A letter to my daughter, a warning to you

Our beautiful Kathryn,

My life was just about perfect, as close to it as it could be without actually being so. I was young, with a promising career ahead of me, the love of my life by my side, the whole world at my fingertips. I was 23 years old, not a care in the world. I’d enjoyed all the milestones of my young life, but for one. I was yet to be a father.

Your mother and I had tried, and we had tried, and we had tried, for two years. For those two years our attempts had been in earnest, but we were young enough that we figured we didn’t need to rush. We both had the realization that something was wrong around the same time, so I took your mother to the doctor. It was then that we learned that your mother was unable to have children.

The revelation was…devastating, to say the least. We’d lived our life by some kind of loose plan, but this was the first time a specific point of it had been denied to us. Even still, with more credit to your mother than anything, we pushed through it. We began looking into alternatives, and soon landed on adoption. It’s a long process, adoption. Between the adoption agency, the lawyers, meeting prospective families from whom we might get a child, we ran ourselves ragged. The stress of it all, I’m sad to admit, put a strain on our marriage.

That’s when she came.

I remember it was a Wednesday, just about two in the afternoon. Your mom and I were eating a late lunch when we heard a knock on the door. Standing on our porch was an attractive, fancy-looking woman dressed all in white with a briefcase in hand who informed us that she was aware of our predicament. When we asked how she came to know of it, she told us she was a consultant with the adoption agency we’d been going through. She introduced herself as Lillian, and asked if we would be open to speaking with her for just a few moments.

In hindsight, I would have slammed the door in her face. But I didn’t. I invited her in, and the three of us sat down in our living room.

She told us how sorry she was for our difficulty in having children, and lamented the frustration of both being a client of and working for an adoption agency. Then she asked the question that changed our lives forever.

“What if I told you that you two could indeed have a baby of your own?”

Your mother and I were equal parts skeptical and intrigued. Lillian told us that if we were interested, she could make possible our chances of having our very own child. Obviously, this sounded suspicious, but your mother and I agreed that we would’ve never forgiven ourselves if we hadn’t heard her out.

She opened her briefcase and retrieved two small vials of a dark liquid. She told us that if we consumed this liquid, it would enable your mother to get pregnant. She told us that we would have a happy, healthy baby, and that we could have as many as we wanted. She then told us that on our children’s 16th birthdays, they would go through a change that normal children don’t go through. This change wouldn’t hurt them, that it would cause them no pain at all.

Lillian told us that she offered this only to hopeful parents whom she felt truly deserved it, to people who she felt would give a child a good home. If I didn’t stress it enough before, please understand that our inability to have a child had really taken its toll on us. It seems so foolish in retrospect, an utterly ambiguous deal with what was made to sound like a minimal consequence. In truth, she took advantage of our grief, our frustration, our pain. She manipulated our vulnerability and our desire to have a child, and we fell for it.

We accepted the deal. The liquid in the vial I drank was all but flavorless. We each drank it, and that was it. There was no feeling; it was as if we’d drank a vial of water. Lillian wished us well and went on her way. We’ve only seen her one time since then.

Soon after that day, we learned that your mother was pregnant. We were ecstatic, to say the least. Just under nine months after that, your mom gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

We named her Jenna.

I’m sure this will come as a shock to you, learning that we had a baby before you. We didn’t have you until Jenna was 12, so it’s not unreasonable that you don’t remember her. Over the years you’ve mentioned certain memories, and I’m sorry to say that I’ve done all I could to erase any trace of Jenna from them. I’m truly sorry, Kathryn.

Anyhow, as Jenna’s 16th birthday approached, your mother and I speculated on what would happen. The surreality of the encounter with Lillian so many years earlier took our minds to wild places. We wondered if she was going to grow wings, if she was going to turn into a giant, all sorts of outrageous scenarios.

On the morning of her birthday, your mother and I walked upstairs with breakfast for Jenna to enjoy in bed. When we opened her door, we expected to find her asleep. Instead, we found her standing in the center of her room, simply staring at the door, at us.

There was nothing immediately noticeably different about her, but something was off. The tone of her voice, maybe. It was a long time ago, and I’ve done everything I can to block that day out of my memory, so please excuse any lack of particulars. You, me, and your mother sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and gave her breakfast, and she gave us a half-hearted ‘thank you’.

That whole morning, though, all she could focus on was you. Her eyes rarely left yours. She would whisper things to you and you would look at her, confused. I only heard one thing she said to you that day.

“We’ll meet again. I promise. We will serve her together.”

