Topic: Something's Out There
A little tale for our favourite day of the year. Happy Hallowe'en.
Vicky rocked little Molly in her lap. The month-old was wrapped up snug in a hand-stitched quilt, and her seventeen-year-old mother brushed the childâ€™s glowing cheeks as she gurgled and smiled back at her. From a chair on the other side of the room, Vickyâ€™s mother watched.
â€œYour father and I should probably go to bed. Itâ€™s getting late."
â€œItâ€™s only half past nine," called her father from the kitchen.
â€œItâ€™s alright," said Vicky, â€œyou two can go ahead. Iâ€™ll just be up â€˜til Molly goes to sleep."
Her father appeared in the doorway.
â€œJust remember, that bastardâ€™s coming early tomorrow."
â€œHis nameâ€™s Baxter, daddy. Donâ€™t worry about him, he just wants to see Molly. Heâ€™s got as much right to as I do."
â€œIâ€™ll keep the shotgun by the chair. If he starts being a jerk, just say the word and Iâ€™ll make sure no girl ever has to put up with him again."
After a moment of silence and a quiet grunt, he disappeared back into the kitchen.
â€œStill, we love that man," said her mom, laughing at her husbandâ€™s threat. â€œDonâ€™t worry, your dadâ€™s just protective. Just watch what you say, â€˜cause you never know what â€˜the wordâ€™ might be."
Vicky glanced down at her daughter, and stopped rocking her.
â€œSheâ€™s asleep already," she whispered. â€œIâ€™ll stay up anyway, for a little while. I donâ€™t think I can sleep yet."
â€œDonâ€™t stay up too late."
It was her father again â€“ this time from the doorway to the stairs.
â€œYouâ€™ve got that biology project to do for school, right?"
â€œItâ€™s for geology class. And donâ€™t worry, itâ€™s almost finished, Iâ€™ll have it done on time. Anyway, I donâ€™t think anyoneâ€™s gonna blame the new mother for being a day or two late."
â€œJust make sure it gets done."
His words were reinforced with a thick, pointed finger this time.
â€œYou have all the more reason now to keep those grades up."
She shifted over carefully, making sure to not wake little Molly, and gently slid her into her carrier. Her mother stood, pausing a moment to admire her granddaughter.
â€œShe really is beautiful."
Vicky looked up, a smile on her face only a proud mom would have.
â€œYes she is."
â€œI think it runs in the family."
She felt her motherâ€™s hand brush her hair aside, and felt her softly kiss the top of her head.
â€œI know exactly how you feel. You were my baby once. Just like her. Cherish the time you get now, because when they start growing, they donâ€™t stop for anyone...no matter how hard you pray. And then, sometimes, you donâ€™t even get that much."
Vicky didnâ€™t have to see the tears in her motherâ€™s eyes to know they were there. She could hear the memories in her voice â€“ each word falling like a tear of its own. Time had passed, but some things never heal.
â€œItâ€™s okay, mom," she said.
â€œLynn was Mollyâ€™s age. Just a month old."
â€œYou should really go to bed," said Vicky. â€œDaddyâ€™s probably up there waiting for you."
Her mom gave Molly a goodnight kiss and made her way slowly to the doorway by the stairs.
â€œDo one thing for me," she said.
â€œOf course," said Vicky. â€œWhat is it?"
â€œCheck all the windows and doors before you go to bed...alright? Make sure theyâ€™re all locked. Especially the window in Mollyâ€™s room."
A car drove by, its headlights drifting around the room, and Vicky jumped as a rock cracked against the window. She checked Molly to make sure it hadnâ€™t woken her up. Luckily, she was still sound asleep, and calmly snoring. The house was barely ten yards from the road, and small rocks were often kicked up and hit the house as locals sped by, but Vicky was on edge. Her ex, and the father of her child, was on his way and would be there in just a few short hours. She had no idea how she would react to him, or how he would react to her...or to their daughter. He had proven to be a coward when it came to dealing with Vickyâ€™s pregnancy, but had no problem coming back after the hard part was over with. No matter how great he tried to be now, she knew she would never forgive him for leaving her all those months ago. She couldnâ€™t. But she did care about her daughter enough to give him a second chance with her.
