a mystery by amgm04
Wanda’s Eclipse
“So, Mr. Berryhill.”
“Good morning, officer.”
The grizzled officer leaned forward, gesturing to his name badge with a wrinkling hand. I caught a whiff of his breath, which smelled of spearmint and alcohol. “Please, Mr. Berryhill,” he said, “call me Dave. I’m no real officer, just here to ask a few questions.” He gave what I suppose was meant to be a friendly wink, and leaned back, the chair squeaking under his weight.
I nodded.
“Alright. Could you give me a description, please, of the events leading up to arriving at the park?”
I could feel the excitement buzzing in the otherwise quiet car as we made our way to the park. Look at this- our mid-sized, suburban, otherwise unnoticeable Kentucky town, right in the path of totality for a solar eclipse. Though the best place to view it was an hour or so away, there and everywhere in its vicinity had been booked up months ago.
Kentucky’s fifty seconds of fame.
“You know, Jacob, the last time a solar eclipse happened was when George Washington was still alive. Or- total solar eclipse, like this one.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yeah, it is! That’s what my dad told me, at least.
“I think it was in, like, 1999. Or something like that. Wanda, George Washington isn’t a couple centuries old.”
“Who knows? Maybe he’s frozen in time and will come alive today to see the eclipse.”
I laughed, and so did she. I wasn’t really used to seeing her outside of school, but somehow she seemed even prettier. Like an inmate released from prison. She seemed free.
Yikes. Just compared my girlfriend to a prisoner.
It’d taken a lot of convincing Wanda’s parents to let her come with my family to see the eclipse, and even more so convincing my own to tote around an extra fifteen-year-old. But they’d given in, and here we were- Wanda and I, climbing out of the backseat of my mom’s crusty old Kia, laying out a blanket in the grass of a park we’d known for so long, now packed with hundreds of people from states I’d never even visited.
I waited as Dave the Detective scribbled down the hasty summary of a vivid memory I’d given him. The blue ballpoint pen on the crinkle notepad sounded amplified in the overly quiet room, and I longed to break the silence, but didn’t feel entitled to do so.
Finally, he clicked the pen and looked back up at me.
“Did anyone in the car on the way to the park seem.. hostile, toward Wanda?”
“You’re saying you think my family kidnapped my girlfriend?”
“No, no, not at all, Mr. Berryhill. We just want to make sure.”
“Make sure of what?”
“Make sure we don’t..” he paused, obviously at loss for words. He looked into my eyes, asking silently for a break, for me to let him off the hook, but I just stared coldly back at him. “Accidentally.. Eliminate any possible suspects. And the victim wasn’t necessarily kidnapped, remember, she could have just as easily run away, or-“
“Yeah, right.” I wanted to spit. “She just decided to leave behind her life out of nowhere. And for God’s sake, she has a name- call her Wanda, not ‘the victim’- she’s worth more than just a stupid professional label, you know-“
“Mr. Berryhill.”
I shut up.
“I’m sorry. I’ll call her Wanda from now on.”
“Thank you.” I brushed a strand of my brown hair, stuck to the sweat on my forehead, out of my face.
It was quiet for a moment. His hands were clasped together, resting on the cold white table, the pen tucked behind his ear, notepad sprawled out. His steely eyes bore into my brown ones, and he cleared his throat. “Let’s continue.”
“Could you describe what you and Wanda did in the park before the eclipse? Describe the people and objects around you, if you would.”
The sun was high in the air- it was 12:06 last time I checked. A good half of the students in school had, like us, left to view the eclipse, and it felt strange to be here, with Wanda, spinning a dime on a rickety old picnic table.
When’s it supposed to happen? Like, 1:00?” She asked, catching the dime as it fell off the rough surface.
“I think a little later than that. Not sure- you can ask my mom, if you want.
She laughed, brushing her hair behind her ear. I tried not to stare. “Your mom’s kinda scary. No offense.”
“Oh- none taken. I know she is.” We grinned, and I grabbed a frisbee. “Wanna play?”
“You’’ll beat me,” She said, but was already standing up.
We played barefoot in a shadeless stretch of grass. The grass was patchy and sun-bleached, but still soft on my feet, and the neon orange frisbee stood out against the soft blue sky.
Around us were several groups of people. One, an already-drunk and still drinking group of what looked like college-aged kids. Another, a quiet elderly couple, sat with arms around one another. A third, an overwhelmed-seeming pair of parents with at least seven young kids swarming them.
The general aesthetic of the park reminded me of the festival they held every Independence Day. The had inflatables for the small kids, and dozens of food trucks. They sold balloon animals and glowsticks and sparklers, and at 9:30 they had a spectacular firework show. Of course, they weren’t doing all that for the eclipse, but there were a few stray sketchy-looking popsicle stands with lines a mile long, taking advantage of the sweaty crowds.
