Thursday 2 November 2017

Night Terrors

Angela Haffenden  

Bloody Mary

Gnarled branches scratch at the window with impatient fingers. Inside the room, a child cowers under the bedclothes, hugging his knees to his chest. Tiny knuckles white with tension, breath quickening, panic rising.
There are no such things as monsters under the bed, Mummy told him so but he doesn’t believe it, not one bit.
There are monsters all around him. Shadow monsters loom in the corner of his room. Spiders scuttle across the wooden floor, and there are strange noises. Noises a five year old cannot rationalise.  Foxes screaming, owls hooting, it’s the stuff of fairy tales and horror stories.
     The sliver of light from the almost full moon gives him no comfort. He peeks an eye out, slowly pulling down his bed covers, nothing has changed. The strange shadows are there, in different forms. One shaped like a dragon. The wind howls, things move outside changing the shadow from a dragon to a quivering ghoul. Quickly he throws himself back into his blankety haven.
Counting, that’s right, counting sheep; this may distract him from the horrors.
“One sheep, two sheep….”
It’s of little comfort, maybe singing will work?
     “Twinkle, twinkle, little star…”
NO, nothing is allaying his fear. Maybe he should have another peek? Monsters don’t exist, he tells himself for the umpteenth time. Calling for Mummy or Daddy would be a bad idea, they get cross, they like to sleep. Maybe he could slip out of his room to the warmth of his parent’s bed, but he’s frozen with fear. 
He tries to distract himself again, this time with happy thoughts, thoughts of cute characters from books, fun days out with his family. However, the unknown horrors outside the cocoon of his blanket stop him.
     It doesn’t help that the pumpkins he and Mummy had carved together earlier that day intruded his thoughts, he imagines armies of pumpkins marching with their fiery eyes burning, coming for him. He tries once again to dispel these childish thoughts, difficult because after all he is a child.
Stories of bogeymen, ghosts, ghouls, dragons and dinosaurs have occupied his imagination and on this night, All Hallows’ Eve, every one of them threatens to dispel all the truths this five year old understands.
     A yawn escapes, his eyes droop, and he releases his grip of the bed covers to rub his tired peepers. What will he do? He has school in the morning, the morning that doesn’t want to come.
His body betrays him, his head nods, he’s almost slumbering. Only to be woken by a bang. Fear envelops him once more, until a cat mews, and a dog barks. These sounds bring him a minute of peace. Theses sounds he knows.
     Slowly the darkness subsides, he can hear birds tweeting. Relief washes over him, dawn is coming. He makes a decision to pull the covers down from over his head and watch the day begin.
     “One, two, three” he counts silently to himself.
Indeed the sun is coming up in the sky, the birds are louder, and the tree branches outside his window are still, no breeze to animate them. An orangey-red glow warms his bedroom, dispelling the scary shadows. He can now see the outline of his oversized teddy bear; a plastic dinosaur and other toys; everything is once again familiar. All fear of the darkness gone, a new day starts. It is no longer Halloween. 
     He leans over his bed, feeling brave in the almost daylight, checks for monsters and finds nothing. What would Mummy and Daddy say if they knew how worried he’d been in the night? His shoulders sag involuntarily, defeated by the lack of sleep.  His tired body takes over; moments later, he is gently snoring, deep in the slumber of the very young.
     “Aah doesn’t he look peaceful” Mummy says, looking down at her little boy. She smiles and looks at her husband standing next to her.
     “There, told you Halloween cartoons wouldn’t scare him, you worry too much”
About the Author
Angela Haffenden is a mother of four children. She is also responsible for a husband, a dog and an ageing father. She writes mainly to stay sane. She lives by the sea and writes in a cabin in the garden.

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