The following is ED’s Halloween Special. A short story to make your day. Enjoy. Sleep with the lights on.
“Is he dead?” Noah’s faint voice asked beside him.
Lisa didn’t answer immediately, her eyes transfixed on the form in front of her. The fireplace had long died away and somewhere in the old house, she could feel the cold Scottish wind coursing through a broken window. And yet, neither of them had anything to do with the cold dread that was passing rapidly within her.
“He is, sweetheart,” she replied heavily as Noah’s fingers caressed the small, floppy ears of the dead Jack Russell Terrier before him. It was impossible to say otherwise. Its small neck lay twisted grotesquely before them, its eyes closed to the pale look of horror on the faces of those who sat beside him.
“Stay right here, Noah. I’ll go make sure little Spike is comfortable,” she said finally, lifting the dead form in her arms.
Outside, Lisa took a shovel to dig a small grave for the dead Spike. It had not snowed for the past three days and the snow outside was cold and hard. The wind blew noisily around her as she slowly, steadily dug up a pit for the family dog.
She clothed Spike in her old cardigan and set him down in the pit, for once cursing the snow that refused to fall now. The sound of a wolf howling in the distance reached her as she quickly resettled the mound she had dug up.
Lisa leaned on the shovel when she was done, her palms now cold and clammy under her gloves. Panting quietly, she trudged beyond the fresh grave to stand beside the ones below the old fir tree. Only three of them she could see, although she knew there were two more beside the ones she could make out in the hazy wind.
“Liz, Alex, Anna, Sarah, Emily,” the names came to her, as she stood at the foot of the freshest one. She couldn’t remember whose grave this one was, the name of its occupant now muddled and lost in the haze of strawberry hair and hazel eyes.
“All dead and buried in this snow. Every one of them, dead,” Lisa thought.
Beyond the evergreens, she could make out a shadow standing beside the trunk of a spruce. A dark shadow, or was it a dark cloak? The icy wind was making it difficult to make out a face but, Lisa could make out the evil glint of its eyes. Slowly it seemed, it made its way towards her.
Throwing down the shovel, she rushed towards the old family house, her old coat suddenly billowing in the wind. Trudging hurriedly through the snow, a sharp pang of pain bit her sides as she climbed up the stairs of her porch. Out of the corner of her eyes, she could make out the shadow following her as she made her way inside. Closing the door behind her, she bolted it instantly and ran towards her son who sat eating an Oreo on the dinner table.
“Oh, Noah,” she said, heaving a heavy sigh of relief as the wind outside numbed itself to a dull roar. She was safe for now, she knew. The shadow didn’t hunt during the day.
It was late in the night by the time Noah had gone off to sleep, listening to his mother narrating him the tale of Hansel and Gretel for the third time. Lisa gazed upon the face of her six-year old son, his chest slowly rising and falling with each soft breath. Even in the pale, amber glow of the candle that lit that room, she could make out the fine square jaw and the small, hooked nose that were once his father’s.
It was easy for any woman to fall for Adam. Tall, handsome and with the most disarming of smiles, Adam was everything Lisa imagined a prince to be growing up. Marrying him on a cool October morning was the happiest day of her life. And yet, her life that followed was anything but that. Adam had lost his fingers in a wood-chipping incident and he had subsequently, lost his job. Drinking heavily, and frustrated by rising debts, Adam turned against his own family. Lisa remembered cowering under the table, afraid of her Prince’s wrath, trying to protect the five girls she had given him. Fourteen years she had endured, fourteen years of violence and abuse until one day, when she finally summoned the courage to kill him with a shovel. Later, after she had buried him somewhere in the dark, she remembered sitting huddled in front of the fire with her daughters. Adam had hated each one of them, she thought. Killing him was the only way.
And yet, as she stroked young Noah’s head, she realized how much Lisa loved Adam. Missed him, even. Noah was the only one Adam really cared about towards the end and yet, Noah would be the only one who would never know the truth of his death.
