Eli and Carrie had seen the pool glowing at night. They had lived with the Rothsteins only a few weeks. They were lucky to have found a home after the fire took their parents from them, even if it's a temporary one. Eli was eleven and Carrie nine. Carrie didn't say much in front of the Rothsteins. Eli has to speak for her. Carrie told Eli Mr. Rothstein was scary. He was very tall, had a looming presence about him, and a booming voice. He always seemed agitated. But Mrs. Rothstein was a small lady, and Carrie would often ask Eli why Mr. Rothstein was married to a girl and not a woman.
“Not married to a girl, Carrie. I told you before. She's a real woman.” Eli yelled at her.
They were upstairs in the attic of the Rothstein's home, looking through a pile of junk, T.V.'s printers and computer monitors, old clothes.
“You don't have to yell at me, Eli,” Carrie found a frayed mulch-colored scarf and wrapped it around her neck.
“I'm not yelling at you. I'm kinda tired of explaining things to you.” Eli found an old painting of a man with very little hair and tiny eyes the peered right through you. He shivered, hid the painting behind a car stereo.
“How long do we have to stay here?” Carrie sat on a paint bucket.
Eli shrugged. “I don't know. As long as they let us.”
“Do you like Mr. Rothstein?”
“Stop with the questions, okay! He's alright, I guess.”
“I couldn't sleep last night. That light outside was bright.” She stood and kicked over the empty paint can. It rolled to the other side of the attic and banged against the wall., which was spotless, clear of anything.
“That was weird. A bright light from the swimming pool next door. Soon those people will have to close it.”
Summer is almost over with. Soon school starts. Nobody has their pool open in the cold days, can't go swimmin' if it's cold.”
“Oh.” Carrie began to hum to herself as she played an imaginary game of hopscotch.
At dinner time, everyone was very quiet. Baked chicken and squash was on the plate. The adults ate at their usual pace. Carrie and Eli just picked at their food. Out the corner of his eye, Mr. Rothstein watched them mistrustfully. He sat very straight and stiffly in his chair. His movements were robotic. At times he even spoke as if he were a machine.
“How was your day, dear?” Mrs. Rothstein asked, then chewing her food carefully.
Mr. Rothstein groaned. He was staring at his plate now. Mrs. Rothstein placed a hand on his shoulder, their eyes met. A sadness they shared.
Later that night, Eli could hear them talking in the living room. He was suppose to be in bed. The next day he and Carrie would go to the school with Mrs. Rothstein and enroll. But Eli was curious. He sat on the stairs behind the living room. He saw Mrs. Rothstein sit next to her husband on the arm of his chair. He placed a hand on her legs.
“You were thinking of Todd, weren't you?” She whispered.
“Yes,” He said after a brief silence. “I'm...always thinking of him.”
“It's been two years, you would think the police would have found him by now.”
“I should have been watching him more closely. I knew better than to leave a six year old boy on the toy aisle by himself.”
“You didn't know he would be taken.....”
“You should hate me.”
“There is no way I could hate you. Not even for that....it could have happened to me.”
“But it didn't. It happened to me.”
There was more silence. She stood, took him by the hand and helped him to his feet. “Let's go to bed.”
Eli scurried up the stairs and ran into his room. He shut his door gently, he turned to see a shadow looking out his bedroom window. He nearly swallowed his heart.
“Eli.” Carrie said, pointing. “The pool next door is glowing.”
“What are you doing sneaking in my room?” He whispered.
“I needed you to see it,” She said, wiping her nose. “I can't sleep because of it.”
“Well,” Eli went to the window and looked out. “What do you want me to do about it?”
“What you said today you would do,” Carrie had that stern look on he face the way their mom used to have to make Eli do what she wanted. “You said you would go over there and see why it's glowing.” She wiped her nose with a hand again.
“We can't. It's too late at night and your allergies are acting up.”
“You said you would. Don't say things like that unless you mean them,” Carrie wasn't going to give up.
Eli sighed, rolled his eyes. “Alright! We'll go. But only for a few minutes. We have to wait until they are asleep—that's soon. Go out the backdoor. We have to be quiet. You understand?”
“You don't have to tell me everything. I'm not a little kid anymore.”
They stood by the old huge oak tree with the name of the Rothstein's son carved in big bold choppy letters. Carry pointed to the glowing pool of blue in an otherwise dark backyard. To the side of the pool a two story house stood, designed like a Spanish villa. In front of the pool was a statue of a woman from the roman period of history, she had seven arms, all of them holding a small baby. Eli was scared. But he didn't dare tell his sister. Strange, somehow she seemed to want to wander through that strange dark yard with the glowing pool, as if she needed to.
Carrie started toward the yard without him. Then, turned and said, “Come on. Don't be a scaredy cat, Eli.”
