Ever since that day, things have been happening.
Imagine a house, full of laughter in the summers and every other Christmas. During these times, the house is filled with love and joy, and the things that follow seem to be a distant memory. But what happens when the kids leave, and it's just you in the house? Every floor board that settles, every light that begins to flicker, every scream in the night, is amplified while your husband works the 4am factory shift at Chevy.
So it was for my mother.
She lay in bed that night. Listening. Dennis, her husband, left at 2 am as he always did, to make it to work on time at the Chevy plant. She heard the floorboards moan. The first time, she thought, she hoped, it was the house settling. But there is a difference, she noticed, between a settling house and the familiar sounds of a man pacing in her youngest child's bedroom.
Her thoughts try to reason with her. Maybe something hit the house.
Maybe it's my three-legged cat.
Clunk Clunk Clunk Clunk.
Someone is in the house!
Palms sweaty, she rises from the waterbed. The swishing betrays her, and anyone inside would have ran for it, realizing the house was occupied. The cat is sitting on the foot of the bed, ears alert. She sees something in the bedroom that used to be her master's walk in closet. My mother looks. But she can't see anything. It's dark. Underneath a crucifix hanging in the room, is a night-light that casts an eerie shadow across the floor. She is almost afraid to even look, but the waiting is worse. Her foot trembles as she walks and her knees threaten to give out on her. She takes an uncertain step.
Her traitor house lends a floorboard to give her away further. It is warm tonight, but suddenly she can see her breath in the room. A thermostat hangs on the wall next to the crucifix as well. It is still eighty degrees in the home with no central heating. She gathers her courage and in two quick steps she is across the threshold to the bedroom and flicks the light on. The light goes on. She half expected it to flicker, but it didn't. The noises stopped.
For a moment.
She glances to the bed. The bed where her youngest child slept. She washed the covers each summer when the children went away. Careful, she made the beds to await their return. Summer after summer, the same ritual.
Her breath came out in a slow gasp.
The covers lay strewn across the floor. The imprint of a body remains on the bed.
She turns back to the doorway, just in time to see the three-legged feline sprint past the door in a hurry.
The noise is in the far side of the room.
Closer now. Fast.
Fright jumping from her very skin, she turns the light off and runs from the room, down the stairs and into the kitchen. She turns on the lights downstairs, the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom. At a little past 2am the house is a beacon of light in the wilderness. She pours herself a glass of wine.
She hears it pacing up there. It paces until dawn, or until she falls asleep from exhaustion. Which came first, she doesn't know. What she does know is that Dennis came home to find her sleeping. She makes him wait. All six feet of him waits for her while she carries the vacuum up the stairs.
"Whatever it was, I can't have it messing up the room."
She makes the bed. Dennis watches.
She sprays the dresser with Lysol.
Dennis watches. He doesn't believe, but he loves his wife.
She vacuums the floor.
He watches. He watches as she takes the cord and wraps it around the vacuum. She wheels it out, turns off the light.
Satisfied, they prepare to leave and watch television downstairs.
"Honey, I forgot the Lysol rag. Can you get it?"
"Of course," he says. She watches him leave, but she still feels her skin crawling. She hurries after him.
She catches up just as he flicks the light in the bedroom.
"Jesus Christ!" He yells and falls backward out of the room. She runs up to him and grabs his arm. She can feel his pulse through his bicep. Or is it hers through her fingers?
She peers around him and into the room. Yellow jackets.
Bees are everywhere. Thousands upon thousands. The carpet seems alive with their dying bodies. One big yellow and black wave of stingers and wings.
Dramatic rendering of bees on my brother's bedroom floor
Evil has many forms. Sometimes it shows up as a blue-eyed blonde haired boyscout leader. Sometimes it shows up as a homeless guy with an axe to grind. Sometimes it shows up as a swinging flickering light. Sometimes it sits on your bed. Sometimes, it shows up as a swarm of dying yellow jackets on your carpet floor at five in the afternoon.
That's when you call the priest.
That's when all Hell breaks loose.
[The Things that Follow Part V – Wednesday]