It was written on small signs low to the ground and, at intervals, on the ground itself. The girls saw the instruction a hundred times a day; so many times that the words meant nothing any more. All that mattered was making it past the house and resisting the urge.
But they didn’t need the signs; they knew well enough what it meant to flaunt the simple rule and none of them ever did.
Well, not until Evie.
They watched them drag her away; watched her heels kick up the dirt of the flowerbed and scatter petals like litter.
They watched her with their heads down; some of them their eyes straining to fill the frame, others their eyes on the floor. But they all heard her as they pulled her out of the line. Words that resonated like a blasphemy in the still air. Words that stung at some place so deep inside as to be beyond reasonable explanation.
“Look up!” She was pleading. “Look up you idiots!” But nobody did.
When they brought her back a few days later something had broken. She was poked back into place in the line and walked with the rest of them but her gait was heavy, like she was carrying some enormous weight and her swollen eyes were fixed on the ground.
Every time she passed one of the little signs or the writing on the floor she shuddered and drew in a sharp breath; seemed to fold herself into herself yet further.
“What did you see?” They asked her in muted tones. “What’s up there.”
Evie didn’t flinch when they spoke; didn’t turn to look at them, just kept her eyes on the ground and mouthed the words in silent prayer.
“Don’t look up. Don’t look up.”