Vicky kept the volume on the TV low until long enough after the footsteps had stopped upstairs that she could be sure her parents were asleep. Then she turned it up, flipped to some reality show, and laid back on the couch, with Molly still snoring in the carrier at her feet. On any other night, lying on a couch known for putting even insomniacs to sleep may have caused her to drift off and dream of happy things, like falling into the arms of her reality showâ€™s host, but not tonight. At least, not while her mind was still on her ex.
â€œHeâ€™s really a nice guy," she said, to Molly, though she was still sleeping and without a care in the world. â€œHe just made a very bad decision, and when I needed him most, he wasnâ€™t there."
She looked down at the bundle in the carrier.
â€œBut heâ€™ll be here tomorrow. I know you canâ€™t wait to meet your daddy...and heâ€™s very excited to meet you. You know, it was about two years ago that I met him. He was really very nice. He was a friend of a friend. And, I know what youâ€™re thinking, but he really did turn out to be an amazing guy. It didnâ€™t take long to get to know him. He was very open...very sincere. He was the kind of guy I could easily picture myself spending the rest of my life with. The only thing it took him a while to tell me was what his parents did for a living, but that was only because he was sort of embarrassed. Not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with street performing. Youâ€™ll probably see a few of them when you grow up."
She laughed, and added,
â€œJust as long as you donâ€™t become one of them when you grow up. I donâ€™t want to ever see you swallow a sword or cut a stranger in half."
Her thoughts were interrupted by the harsh sound of static on the TV. She stared into it for a minute, confused, then grabbed the remote and tried changing the channel. Everything was static. Sighing, she turned the sound down, forced herself off the couch, and shuffled over to the TV. Behind it, in the corner, was a mess of wires. She tried the plugs at the back, one by one. All of them were in place and fitted tight.
â€œWell, Molly," she said, shuffling back to the couch, â€œlooks like we wonâ€™t be watching TV tonight."
Just to try it, she turned the TV off, then back on, but it was still static. Again, she turned it off â€“ this time, for good.
â€œToo bad youâ€™re not old enough to play chess; Iâ€™d love to teach you. We could always play Chinese checkers, I suppose, if you promise not to eat the pegs."
Molly was still sound asleep.
â€œOr, I could get a sandwich. Would you like one?"
â€œAlright, then, suit yourself. I think Iâ€™ll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," she said, heading out to the kitchen. â€œYouâ€™ll be glad when you get old enough to eat real food, Molly, youâ€™re gonna love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...especially chunky peanut butter. But you canâ€™t have any yet, â€˜cause you donâ€™t have teeth."
She passed by the patio door on the wall opposite the couch, toward the rear of the living room. Her reflection flashed in it as she walked by a lamp. In her reflection, the outline of something else unnoticed by her, low to the ground, moved to get back into the cover of darkness.
â€œThis would be a great chance for us to have a nice mother-daughter talk," said Vicky, peering back into the living room. â€œThat is, if you werenâ€™t asleep. And if you could talk."
She nearly screamed at a heavy thud behind her, and leapt around. Her heart jumped up in her throat, but she saw nothing. It had come from outside. Glancing back at Molly to make sure she was still sleeping, Vicky crept across the kitchen to where the sound had come from. There was a second patio door in the kitchen, across the house from the door in the living room, and one could be seen from the other through the entry between the two rooms. Despite a nearly full moon, it was pitch black out, a thick blanket of clouds blocking every last star. Even the nearest streetlight did little to illuminate the yard. She parted the hanging blinds, but was suddenly wary of what she might see if she looked out. She imagined a pack of coyotes â€“ after all, the house was surrounded on three sides by woods that many wild animals called home. She imagined bullies from her high school there to pick on her. She imagined Jersey Devils, and Chupacabras, and big, hairy Mothmen, with brightly glowing red eyes. Or maybe a family of Bigfoot come to find human toys for their little ones.
