The Tenth Plate [JAPAN]

Emily Groarke
The sunset was pretty.
It was a pink-ish orange, and the silhouette of birds on cables looked like music notes. A crow landed on the cables and wires and stuff weren't underground like in England, for earthquake purposes. 
I once made a shiny sunset coloured dress a present for my little sister. I like sewing. I want to be a fashion designer. Maybe I’ll be the next Coco Chanel. I was on my way to babysit someone. But not really. My mom forced me to go to this boy 's house, to hang out with his sister while he and his parents went out.
 (She wasn't allowed to go because apparently she was being disrespectful, so she was grounded)
I really didn't want to go though. He asked me to be his girlfriend a while ago, and I rejected him, because it's kind of weird to date someone at the age of 14. No offense to the 7-year-olds with partners, or the sephora 10-year-olds that the whole internet has been talking about.
I wrung my hands in my pockets, stabbing my palms with my long nails. I grew them out to paint, because I like doing my nails. It makes me feel fancy. I could barely feel my toes, or my nose, and fingertips. It was freezing. An old woman wearing multiple multi-colored coats walked past, holding a plastic shopping bag. Japan has a plastic problem. I could see her short brown hair poking out from under a dark green hat. Most older Japanese women like their hair short. Mine was long, straight and jet-black. 
I arrived at the house and marveled at the garden. It had pretty little lights on the ground, and bushes with pink flowers. What caught my attention the most was a grey well, (probably for decoration only) with vines crawling up the side.
I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Mrs Brown, the mother, answered.
“Hi! You must be Nina. Come in, it's cold outside.” She said,
Her blond hair was half in curls, and half in hair roller things. You know, the ones in 80’s magazines and stuff.
I took off my shoes, and stepped in. 
It was a dimly lit house, with plants and white walls with weird texture. I thought it would be warmer, but it was just as cold as outside, with an earthy smell, a metallic scent.
Mrs. Brown ushered me into the living room, a huge open space with a TV the size of my bed, and a table that looked more like an art piece. I saw a shadow moving around in the kitchen, out of the corner of my eye.
Mikoto sat on the sofa, with her black hair hiding her face, and Mrs. Brown disappeared upstairs.
Miktoto glanced up at me, and she then went back to fiddling with her phone. This was awkward. I didn't know what to do, because it was clear that she didn't want to talk to me.
You’d think that the youngling would be more scared of the older one. I'm an awkward person okay, stop judging.
I looked around the room. There was a stack of plates in the sink, over there in the kitchen 
I'll be helpful. Maybe they’ll pay me a bit more if I do some chores. 
The wooden floor was cold under my feet as I walked towards the sink. 
I picked a plate and was about to wash it when Albie suddenly appeared out of nowhere, with short ginger hair, and a long green coat.
“Hi Egg.” 
Inside me felt cold,  and it felt like there was a worm or a bunch of little bees in my stomach.  That was my nickname, that only my little sister called me.
I hated that name because it was so weird, but how the hell did he know it?
I was about to ask him how he knew that was my nickname, when he cut me off.
“Where's the tenth plate? Mom left them on the sink.” He glared at me, with eyes that seemed to have a translucent, glassy look to them.
“I don't know. There were only nine when I washed them.” I shrugged.
“Albie? We need to go, what are you doing-” Mrs Brown walked in with a glass of wine, and froze. 
Her icy blue eyes glanced from me to Albie. “Are you two okay? What's wrong?” She strolled to Albie’s side and ruffled his hair. She saw the plates on the counter, then counted them.
“Why are my plates there? Where's the tenth one?”
“I'm sorry, I-”
“Did you lose it? Is it broken?” Is it broken? Where is it?!” The shrill sound of her voice made my body tremble. Mrs Brown closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, then proceeded to drain the whole glass of wine.
‘Its okay.’ She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. 
‘I'm sorry.’ I didn't know what else to say.
‘But I need something to make up for it. Come on, come dance.’ She frowned, and stuck out her bottom lip, in a sadistic way, and she took my hand and tugged. The wind outside turned into the sound of a tin whistle, and turned into a haunting tune.
None of it made sense. What?
Mrs Brown spun 
 Then it dawned on me, as I remembered the shadowy figure leaving the kitchen. The way Albie always seemed to be there. The way he knew everything about me. 
And his face, which now looked like it belonged to an old man’s.
Without saying anything, I bolted.
The door was heavy, and I pushed it open. Terror filled my heart. I should never have come.
I ran out of the cursed house.
I had left my stuff inside the house, but that was the least of my worries. But I couldn't leave Mikoto there. 
I scraped my knee on the well, and stumbled. I could feel a warm sticky liquid dripping down my leg.
I felt hands on my back. Then a dark black circle hit me. Or was I the one who hit it? Then a sharp pain on the outside of my head.
Dark murky water splashed around me. It was freezing cold. I couldn't move. I was trembling. My organs turned to ice, my blood felt like poison, and my skin felt like white hot coal . Some of the liquid trickled into my mouth. But it was warm. And red. Like the sunset. The sky was a little circle above me. The world turned dark.
I woke up. I hadn't slept this well in a while. I looked around me. Dark bricks. I was lying in a pile of plates. I counted them.
Only nine. There should be ten. Where was the tenth one? I felt warm tears slide down my face. I felt like my heart was being shattered. I threw the plates at the wall. The shards dug into my skin. But I just cried and mourned the last plate. The grief turned into anger. I would find it.
I stood up. My body felt light, and I stretched. My arms hit the wall. The space was small. I looked around me. Where was I? I looked up. There was a circle of red sunset.
Water lapped hungrily at my ankles.
I was in a well. I screamed, but then regretted it, because of the echo. 
I jumped up, trying to get out. My body felt like it was floating.
And I was. What the hell was going on? I climbed out of my little well. And terror overtook me. 
This was hell. I could hear moans and wails of pain, and the grass on the lawn was on fire. But it was cold. I was freezing.
It was like a foggy dream. 
Or a nightmare.
I would wake up every morning, covered in plates. I counted them. There were only ever nine. It was heartbreaking. I would then cry. And scream. Then crawl out of the well and go to find the last plate.
I didn't know how long it had been. 
I woke up. And counted the plates. There were ten. I smiled. It felt like the first time in a while.
I cried, just Iike I did every day. But today they were happy tears.
I woke up. But I had just woken up? The walls were white. They should be grey.
Where was I? 
I turned my head. I was in a hospital.
There were plates on the bedside table. 
My family cried when they saw me awake. My little sister, Saoirse, hugged me.
But what shocked me most was how she looked, she looked like she was 12. 
When I asked, Saorise trembled while saying, "You were gone for a year.”.
Through the shock, I picked up my glass of water. My throat was parched.
Fresh water never tasted so good. Neither did food. My hair was brittle and messy, and my nails were broken, and the purple paint had scratched off. But I only wanted to use bowls.
I never wanted to touch a damn plate ever again.

Emily Groarke is thirteen years old (she ignores the fact that she will be 14 this year) and is Japanese, English, and Irish. She was born in Dubai, then moved to England, then Japan, and currently goes to The British School in Tokyo. Emily likes to write short stories, and really long stories that she will never finish. Most of them are murder mysteries, with some creepy stories, and a few fantasy ones. Emily enjoys crocheting, sewing, art, making drinks, food (she really likes food), and either binge watching things on her phone really late or really early, just never at a reasonable time.

"Sunset in the Sky" by Swami Stream is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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