First chapter: Part the First – Fire & Rain
Previous chapter: Virago: Part the Third — Neighbours
“The floor is lava!” Kelsey once screamed. This had caused Hannah to look at her in exasperation. Even though she was only two years older, Hannah had always treated the age gap very dramatically. Anything Kelsey had taken pleasure in as a child, Hannah had treated with distant superiority. Puzzles, dolls, cartoons, any of the apps on Kelsey’s bedroom wall. Hannah was always light years ahead of her. That particular day whenever Kelsey had discovered that the living room floor was, in fact, made of lava, Hannah was having none of it. She was busy teaching their parents’ android how to cook macaroni and cheese by using milk instead of water. It was a very grown-up thing to do. She didn’t have time to jump from pillow to pillow howling at the top of her lungs if her toe accidentally touched the carpet. That was all Kelsey and her childish imagination. Hannah never believed in any of that nonsense.
Eighteen years later, and Hannah still struggled with understanding her younger sister. She did all she could to retain some semblance of logic and propriety in their lives. But every once in a while, Kelsey seemed to enjoy disrupting the perfect order of things. How was Hannah supposed to believe that her little sister could spontaneously control objects around her? Did she really expect Hannah to think that she could actually make shit burst into flames? There was no way. She wished her sister would try to do something with her education. Maybe if she continued to challenge herself intellectually, she wouldn’t need this fantasy to fall back on. Surely 7-Eleven wasn’t stimulating her mind adequately.
Did Kelsey even have any friends? Hannah prided herself in keeping up with her three or four close friends. They had a group chat and frequently went out for drinks in the city together. They shared memes, restaurant reviews, and other random updates. If any of them had any problems, she was always the first one they went to. Evidently, she gave the best advice in the group. It probably came from learning how to deal with being related to a psycho.
Hannah had never been close with Kelsey. As kids, they had been left to their own devices. Kelsey built forts out of pillows, terrorized the local neighborhood kids, and used kitchen pots and pans as percussion instruments to entertain herself. Hannah would read books, illustrate stories, and attempt to tame the odd chipmunk or squirrel that came close. Their two worlds rarely collided. Until their parents passed away. It was Hannah’s first real chance to be an adult. Her mother was always worried that she was growing up too fast. Kelsey was still so young. The sisters quickly realized that they were the only close family they had left.
Worrying about Kelsey’s whereabouts began back then. Hannah took responsibility for her kid sister very seriously. She knew that a stray bee sting or a bump on the head could potentially be disastrous. Her concern for Kelsey carried on throughout high school and college. Part of her daily schedule included checking up on her sister and making sure that everything was fine with her. It’s not that she wanted the dirty details of her social life if she even had any. She just needed to know that she was okay.
It didn’t help that Kelsey remained convinced she had superpowers. Hannah blamed the comic books and superhero movies that her sister had pored over as a child. She tried to introduce things like classic literature and dramas, but Kelsey didn’t take to any of it. She was content to live in her fantasy world.
“I wish I knew what to do with her,” Hannah agonized to her therapist, Amy, one day. Kelsey would drop dead before seeing a psychologist, but Hannah thought it was healthy. She couldn’t very well tell her friends that her younger sister was borderline certifiable. “The worst part is that she thinks it’s all completely real. And I don’t want to tell her any different.”
“Have you ever witnessed your sister doing anything… extraordinary?” Amy casually cocked her head to the side as she listened.
Hannah couldn’t help but shake her head. She had never outright seen anything “magical” or “super” that Kelsey claimed to do. It was only the after effects. A baby bird with a “fixed” wing. The old man across the street who finally stopped creeping on the sisters when they’d sunbathe outside. Minor things. But always things that could be explained perfectly rationally. Perhaps they could even be explained away due to the fact that Kelsey made them up completely. Was the baby bird’s wing ever broken?
“Well, she could have built a safe place inside her mind. It’s just one way some choose to deal with past pain and trauma,” Amy continued matter-of-factly. It made perfect sense. Kelsey didn’t like to think about how her parents had died. Naturally, she would create a safe place. A place where she reigns supreme. Where she can control various events and objects around her. Who wouldn’t like having more control during everyday life? Gods must know that Hannah would love that. Too bad nothing like that could be real.
“But what do I say when she tells me stuff? She comes home and sometimes has these crazy stories. Sometimes about how she helped someone with her ‘powers’ or whatever,” Hannah explained. “Usually, they’re just about how she made someone stop being annoying. She has a pretty low tolerance for most things normal humans do.”
She was interrupted by the movement of the office android. It was busy clearing away the empty mugs left over from the session. Her therapist loved sharing her loose tea collection.
“Well,” Amy began. “I would suggest continuing to support her. Obviously don’t encourage her too much. There is a fine line between support and encouragement. For instance, you can support someone in being part of a protest group. But if they are protesting something that you actually like, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to encourage them. You would be going against your own beliefs. Basically, just play it safe for now. But don’t alienate her. She doesn’t need that right now.”
So that was Hannah’s plan of action. Be supportive of her floundering sister. It didn’t matter that she had no goals, career, or friends. She would be there for her, no matter what. But it was difficult when so often, it felt awfully one-sided. For instance, tonight, Kelsey was supposed to be home ages ago. There was nothing else said from her end. Now, whenever Hannah phoned, it would go straight to voicemail. This was one of those times she wished she knew whether Kelsey really did have any friends or not. Where could she possibly be if she wasn’t at work, and wasn’t at home?