â€œStop it," she said to herself.
It probably wasnâ€™t even a human, let alone wild animals, and certainly not some imaginary creature from Puerto Rico. Edging forward, she stuck her head through the blinds and gazed out into the darkness. In the streetlight, she saw alders, and the road, and trees across the road, but nothing else. Nothing moved. Not even a breath of wind to explain the sound she heard.
Vickyâ€™s attention was drawn back into the house by her daughterâ€™s cries. She ran into the living room and lifted Molly out of her carrier, rocking the baby in her arms to try to alleviate whatever had woken her.
â€œItâ€™s alright, Molly," she said, her voice soothing and motherly, â€œmommyâ€™s here. Itâ€™s okay."
Mollyâ€™s screams quieted into sobs as Vicky moved her back and forth, eventually swaying to the tick...tick...tick... of the clock on the wall like an upturned pendulum.
â€œThere, see?" she said as even the sobs began to fade away. â€œI told you it was alright. Mommyâ€™s never gonna let anything happen to you, okay?"
She brushed Mollyâ€™s soft, golden hair, and kissed her forehead, as her own mother had done just a short time before.
Another thud from the kitchen sent Vickyâ€™s heart back up into her throat.
â€œDo you want to help me figure out whatâ€™s doing that?"
Molly sputtered and squeaked, and rolled her head over into Vickyâ€™s arm.
â€œYeah...my thoughts exactly. But mommy has to check it out. It might be something important. Maybe a poor, defenceless bird got lost and flew into the house. You wouldnâ€™t want that little thing to feel like no one cares, would you?"
Vicky looked over her shoulder at the doorway to the kitchen.
â€œNo," she said, already hating the idea of going outside. â€œWe wouldnâ€™t want that."
With Molly still wrapped up and comfortable in her arms, Vicky bent down and unlocked the back door with her two free fingers, and turned the knob until the door creaked ajar. Springs snapped and strummed haphazard tunes as she pushed it open further and slipped out onto the step, letting the door closing behind her. The late October air was calm but cool, with the feel of frost hanging all around her. It tingled her skin and sent a chill through her face like she had walked into an ice-cold sheet hanging from a clothesline. Molly didnâ€™t seem to notice, kept warm by her swathe of baby quilts and her motherâ€™s body heat, though Vicky was almost sure Molly could feel her heart pounding through it all â€“ she could feel it beating in the soles of her own feet.
â€œAnyone there?" she said quietly, trying not to disturb her daughter or her parents in their room overhead.
She stared out into the night, trying her best to see through the darkness. Most of what she could make out was trees off in the distance, or alders across the road. Moving away from the house, she called again,
â€œIs anyone there?"
Nothing. Nothing to see, no birds on the ground by the house, no suspicious shadows lurking about, and nothing to hear. Just the two of them and the night.
â€œLetâ€™s see if thereâ€™s anything around the corner," she said.
Biting her lip, and breathing deep, she cautiously worked her way around to behind the house, pausing with every step as she went. Each new foot brought with it just more darkness and a growing sense of security. Inch by inch, her eyes fell on nothing but grass. Spots of gravel...and dirt. And some sort of black fabric, like silk, or satin â€“ just the lower part of something taller â€“ draping to the ground...something that shouldnâ€™t be there.
Vicky screamed and stumbled backward, nearly falling before regaining her balance. Holding Molly tight, and without looking up, she ran as fast as her legs would take her back to the door. She fumbled with the knob for a moment, then swung it open and threw herself inside, and slammed it shut. Molly was crying now, and Vicky tried her best to calm her, but there was little she could do. There was another thud against the side of the house. Vicky lunged forward to turn the lock, then dropped to her knees and rolled over to put her back against the door. Something hit it from the other side, and she screamed as it struck her back.
â€œGet up!" she commanded herself.
