My name is Crystal. Until a few weeks ago, I lived in Tyler, Mississippi, where I grew up. Tyler is a nice sleepy town between the state line and Meridian. Far enough in the country to be country but close enough to town to not be isolated.
Our place is an old farm complete with a hundred and twenty year old house. It was built over an old log cabin which was built when Mississippi and Alabama were part of the same territory. When they drew the state line it went just to the east of the cabin. Several expansions over the years resulted in the house being partially in Alabama and partially in Mississippi – a fact that drove Daddy nuts at tax time. The fun part is that my bedroom is in Alabama so my friends would kid me that I was really an Alabamian, since I went home to sleep there every night.
But truth be told, other than my unusual sleeping arrangement and the occasional trip to the neighbor down the road, I seldom set foot in Alabama. I’m a Mississippi girl, head to toe.
I’m like other girls. I like horses, shopping for new clothes and can talk your ear off about boys any day of the week. I’ve almost always known I was different in one respect but it never seemed to matter – at least not until I started to date.
But I guess I should start at the beginning. My very first memory is of Mama rocking me to sleep in our huge old rocking chair. I was maybe three. My next memory is from the same age. I was in the kitchen and Mama dropped a knife. I picked it up before she could. That spooked her, I guess, because she snatched it away, accidentally cutting my hand. I remember Mama hollering for Daddy as she saw the blood but what I remember most clearly was that the knife, as it went into my hand, apologized.
I still have a tiny scar from that. Mama didn’t believe me and for the longest time, she wouldn’t let me near anything sharp. It was hard because I wanted to hold that knife – any knife, really – and she wouldn’t let me. I think it scared her, that I was so attracted to blades. But I really just wanted to talk to it.
Needless to say, no one understood what I meant by that. I don’t rightly think I knew, not then, anyway. But for a couple years, all I was allowed to touch were plastic knives. Plastic knives rarely talk, so it was really disappointing.
For the most part, my family overlooked that one oddity of my personality. Otherwise, I was like all the other girls my age – My Little Pony and Barbie occupied most of my time and I didn’t realize that there was anything really different about me. That changed when I was five.
My cousin Clifton was visiting from Biloxi. He’s a couple years older than I am. His parents would send him every summer for a few weeks so Daddy could teach him to ride. Daddy rode in show competitions when he was young and Clifton wanted to do that, too. Daddy taught him to ride on my pony, Mildred. I didn’t mind; Clifton was the kind of kid that didn’t mind playing with a younger kid. It was nice having him around so sharing Mildred was no problem at all.
Clifton had put Mildred out to the pasture for the day and we went to the swimming hole. It’s really a hole in the creek bed barely deep enough to lay in, but it was the closest thing to a place to swim we had on the farm. I splashed around and he showed off just for the heck of it.
We left before dark but it falls quickly in the early summer. We were walking across the field, trying not to stumble in the darkness when I got the worst feeling I’d ever had. I spun around, falling because I was still too clumsy for that. Clifton tried to pick me up but I wouldn’t let him. I knew something was in the darkness – something bad.
It came at Clifton. I knew where it was even in the pitch black of the new moon. I grabbed the only thing I had, a stick I’d been poking the ground with, and thrust it with all my might at the thing. I heard a noise, not a whimper, not a cry. I realized it wasn’t hurt, just startled. I grabbed Clifton’s hand and cried for him to run, but a toddler can’t elucidate like an adult and he didn’t understand me.
That thing was coming back. I knew it but I couldn’t make Clifton understand. I started crying in frustration as the thing got ever closer. I felt it there, looming in the darkness. I wasn’t scared; I just knew I couldn’t stop it.
It jumped or ran toward us – I don’t know which. I tried to pull Clifton toward the house but I wasn’t strong enough. I turned toward it, faster than any toddler should be able to move and waited for the inevitable. But it didn’t come.
I heard footsteps behind us, running fast and then there was a breeze as something went past, jumping over us both and straight at the thing. I heard a swishing sound and felt the thing die. Someone was standing there.
“Mama?” Being five, I suppose that was the most logical first guess.
“No, Child, but I will take you home now.” a voice answered, a woman’s voice with an accent I’d never heard before.
Clifton started and yanked me behind him, “W-who’s there?”
“Don’t be afraid. I’m a friend.” The voice told him.
I grabbed my cousin’s hand, “It okay. She’s nice.” I told him.
My eight year old cousin decided that meant I knew this disembodied voice and we followed it all the way home. As we reached the porch, I saw her for the first time. She was tall and slender, and as black as the night. In the porch light as she knocked on the door, I realized I’d never seen clothes like hers before. And she was awfully pretty.
Mama opened the door and I trotted on in, completely unfazed by the strangeness of the night, “We have guest. What for supper?” I asked.