Sylvia pointed a trembling finger at my brother Arthur. Her milky, unseeing eyes gleamed in his direction, and his wife, Agnes, trembled with indignation from across the table. My husband’s face colored as he dropped his fork and dragged our daughter back into her bedroom, scolding her as they went.
The rest of the night was awkward, and the pep in our conversation never recovered.
Two weeks later, Agnes was stabbed to death in her office parking lot. An inebriated college student found her, almost vomited all over her, and called the cops.
My brother swore that he bore no ill will against my daughter, but I could tell that he was lying.
One day, the middle-aged woman who taught my daughter how to read her braille called me. “Ma’am, I don’t know what’s going on but your daughter’s been whispering, ‘electrocution, electrocution,’ for the past half-hour and it’s starting to distract her from her lessons. Could you please talk to her?”
Sylvia, in her nine-year-old lack of understanding, told me it was “just a cool new word” she learned at school.
The death of an electrician made headlines the following week. It was a freak accident involving tangled wires and a bucket of water.
Sylvia’s teacher’s face was blurred for privacy, but her voice was as familiar as anything to me:
“He was…my partner…my soulmate.”
While my husband was working late, I called Sylvia into the living room.
“Honey, is there anything Mommy should know?”
“Honey, you know you can talk to me.”
She denied it once more, “I have no secrets from you, Mommy.”
My husband walked into the living room with his hair tousled and his eyes distant.
Instead of rushing to hug her dad, Sylvia simply turned towards him. “Fire,” she said.
My heart stopped. Everytime Sylvia said something like that, it was the person’s partner who died, and of that reason too. A fire? Was Sylvia merely making predictions, or was she putting a curse on me for snooping in on her business? Why, this devil child—
I grew paranoid, checked the appliances and electronics constantly, and cleared the house of any fire hazards. That was my life over the next few days. All the while, I kept my eyes on Sylvia. Sylvia. I had grown almost hateful towards my own daughter.
My husband came home one night, wounded and blackened with soot, while I sat in the living room and Sylvia listened to the radio beside me. “What’s the matter?” I asked.
He gulped. “One of my colleagues, her house…her house caught fire. She was trapped in, but I managed to escape.”
That turned the gears in my head. “What were you doing in her house?”
The expression on my husband’s face was a sufficient admission of guilt. I opened my mouth to speak—no, to scream—but a smaller voice from beside me looked at me and whispered: