Sarah “Lamby” Fletcher was a sweet child, always quick to greet everyone with a shy dimpled smile. She was smaller than most kids and very shy, but memorable in how well-behaved and kind she was. It was her sister, Cassie, who had given her the name “Lamby.” Cassie was about twelve when she commented that the toddler, who was always so affectionate and eager to please was “just like a little lamb.” Mom and dad had started calling her Lamby after that and the name stuck.
Over the years, it seemed like Lamby had a few strange ideas that only really Cassie seemed to notice. Just after Lamby turned 5, Cassie saw her coloring a ballerina and asked if that’s what she wanted to be someday. “No,” she said not looking up. “What do you want to be when you grow up then?” asked Cassie. “I’m not going to grow up. Do you want my picture when I’m finished?” Cassie thought this was a very strange thing to say but Lamby couldn’t really explain any further and her parents said it was just a product of her creative little mind. Cassie finished the conversation as she would each of the several times her sister began to say these sorts of confusing things. “We don’t have to talk about this. It’s okay.”
Another odd thing about her; Lamby hated the dark. No big deal, most kids do. But Lamby always said when the dark “came over” her, it was trying to smother her and take her away. If she was my kid, Cassie thought, I’d probably take her to a therapist or something. But since their parents split up a couple of years ago, mom worked all the time and they hardly ever saw dad. Probably best not to add to the stress by making an issue of it.
It was May in West Virginia, and the weather would normally be warming up, but lately it had been all cold rain. Summer vacation was coming up soon, and unlike most big sisters, part of what Cassie was looking forward to was spending more time with Lamby. Lamby didn’t have a ton of friends at school due to her shy nature, but Lydia and Will from her first grade class would probably be over often, since they were her closest friends. It had been raining for three days, which always made Cassie sort of vaguely blue. Nobody really seemed to want to text, so Cassie wandered into Lamby’s room, where she was already settling into bed. Mom didn’t have to tell her, she just got into bed at bedtime. Lamby was like that. “If it doesn’t stop raining I think I’m gonna lose my mind,” Cassie complained, sitting on the end of the bed. “I like the rain,” said Lamby, sliding the little gold heart locket she always wore across it’s chain wistfully, “It smells good and it makes things grow.” “And it makes things wet and cold,” countered Cassie with a note of bitterness. From downstairs, mom called up that Lamby needed to sleep and Cassie should be thinking about bed soon, too. Rolling her eyes, Cassie kissed Lamby’s leg and headed for the doorway. Lamby was so quiet that she barely heard her sister whisper “I’m not scared, you know.” “Of what kiddo?” Cassie asked, turning back. Could she be over her fear of the dark already? “To die. I’m not scared. It’ll be dark but Will and Lydia will be with me.” The statement was so strange that Cassie was momentarily dumbfounded. She started to explain that Lamby wasn’t going to die until she was super old, and she probably wouldn’t even remember her first grade friends by then, but Lamby held Cassie’s eyes for a moment and said seriously, “We don’t have to talk about this. It’s okay.” She turned over and pulled the covers up, leaving her sister to blink away her confusion and wander back to her own bedroom.
The next morning was gray and the rain was still falling. As mom stopped to let Lamby out, Cassie almost wondered if she was going to say anything else strange. If maybe her sister was entering some kind of weird “phase.” But she just hugged mom and blew Cassie a kiss as she often did and headed inside. It wasn’t until her mother picked up early from school that Cassie found out what happened. And why she would never see her 6 year old sister again.
West Virginia, where the girls lived, is coal mining country, and the area around Lamby’s school proved it. Huge, towering piles of coal were stacked outside the processing plant beside the elementary school. Literally tons of the stuff, far taller than the school itself. And when it was in surplus, as it was now, it could be left outside for days. The unusually heavy rain had been flowing into and over the unprocessed coal for days and what happened next, no one had forseen. Without warning, a massive landslide of sodden coal slammed into the elementary school, crushing the near half of the building and covering nearly every inch in heavy black death. Lamby’s classroom was on the side nearest the processing plant, and when her nearly hysterical mother told Cassie that it might be hours before they could rescue the rest of the children, Cassie stayed silent but knew immeditely Lamby would not be among the survivors. It wasn’t until much later that Cassie opened the drawer beside her bed looking for a school notebook she had been missing. There it was, on top of the contents of the drawer like it was waiting for her. As she picked it up, she felt something between the pages and opened it to find Lamby’s heart locket. In sloppy, little-kid lettering on the otherwise blank page were written the words “it’s okay.”