"What's so special about these shoes?" I asked the clerk, laughing at the name "Magic Shoes".
"Because they're magic, of course." He shook his head as he continued shuffling things around on the counter, "Why would you ask such a stupid question at a magic shop?"
The Dark Horse Magic and More had a small sign upon the door, but otherwise the building was nondescript. My friends and I were bored on a summer day and stepped inside for some giggles. We had counted on hocus pocus, a couple card tricks, we thought it would be your typical type of magical store and a fun way to burn a little time before the movie started.
We were disappointed to see boring items like books and candles. There were no rabbits and not even a top hat.
"What kind of magic?" my friend Ashlee asked, head tilted as she stared at what appeared to be a pair of ugly shoes.
"Magic you wouldn’t even begin to understand.” He took the items from the counter and started stocking the shelves with some weird metal wine glasses.
"Scary shit, grandpa." Ashlee rolled her eyes as she put the shoes away. She quickly moved on to look at a candle offering a spell for money. She was already reading the instructions.
"Very scary.” He moved around the store, distractedly talking to my friends over his shoulder.
I didn’t want to speak up, being afraid my friends would mock me. The shoes were warm to my touch, and energy coursed through my hands as I held them. Simple in design, they appeared to be a slipper of sorts. Almost like my dancing shoes, but older and made of a foreign material much like leather, but more flexible.
A compelling voice spoke in my head . Marnie would like these.
I tried to ignored the voice because no, she wouldn’t. What use did she have for a pair of ballet slippers? Not to mention, they were ugly as could be.
The voice spoke again, Marnie needs these shoes.
"I'll take them." The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I was doing. I hadn’t even checked for a price.
When I brought home the shoes for Marnie, it was because I’m a good sister.
"They're ugly" Marnie clenched up her face as I showed her the shoes.
"They cost me half a summer’s salary; I can’t go to the concert with Ashlee next week because I bought you these damn shoes and you won’t even try them on for me?”
With a sigh, she finally caved in, “I’m sorry. Go ahead.”
Not new to dressing and assisting my sister, I knelt down at her feet, gently lifting her leg out of the metal footrest. I slipped the shoe onto her foot and found that it fit snugly. An odd, almost rapturous expression, crossed Marnie's face.
"What is it?"
"My foot... It’s tingling. I can feel my foot." Eyes wide, she wiggled her toes for the first time ever. I watched incredulously, not believing what I was seeing.
"Put the other shoe on me,” she demanded, voice high pitched with excitement. Without another moment’s hesitation, I did what I was told and slipped the other shoe on her foot.
Without warning, Marnie shot up from the wheelchair and onto her feet. I went to catch her from falling, but she didn’t need it. My sister, my baby sister who had been confined to a wheelchair for life, without any hope, was now standing before me. With shock and disbelief, I watched her walk and get used to her now working feet. I could hardly breathe.
It was a miracle that surely would please mom and dad.
Marveling at the way her legs could move, Marnie swirled around the room, arms thrown out as she spun herself dizzy. She’d collapse on the couch laughing, only to start all over again a few minutes later.
"I've always wanted to dance just like you, Layla! Now I can!" She screeched at me as she flew around the couch, hurling her body over the top of the coffee table, narrowly missing the vase full of flowers.
"Yes, but dancing takes practice. Hours upon hours, every day.” I ducked my head to avoid a foot to the face, “ That's what I've done to be as good as I am.”
"I'll practice just as hard, I promise." She meant it too, I had no doubt about that. "I’ll be just as good as you!”
I’d been dancing since I was 5 years old, Marnie was now 16. Time just wasn't on her side, but I didn't want to break her heart.
"I know you can do it." I smiled, starting to believe in miracles.
"Thanks to my magic shoes," She looked down at the ugly shoes with fondness and a near reverence now as something else glimmered in her eyes.
I heard the jangling of keys moments before the front door opened; mom was the first one to step inside. Dad followed behind, thankfully so. Someone had to catch her as she fainted dead away the moment she saw Marnie.
Dad nearly dropped her as he watched his now perfect daughter dancing around the living room for the first time ever.
Mom was quick to enroll her in dance classes, happy to have two normal daughters to follow in her footsteps. Perhaps one would live up to her standards after all. Marnie started off in beginner classes, of course. But one day, her instructor halted our lessons by storming into our studio, Marnie in tow.
"Everyone, watch this brilliance before you!" His voice was filled with awe, “This is what everyone should aspire to be!”
He put on the music, La Brayadere. As the music started, Marnie moved as if her previously crippled self had been replaced by a prima ballerina. Her pirouettes were flawless, she flew through the air, her pas de chats spectacular and advanced for someone who’d only started ballet the week before. Her movements were perfect and graceful, but her expression was dead to the world. Eyes dark and empty.
It wasn’t Marnie moving her feet to the music. Oh no. Just as magic was allowing her to walk, it was magic making her dance. I started to wonder what kind of magic was behind this so-called miracle...
