Just ignore the monster under you bed, he only wants to play with you.
The afternoons were getting harder to get through. The time dragged and it felt like waiting for paint to dry. I had tried to fill the time with watching TV, gardening and looking out of the window.
Still though, I caught myself dozing off sometimes and even woke myself from sleep, confused by what I’d missed.
Maybe, it was lack of sleep in the night or the strangely warm autumn. Perhaps, it was a sign as there had been others, of the old age I hated admitting too. I brushed it off, blamed it on other things.
Sleep though didn’t seem to want to let me go. I felt like I was having an never ending battle with keeping my eyes open and my thoughts in one place. I would nodded off and jerk myself awake, I’d get up and shake off the blanket sleep had tried to wrap me in.
Sometimes though it was too easier to give in. I didn’t have the fight like I use too and my energy was lacking after morning activities. So, a little sleep helped me to get through the rest of the day.
The days were getting shorter and darkness always seemed close at hand. My excuse for sleeping was justified; it’s cold and dark, I liked to be warm and feel safe. Plus, the growing aches in my joints were eased when I laid down. – Not so great when I stood up though!
Stretching in my basket, I looked at the clock then the TV and tried to see if it was time for a walk. The old man had fallen asleep in his chair again, his head was on his chest and his hands were in his lap. It seemed unfair to wake him up.
I was comfy and too warm. I yawned and snuggled back down. Maybe, I should just give into these day time naps? They didn’t seem that bad really.
I didn’t find autumn cold like most people did. I found it warm and cosy. I loved pulling on a soft jumper, curling up on the sofa with a hot coffee or chocolate then burying myself in a thick novel.
Outside, the wind might be howling and the rain might be pouring but that just made perfect background noise to my reading. As the early darkness covered the sky and lingered by the windows, I pulled a blanket over my knees and wonder how the hero was going to escape this time.
The bubbling of stew and dumplings called to me before I could get there. It was a hearty meal with bread for soaking up the gravy at the bottom of the bowl. I felt hugged from the inside!
Sleepiness drifted like the night upon me and I took the book to a fleece lined bed and goose feather pillows. Safe from the world, I disappeared in between the words till I was dreaming I was adventuring alongside the hero.
Just one more chapter, I tell myself as I lay in bed. Rain is patting against the window and I’m wrapped up cosy.
Just one more chapter, I say, turning the page and carrying on. The rain continues and the window mists over. I’m too comfy to move.
Just one more chapter, I declare, determined this time to make it so. Night peers in at me, her soft voice whispering me to sleep and the rain is my lullaby.
Just one more chapter, the book calls to me, how can you stop right now? I turn the pages read more and more until dawn’s light sends night to her rest.
The rustling under the bed woke Penny. Moving the duvet away, she peered under the bed, looking for the source the sound.
A faint glowing child stared back at her.
‘Who are you? Penny asked.
‘I am Sally,’ came the whispered reply.
‘Why are you under my bed?’ Penny demanded.
‘I was only playing,’ Sally answered and crawled out.
Penny turned on the lamp and saw that Sally was hovering off the floor and admitting her own light which was a pale cream colour. Sally had long hair that moved as if caught in the wind and it was the same with the long dress she wore.
‘Who are you playing with?’ Penny asked.
‘Nobody. I’m alone. I was practising my spooking.’ Sally mumbled as she spun on the spot.
‘Spooking?’ Penny wondered.
‘Yes, I am a ghost. It’s what we do. We scare people.’ Sally explained, ‘were you scared?’
Penny shook her head, ‘you look like a normal girl to me, expect for the glowing of course. How old are you?’
‘I am eight.’
‘So am I!’ Penny cried, ‘do you want to be my friend?’
Sally thought what to do as she drift to the floor and sat on the rug.
Penny could see right through Sally but Penny felt more fascinated than scared. Here was a friend just as she needed one and it didn’t matter if Sally was different. Didn’t Penny’s teacher, Mrs Greene, said ‘it was good everyone was unique like a snowflake because if everyone was the same the world would be a very boring place!’
‘Let’s play with the dollhouse,’ Penny said and got out of bed.
