Why stare at a bare white wall?
|3rd Place in "A MidSummer Night's Scream" September 2011
I sat staring at the white wall. There was no way I was going to look back over my shoulder at what called to me. I had purposely positioned my chair for this moment; I knew that this time would come.
“Colin,” it said quietly from the other side of the room. “Colin look at me, I have it here.”
I heard a jingling sound as it shook an object that should have been in my possession. I wanted to turn and run across the room and grab it for myself, but I knew that wouldn‘t work. Instead I focused my eyes upon the white paint of the wall at the back of my living room.
I tried to sing inside my head to blot out the ringing as the thing shook the object ever more fiercely, the noise getting louder as it came closer. I heard it kick the coffee table in the centre of the room out of its way, the cups crashing against the polished wooden floor.
“Colin,” it whispered now directly behind me. “Look what I have got, come on have a peek. Don’t you want it back?” I could feel it’s breath as its mouth almost touched my ear.
I couldn’t answer and I knew better than to look around into the eyes that would surely change the feeling of fear into another emotion altogether. I kept my mouth closed and focused my eyes upon the wall, the whiteness allowing me to easily create a picture in my mind of things that were in the past.
I looked out through the gap between my duvet and mattress and watched mother turn around to blow my brother and I a goodnight kiss. I always slept submerged in the bedclothes for some reason. Her eyes shone in my direction and then in my brother’s, a loving smile that I will always remember curving the edges of her lips upwards. She then hit the switch next to the door and the light went off.
“Night boys,” She said, a black shadow in the doorway. “Straight to sleep now Michael.”
Her silhouette then disappeared when the light from outside our bedroom was cut off by the closed door, leaving us in the dark.
Michael at the time was ten years old to the day and I was four. I don’t know how I remembered this event, but I’m glad I did. It was the last time I seen my mother alive.
I could still feel the breath on my neck and something jingled wildly right next to my ear. I almost jumped with fright but controlled my urge to swipe and grab the source of the noise.
“Take it… take it off me, its your’s. It belongs to you.”
I wanted to turn and look the thing in the face and tell it to go away and leave me alone. I wanted to push it away from me and beat it over and over again with a heavy object, smash it to pieces and make sure it never came back.
Instead I controlled myself, breathing deeply with my eyes focused on the wall. I reeled in my fear and took control of my anger. I was determined not to be distracted. I wasn’t going to turn around and look at the thing, I wasn’t going to acknowledge its existence.
I could hear Michael shuffling around in his bed. I was just old enough to know that he usually lit a torch under his duvet so he could read a comic book. With my eyes closed and ready to fall into sleep I waited for the familiar rustle of comic book paper. The sound never came.
I heard him throw back his covers and get out of bed as quietly as he could. Then came the sound of something sliding from under his bed and then the squeak of a box opening. He called it his treasure chest. It was a box where he kept all of the bits and pieces that he found outside in the streets.
I heard the box squeak closed again and then the sliding as it was pushed back under the bed. I wondered what secret treasures he had found out on the streets that made him get up in the dark. They all seemed exotic to me, everything he brought home. This included the balls made out of rubber bands and the chains made out of paperclips. He wouldn’t usually get them out at night though.
I heard him walk in my direction and lean over me.
“You awake Colin?”
I kept my eyes closed pretending that I was asleep deep beneath my duvet. He would sometimes shout at me if I was still awake when the lights were out.
He pulled back my quilt and nudged me.
I had no idea why he wanted me awake so I forced my eyes to stay closed, feigning sleep. He fell for the trick and pulled the cuddly bear I was hugging from under my arm, the bell on its hat ringing as he did so. I acted as though my sleep was disturbed by this and turned and pulled the duvet back over my head.
“Okay, we’ll pretend this is you,” Michael whispered, “I’ll bring it back I promise.”
From under the duvet I heard him walk away from me and open and close the bedroom door. He was gone.
I felt something on the back of my neck, something warm and damp. It was licking me, the jingling next to my ear didn’t cease, the object was If anything, jingling louder.
The wet and warm tongue left my neck leaving me with a feeling of disgust and the urge to wipe at the area. Wash away the sticky substance left behind. I could still feel its breath though.
“I love you Colin… kiss me,” the thing let out a husky chuckle. When I didn’t react it continued with a hint of frustration in its voice, “ Colin why won’t you just take it?”
I wasn’t going to answer. I had no plan to answer and even if I wanted to, I would have had no idea what to say. I continued to stare at the bare white wall visualizing the events from my childhood.
A few seconds after Michael had left my room I heard the sound of my father shouting.
“Michael, get back to bed… You’re too old to…” He was cut off by a loud bang.
I heard a woman scream and I knew it was my mother. There was terror in that scream, the feeling of fear seemed to carry on the sound. Something bad was happening in my parents bedroom.
The screams got louder and the fear they contained increased. In them screams I could hear words. “No…no…Michael don’t….”
And then it was silent… for a moment.
I could hear the faint jingle of the bell on my bear coming from my parent’s room. The doors mustn’t have been closed properly.
I faintly heard a voice, the voice of my brother when he pretended to be me when I was crying or moaning. The voice he used to mock me, to mimic me.
“I’m Colin, please don’t hurt me…”
I squeezed my eyes closed tighter than they already were. I tried not to move under my duvet and found myself holding my breath in the fear Michael would come in. I could hear him singing from my parents room at the bottom end of the landing.
“Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…”
The singing stopped and I had the feeling that he was coming to the bedroom. I knew it was Michael who had been naughty, very naughty. Just like I had been naughty earlier in the day when I knocked his birthday cake from the table, causing cream and crumbs to go everywhere, all over the kitchen floor.
Michael had began to hit me sobbing, crying out and screaming as he punched, kicked and scratched me. My mother and father both shouted at him to calm down. When he wouldn’t listen, they sent him up the stairs to his room.
As he was leaving the kitchen, he turned and screamed until he was red in the face, “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you…”
My father went over, grabbed him and sent him up to his room with a spank on his behind. Michael stomped up the stairs and I could hear him from the kitchen as he stamped his feet along the landing, eventually slamming the bedroom door.
I didn’t see him again until I was in bed.
With the final loud noise, I knew instinctively that Michael would not be coming back to the bedroom on this day, his tenth birthday.
The clock on my mantelpiece on the other side of the room began to chime midnight. Each ring of the bell filling me with relief, it was almost over for the year.
“Please, Colin take it.”
It was pleading now and it had the voice of a little boy, no longer the raspy tone of the previous hour. It was Michael’s voice.
I could no longer feel its breath on my neck and I knew it was backing away now. Further away with each chime of the clock.
“I don’t want to come back Colin, please, take it…”
It was almost out of the door, I could tell. On the 11th chime I turned and seen the boy, my brother as nothing more than a rotted corpse. Clothes still clinging on for dear life to the skeletal body. There was still a flaky skin attached to the bones, not much but some. Each year there was less.
The hole in the top of Michael’s head where the bullet entered was hardly visible now. Neither were his facial features. Somehow though, there was an expression of pleading on the skull-like face.
The cuddly bear he held in his skeletal hand, bell jingling on its hat and hole in its midriff, didn’t ever seem to age. This was now the 24th time the event had happened and I still had the urge to take the bear from him sometimes, set him free after letting him keep his promise of returning the first friend I remembered.
Well, it would either set him free or, maybe I would trade places with the bear.
This uncertainty made my decision every year. I ignored him once and it saved my life. Now I ignore him every year.