The girls sat in the back of the family car as it sped down the highway toward Greenville. Lea’s leg bounced nervously while she stared out the window. This had been the longest weekend in the history of family vacations. Her mind swirled attempting to understand everything that had happened before they left. She still hadn’t seen ‘Swampy’ herself and Kyra was quite imaginative…but the blank pages she still couldn’t explain.
Kyra was more anxious than she had ever felt in her entire life. She just wanted to jump out of her skin. This car ride home would be the worst. After surviving the weekend and barely sleeping as her mind whirled with wonderment, the two hour drive home would seem like an eternity.
When the family car pulled off the highway, taking the exit ramp for the highway leading into downtown Greenville, Lea exhaled as though she had been holding her breath the entire trip. Kyra emerged from her own world of dreams that featured ‘Swampy’ roaming Greenville. She blurted out the first thing that came to her tongue.
“I’m coming Swampy!”
Lea’s eyes nearly leaped from her head.
“What was that, Kyra?” Her dad laughed.
Kyra didn’t know what to say…for the first time in her life, she was speechless. Her mouth dropped open.
“Ah…that…is…what she calls her stuffed frog,” Lea replied, without conviction in her voice. It was the best thing she could think of.
“You mean Phillip the Frog? That red-
Lea had run out of answers. She turned to Kyra hoping for help. Kyra still sat dumbfounded until Lea swatted her in the arm awaking her from her stupor.
“Um…Yeah, I changed his name…Ah, when he…” Kyra searched for any response that wouldn’t sound fake, “…moved to the basement!” She smiled widely thinking her answer very clever.
Lea just shook her head in disbelief.
“What?” Kyra mouthed at her while shrugging her shoulders.
“Okay,” Dad said sounding like he just didn’t want to know anymore and therefore left it at that. He figured sometimes it was best not to travel into the mind of a 9 year old girl.
The car entered at the north end of town, just a block away from Monica’s Antiques. Kyra reminded her dad to stop at the shop so they could pick up the pen. It was late Sunday afternoon, and the shop would be closed, but they still had to drive by on their way home. As they approached Lea noticed police lights up ahead. The street was still open and cars passed through, but people lined the street in front of the ice cream shop.
“Wow, they are really busy,” Mom noted.
“So, busy they sent the sheriff to keep order,” Dad joked.
“He’ll be first in line!” Mom added.
They started laughing until they approached the scene. The people had worried and confused expressions upon their faces. Some pointed and whispered to each other.
“What’s going on, Dad?” Kyra asked as she had trouble seeing out the window.
“I don’t know Ki-
He stopped the car and rolled down the window to ask, Mr. Donovan a friend of his from work who stood in the crowd outside the ice cream shop. Mr. Donovan told him that someone had broken into the antique shop last night. He pointed at the front glass window. It had large yellow caution tape in the shape of an ‘X’ over it where the glass was missing. He said Monica Verbeek told the sheriff that it appeared that nothing was stolen, but she had been there all day inventorying product to find out.
Dad parked the car. He and Kyra approached the store. The glass had been swept away, but small fragments lingered in the cracks in the cement just below the missing window. Mrs. Verbeek was inside counting crystal kittens in the back corner.
“Hi Monica, looks like someone couldn’t wait until opening today,” Dad said, making a poor attempt at humor.
“Oh, hello, Christopher…” She sighed regretfully. “I don’t understand it. It broke through the window and rummaged around obviously searching for something.”
“It?” Kyra and Dad said in unison.
“You were here and saw it?” Dad asked further.
“No, Sheriff Wilson and I watched the security camera when we arrived this morning. It was some creature.” Mrs. Verbeek became visibly upset. “It was tall with red skin and these horrible yellow eyes.”
“What?” Dad shouted in disbelief. “What did Sheriff Wilson think it was?”
“He said he had never seen anything like it in all his years with the department,” Mrs. Verbeek replied as she stood the last crystal kitten back to its feet. She paused for a moment to compose herself and then looked directly at Kyra and Dad. “It had spiked horns,” She said trying to not sound insane.
Kyra gasped and then covered her mouth. Swampy, she thought.
“What did it take?” Dad asked while pulling Kyra closer. He misunderstood her gasp for fear instead of shock.
“Nothing!” She replied.
“Mrs. Verbeek? Do you have my pen?” Kyra asked in a sheepish voice.
“Kyra,” Dad scolded, unhappy with her lack of compassion.
Mrs. Verbeek sniffled, “Oh, don’t worry, Christopher.” She said apparently not offended by Kyra’s impolite behavior. She turned to look across the room. “Um…I left it on the counter last night, honey. It should be over there.” Mrs. Verbeek walked over to the counter at the back of the store. She began to lift papers and move objects searching for the pen. “It was right here.” She became frustrated. “I’m sorry, Kyra. It has been such a hectic morning…I must have misplaced it.”
Kyra didn’t reply. She knew Swampy took it.
“That’s okay Monica. I am very sorry for the inconvenience. I hope that everything is okay,” Dad said as he ushered Kyra back to the family car.