I think it was at that moment that I knew the girl we’d raised, the beautiful, smart, funny, kind, caring girl we’d loved for 16 years, she was gone. Around noon she took a change of clothes into the bathroom and turned the shower on. Assuming she left out the window immediately, she was gone for about three minutes.

What happened then, I remember as clearly as I remember yesterday. She came back through the front door, and she was covered in blood from head to toe, as if she’d swam in a pool full of it. She stepped into the living room, where your mother and I were…we were in shock. She had no expression on her face, she was just…indifferent to the situation entirely.

But her face was different, in a way. It was…angry, twisted. Her eyes were…bigger. And instead of the gorgeous blue they’d always been, they were cloudy white with flakes of red.

Then in walked Lillian, dressed all in black.

“Say goodbye, dear.” Lillian said to Jenna.

What Jenna said…it felt like I’d been punched in the gut.

“Yes, Mother.”

Jenna walked up to me and gave me a hug, but it wasn’t her. It was…like she had never hugged anyone before, like she had read about it somewhere and was trying it herself for the first time. I was too afraid to move, so I just stood there awkwardly as she finished with me and did the same to your mother.

“Thank you for raising me. Goodbye.”

There was no emotion in her voice. It was just wooden, completely void of any personal connection we may have once shared.

Lillian ushered Jenna out of the house and looked back to us.

“You’ve done well. We will meet again.” And with that, she left.

Once I snapped out of my paralyzing fear and confusion a few seconds later I ran out our front door, but it was too late, they were gone. We called the police and told them what happened, and we found out what Jenna had done when we thought she was stepping in to take a shower.

In our neighborhood there were only two houses that she’d gone to. One was a house two away from ours, the other about three blocks away. They police say she attacked at random, just whichever person she saw first, she slaughtered. They never found the victim’s hearts, either.

What really stumped them was that the exact same thing had happened at 12 other houses spread out across town, and in the next town over, and the next town after that, all at just about the same time.

The victims were butchered, left in the middle of circles made of their own blood. Also with their blood were various symbols drawn on the walls. Investigators initially thought it was some kind of coordinated attack, that there were multiple perpetrators who struck simultaneously.

But all the witnesses, and there were a lot of witnesses, said they’d only seen one person. A young woman, long brown hair, pretty, between 5’2” and 5’4”. When shown a picture of Jenna, they all confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was she who had attacked their loved ones. When looking in to Lillian, investigators found that no such woman had ever been in the employ of, or in any way connected to, any of the adoption agencies we’d interacted with 16 years prior.

They never found another trace of Jenna from that day forward. It was as if she’d vanished from the face of the earth. Once we were able to leave town, we moved across the country, to this house.

That brings me to you, my beautiful Kathryn. Your birthday is in two days. On that day, something is going to happen to you. Even after everything, I can’t begin to speculate as to what that “something” may be, but nevertheless, it will. I can only assume Lillian will return for you.

No matter what happens, your mother and I will always love you. Always. Nothing will ever change that. So please, don’t think that what’s happening now means anything different. I know you weren’t expecting to spend the days leading up to your birthday locked in the basement, chained to the wall, but I hope the room I built provides you at least a little bit of comfort. I can only imagine how scary and confusing this must be for you.

I hope you understand that we can’t let anyone else get hurt. All we wanted was a child of our own, and we love the children we had. We love you deeply, unconditionally.

I hope you don’t hate us. If I would have had any idea what was going to happen to Jenna, I would have done what I’m doing now, back then, with her. We just needed a baby. Kathryn, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what goes on inside you when it happens. I would take all of it on myself if I could.

I have no doubt that Lillian is going to return. When she does, I will do everything I can to keep her from you. I am sorry to all the people hurt by the decision we made all those years ago, but I will never say I regret it. Your mother and I have cherished every single second we’ve gotten to spend with you, and we are going to do whatever we can to keep you here with us.

I love you sweetheart, we both do.

I’ll never forgive myself for you having to go through this, or for Jenna having had to go through it.

And it keeps me up at night, knowing I have two more daughters to whom I may very well have to write this same letter in just a couple short years, only they’ll remember what happens with you. Arya and Casie love their big sister so much.

Whatever happens on Wednesday, please try, just try not to hurt anyone. And if you see Jenna, please tell her we love her and miss her.

I’ll bring food down for you at 6pm.

Love always,

Your father

_____

To anyone reading this, I don’t know what is going to happen on Wednesday. But I feel as though I owe it to you to tell you protect yourself. I don’t know what Lillian does with the children of people who drink from those vials, but I know that those children can hurt people.

I truly hope none of you have pay the price for our desperation.

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