Several people joined our game- all a year or two older than us- who Wanda promptly acquainted herself with while I shyly waved. They demonstrated proper throwing technique and how to catch- I assumed they were professionals. Disc golfers, maybe? They had a large, zipped duffel bag, packed with what I assumed were discs and water bottles.
After a while, they left.
“It’s hot out here,” said Wanda, fanning herself with a hand.
“Yeah, ‘cause you’re out-,” I began, but Wanda hit me, grinning, before I could finish.
“Maybe we can go grab a popsicle,” she suggested. “Pomegranite-mango sounds amazing right now.”
“Yeah, but won’t it start soon?”
“Maybe. We might have time.” She glanced back toward the stand, then shrugged.
We laid back on the blanket, side by side. She laced her fingers with mine.
I could have laid there forever. Staring up expectantly at the sun, and holding hands with mine.
“Frisbee, then? Did you do anything else? Go anywhere?”
I frowned. “Not really. We sat and talked.”
Dave nodded, forever scirbbling on his little yellow notepad. “Did you see where the three people who joined your game went after they left?”
“Uh- back to their stuff, I guess? I wasn’t really watching them.”
Another curt nod.
“Sorry,” I said, running a stressed hand through my hair.
Dave paused, looking up. “What for, Mr. Berryhill?”
“I- not knowing a lot. I know I’m not being very helpful and- I’m sorry.” I swallowed. “I just- want to know where Wanda is.” My voice broke, and I winced.
Dave gave a sad, knowing, almost too-friendly smile, and rested his hand on my shoulders, which- I hadn’t realized before- were shaking. “Wanda sounds like a wonderful young lady, Mr. Berryhill, and the officers will do everything in their power to find her.” He gave that offsetting smile again. “I know this must feel like a lot of pressure is on you.”
I just nodded.
Detective Dave looked at me for a moment, drew in a breath, and picked up his pen again. “Well, Mr. Berryhill-“
“Just call me by my first name, please.”
“-Jacob. Sorry. If you’re able, Jacob, will you tell me everything you can about what happened during the eclipse itself?”
I was awoken from my dreamlike state by Wanda tearing her hand from mine to point excitedly at the sun. “Look, J!” She said through a smile, and murmurs of wonder spread rapidly through the park.
It was very strange to watch. A black shadow was swallowing the sun, sliver by sliver. I tried to take pictures, but my phone’s camera refused to cooperate.
Memories last longer, anyways. That’s what my parents say.
Soon the sun was halfway covered, and despite myself, I felt a bit of panic rising in my throat. The sun was going away, for God’s sake- what if it didn’t come back?
What if it was dark forever?
Silly questions, I told myself. Silly fears. You’re fifteen, not six.
I put an arm around Wanda as we both sat upright, staring at the sun, not caring about the dozens of warnings we’d gotten about doing so. The park was eerily silent, everyone captured in the moment our sun went black.
Wanda stood up, and so did I.
We watched.
The park was dark. The light-sensitive lamps turned on for a moment, but some operator quickly turned them back off. People laughed a little, and so did we.
There was no we.
Wanda wasn’t standing by me anymore. I glanced around, but I couldn’t see much at all through the darkness. It was like a celestial smoker had clouded the skies, charred the sun and darkened the day. I didn’t know where she’d gone- the bathroom, maybe, but why would she, during the eclipse? She’d wait, surely. Was she getting a popsicle? No, of course not.
My heart began to hammer.
“Mom?” I whispered, walking over to my mom, who was reclined comfortably in a fold-out chair.
“Yeah, honey?”
“Where’s Wanda?”
Mom looked around, sitting up a bit. “Well, I don’t know. Shouldn’t she be with you?”
I bit my lip, feeling panic swirl in my stomach. “Yeah, she was, but I don’t know where she went-“
The elderly couple shushed us.
The full eclipse was only supposed to be viewable for less than a minute, but it felt like an hour, each second another second Wanda was lost. No, she wasn’t lost, I reassured myself. Just watching from a better spot. Obviously.
Wanda wasn’t stupid.
Wanda wouldn’t have gotten lost.
Finally, finally, the first sliver of light peeked though the black cast blanketing the sun, and while most of the park let out sighs of disappointment, I eagerly looked around.
Nothing. No Wanda.
“Mom-“ I began, feeling my heart race.
She was already out searching.
Dave finished writing, though- it may have been my imagination- it almost looked forged. I shook my doubts off my shoulders.
He was here to help.
Here to find her.
To find Wanda. Wanda, who was taken by the eclipse.
“Thank you for your time, Jacob,” said Dave, offering his hand.
I didn’t shake it.

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