‘You really want to play with me?’ the ghost girl asked.
Penny nodded and went across the room to turn on the light. Her bedroom became more defined, showing that most of the room was taken up by toys and child size furniture. The doll’s house was an impressive Victorian style wooden structure which at first glance someone might mistake for a real one. However it was only fifty or so years old and only loosely modelled on the manor it had been copied from. The house stood on it’s on table pushed against the back wall.
‘You’ve lost some of your glow now,’ Penny pointed out.
‘Yes,’ said Sally getting up and floating over to join Penny before the doll’s house, ‘light makes ghosts less visible because we are made up of light.’
‘Shall I turn it off again?’ Penny asked.
‘It’s fine. I can make myself more solid. See?’ the ghost girl spoke and before Penny’s eyes Sally became less see through.
Penny opened the front of the doll’s house and they looked inside. It was well made and each of the rooms was carefully decorated with real wallpaper and flooring. The correct furniture and decorations were in their right places and it looked like you could step inside and live a comfortable life inside.
There were four floors which explained why the doll’s house was so large. The ground floor had the front hallway in the middle, to the left was a large kitchen and to the right was divided into a servants’ sitting room and servant’s bedroom. The first floor had a long sitting room on the right and a small dining room next door. The third floor had two bedrooms- the master room and a guest room. Finally, the attic had a large nursery and a joint bedroom for the children.
The dolls were little china figures and they were around the same age as the house and had been originally made for the fake manor. The dolls could be made to stand or sit or hold things. There was a father, a mother, three children- a boy, a girl and a baby, there was a cook, a nanny and maid. Each doll was easily distinguished by their clothes; the family wore brightly coloured and fancy outfits and the servants were drab.
‘My great grandfather made this for my granny when she was a child,’ Penny explained, ‘I never met him but mum says his job was making toys. He made other doll’s houses but we only have this one now. We have to be careful because it’s old.’
‘It is really pretty,’ Sally said, ‘I never had a doll’s house.’
‘When did you become a ghost?’ Penny asked then wondered if that was a rude question.
‘I am not sure. Time is not important for me anymore.’
‘Did you live in this house before?’
‘I do not know. I think I lived around here but my house is gone now,’ Sally said sadly.
‘That’s okay, you can just live here with me,’ Penny responded, ‘here.’
Penny handed the mother doll to Sally and the ghost girl made the doll hover.
‘Can’t you touch or hold anything?’ Penny asked in surprise.
‘This is the only way I can do things. I use my energy with my mind,’ Sally explained.
‘That’s pretty cool!’
‘Do you think so?’ the ghost asked shyly.
Penny nodded quickly, ‘I wish I could move things with my mind!’
Sally giggled and moved the mother doll into a the living room and sat her down in a red chair by the glowing fireplace.
For a time, the two girls played then with a yawn and a rub of her eyes, Penny looked back at her bed.
‘Do ghosts sleep?’ Penny asked.
‘Sort of. It’s hard to describe….’ Sally answered.
‘I think,’ Penny answered as she got up, ‘I should go back to bed now.’
Sally didn’t reply but Penny felt the air get colder and sadder.
‘Will you come back and play with me tomorrow?’
‘Could I?’ Sally cried.
‘Yes,’ Penny said with a small laugh as climbed into bed, ‘everynight if you want!’
‘I would like that,’ Sally declared.
‘And we can be best friend,’ Penny uttered through a yaw as she snuggled down.
‘I would like that very much!’ the ghost girl said.
Bed is my heaven, its the place I love and I can’t think of anywhere better to be with Ted.
Chester arrived home close to ten and parked on the small driveway. He turned off the engine and got out of the van. Stretching his aching limbs, he noticed how cold the autumn nights were now getting.
He walked to the bungalow’s front door and unlocked it. He turned the hall light on and put the numbers into the alarm’s panel to turn the security system off. He was half tempted to leave everything in the van but it had broken into a few times and it wasn’t worth the risk. He had been lucky every time that the thieves hadn’t taken the puppets or the show equipment, clearly they didn’t know the value of things.