She finished up with a curtsy and came toward me right away, with a grin stretched across her face. "Did you see that, Layla?”
"Your footwork was spectacular, but you need to show some life in your face to be a true dancer”
"Not that you’d know what it takes to be a real dancer or anything...” Marnie’s grin grew wider, but it no longer looked friendly.
I merely nodded, holding back the tears threatening to fall from my eyes. I quickly turned my head and walked away, the guilt likely written across my face as I realized what I had to do to get my sister back.
Knowing she wore the shoes day and night, I snuck through her bedroom door much like I had when we were kids and I wanted to sleep with my baby sister.
Softly, I pulled back the blankets revealing the shoes which looked more like an extension of her leg rather than an article of clothing. Gently lifting up her foot, I tried to slip the shoe off without waking her but found that it wouldn’t budge. I pulled a bit harder, making her stir in her sleep.
Afraid of waking her, I stopped and glanced toward the top of her bed to see her eyes wide and dark, smiling at me.
"You’re going to have to try a little harder than that, my sister.”
Backing toward the door, never taking my eyes off my sister, I slipped out into the hallway. The sound of laughter followed me, but it wasn’t Marnie’s laugh coming from the room. It wasn’t my sister’s laugh.
Running later than usual the next morning, I hurried down to join my family for breakfast. Awkwardly, I took my seat, trying to avoid looking at my sister; I was unsure of what to think about the night before.
"I have the lead role! Can you believe it?" Marnie talked as if nothing were amiss.
"Oh honey, we are so proud!" Mom clapped her hands as she praised her daughter. It was like she didn’t remember Marnie shouldn’t even be walking, much less dancing.
"I've always wanted to be the lead. I’ve practiced for years and years." It slipped out, my mouth had been overtaken by my emotions. Tears threatened to fall once again, and my parents were unaware as their attention was fully on Marnie, “Just for once, I’d like to be the star”.
Marnie focused on me while my words were lost on my parents, "Well I'm sorry sister, some of us are just born gifted, I suppose.”
Looking up to meet her gaze, I realized that my baby sister was gone. Her lips curled up in a sneer that was not her own.
"It’s not you that’s gifted. It’s those damn shoes doing all this to you.”
"Layla! Language like that will not be tolerated toward your sister!” Mom finally took notice of me for the first time since I sat down at the table.
Dad looked up from the morning paper with a sneer, but as always, he didn’t say much. Grabbing my backpack from the floor, I stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
My eyes opened with a start. I was standing in the middle of my living room, unsure of how I even got here. Heart racing, sweat covering my body. Briefly, images flashed before my eyes. While feeling dreamlike, they had a sense of reality to them that made my heart thunder in my chest.
A spray of blood shooting toward my face, sticking in my hair.
Reaching up, my hair is tacky and matted against my head.
The sound of screaming as blade met flesh.
I became aware of the weight in my other hand, and I see dad’s hacksaw, its handle in my fist covered in blood. With a thud, I let it fall to the ground, a scream of my own building up inside of me.
Marnie’s eyes wide, her legs ending in ragged stumps.
My eyes focused on the coffee table next to me where the old shoes sat in a puddle of sticky goo. Bits of flesh and bone protruding from the top, feet still in them.
A note sat upon the table in my handwriting, that I didn’t remember writing, You’ll find her at Nobbers Hill. I’m sorry.
The same voice in my head that spoke to me at the magic shop filled the room.
Put on the shoes and run. They'll take you to safety
Glancing at the clock on the mantle, I realized mom and dad would be home within the hour. Panic took over my body as I fought to breathe, unsure of what was happening and afraid of what my parents would think of me.
You’ve let your parents down again. They’ll hate you for what you did to your sister.
I knew that the voice was right; I couldn’t bear to face them. What choice did I have?
Take the shoes and run. Run for your life.
Growing more insistent, the voice pressed on and on. My head pounded as I tried to regain control of my thoughts, but it felt all logic was being forced out and replaced with fear.
Knowing what I had to do, I dug into the shoes. Pulling at my sister's feet, I found they slipped easily out as if something had released them at last. Dropping Marnie's remains to the floor with a thud, blood splattered all over mom’s perfect white sofa.
The shoe felt alive. Something tickled my toes as it grew and molded itself around my foot. Pressure built around my foot as the feeling of suction cups took hold of me. The second shoe practically slipped itself on, as if it were yearning to be attached to me. Warmth and electrical vibrations poured through my entire body, making my head spin with power.
The full events of earlier flooded my head, the memories came back to me in waves. Guilt, shame, or grief should have overcome me, but I felt nothing. Nothing at all.
And who was I disobey?
After I killed Marnie, I was no longer the good sister.
(This was one of three entries for week 34 of therealljidol. All my entries will stand alone, so no need to read any of the others first. I do urge you to run over and check out the other entries from the Top 15 of Season 8. Spread some love go round! Thank you for reading!)