He followed Carrie, who walked along as if in a trance.
They were there, in front of the pool, glowing in all it's glory. Carrie stood motionless. She was transfixed. Eli tried to control his hands from a nervous twitch by balling them into fists. A golden light shone brighter than any moonlight, giving the two of them a heavenly glaze about their faces.
Eli peered into the pool. Under the soft currents, thirty or more children floated aimlessly, their big black eyes distilled. They were motionless like Carrie, and like Carrie, too; they were under the age of twelve. Eli let out a whimper. He stepped back only to find someone in his path. He turned slowly, gripping at the person's ragged pants.
It was an old man, leering at him,his decrepit claws holding Eli by the shoulders.
“Beautiful, is it not?” The old man spoke in an old dialect, possibly from Eastern Europe.”My Art....it's taken me a lifetime.....to create.”
“I—I don't understand, Mister. Are they dead?” Eli barely managed. He tried to break free of the old man's grip, but he had some sort of hold on Eli---it was more than physical.
“Ohh..no. Not exactly...just free of this world.” Eli looked away quickly. Don't look in his eyes---he told himself. Those black, milky eyes seemed to shimmer from the light of the pool gave off. Finally, Eli was able to pull away. The old man continued, stepping toward Carrie, who by now was at the edge of the pool. “They were all children who at one time or another needed attention from someone that cared more for them---”
“You sound crazy, mister. I'm gonna get the cops---you'll be in a lot of trouble--”
“These children, need protection from the world—from their parents—who care not for them. The Goddess--” he pointed to the statue of the woman holding several babies in her arms. “Leah, would hear a child's prayer to take them away---so they would never be unhappy.”
“Carrie!” Eli ran to his sister. He placed a hand on her cold, frigid shoulder. “Carrie, please, come away from the pool. It's bad. Real bad.”
She couldn't hear him. Lost in a deep trance, she stared at the glowing pool.
“She is safe with Leah---safe for all eternity.” The old man looked up at the statue. “My art...it is beautiful, my Goddess?”
The statue turned to the old man. “You promised more children for me to love...you have broken your promise.” The children in her arms squirmed and cried out. The statue hissed at Eli. “This one is too old!” Her face became stricken with ferocious rage. “Get rid of him!”
The old man bowed and the statue returned to her frozen stance. The old man grabbed Eli by the collar of his pajamas. Eli jabbed the old man in the ribs. The old man only squinted, still held on tightly. Eli elbowed him again and pulled away, dragging the old man with him. The old man took his other hand and began choking Eli. Eli struggled to catch his breath, the pressure on his throat was too much. Everything became hazy. Eli began to black out. When he would retain conscience, he would reach out for Carrie. But Carrie wasn't there. She was on the other side of the pool, still entranced by the glowing pool, awaiting the old man's orders to step into the pool.
Eli pulled one last time, with all his strength. The old man skidded. Both of them just barely at the edge of the pool, momentarily, then fell in. Both sank to the bottom, underneath the now moving children feet. The light from the pool disappeared. The spell on Carrie was broken. She looked down in the pool and called out for Eli. The water bubbled and steam rose and fell. Eli and the old man was nowhere to be found.
The children he had lured and kept in the pool for years, climbed out. More than thirty naked, disoriented children under the age of twelve surrounded Carrie, weeping and asking for their parents. One boy in particular stood out to Carrie. She recognized the Rothstein's son from photographs they kept of him. “Todd...” She whispered.
The boy was shivering, along with the others. He looked at Carrie and said, “Would you take me home?” His voice sounded raw.
The other children said the same thing. It sounded like a noisy schoolroom. At this moment, the pool stopped bubbling, the currents were still. Eli rose out of the water, pulled himself up on the concrete walk. He saw the statue had already crumbled to the ground. Eli tossed some of the smaller pieces into the pool. The other children followed his act, rolling the bigger pieces into the water.
Eli took Carrie's hand. “Let's go home,” he said to the children.
The Rothsteins were in shock Eli and Carrie appeared with all of these children at their doorstep. Dumbfounded when they brought home their son. Eli and Carrie tried to explain to the Rothsteins and the police what had happened. But neither wanted to believe it, it seemed they had no choice. When Eli mentioned the old man, described him, the Rothsteins and the police shook their heads and told Eli, “The old man had been dead for twenty years, and the house next door had been empty just as long.”
The Rothsteins tried to keep Eli and Carrie in their home. The paperwork to adopt them was caught in red tape. They did stay for a few months longer than expected. They got to know thTodd a little. But he was shy, withdrawn. Carrie thought him a little strange. The boy saw them off on their last day at the house. A brown Sedan came and took them away to their new home.
As he waved goodbye, a thought rushed across his overworked mind. I 'll start again, my Goddess. You shall have all the children you need.