The Sunderland Sisters
James didn’t know much about the Sunderland sisters. No one did. They were completely unattainable, surrounded by some sort of an ethereal aura no one could invade. Wherever they went, heads turned and dreamy gazes followed. All five of them, so perfect and untouchable, they intrigued and charmed everyone around them.
It wasn’t even about their looks. In fact, if there ever was a person disenchanted by them, they would’ve said the sisters looked quite plain and forgettable. Said person was yet to exist, however, as people insisted no models on the cover of the magazines could compare to their essence. Regardless, even James admitted to himself that most of the time he couldn’t tell the charming five apart. Not that he saw them separately often, if ever – they seemed to be incapable of being apart any time that wasn’t required by the school. Even then, they managed to persuade the teachers to mostly put them in the same classes. Again, not that the teachers needed much convincing.
James could feel it wasn’t quite right, but he just couldn’t stop thinking about them. Yet whenever he tried to find out anything real about them, he bumped into a concrete wall. The only thing he could uncover was that they lived with extremely strict parents and weren’t allowed out anywhere apart from school. To his disgust with himself, that made him feel slightly better, to know they were restricted to one area with limited competition. He hated himself for even daring to hope – like any of them would ever choose him for anything. Not even the most popular guys in school got anywhere with them, and he was nerdy nobody.
It didn’t take long for James to transfer classes as watching out for them at school wasn’t enough. He needed to be in the same room as the sisters, inhaling their presence to the point where his lungs couldn’t handle anymore. His parents’ warnings about his college applications were irrelevant, as long as he got to see their soft golden hair trickling down their shoulders as they were sitting in front desks. He also observed their golden locks swaying in the autumn sun as he was twenty steps behind them, pretending he needed to walk that way. Not his proudest moment, sure, but he knew he would do it again, as much as he despised himself for it. After all, it was as close to them as he was going to get.
Or so he thought.
Lila Sunderland herself approached James on a Friday afternoon, just as he was picking up books from his locker. As she stood in front of him as effortlessly as could be, all will left his body instantly. The only thing that mattered was her and what she wanted him to do. And he would’ve done anything.
‘My sisters and I need help with our homework. You’re the best in our class, so we were wondering if maybe you could come by ours and help? Around 7 o’clock?’, she might as well had asked him to chop off his own toes and he would’ve done so without flinching. Unable to speak, he just nodded. Lila rewarded him with that incomparable smile of hers and practically floated off. As James slammed his locker with shaky hands, it didn’t even occur to him that she didn’t tell him what their address was.
Sure enough, 7 pm came and James was standing at their door, clutching his books like a life raft. He wasn’t sure how would explain any scholarly questions to them – he barely remembered to breathe. Even that was only when Lila opened the door, as enchanting as ever, and gestured for him to come in. If anyone had been looking from the outside, they would’ve described that it seemed like the house itself swallowed him up.
James silently followed Lila into the living room, where the rest of the sisters were sitting. If he wasn’t so mentally paralyzed, he would’ve registered the chipped walls, the run-down floors and the leak coming from the ceiling. He would’ve noticed the lack of furniture, apart from one second-hand worn-out sofa. Most of all, he would’ve noticed carcasses of rats and god knows what else in the corners, and an alarming lack of so-called strict parental figures. But to him, the place seemed like any other normal house, his boyish mind not bothering to do into mental detail on décor choices.
‘Take a seat, James’, Lila said gently, yet with enough command to make James slump directly in the middle of the sofa. He observed the five sisters, all staring him down, something in their looks he couldn’t quite identify.
‘Before we start, would you like a cup of tea?’, she handed him a chipped dirty mug full of something that definitely didn’t resemble a herbal beverage. James, however, gulped it obediently, all while stared down by the girls, their body language betraying anticipation. He looked back at them, his sight starting to blur, slowly at first, then at an alarmingly fast rate. Dizziness twisted the sisters’ faces, making them look almost like hungry hyenas. He would’ve sworn he saw their sharp teeth glinting before everything went to black.
At first, James didn’t understand where he was. All he could feel was a painful restricting sensation in his wrists and ankles. Then his sight focused, presenting him with a black brick ceiling. A wooden board was pressing on his back. Judging from the lack of windows and a musky humid smell, James pieced together he must be in a basement. Everything else was still fuzzy, like a veil over his brain.
As he tried to struggle in his chains, the sisters walked in, as slowly and lightly as ever, and gathered around him in a circle. They were cloaked and each held a knife in their intertwined hands. While they still looked as usual for the most part, their eyes were completely black and glassy, giving James a look at his own terrified reflection. He tried to scream, but the only thing to come out of his throat was a despicable gargle.
‘What are you going to do to me?’, he croaked, trying to buy himself some time, although he didn’t have a single idea on how to get out of there.
‘Oh, James’, Lila spoke, standing right by his head. ‘I don’t think that’s something you need to know.’
‘They’ll- they’ll look for me. My parents, the cops-’, James was choking on his words, each one requiring way too much effort. It was like he was fading already, like the sisters were sucking the life force out of him.
‘And they’ll find you. Somewhat’, Lila let out the most innocent-sounding laughter that could be equated to crystal clinking together, but something in its background gave it a sinister feeling that made the hairs on James’s neck stand up. ‘We’re sorry it has to be this way, we really are. But you see, there’s someone out there who’s even worse than we are. And that someone... Well, if we can’t beat him, your kind certainly doesn’t stand a chance.’
‘Oh for Christ’s sake, why do you always do this?’, one of the sisters, James couldn’t see which, addressed Lila. ‘He doesn’t need to hear this!’
‘He deserves to know how he’s contributing to our cause’, Lila’s tone earned no response from any of them. ‘You see, James, we can’t guarantee that it’s a permanent solution. But it seemed to work so far. Sure, we’d prefer to stay feminine, but our tricks only work on a certain type of audience and beggars can’t be choosers.’
‘You’re insane’, James breathed out. ‘All of you.’
‘I can’t promise the take-over will be completely smooth sailing, but how hard can it be to be you?’, another laughter, this time even more sinister. ‘For a nerd, you do have really nice skin.’
Lila brushed James’s cheek with the blade, leaving a tiny trail of blood on it. She carefully wiped it with her finger and licked it off, savouring the taste.
‘It’s time, sisters’, she commanded, and like one, all five of them lunged at James, their knives pointing towards his stomach. If anyone had been walking past the house, they wouldn’t have heard his screams, however, only trees rustling in the wind. They wouldn’t have seen the streams of blood flowing out his body, which was quickly losing life. They wouldn’t have witnessed the sisters feasting on what was left of him, a poor boy who wanted to know them too much.
Samuel didn’t know much about the Sunderland sisters. No one did. They were completely unattainable, surrounded by some sort of an ethereal aura no one could invade. Wherever they went, heads turned and dreamy gazes followed. All four of them, so perfect and untouchable.