Chester unpacked. He put things into the no longer used dinning room. By the time he had done a few trips and was on the last box, he was so tried he could feel it in his legs. Making sure everything was locked up, he went into the living room and sank onto the sofa.
Sprawling out, he told himself he should get up to bed but he found his body was too heavy to move.
Quietness and darkness pressed upon Chester. He could hear the wind picking up outside and rain tapping on the window. The pressure on his ears and head was too much, so he put the TV on. He channel flicked until he found the news. He also put on the lights before getting back on the sofa.
Deciding he would go to bed as soon as the news finished, he caught up on the reports he had missed. Then the weather forecast came on.
A knocking noise came over tomorrow’s weather report.
Cheater dragged himself up and staggered to the front door. Who’d be calling so late? he wondered.
He looked through the spy hole, saw no one but still cracked open the door. There was nothing there. A gust of wind dragged a few rain drops onto his face and Chester felt a chill across his skin.
‘Kids messing around again! You stay away! Leave an old man be!’ Chester shouted.
He slammed the door, locked things again and went back to the sofa. Wide awake now, he huffed at the TV and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.
Chester looked up then around. That sound hadn’t come from the front door but from the back one.
‘Blast those kids!’
Chester got up and stormed into the kitchen. He turned the light, unlocked the door and flung it open. He screamed into the night, long and loud. As his voice faded, he dragged in deep breaths and looked around. There was nothing on the step or in the garden, just the wind shaking the bare branches of the dead apple tree and the back gate.
He prowled around, looking for an access point and signs of someone being here. The gate was lock and like the fences too tall to climb over. No lights came from his neighbours’ houses and as he paused the only other sound was a cat meowing.
Chester went back inside. He rubbed his chest, feeling pain burning him. He turned everything off and got into bed. He was too tried to play games and the cold was clearly starting to effect him.
He got ready for bed but Chester heard the knocking once more. This time because he was closer, he realised it was coming from the dining room. He got up and went to investigate.
Glancing at the show stuff, he heard the knocking again. It was coming from one of the cases! How could that be? He opened each case till he came to the last one.
‘Hello, Punch,’ he whispered, ‘were you knocking?’
Chester picked the puppet up. There was the soft clicking of wood on wood and the rustle of clothes. Chester slipped the puppet onto his right hand like a well fitted glove. Then he clapped Punch’s hands together and said in that high pitched, nasal voice, ‘well done, you’ve found me!’
Punch laughed a long haha.
Sighing, Chester closed the case and went back to his bedroom with the puppet still on his hand.
‘I’m sorry things have come to this, Mr. Punch,’ Chester said, ‘I would be passing you on to my son now just like my father and grandfather did. But times have changed and there’s no longer a place for you and Judy in this technology world now.’
Chester slipped Punch off his hand and arranged the puppet on the bedside table. He finished getting ready and got into bed. Leaving the lamp on as he did every night, Chester began to doze off.
‘Such a shame, that,’ Punch’s voice whispered.
Chester open an eye and looked at the puppet who was strangely lit in the glow of the lamp. There was an eeriness to the painted features, a wicked twist to the red painted lips and an evil glint in those blue eyes.
‘Yes, it is,’ Chester replied.
‘What you going to do about it?’
There was a clicking noise then a drumming wood on wood sound as Punch swung his legs against the bedside table. The puppet’s hands gripped the edge and the head turned fully towards Chester.
‘What,’ Punch hissed, ‘are you going to do?’
‘I…don’t know…’ Chester trailed.
‘So, I’m locked in a box forever?’ Punch snapped.
‘Well, no. I’d get you out sometimes. Maybe leave you around the house for company. We can still have our conversations….and on Halloween we can scare the children together! Just like we always do,’ Chester suggested.
Punch scoffed and began climbing down the bedside table.
Chester sat up but stayed huddled in the bedding. He watched as the puppet reached the floor then began clambering up the bed by using fist fulls of duvet to do so.
‘What is going on here?’ Chester muttered, ‘is this a dream? You can’t talk without me.’
Punch swung himself up onto the bed and sat in Chester’s lap like an elf on Santa’s knee.
‘This isn’t a dream,’ Punch squeaked, ‘I’ve always been able to talk and move without a hand up my back side! You just never choose to notice until now….And ain’t that always the way? The master needs help from his puppet. Bah!’
