Saturday, April 19, 2014

So this isn't Easterish at all, but after wiping key lime pie filling from my hair, I needed a break from the holiday prep. Here's a little something from a book I'm working on...


Amy filled the coffee maker for the next morning and swiped the kitchen counters with a damp rag. She looked around the kitchen one last time before turning off the light. “You coming to bed?” She poked her head into the den, where her husband sat on the couch, hunched over a laptop computer.

Dan shook his head. “Gotta finish this report for tomorrow’s meeting.”
Amy walked over to her husband and kissed the short graying hair on the top of his head. “Sounds fun. I’m subbing at Bailey’s school again, so we’ll be up early. ‘Night.”

“Good night,” Dan replied without looking up.

Amy walked down the hall, stopping at her children’s bedroom. She tiptoed inside, picking up stray Matchbox cars from the floor and dropping them into a plastic crate. She bent over EJ and kissed her forehead. Then she bent over Bailey and went to tug the blanket back over his legs, when something hard poked her in the leg.

“What the –” she whispered, staring at a large gray plastic baseball bat Bailey clutched tightly in his hand. The bat stuck out at angle; almost, Amy thought, as if Bailey had intended for it to strike anyone who leaned in close to his bed.

She tried to tug it out of Bailey’s grasp, but his fingers curled even more tightly around the handle. She sighed and pulled the blanket over both her son and the baseball bat, before giving him a quick peck on the forehead.“Sleep tight,” she whispered, then walked back out of the room and closed the door.

Twenty minutes later, Amy was asleep in her own bed, a paperback novel abandoned across her chest.

In the den, Dan turned off his computer, rubbed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. He switched off the lamp and told himself to get up and go to bed, but the couch was so comfortable.

The sun-and-moon clock in EJ and Bailey’s bedroom ticked loudly and slowly into place at twelve ‘o’clock. Outside, a heavy cloud bank drifted over the moon, covering up its yellow light. Inside, the bedroom was silent and dark.

CLICK. The closet door slowly opened.

CLICK. Something shadowy stepped out of the closet.

CLICK. The shadow moved across the bedroom, pausing at Bailey’s bed.

The bedroom door handle began to turn.

From the inside.

CLICK.

Bailey shot up out of bed, and saw the sliver of a tall, dark shadow on the threshold of the door. He opened his mouth, and screamed, “MONSTER!”

The shadow whisked past him so quickly he could see nothing more than blackness as he waved his baseball bat around. Footsteps sounded down the hall as Amy and Dan, running from opposite directions, headed to the bedroom. Just before they reached the room and his sister woke up, Bailey sat alone on his bed and watched in horror as the closet door closed all by itself.

CLICK.

After an hour, Bailey was finally asleep again, his parents having thoroughly searched the closet to prove that no imaginary creatures lurked inside. Amy tiptoed away from his bedside, and returned to her own bed.

“Monsters,” she murmured to herself as she pulled the quilt over her shoulders. Right now the only thing scaring her was the prospect of waking up in a few hours, and she slipped quickly into sleep as her head met the pillow.

“Amy?” A quiet, masculine voice called her name. Amy stirred and sat up in bed. She could feel the presence of someone close by, but she couldn’t see anyone.

“Who’s there?” She peered into the shadows. A faint earthy scent drifted beneath her nose, and the air seemed to shift as if the person who spoke had moved closer.

“A friend,” the voice said again.

“What friend?” Amy knew she must be dreaming, because she wasn’t the least bit afraid, only curious. “This isn’t real, is it?”

“Do you want it to be?”

“What do you mean?” Amy pulled her knees up to her chest and looked from side to side.

Then she saw him.

At the foot of the bed sat a man. His back was toward her, his face toward the door. A tangle of chin-length hair grazed his neck, but beyond that she couldn’t make out much else.

“Why are you looking away from me?” she asked, tilting her head for a better view.

Jerking his head, he let out a low laugh, and Amy caught the faintest glimpse of a pale chin and sharp, white teeth. “Because I don’t want you to see me yet.”

“Oh? Are you hiding something?”

“Maybe. Are you, Amy?” he asked, and the lilt in his voice when he said her name sent a flash of heat across her face. “Are you happy?”

“That’s an odd question,” she replied. “I mean … it’s the middle of the night, who’s happy to be woken up?”

“Thank you.”

She sensed a change, and leaned forward. “Thank you for what? That wasn’t an answer. Of course I’m happy. I’m fine. Or I will be as soon as you turn around –it’s very disconcerting to talk to someone’s back.”

He shook his head. “Are you sure you want to see me? Because once you do, you might be sorry.”

Nervous laughter filled the quiet room. “Well, how bad could you be?”

At the sound of her laughter, he slowly turned his head, hair waving slightly as his chin turned to the side. He swept his arm across the length of the bedcovers and a shaft of moonlight pooled through the window, falling across his hand. It was filthy, splotched with mud, the nails black-encrusted.

She scooted backward, as a chill crept across her arms.

“Who are you, really?”

The dirty, long fingers stroked the fabric of the quilt as he loomed closer, his face still hidden. The odor of something rotten seeped from his skin. “I’m the man of your dreams.”

Amy opened her mouth to scream, but he held up his hand, silencing her. “Shhh. Don’t be afraid. Go back to sleep, Amy. And dream.”

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