“I do not believe she could just be kidnapped or that she would just disappear”, Iris thinks to herself.

Cora’s absence on that fateful morning sent tremors through Iris’s world. Cora, her sister who had become a shadow of herself in the past few weeks. Iris and Cora had never been particularly close, but Cora’s absence left a fire in Iris’ heart.

“I also cannot just wait for the police. I have to do something,” Iris thinks painfully.

Iris had confided in Sage, her best friend, seeking solace and support amidst the grief and trauma. They were sitting in Cora’s room, searching for any clues that might lead them to her.

“Maybe there’s something on her old phone,” Sage suggests, her eyes scanning the room.

They find Cora’s discarded phone and manage to turn it on. A notification from an unknown number on an app called “White Shark” catches their attention.

“You can come” Iris reads aloud, her eyes widening with astonishment. “This was just before Cora disappeared.”

Sage’s brows furrow as they both try to make sense of the cryptic message. They decide to seek help from Felix and Miles, friends from their IT class who have a knack for technology. Together, they download the White Shark app, hoping to find answers.

As they explore the app, Miles grows wary. “I think this is an app for anonymous messaging. It would be impossible to figure out who this message is from”

“It seems like there was a party that she may have gone to. I found another party like it happening soon. It seems sketchy, but it might be worth checking out,” Miles shares with a glimmer of hope.

Driven by her sister’s disappearance, Iris, Sage, Felix, and Miles venture into the dodgy party location. They tread cautiously, trying to blend in while seeking answers. Nestled in a dimly lit alley, the Sanctuary is a club with a pink neon sign that flickers in the rain-soaked streets. Despite its rundown appearance and broken windows, there’s an undeniable allure to the place, drawing in those seeking an escape from their mundane lives. Inside, the air is thick with smoke, the beats of music reverberate through the walls, and secrets hide within its shadowy corners.

“Have you seen Cora around? She’s my sister, and she’s been missing for days,” Iris whispers to a group of people, her voice filled with desperation.

A man, Theodore, steps forward, his demeanour pushy yet strangely knowledgeable. Iris engages him in conversation, hoping to get any information he might have.

“I think you should leave. The answers you are looking for are not here.”

“But she is her sister if you know anything. Please” says Sage looking Theodore straight in the eyes. Hoping to pull on his empathy.

The group of people are quiet. Theodore returns the intense eye contact with Sage.

“My parents are on their way with the police,” Iris says confidently, breaking the silence filled with tension.

The people around Theodore share knowing looks. They look at Theodore, seemingly waiting for approval.

“You can come. Alone,” Theodore says as he looks at Iris intensely.

Disagreement erupts among Iris’s friends, their voices rising in protest. Yet, Iris finds herself being pulled towards Theodore, her friends urgently trying to intervene. Above the chaos, the voices blur, and Iris’s feet move involuntarily towards Theodore, until she finds herself being ushered through a door where she meets a striking woman. She is beautiful, tall with dark mahogany skin and long dreadlocks that almost touch the floor. The woman and Theodore speak in whispers and Iris is told to follow the beautiful woman to a staircase. Iris finds herself thinking in the worst parts of her mind preparing for what she might find at the end of the staircase.

At the top of the staircase, she goes through a door and Iris finds herself in the living room, wary of her surroundings. Inside the woman offers her a cup of tea.

“My name is Nyeleti,” she says, her voice carrying a tone of understanding.

“I’m Iris.”

“Yes I know, Cora told me about you.”

“You know Cora, have you seen her lately? Is she here?”

“I want you to know that this place is a Sanctuary. For lost souls to find ways to build their homes. That’s why we’re very protective. For people to live the lives they have always wanted. I ran away from home and never turned back. I left everything I knew because I knew I would never survive there. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I’m still not sure, no one came to find me. What I’m trying to say is, I’m glad you care enough about your sister to do dangerous things to try to get her back. It shows just how much you love her.”

“Maybe Cora felt she couldn’t live the life she wanted,” Iris says, recalling her sister’s aspirations in painting and music. “But why would she stop speaking to me?”

“People have a lot of reasons for why they do things. I cannot speak for her so I’m going to bring Cora to you. Please take her home. I don’t want her to be here if she has people who are looking for her and want her back home. Being by yourself at 15 shouldn’t be the choice she has to make. She’s too young. I don’t want her to go through the things I went through. I want to tell you though, it may be difficult for you, but remember she left for a reason. At the end of the day, she must decide what she truly wants.”

Nyeleti gets up, pauses at the door and says, “Cora loves you a lot. She’ll be happy you came.” She leaves, leaving Iris alone with her thoughts. She is finally going to see her sister. Cora is here. Cora is okay. Well, maybe she’s okay. But she is about to walk through that door. Iris thinks she should be more happy to see her sister, but she starts to feel the fire again. Only this time, it burns with rage. She sits, staring at the door. Waiting.

The door slowly creaks open and there is Cora, in new clothes and a new haircut. It is as if someone had brought in a clone copy of her sister. Another shadow. Iris knows it is her but something about her has changed. It is like she had aged 5 years in the week she has been missing. Iris gets up and rushes to hug her but as she approaches, Cora steps back. The silence between them suffocates Iris.

“Let’s go home, Cora. Mom and Dad miss you.” Iris had messaged her parents about their location, they are already on their way.

Cora is quiet. Looking at the floor. After a moment, she whispers “No. I don’t want to go home.”

Iris is so shocked, she can’t speak. She does not believe her sister doesn’t want to go home. As she stands there staring at this girl who is supposed to be her sister, she hears the rushing thunder of footsteps by the staircase, as her parents scream for Cora.

Iris doesn’t remember how they got Cora home that night but later she finds herself lying next to Cora who is sleeping, suspiciously calm. Iris looks at her sister in the dark and wonders how they got there. As she reflects on their dreams and the diverging paths they’ve taken, tears stream down Iris’s face. Amidst her stifled sobs, she feels Cora’s arms embrace her tightly. Slowly, Iris’s tears subside, and the two sisters fall asleep, finding solace in each other’s presence.