What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?
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What did King Arthur tell his men before bedtime?
Recap of voices #51 - #75: 51) Daffy Duck 52) Michigan J. Frog 53) Mae West 54) Robin Williams as Mork 55) Lara from 15 Minutes: A YA Time Travel Thriller 56) Julia Child 57) Kermit 58) Dory from Finding Nemo 59) Penny from The Big Bang Theory 60) Groot 61) Elmo 62) Mrs. Wolowitz 63) Llyssaer from Dead Reckoning 64) Jamaican Man 65) The Count 66) Elvis 67) Darth Vader 68) Yoda 69) Porky Pig 70) John Wayne 71) Gomer Pyle
72) The Fonz 73) Samantha and Serena from Into Thin Air 74) Echo 75) Diva.
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On a breezy, summer afternoon, two girls wandered through the woods on the outskirts of a small, shoreline town in North Carolina. Born identical twins a little more than a decade ago, the blonde-haired duo wound their way through the maze of trees, crunching leaves and tall grass as they searched for butterflies.They were clothed in matching denim skirts, half-sleeved tops and sneakers. Serena’s shirt was light pink and her skirt dark blue, matching the shade of her eyes. A pair of light blue ribbons, tied in identical bows near the ends of each of her sandy blonde braids,held the pair of woven segments in place just below her shoulders. Although her sister wore the exact same skirt, the rest of Samantha’s outfit exemplified the colors of summer. Her shirt was light green and dandelion yellow and she wore her hair in a ponytail bound by a simple yellow hair tie. Although they were twins, their tastes could be quite different, especially when it came to clothes and accessories. Around their necks they each wore an identical necklace, with the only exception, of course, being the color.Since the sisters both loved horses and all things fantasy, their uncle Bud had surprised them each with a unicorn encapsulated in a charm dangling from a silver chain for Christmas the previous year. The creature filling the center of Serena’s charm was blue with bright yellow eyes while Samantha’s was green with shining pink eyes. Both of these were held securely within a thin, silver frame. Although their mother had been uncertain if they would like their gifts, the girls had loved them so much that hardly a day went by that they didn’t wear them. “I see one!” Serena cried happily. Without waiting for her sister, she slipped through a gap in the brush and darted in the direction of the ocean before turning toward the oddly placed stone steps that led to an unseen location over a hill.
“Wait, Sere!” Samantha called as she ran to catch up with her twin. Just as she jumped over a wide, fallen log, she stumbled and her butterfly net hooked on a low tree branch dangling from a nearby oak. “Oh, doodlebug!” she whispered angrily as she regained her footing before struggling to free the delicate mesh from the dry but not so brittle branch. After a long moment, she managed to release the netting away from the wooden, craggy finger. She frowned when she realized there was now a hole in the insect catching material roughly the size of a pencil eraser.
“Just great!” she grumbled as she heard her sister’s excited voice call from somewhere in the distance.
“Sam! Come look at this!”
Samantha turned her green eyes toward the hill where her sister had disappeared but she couldn’t see her. Serena had found her new treasure somewhere on the other side, out of sight.
“I’m coming!” she called as she ran up the stone steps. “Wait for me, Sere!” A few seconds later, she reached the plateau and expected to find her sister kneeling on the other side, her net held close to the grassy landscape in order to keep whatever she might have caught from getting away. Instead, as she crested the top, Sam was surprised to find Serena was nowhere in sight.
“Sere?” she called, but her only answer was the breeze blowing through her hair and the sound of waves breaking gently along the shoreline somewhere beyond the rocky ledge to her right. “Come on, Sere! I don’t feel like looking for you. Come out and show me
what you found.” She took a few steps across the surrounding sandy grass and rocks then stopped and listened. Nothing. Where had she gone? Turning to her right, Sam scanned the grainy landscape where it melted into a long line of stones. Now that she
was really looking at it, she noticed how the rocks ended at a steep, jagged cliff which led to the beach twenty or so feet below. Bringing her focus back to the area around her, she panned her gaze across the small field filled with tall, tan weeds. To her left, the edge of the weedy field spilled back into a somewhat higher elevation of trees where she and Serena had been only a few moments before. There was no sign of her sister anywhere. She strained her ears as she listened for Serena’s familiar voice or laugh but heard nothing. Suddenly, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle and her abdomen twisted with the odd flutter of a hundred internal, uncaptured butterflies. Something was wrong. “Sere, come on!” she yelled into the breeze. “We need to go home for lunch soon!”
She waited another moment or two, but when her sister still didn’t join her on the hill, Sam decided she would look for her. She wasn’t much into the game of hide-and-seek anymore. Even worse, she couldn’t shake the gnawing feeling that something just wasn’t right. Hoping Serena might be hiding down on the beach, Sam headed in the direction of the rocky cliff. The stones beneath her feet felt a bit wobbly as she approached the edge, so she took careful steps and slowly, gently peered over. Nothing. There was no sign of footprints or a dropped butterfly net anywhere on the smooth, damp sand below. She was aware that high tide had been a few hours prior because their father had gone fishing with a couple of his friends. If Serena had jumped off the cliff and landed on the still moist sand below, which was unlikely because it was really far down, she surely would have left footprints, the imprint of a
wingless sand angel, or something. Sam slowly stepped away from the edge of the cliff and turned to peer again at the weedy field behind her. It was almost overrun with thin reeds, some of which were almost as tall as she was, but none were bent or showed any signs of having been pushed aside indicating her sister had made a quick path into them.