Chester felt lost for words, he struggled to deal with his whirl of thoughts. He shut his eyes and decided this was a bad dream. He was sad at the loss of his show and his mind was trying to get him to come up with ideas to save it.
‘I’m too tried and too old for this!’ Chester shouted.
He pulled the bedding up and waved it so that the little puppet went flying through the air. Chester buried himself under the duvet, muttering about nightmares and forcing himself into actual sleep.
Punch had let out a startled cry at being thrown about. Luckily, he had managed to grab some of a blanket and use it to slide down to the floor with. Now seated, he looked up at his ‘master’ and decided something had to be done.
‘I won’t be locked away forever!’
Wooden feet tapped on the floor and Chester listened as his door was opened and sounds like someone grunted. The footsteps carried on towards the dining room and there were noises of something moving about and a high pitched voice swearing.
‘Go to sleep, go to sleep,’ Chester uttered, ‘this is all a dream. Punch hasn’t come to life! What a crazy idea!’
The sounds carried on and Chester fell asleep. That was until something slapped Chester across the face.
‘What the-?’ Chester roared as he shot out of bed.
‘Haha!’ Punch laughed.
Chester looked and saw the puppet with his wood slap-stick in-between his hands.
‘What are you doing with that?’ Chester yelled.
Punched giggled and brought the slap-stick down onto Chester’s face again. Chester raised his arms and felt the stick hitting there instead.
‘Give me that!’ Chester snapped and tried to grip the stick.
Punch danced out of the way and began waving the slap-stick around trying to hit any part of Chester he could.
Cheater shouted and cried, he tossed around in the bed, trying to catch the puppet. Punch was laughing his head off but then his wooded foot slipped on the duvet and he tumbled to the floor.
‘Right!’ Chester said and made to jump off the bed after him.
The bedding had twisted around him and as Chester struggled to free himself, he tumbled from the bed and banged into the bedside table. The lamp went flying and the bulb smashed on the floor, sending the bedroom into darkness.
Chester, sprawled across the floor, felt a shocking, shooting pain in his chest and arms. He gasped desperately, unable to breath and felt dizzy.
‘Do you give up?’ Punch’s voice’s sounded from above him.
Chester tried to move his head but the pain was too much and he could only groan.
‘I can’t hear you!’ Punch yelled.
‘No,’ Chester croaked.
Chester mumbled something into the floor and then despite the pain coursing through him he reached out and fumbled for the puppet.
There was a clicking of wood, a muffled laugh then Chester felt the slap-stick on his back.
He roared in pain and tried to move but found the pain in his chest too much. Tears came to his eyes, ‘stop, stop stop!’ he cried.
Nothing but laughter came back to him and more of the slap-stick which hit him repeatedly.
Red then black filled Chester’s vision. The pain grew too intense for him to handle anymore and then a last thing came to him, a voice in his ear whispering, ‘that’s the way to do it!’
The baby was crying. Macy could hear it louder then before. Rolling over, Macy, still half a sleep, fumbled for the lamp switch. She yawed then shielded her eyes as light came on.
Grumpily, she listened and heard the storm rolling around. Thunder was echoing it’s booming voice and lightening was popping in the clouds. Rain was clattering down and the wind was like a lion tamer’s whip.
Despite all that noise, Macy was positive the baby was crying in the alleyway.
Getting up, she pulled jeans on and a jumper then went to the door but there was somebody there all ready.
The cat’s meowing made her pause and for a few seconds Macy was puzzled until she remembered Precious.
The tortoise shell cat was rubbing against the door, asking to be let out.
Macy picked her up and put the cat into her jumper. Recalling she would also need a light source, Macy grabbed her phone then went downstairs. Wellington boots and rain coat on, Macy brought the torch app up and went out into the stormy night.
With the cat- a warm, wiggly thing against her chest, Macy felt braver as she stepped out of the front door. The weather smacked her as if warning her to stay back but Macy fought through it and went the few steps towards the alley.
Wait, was that a figure ducking away into the shadows of the entrance?
