When I was younger, I wouldn’t – couldn’t – go to sleep without first arranging all of my stuffed animals on the headboard of my bed. There they sat, all in a row, with bright happy colors. Their eyes were stitched wide open which meant mine could close while they kept watch. I took care in switching out which stuffed friends would sit guarding the head of my bed each night. The rest would lie at my feet – an equally important job, I told them, for they’d keep the spiders from crawling up my legs.
Across from me on the other side of the room, my little sister Kate would do the same each night (minus the spider thing. I’m not sure she ever whole-heartedly believed that would actually happen AND that a couple of stuffed friends could stop the spiders if it did.) But tonight was different. Her stuffed animals were still neatly stacked around the tower of pillows she had made that morning. The rest of her bed lay dark and empty. I stared at it for a while as I lay snuggled under my covers. It wasn’t unusual for one of us to stay at a friend’s house during the summer and tonight just happened to be one of those nights. It wasn’t one of my favorite kinds of nights. I didn’t like being all alone, especially after dark… and especially in this room.
The light blazed brightly from the closet and cut through our bedroom. That beacon of light was supposed to make me feel safe, but it only reminded me I was all by myself as it cast a dark shadow over the emptiness of her bed. I held on for as long as I could before my eyelids shut down on me. And in my last bit of wakefulness, I prayed that tonight’s dreams wouldn’t be the scary kind.
It didn’t seem like too much time later that I woke up to a cool breeze across my bare legs. I slowly reached for my covers, but they weren’t there. I shuddered and peeked one eye open, then the next. Reaching down, I ran my fingertips along the floor that surrounded my bed. Surely, Kitty had paid me a visit and clawed my covers to the ground or perhaps I had kicked them off again. Whatever the reason, I needed those blankets. Just like my stuffed animals, they’d keep me safe. My eyes darted along the floor until I spotted them heaped in a pile just under the foot of my bed. I leaned down as far as I could and grabbed at them. With one swift motion, I yanked them up all the way to my neck and let out a sigh as I settled my head back down into my pillows. With a deep breath, I let my heavy eyelids close.
But just as I was slipping into another dream…
I felt a pull on the blankets, a slight, did that just happen? kind of pull. With both hands, I gripped the top of the covers and held tightly. But then there was a tug, this time harder and more forceful. My eyes shot open and my heart pounded in my ears.
“Who did that?“ I wanted to scream, but I had no voice. I lifted my head to look around and saw nothing.
My gaze roamed around the room just long enough to for me to convince myself that I must have imagined the whole thing. Maybe my parents were right. Think happy thoughts, they’d say. I laid my head back down and after a deep steady breath, I let my eyelids fall once more. But just as I felt my body give way to sleep, my covers were YANKED right out of my hands!
My eyes sprang open and my body froze as I watched my blankets being dragged all the way down past my feet. A cold sweat stung my forehead as I scrambled to tuck my legs in underneath me. I sat in a tight ball on my pillows, trembling.
“What do you want?” I whispered into the darkness, crouching my head down low, afraid to hear an answer. I peeked over the tops of my knees to find that my blankets now lay in the middle of the room as if they had been thrown there.
They were in HER spot.
I stared ahead waiting to see HER like I had all those times before, but she never appeared. Instead, I heard a soft giggle in my ear. I raised my shoulder to block the sound from getting in. Like little spiders, the fear crawled all along my body bringing chills to each nerve. I had heard this giggle once before. At that time, I had thought it was my little sister, but now I knew that it wasn’t.
I swallowed hard. That giggle belonged to HER.
“Stop!” I yelled, but her giggle got louder. “Leave me alone!”
HER laugh turned wicked and dripped with anger. Louder, and louder it grew…
I covered my ears with both hands and squeezed my eyes shut. My whole body tensed until – there was a brightness on the other side of my eyelids.
Then everything stopped.
I slowly opened my eyes to find my bedroom lights glaring down from above. I shielded my face and peered through my fingers – there they sat on the edge of my bed, my parents. Both of them staring at me with a look of sadness and concern. A look I was getting used to seeing. Dad pushed a sympathetic smile across his face as he wrapped me with the blankets he had gathered from the floor. Mom reached forward and squeezed my hand.
We sat for several moments in the bright quietness of the room.
No one said a word. We didn’t have to.
(c) 2019 Abbie Richey Butler
Original Photo supplied by StockVault
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