Finding no sign of Serena, Sam decided the only other thing her sister could have done was take a sharp left at the top of the hill and head back into the woods. Maybe she had planned on looping around to sneak up behind Sam to scare her. Although this would be a great answer to her question regarding why her twin had disappeared, Sam still couldn’t shake the strange feeling that
something was wrong, horribly wrong. “Sere, I’m heading back,” she called out, tired of the game. Without waiting for her sister to join her, Samantha Dune turned, walked back down the hill, and headed home.
As she entered the front door of her house, Sam heard her mother’s voice in the kitchen. Since Sam knew her father was likely still out fishing, either someone had come over or her mom was on the phone. When he did go out on the ocean, he was usually gone all day. Sometimes he would take either Sam or her sister out with him, but today was Ned’s birthday and it was a fishing trip for just him and his buddies. Next time, though, Dad said he would take both girls with him; then the race would be on to see which one of them could catch the most fish!
She stepped into the kitchen and saw her mother standing at the sink, looking out the window. She was doing dishes with the cordless phone wedged in the crook between her shoulder and her chin, which was something she often did. On the table were two plates, each with a bologna and cheese sandwich and a small pile of sliced carrot sticks. Beside each of these was a tall glass of milk.
Sam was just about to pull her chair out when she remembered she needed to wash her hands. Since she couldn’t do it in the kitchen sink, she turned and headed down the hall to the bathroom. Although she hadn’t intended to listen to her mom’s conversation, it didn’t take long for a single sentence to hook her attention.
“How many have disappeared?”
Her curiosity piqued, Sam hurriedly rubbed bubbly soap between her hands and fingers then rinsed and dried them on a hand towel. She knew she shouldn’t be eavesdropping but she couldn’t help it. What had disappeared? Maybe Dad’s fishing trip wasn’t going all that well because all the fish were gone. That would stink, especially on his birthday! Walking back to the kitchen, she
couldn’t hear what the caller on the other end of the phone had said but she knew what it was because her mother repeated it in a stressed, low voice.
“Four? In just a few weeks? And they were all between the ages of 9 and 12?”
When she stepped into the kitchen, her mother said a rushed goodbye to the caller before placing the phone on the counter and plunging her hands back into the soapy dishwater. Sam greeted her as she pulled her chair away from the table. “Hi, Mom.”
Her mother turned and looked at her with a small, thin smile. She was worried, Sam knew. She and her sister, even their father, sometimes teased Mom because whenever she worried about something, she would get a sideways “w” on the outer skin by each
eye. That infamous, Dune family 23rd letter was there now, loud and clear.
“Hi, Sammie,” Mom said in a low, tired voice. “Did you have fun outside?”
Sam nodded. “Yeah, we were chasing butterflies.” Her mom nodded and fell silent. She had turned her back on her daughter and was now staring off at something through the window again. As if being programmed like a robot, her hands automatically rinsed the soapy pile of dishes in the sink and put them in the dish drainer on the counter. After a moment, Sam thought her mother was
about to say something but she changed her mind as her worried gaze focused on the empty seat at the kitchen table.
“Where’s Serena?” she asked. “Is she still in the bathroom?”
Sam shrugged, chewing on a carrot. She stopped mid-crunch when she realized her mother was staring at her with expectant, raised eyebrows. “Sam, where is she?” Sam shrugged again, swallowed her bite then washed it down with a gulp of milk.
“I dunno,” she said as she fumbled with a napkin so she could wipe away her milk mustache. “She went after a butterfly near the beach and I was going to follow her but my net got stuck on a tree branch. By the time I got it free, I ran up the hill where she went but she wasn’t there.”
“You left her there?” her mother said. As she said the words, her voice rose and the worry in her eyes changed to anger.
“Well, not really,” Sam answered cautiously as she picked up another piece of carrot. “I told her I didn’t want to play hide-and-seek anymore and I was coming home for lunch. I figured she’d follow me when she got tired of hiding.”
“Sam!” her mother yelled. Her booming voice startled the blonde haired girl so much that she dropped the carrot stick onto her plate. As it landed with a soft plink, she couldn’t help but stare at her mother with wide, confused eyes.
“I didn’t do anything, Mom,” she said in a defensive tone as she nervously clasped her fingers together beneath the table.
“You need to show me where you were,” her mom said. Leaving the remaining soap-covered dishes in the sink, she turned off the running water and hurriedly wiped her wet hands on the dishtowel hanging nearby. She then sat down at the table and shoved her
feet into the pair of sandals that were lying on the mat next to the door.
“Right now?” Sam asked, not understanding why her mother was so upset.
“Yes!” her mother said in a curt tone. “Right now!”
“Okay.” Sam left her lunch on the table and together they hurried to the place where her sister had disappeared. They searched the beach, the woods, and the weedy field, calling Serena’s name but received no response. After a short time, her mother used her cell phone to call a few of Serena’s friends who lived nearby to see if her daughter had gone to any of their houses but no one had
seen her. Next, her mom called her own friends, begging them to come help look for her missing daughter, which they did. After an hour of fruitless searching, her mom finally called the police.
The detective in charge took statements from those participating in the search then advised Sam and her mother to go home and wait for news.
Once there, her mom searched the house frantically for Serena. When she still wasn’t found, Sam sat at the table listening to her CDs while her mother paced nervously around the house. After a while, a few of her mom’s friends came in from the search and
offered reassurances that Sere was probably just out exploring and lost track of time.
A few hours later, her father returned home from his fishing trip. This was when Sam overheard her mother explain what she’d heard on the phone earlier in the afternoon; now she understood why her mother had reacted the way she did when she realized
Serena hadn’t been with her at lunchtime.
Over the past few weeks, four young children, all girls, had disappeared from eastern North Carolina while playing outside. Even worse than this was that none of them, not one, had been located. They’d simply vanished into thin air and it was assumed they’d been kidnapped.
None of them were ever found.