Macy couldn’t stop as the storm was chilling her all ready. Once under cover, she took the cat out from under her jumper and followed Precious down. The cat sniffed and vanished behind the bins.
Macy shone her phone around, the torch doing a better job then the candle flame the other night. As she crossed over one of the distant bins, she stopped.
There was the shape of a woman with a bundle of clothes? in her arms. The woman’s head was bent, fixed on the bundle and there was blood on the floor.
Swallowing, Macy slowly moved forward, keeping the phone’s light down.
The woman didn’t move nor seemed to know Macy was there.
‘Hello?’ Macy called out.
The woman slowly looked up and turned her head. Her face was wet with tears, rain and blood. Her blonde hair was wet and falling out of the pins that held it up. She was young; a teenager. She had on a dress, a shawl and low shoes that was not enough protection in this weather. In her arms was a ragged blanket and something was moving inside.
‘It’s okay. I won’t do anything…I just needed to know…’ Macy trailed off as a bolt of lightening cracked across the sky.
The flash of light showed for a few seconds, that the girl was covered in bruises and there was more blood on the floor then Macy had first realised.
Macy shivered, feeling the cold not just from the weather now, it was like the alleyway had become frozen. The chill made her start to shake and she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t turn away and just leave. How could she go back to bed knowing a teenager had just had a baby and was now going to abandoned the newborn inside a bin?
Should I comfort her? Try to take the baby? Phone for an ambulance? Ran the thoughts in Macy’s head.
She approached the teenager, wanting to help. The girl had turned back to the wrapped up baby.
‘It shouldn’t have been…Never…A mistake,’ the girl whispered.
‘What happened?’ Macy asked.
‘I told him. He didn’t want it. Wouldn’t do the right thing and marry me. We fought, he hit me, I left him. I told my parents…my father…he beat me, cast me out. It shouldn’t have come…’
‘That’s bad,’ Macy spoke, ‘but you can’t abandoned her now. She needs you.’
The teenager shook her head and replied, ‘someone else who knows what to do can. It has to be this way…’
‘Leaving her in a bin? She’ll die!’ Macy cried.
‘I don’t care! It’s ruined my life!’ the girl screamed.
The teenager threw the baby into the bin. Macy screamed, ran forward but tripped over She fell to the wet floor at the girl’s feet, feeling pain shooting up her arms and legs. Something heavy landed on her back and there was the warning hissing sounds of the cat.
‘Please,’ Macy muttered, tasting blood in her mouth, ‘don’t leave her again. She needs you.’
The baby was crying and so was the girl. The sounds of their sobbing echoed in the alleyway against the background of the storm.
Macy stood and Precious jumped off, still hissing and with an arched back. Macy scooped up the cat and shoved her into the jumper.
‘You know it’s true,’ Macy picked up, ‘you can make it right.’
The girl looked at the bin, unsure. Macy could see her shaking, the swell of her post-pregnancy belly, the blood staining her dress and legs.
Thunder clapped, rain swept into the alleyway, lightening followed in two bright flashes and crackling. The eye of the storm was passing right over head.
‘Don’t leave her,’ Macy added.
The teenager shook her head, ‘it has to be this way. Always.’
‘Fine. I’ll take her,’ Macy announced and tucking her phone away, she reached into the bin.
Lifting out the bloody blanket and looking in, Macy saw the newborn. There was a patch of blonde hair and red streaked skin, eyes shut tightly and mouth open in desperate crying. The baby was so tiny and felt too light in her arms. She hugged the baby to her chest. Then felt the cat in her jumper settling.
‘You would?’ the girl asked in surprise.
‘It’s not the baby’s fault. She’s not a mistake to just forget about! You ruined your own life,’ Macy shouted.
Turning away, Macy carried the baby inside her house. She closed the door with her foot then had to set the bundle and cat down to lock the door and turn on the hall light. Picking up the baby again, she went to her bedroom and made a small cot out of a drawer and some bedding.
The baby was still crying but then Precious stepped in the bottom of the drawer and curled up. Warm and safe now, the baby fell asleep.
Nodding, Macy took her clothes off and hung them up to dry. She put on a new night dress and got into bed. Exhausted, she fell asleep.