Dad slowly backed the car away from the crowd and headed home. The crowd continued to linger as though the criminal would return.
“Did you get it?” Lea whispered.
Kyra shook her head.
“NO!” Lea shouted.
“Girls no arguing!” Mom scolded without even looking into the back of the car.
The girls sat in silence for the short trip back to their house. Kyra wondered why Swampy would steal the pen. Lea’s brain began to melt down. She just wanted to awaken from this nightmare her sister had created. Lea pinched herself hoping to wake up. She didn’t.
The next night was Independence Day, the family went to Greenville Park to celebrate with the entire town. The park was filled with families grilling food, playing games, and awaiting the nighttime festivities; the ‘Greenville Independence Fireworks Celebration’. It was the annual tradition and everyone came out.
Night feel quickly. Kyra sat with her parents awaiting the show. She loved the colors and designs that flew across the sky, but hated the noise. Her dad handed her a pair of bright green ear plugs. She placed them in her ears gently and smiled at her dad. Lea had been gone for much of the afternoon, playing with her middle school friends. There were four years between the girls in age and at events like this Kyra found herself annoyed by her older sister’s friends…mostly the girls.
The park lights dimmed. Music hummed from the speakers around the pavilion in the middle of the field. The firework show was about to begin. Kyra watched as the first firework sped skyward, a flaming tail behind it. The explosion made her jump. It was so loud…even with the ear plugs in. She felt the blast against her chest. She hated this part. Then she smiled as an array of red, white and blue colors danced around the nighttime sky. Her dad placed his hand over hers. She moved closer to him. There she planned to stay until the show was over.
Half way through the show, Kyra began to grow tired. She drifted off for a moment until a rather aggressive section of the show startled her awake again. The sky blazed with light. The crowd cheered loudly. Kyra searched for her sister. She quickly found Lea with her best friend, Juniper, a unique and somewhat strange girl. Juniper wore bright yellow tights and pink shorts along with a green tank top and to celebrate the occasion, a sparkly pair of sunglasses that lit up around the lenses. Kyra believed that she was an alien.
Lea and Juniper danced to the music and over-
“Swampy!” Kyra yelled.
“Dad, I wanna go stand with Lea,” She said and dashed off before he could even answer.
Moving with precision through the crowd, see kept an eye on Swampy in the distance. The creature didn’t move, it was watching Kyra run toward Lea. Kyra reached out and grabbed her sister’s arm. Lea screamed.
“Kyra? What are you doing over here? What’s wrong?” She asked noticing how frantic Kyra appeared. Her sister simply pointed into the forest, but Swampy was gone. “What is it? What did you see?”
Kyra yanked her sister away from Juniper.
“It was Swampy! In the forest…just over there!” She shouted over the booming of the fireworks.
Lea’s stomach flipped with fear.
“We have to find her?” Kyra pleaded.
“Her? What?” Lea’s head was reeling from the sudden shift from joy to trepidation. “I am not going in there! Are you crazy?”
“Swampy has the pen, Lea! She stole it from the antic shop!” Kyra tried to convince her sister to help.
“Antique, geesh.” Lea hesitantly agreed. “This is absolutely insane, Kyra,” Lea announced as the two girls entered the forest.
The booming of the fireworks became muffled, the cheering crowd blocked by the trees. Kyra removed her ear plugs. Fear overtook her tiny body. Lea began to shake as a chill ran through her body.
“This is such a bad idea. Why didn’t you get Dad?”
“He would never believe me,” Kyra answered.
“And why would he,” a deep female voice replied.
Standing between the girls and escaping the forest was a 5-
“Swampy?” Kyra questioned with a shaky voice.
Lea grabbed hold of her sister.
“Yes, Kyra. Don’t fear me. I would not hurt my creator.” A smile revealed the creatures jagged yellowed teeth and forked tongue. It had the exact opposite reaction Swampy intended.
Lea whimpered and Kyra farted. Lea immediately let go and stepped to the side.
“Sorry,” Kyra apologized with a nervous giggle.
“Creator, I have brought you a gift.” Swampy declared as she held out her hand. Held within her long pointy fingers was a shiny object. “The Gossamer Pen! I retrieved it for you.”
“You stole it!” Lea scolded.
“It belongs to her,” Swampy pointed to Kyra.
“The magical powers of the Gossamer Pen are now yours, and I am your humble servant, Creator,” Swampy professed while bowing.
Kyra nervously took the Gossamer Pen and held it against her chest. She felt a tingle run through her body.
“It recognizes your touch,” Swampy revealed. “With that pen you can create anything within your imagination.”
“You mean whatever I draw with this pen will come to life like you?”
Swampy nodded. Her eyes locked on Kyra.
“Girls!” a hysterical voice called into the forest. It was their Mom.
“Lea! Kyra!” their Dad called next.
Swampy dashed away, deep into the forest vanishing from sight in seconds, leaving the girls standing frozen amidst the trees…shocked at what had just happened.