I was coming up on the anniversary of my parents’ death when the girls began disappearing.
That summer twenty-four years ago, right before it all started, I was the one who wanted to disappear.
I nearly got my wish.
But three months later, I wasn’t the reason for the panic tearing through town. I wasn’t the one search parties went combing the woods to find, while folks prayed they wouldn’t come home with a body to bury. It wasn’t my face staring out from the missing children posters tacked to every tree.
That was when I really wanted to disappear, just vanish without a trace. A girl who was really and truly gone.
Because I knew that nothing I did would change what I’d done. I could repent for a thousand Sundays and it wouldn’t bring back those girls.
Was I sorry?
I wish I could say I was. I know that I suffered. There were some in town who would say I didn’t suffer enough. That I needed to confess, confession being the only true path to salvation. And they might be right, but I was too afraid to travel down that road.
That’s what I remember most. Being scared. Scared I’d be found out. Scared of what I’d see in everyone’s eyes if I told the truth. Scared of the evil that felt like it was part of my blood, something I could feel shifting and growing and pulsing like a second heartbeat.
I was terrified I’d burn in hell.
And I wouldn’t ever be saved.