Morning light woke her. Macy lay confused for a few minutes, her thoughts clouded. She wasn’t sure if last night’s events had been a dream? A nightmare? Real? She rolled over, thinking of getting up and having a cup of tea. That always helped.
There was a drawer on the floor by the bedside. Inside, was the tortoise shell cat, Precious, and a real newborn baby girl.
Macy bent down and picked the baby up. The baby stirred and woke up, big blue eyes starring into her own. Tiny hands uncurled and Macy slipped her finger into a palm the size of a 2p coin. The baby’s fingers closed around her finger.
Precious jumped on the bed and sit between Macy’s legs.
‘Well,’ Macy spoke and smiled brightly, ‘looks like I got a baby and a cat to take care of now.’
The sky began to fill with light. The world murmured itself awake. Birds sing the first songs and other animals stirred themselves.
I watched from my bedroom window before I shut the black out curtains. The day was for people who could cope being outside. For me, even the slightest touch of the sun could burn my skin due to a rare allergic reaction I had been born with.
Closing the curtains, I got into bed. Thoughts of being a vampire filling my head. It was a laughable joke but it wasn’t true. I was no more a supernatural creature of the night then my boss was a pig. – Though he probably shared some of their DNA!
I snuggled into the coolness of the fresh sheets and reflected on my night shift at the open all hours petrol station. It had been quiet and I had been bored for a few hours but that was more capable then being rushed off my feet.
Dozing off, I started to dream of the day I was cured and could finally go out in the sun.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/09/19/thursday-photo-prompt-murmur-writephoto/ with thanks).
It was one of the days Henry dreaded most; a Friday thirteenth, the unluckiest day of the year. He debated if it was even worth getting out of bed. He could call in work sick and just stay here where it was safest.
No, the boss will know I’m lying, Henry thought, he overhead me talking about today for sure.
Henry got up and avoided doing anything that might trigger the bad luck. He didn’t look into the mirror, he didn’t walk on any cracks as he headed to work, he didn’t go under any ladders or scaffolding and he prayed no black cats crossed his path.
At work he didn’t speak much and just got on with his accounting spreadsheets. He didn’t take his breaks or stop of lunch, Henry just wanted the day to be over. He ignored his colleagues asking him to come out for drinks or food or dancing. He mumbled he was busy tonight or he wasn’t feeling well.
He left work on time, a rarity for him, and hurried home. Once there, he undressed and got straight into bed even though he was hungry and his favourite quiz show was on TV.
If I can sleep through the rest of the day, everything will be fine, Henry thought.
However, he couldn’t sleep and within an hour had got up and was making something to eat. He had soup and crusty bread whilst watching the end of the news. Seems a few bad things had happened today; but then didn’t they everyday?
As soon as he had finished and tided up, Henry went back to bed and read for a few hours. He felt safer in his bed, nothing could happen here.
He heard it start to rain outside and a cat begin meowing loudly. He tried ignoring the child like crying yowls but the noise was cutting through his concentration.
Henry got up, went to the window and looked out. At the house across the way, he saw an outside lamp on and underneath, on the front door step was a black cat!
Henry clutched his chest and stumbled backwards. Was it okay that he had only glanced the cat? The creature hadn’t crossed his path or touched him or even looked up at him. Perhaps, the cat wasn’t all black?
Henry clung to that thought and got back into bed.
Everything is going to be okay, he started repeating.
He checked the time and saw it was almost ten o’clock. Three hours to go till Friday thirteenth was over.
Henry picked up his book again and tried to get back into it but his mind kept wondering. He got up again and looked out the window but the cat had gone.
‘I don’t know if it was all black or not,’ Henry said aloud, ‘but if it lives in that opposite house then I must have seen that cat before and I know there’s no black ones around here! Unless…they got it recently….’
Trying to get rid of his thoughts, Henry got back into bed again and pulled the duvet over his head. He tried to convince himself nothing was going to happen and somehow he fell asleep.
In the morning, he awoke to his alarm going off. Henry struggled out of a deep sleep and turned it off. Sleepy, he looked at the date and saw that he had made it through the unluckiest day of the year.