“Can we go to the woods again today, mom?” I thought if we got out of the house for a little while, mom would feel better.

“Could you stay with me today, maybe?” she said.

I had never seen my mom look like that, and I didn’t understand why she was acting so strange. But when Abi’s grip on my hand tightened, and I asked again if we could go out, it looked like there was genuine pain on my mother’s face as she nodded her head.

We spent the day playing and didn’t come home until sunset. Abi was terrified that mom would yell at us again, but when we went into the house everything was turned off. No lights were on and the TV was dark. Mom wasn’t in the front room either.

I tiptoed up the stairs, being careful to miss the creaks. I could see mom’s bedroom from the top of the hall. The door was closed. I crept back down the stairs to where Abi was waiting, nervously twisting a strand of hair.

“She’s asleep,” I whispered. “Come into the kitchen, and I’ll make us some food.”

We dined out on peanut butter sandwiches and fruit juice before quietly climbing up the stairs again to go to bed.

I woke up the next day with the sun shining through the window. The curtains were open, and the sun was breaking through over the trees. The smell of fried food flooded my nostrils and a wide grin spread over my face—Mom was cooking! I rushed into Abi’s room. She was still sleeping, so I gently shook her shoulder.

“Abi, wake up,” I whispered excitedly.

Abi stirred and looked at me, confused. I grinned at her and whispered, “Mom’s cooking breakfast!”

It only took us a few minutes to get ready, and we were both running down the stairs to the kitchen. Mom was putting the bacon on the plates with the eggs when we rushed in. She looked surprised when we ran in through the kitchen door, but a smile quickly replaced the expression.

“Well, good morning, you two!” she exclaimed happily. “How are my terrible twins?” Abi giggled, ran over to mom and hugged her waist.

Mom wrapped an arm around Abi and looked at me, smiling. “Does my man want in on this?” she said, spreading open her free arm. I ran in and wrapped my arm around her. She smelled of perfume this morning.

We spent the rest of the day playing games, baking cakes and dancing to mom’s records. Abi decided we would have burgers and fries for dinner and we even ate all the treats we had made during the day.

As it got darker outside, I noticed mom got a little quieter. She kept looking at the clock on the wall as if she was waiting for something.

“Shall we sit in the yard tonight?” she said.

We both nodded eagerly and took mom’s hand as we walked outside.

“It’s such a pretty sky tonight,” mom said. “The stars are so beautiful.”

“Look!” exclaimed Abi, pointing to a shooting star. “I saw it first! I wish for a hundred more wishes!” she laughed.

I watched as the shooting star gradually faded out. The brilliant glow of another followed it.

“I wish for a thousand more wishes!” I grinned.

I felt my mom’s hand grip my shoulder and looked up at her. She was looking at me and crying.

“Stand close to me,” she said through the tears that were streaming down her face.

The shooting star hadn’t flickered out this time, and there was a bright orange glow in the distance. The sky was an avalanche of light as more and more burning trails filled the air.

“Mom?” my voice cracked.

The sky was alight with an extraordinary red glow as the streaks became larger and louder.

There was one final bright burst of light overhead and the sound of my mom’s voice.

“I wish,” she said.