HANDS IN THE DARK (Part 1)

I sat crouched in the corner of the dark room. The only source of illumination was the open window, through which silvery moonlight streamed in. With seconds crawling to minutes my anticipation increased and my neck tingled with gooseflesh. The white billowy curtains fluttered as a breeze wafted into the stuffy room. They shifted restlessly like spirits trying to escape from a prison, but the curtain rod held them prisoner, just like how I felt. Trapped, helpless and desperate.

white scary curtains

The creak of the wooden door abruptly ended my overzealous imagination and signaled that the fiend had entered the room.  In the feeble moonlight, I could see a silhouette moving across the room, a rhythmic tapping sound followed where his shoes hit the wooden floor. The door, as if on its own volition, swung shut with a bang and I jolted. The tapping sound ceased and I gleaned that he had reached the well- worn carpet that lay at the foot of the enormous bed.

I pretended to lie still and lifeless like the rag doll that usually occupied the corner of the room, where I now sat. This waiting was torturous. I was torn between lying still or switching on the bedside lamp and putting an end to this misery. Just then a hand fell heavily on my shoulder, sneaking its way up, the hand landed a blow on my nose.  “Ow!” The blow dislodged my spectacles and they skittered to the carpet. I barely managed to put them back on when I felt my hair being yanked and my shirt sleeve roughly tugged. I had had enough of this charade. I groped in the dark and found the switch to the bedside lamp. Mercifully, pale yellow light lit up the room and I stared mutinously into a pair mischievous green eyes.

“Matt! It’s time for bed. Melinda, Sam both of you, come out of your hiding place,” I summoned in the sternest voice possible.

“Hey! You cheated. You can’t switch the lights on till I don’t call out your name. Don’t you know how to play dark room?” Matt sulked and I rolled my eyes in exasperation.

“It’s your bedtime now and you mom will be back any moment. If you three are caught outside of your bed then….” Before I could finish warning them, Melinda shrieked in protest. I clapped my hands over my ears and sighed in frustration. Her incessant squealing frayed my nerves to no end.

“What is it now Melinda?”

“Whoever breaks the rules gets a punishment,” she said in the haughtiest imperial tone. “Attack her!”

In the blink of an eye, a pillow came hurtling in my direction and I ducked to save myself. Unfortunately I toppled and landed sprawling in the centre of the bed. Three pillows beat down mercilessly at me and I dove under the duvet to cushion myself from the pounding blows.

“Ow, ouch, stop, please!” These naughty imps ought to be spanked; I thought and clenched my teeth. Just then the doorbell rang.

If salvation had a sound, this was it, I thought heaving a sigh of relief. Miraculously, the barrage of blows stopped and I heard hasty shuffling of feet. I peeked from under my temporary shield- the soft grey duvet and saw Matt, Sam and Melinda scamper out of the room. What a relief! Thank god, Mrs. Maguire would be back. Only she could control her ill-mannered brat.

It had been a month since I began babysitting for the Maguire’s and yet every time I came to the old and battered Maguire mansion, I felt the same unease and wariness when I visited the first time. The mansion with its creaking stairs, faded paint and winding passages groaned as if alive and looked no less than a haunted house.

I threw the pillows back onto the bed, yanked the bedcover and duvet in place and flew down the rickety staircase at break neck speed. It wouldn’t do to keep her waiting. Panting, I pushed the door open and froze.

Who was at the door? What happens to the babysitter? How will this evening end? Hold your horses till next Friday to find out what happens next.

Breezy Curtains, Vermont, 1975

 

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