Another hit to the door and she jumped to her feet. She was ready to run as far away as she could, but a quick glance out the window in stopped her in her tracks. Something long and thin ran down the side of the house, but she couldnâ€™t see what it was.
â€œCalm down," Vicky said, shushing Mollyâ€™s cries with a gentle hand caressing her reddening face. â€œItâ€™s alright. Youâ€™re safe with mommy."
Another softer hit to the door made Vicky flinch, but she kept any screams inside. She edged closer to the door until she could see down toward the ground through the window.
â€œItâ€™s nothing after all," she said with a sigh of relief.
The long, thin â€œsomething" was a bundle of wires. At the end of them swung the satellite dish that should have been bolted to the side of the house. Again, it knocked against the door.
â€œI guess that explains the TV," said Vicky.
The satellite had been up there for a few years, but it had survived winter storms, hurricanes, and other tortures, and had never so much as moved out of place.
â€œI guess your grandpaâ€™s gonna have some work to do tomorrow morning. Letâ€™s go back into the living room, it was quiet in there. And safer."
Molly was back in her carrier. It took her a while to calm down again, but, now, she was back to snoring. Vicky, on the other hand, was still feeling uncomfortable. She was sitting up, unable to lie back let alone go to bed. She stared over at Molly, looking so precious, enjoying whatever dreams one-month-olds might have.
Vickyâ€™s stomach grumbled, and she had a sudden craving for waffles. It was late at night, but that had never stopped her before.
â€œGood," she said, â€œgive me something to do."
Seconds later, she was down to her shoulders searching through the deepfreeze. TV dinners, frozen pizzas, random bags of assorted meat. Any waffles there were had probably worked their way to the bottom since the last time someone had dug them out. Through the rearranging of frost-covered foods, she heard a dull pounding coming from the floor upstairs. Directly overhead. Her parentsâ€™ room. Vickyâ€™s head shot up, and the pounding abruptly ended with what sounded like a moan â€“ maybe a growl.
First, her thoughts turned to her daughter, and she made for the living room to see if she was still asleep. She reached the doorway, and stopped short. For a moment, she was too shaken to move, her mouth hanging open in shock. She stared straight ahead...at the patio door. It was wide open. Her eyes turned to the couch. Mollyâ€™s carrier was empty.
Vicky ran to where Molly had been just a minute earlier. She was nowhere around â€“ not on the floor, or around the corner by the stairs. And no way had she opened the patio door. Vicky cried out for her parents, and ran to the opening that led only to an overwhelming darkness.
â€œMolly!" she called, through growing hysterics. â€œPlease, Molly, where are you!?"
She could see even less than on the other side of the house, with not even a streetlight to help.
â€œMom! Dad!" she screamed.
Nothing. Suddenly, Vicky felt alone. Hearing the floor creak upstairs, she turned her back to the night. Now, she felt trapped in her own home. She didnâ€™t know were to go, but she knew what she had to do. Her eyes wide, watching, ready to react to anything, she crossed the living room to the stairs and gazed up at the top. She could see nothing unusual up there, but she had to go up. Something was going on. One last time, she tried:
Still no response. She couldnâ€™t see anything moving, but she knew what she had heard, and she knew her parents were light sleepers, like her. If nothing was wrong, they would have heard her. Wiping the tears of fear from her eyes, she took the first step up. Then the second...and the third. With each step, she shook more and more. Her father had just spent an entire pay check on redoing the stairs, and they were silent under her feet. Had anyone gone up them at any time during the night, she wouldnâ€™t have heard. Her anxiety grew and seeped from her as sobs that she tried to keep quiet.
A storm of feelings, fears, and possibilities filled Vickyâ€™s mind. By the sixth step, halfway up, her heartbeat felt more like a sledgehammer thundering in her chest. She stopped, unsure if she could go any further. From here, she could lean forward and see into her parentsâ€™ room. It took a minute to prepare herself, and another to force herself to do it. Slowly, still shaking, she bent over, trying not to make any sound. The door to the room was closed just enough to block the view of their bed from the top of the stairs, but her parents often left it that way. From where she was, Vicky should see the foot of the bed, but couldnâ€™t see far enough up to tell if anyone was on it. She had to get in closer.
