The Things That Follow: Part VII
After we opened a gate inadvertently, or pissed off some ornery spirits in a forgotten cemetery, they followed us home.
Say what you want, but kids and animals see things we adults can not or will not. Ever see a baby staring past you? Or a cat staring at the wall for long minutes, and then looking back at you like you're an idiot? Or a dog barking at what you dismiss as the wind?
Deep down you know your cat isn't nuts. You know your child isn't vacant. You know it's not the wind. But the truth, what ever it might be, is less preferable to the bliss of our ignorance. So we make excuses, we forget, we move on, we live.
But not the children.
My cousin Lacy wasn't with us when we discovered the cemetery. She didn't know of our suspicion of 'The Things That Follow', in fact those suspicions were just coming into being when she decided to spend the night.
Still under four feet tall and a bright-eyed eight year old, spending the night at her aunt Dini's house was a big event. No mom, just her cousins, bad movies, too much candy and staying up far too late; it was a right of passage.
We went to bed that night, my brother Rob in my room with me and Lacy in his room, alone. The lights went out, and the steady hum of the ceiling fan rhythmically lulled me to sleep.
I'm not sure why, but the fan is off and Rob is breathing deep in the embrace of sleep. I hear a slight noise from down the hall. I lay there for a moment, knowing what I know about the house. The noises, the lights, the things. I lay there for a long moment. The moment gets longer. I can't tell if I merely cannot move or if I will not.
I hear her quiet sobs.
I want to get out of bed but I can't move. My eyes won't open all the way. My heart rapidly beats in my chest. I try to will myself up. I can hear my heart in my ears now. My limbs are lead. Nothing is responding.
Still the sobs continue.
I think I hear the floor board creak.
The fan is off.
Rob is breathing.
I can't move.
The sobbing continues.
The floorboards creak again. Faster now. I can hear them coming down the hall towards my bedroom. Rob won't wake up and when I try to call to him, my voice comes out in an inaudible moan. Too quiet to hear, to nonsensical to matter.
Something is coming.
The door swings open. I can't see past the dark abyss beyond. The door knocks gently against the wall. I can't see anything but I hear it. Scraping along the wall.
The fan turns on.
I can't breath past the heartbeat filling my lungs.
The light comes on.
Standing in the door way is my brother Chris.
I still can't move.
He shakes me awake and it's like snapping a spell.
I shake my limbs. I look at Rob who is finally rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"Lacy's going home." Chris said it and his face said he didn't approve.
I look at the clock, it's 1am.
"It's one in the morning."
"I know, Aunt Debbie is picking her up. She says the house scares her." Chris looks at me and we share a moment. All that comes out though is, "Wuss."
Lacy went home that night. Her big moment was ruined by who knows what. I'll never forget her apologetic look as her mother picked her up in the middle of the night. She said from under her mother's arm, "I'm sorry. I just, something, there was something."
But she was the lucky one. I walked up the rickety stairs with Rob in tow. He didn't go back to his room that night. I lay down, wondering if I would ever be able to sleep, and if I did, would I ever be able to wake?