Mrs. Maguire, dressed in a black shirt and grey slacks stood at the door with a vicious looking slinky black cat. The cat stared at me through green eyes and suddenly began to spit and hiss at me. I always felt uneasy around cats and the double combination of the shrewish Mrs. Maguire and the ill- tempered pet unnerved me all the more. Mrs. Maguire’s stony grey eyes narrowed in an assessing gaze. I realized that I looked disheveled with hair sticking out of my usually neat pony tail and my spectacles perched crookedly on my nose. I hastily righted my appearance and opened the door wider.
Mrs. Maguire hung her coat at the peg and walked stiff- backed towards the brocade arm chair by the sooty fireplace. As she sunk into its plush cushion and placed the cat gently on the fawn coloured carpet, my heart too sunk lower because this could only mean a detailed inquisition about the evening’s events.
“Are the kids asleep?”
“Yes, Mrs. Maguire, they went to bed at nine thirty.” I prayed she wouldn’t figure out the truth. She was known to catch the scent of lies from a mile away. The key was to sound calm, I reminded myself.
“What did they do in the evening?” She asked while inspecting her fingernails.
“I hope Matt and his friends did not trouble you, they can be quite a handful.”
How I itched to say that I was bullied into watching R.L Stine’s Goosebumps and then, inspired by the dark, haunted mansion shown in the movie, coerced to play dark room with Matt and his friends. In the process I was mauled then whipped like a batter in the pillow fight. I merely smiled and mumbled “They were no trouble at all.”
After all, whining about my predicament of being a hapless babysitter, outnumbered by a handful of six year old heathens would sabotage my dream of buying a new bike. A litany of curses hung at the tip of my tongue, but the sight of Mr. Maguire fumbling in his pocket for a ten dollar bill, my reward for enduring his son’s histrionics was enough impetus to keep my mouth shut. If it wasn’t for my desire to purchase a new bike, I would never have agreed to babysit Matt. No, his name should have been ‘Mutt’
“Thank you Mr. Maguire, Goodnight.”
“Claire, just a minute, I wanted to know what…..”
The huge grandfather clock chimed ten times and I felt as desperate as Cinderella who wanted to leave the ball, lest her sordid truth be revealed before everyone.
“Let Claire leave darling, its late and she has to walk back five blocks to reach home.”
Feeling extremely grateful towards Mr. Maguire I mumbled a goodbye and bustled out. The unkempt garden with its mass of unruly weeds made it difficult to run without tripping. Finally I neared the end of the driveway and shoved at the rusted Iron Gate. It creaked open, sounding like an old lady keening in agony. “This place gives me the creeps,” I muttered.
I had almost saved up enough for my new bike, just a few dollars more and I would never have to come back to the monstrous Maguire mansion, I thought gleefully. As I turned back to shut the gate I saw the lights of the first floor room flicker…… as if the evil house winked at me.
This piece was inspired from my childhood fetish with Goosebumps (which I mentioned in the story as well). My friends would often find me with my nose buried in a Goosebumps book in our school library. I have always looked reverently at books that can manage to create an eerie imagery just with the help of words. To spook someone without the aid of images and haunting ambient sounds is a task that requires great skill.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this open ended piece that will leave you thinking about the story long after the full stop. I leave it up to you’ll to decipher whether Maguire Mansion was really haunted or merely a figment of Claire’s over active imagination. Happy freaky Friday y’all 😉