One more step and she could get her head to the doorway. It was dark, but her eyes were adjusting. She could see the blinds in the window at the other side of the room backlit by the streetlight outside. She could see a pile of clothes on the floor under the window, that looked like her momâ€™s. She could see the foot of the bed, and could begin to make out several objects under it in the shadows. There was a box of Christmas decorations that wouldnâ€™t fit in the attic. A pair of menâ€™s shoes that were too small for her father but, yet, he had never thrown out. Several small boxes, that Vicky had no idea what they held. A lifeless, mutilated hand, in a mess of long brown hair and a pool of blood.
â€œMom!" she cried again, this time in shock.
She fell back, and her panic pulled the stairs out from under her. The banister behind her slammed against her back, but it couldnâ€™t stop her fall. With the image of her motherâ€™s bloody hand still in her head, she hit the floor. Everything went black. Her eyes were open, but she saw nothing except her own thoughts. Then, her thoughts turned to Molly.
â€œNo!" she screamed, more like a wild animalâ€™s cry of agony than the sounds of a human being.
Her back arched and writhed when the pain hit. It surged through her, a flood of agony worse than anything she ever thought her body could handle and still survive. Her eyes were locked on the light on the ceiling, drowning everything else out like the light at the end of the tunnel. It was torture, but one thing kept her focused â€“ her daughter. With all the strength she had left, she pushed the pain aside and staggered to her feet. She still wore her torment like a mask, but Molly needed her.
She knew it would do no good, but she had to try. With a laboured groan, she turned to face the front door. Somewhere, Molly was out there, and she would get her back if it meant having to die trying. She unlocked the inside door and pulled, and it swung open into the wall. The outside door was left unlocked. She threw it open and ran out onto the front step. The sight she was met with made her gasp in horror. There was no need for her eyes to adjust to the darkness now. What stood before her was unmistakable. But it was unbelievable.
Black satin. At least a dozen child-sized figures stood side-by-side, not ten feet in front of her, and they wore shimmering black satin sheets like ghost costumes. Each had only eye holes cut, with rope tied tight around their necks. Who, or what, they were, Vicky couldnâ€™t tell, but it didnâ€™t matter. In the middle, directly in front of her, stood the tallest of them. In what appeared to be its arms inside the sheet, it held Molly.
â€œGive me my daughter!" she yelled.
Not one of them reacted. She opened her mouth to shout it once more, but her words were cut off. A rope was quickly wrapped taught around her face and tied in the back, and, before she could fight it, her hands, too, were bound. She struggled, but only fell forward off the step, again feeling the pain as she hit without any way to brace herself. Wincing, her eyes shut tight. Vicky could hear nothing but the occasional babbling of her daughter, and she cried, her tears falling on the grass. Trying her best to gain some sort of control, she made herself open her eyes, but there was nothing to see. Just ground. No matter how hard she tried, all that would escape her mouth was indecipherable noise.
Two eyes appeared next to her, whatever they belonged to enshrouded by the sheet. She couldnâ€™t look into them, and could only see them out of the corner of her own eye, but she could feel whatever it was getting closer to her, like someone preparing to tell a secret. She could feel the soft satin fluttering against the side of her face, and heard faint breathing in her ear.
â€œDonâ€™t worry," it said.
The voice startled her. It sounded young. Child-like. Innocent. Yet strangely familiar.
â€œYouâ€™ll have another, Aunt Victoria. And weâ€™ll be back."
With those final words, she heard it move away. She heard whispers. She heard Mollyâ€™s voice, and cried all the more. And, then, she heard nothing. Under the darkness of an overcast night, she was left truly alone â€“ left to be found at dawn.
Last edited by Chrizzy (2009-10-31 22:36:56)