“He left us,” Lisa would say whenever Noah asked, which was more often of late.
Noah was the only one of her kids who had turned up to look like his father. None of her daughters had looked like her. They were all drab, red-haired and plain, just like their mother had been. All of them disappointments to their father who wanted a boy. Every one of them the reason Adam no longer came to love her like he once did.
It was only later in the night, when she lay staring at the ceiling as she always seemed to do for the past month or so when she really noticed the dull scratching that crept in from outside the room. Lisa could feel her heart breathe rapidly, her breath crystallizing in the cold air as she lay still, her right hand hugging the sleeping body of her only son. Like a corpse she lay, even as the scratching outside seemed to rise with the wind roaring outside.
A faint voice seemed to rise over the noise of the wind to beckon her outside. The cold dread that seemed all too familiar to her reared its ugly head again within her. Whether true or not, the room seemed to be growing colder by the minute as the Scottish wind grew louder outside. Outside, the dull thud of footsteps reached her ears, now heading towards the room she lay in.
Lisa rose up, shaking and murmured a silent prayer as she softly kissed the forehead of her son before making her way to the door.
“I will protect you with my life. I will not let anyone foul befall you. I promise,” she whispered as she grabbed the axe she kept for safety and made her way outside.
The fire she had lit in the evening was breathing its last when she entered the drawing room of her house. The scratching seemed to have deceased as she made way to the room, the pale light of the fireplace revealing nothing but darkness.
“Lisa,” a voice spoke from the darkness before her. The dark shadow, or was it cloak, rose before Lisa as the colour drained from her face.
“Give him to me,” the cold voice spoke again, the faint voice riding over the roar of the cold wind.
“No. Never,” Lisa trembled as she raised the axe to strike.
“Give him to me……” the voice spoke again as the shadow stretched out a long, bony hand towards Lisa. Screaming, she took an almighty swing and brought the axe down.
Lisa had always expected to see a spurt of blood whenever she killed someone. However, besides the first time, she never did see a lot of blood. Just a small, bubbly trickle of blood.
Now, as the bony hand lay motionless on the hardwood floor, she readied herself for a splash of blood. And yet, it never came. For once, the wind seemed to subside into the silent night as Lisa’s eyes met those red, slanting ones which reflected nothing but her horror.
Dropping her axe, Lisa ran. Lisa ran towards her son as she had never run before, bolting the room behind her as she entered. No sooner was she inside that the scratching begin again. This time, close by and very much on the door that stood between them and the shadow.
“Oh my God,” Lisa gasped as a loud fist began banging against the door, the latches trembling with the force of the thumping. Outside, the wind had begun playing its orchestra again.
“Momma,” a voice behind called. Noah had woken up from his slumber, his face a map of confusion and puzzlement. Lisa ran to her son, taking him in her arms as the thumping grew louder and stronger.
“Give him to me,” the voice continued, the door only seconds from caving in. Crying, Lisa hugged her son tightly, his eyes meeting hers over the glaze of the tears that were now cascading over her cheeks.
“I will protect you,” Lisa whispered as her hands tightened over Noah’s neck.
His eyes didn’t seem to register any fear or the realization of what was happening. As Lisa choked the life out of her son, no sound came out of him. There was only the slightest hint of confusion in those brown eyes he got from his long deceased father. Under her fingers, Lisa could feel the little boy’s chest heaving with the effort but, she did not relent. Not until the boy she called her son went limp under her, a bright spot of bubbly blood now appearing in the corner of his mouth.
Lisa didn’t realize when or how the scratching and the thumping and the roar of the wind had receded from her awareness. She did not know what or where the shadow was, and she couldn’t care less. She had protected her son from the darkness.
“Sleep well, my son.”
Softly, Lisa lay Noah back onto the bed and tucked him inside the thick layer of blankets that covered the bed. Beside him, Lisa smiled silently and resumed her vigil staring at the ceiling above. Everything was as quiet as it had ever been.