Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #2056802
A contest entry for The Writer's Cramp, September 9th, 2015
|Jan counted thirteen. She was positive she hadn't miscounted. Three rounds of four strokes equals twelve. But the grandfather clock in the hall struck one more, making that thirteen. |
Maybe she was really sleeping and having one of those vivid dreams where you can feel the air rushing around you as you plummet to your death. Jan grabbed an inch of skin on her forearm and gave it a good twist.
"Ouch," she said, opening her eyes . She sat up in bed, the white fleece blanket that had been covering her falling to her lap. Leo, her bichon, popped his head up and gazed at her with round brown eyes. Moonlight streaming through the window by her bed brightened her room more than usual. She tossed the covers off and stood up.
Peeking out the window, she whispered, "Wow, the moon is gi-normous." It looked twice as big as usual. Some kids -- geeks who were behind her in the lunch line -- were talking about the supersized moon tonight.
"Pfth," Leo said, plopping his head back down on the blanket. Once his eyes were closed he was well camouflaged.
The night air raised goosebumps on her exposed arms and legs. Rubbing her arms, Jan tiptoed to her door. She cracked it open. It was darker in the hallway, but she could see that her mom's bedroom door was closed. There stood the imposing clock, standing equidistant between the two rooms, like a guard.
Two strides and she stood in front of the mahogany timepiece. In the moonlight spilling from her room, Jan could see that both hands were pointing up to the sky. Yes, midnight then; not thirteen o'clock. She turned on her feet to return to her room when her eyes caught on the moon dial above the face. It showed the phases of the moon, and on this night it showed a full moon, which was correct, but it was winking. Did it always wink? She didn't think so. And what about that smirk?
She retraced her steps back to her room and hopped into bed, burrowing under the warm covers.
Leo plodded over to where she lay and curled up against her legs.
"Yeah," Jan said, rubbing his curly head. "I must have miscounted."
She closed her eyes and nestled into her pillow, a lump of cozy dog tucked beside her. Within seconds she was halfway to LaLa Land, when a soft, "guess so," emanated from just behind her bent knees. Jan's eyes flew open and she twisted around to gape at Leo, who propped open one eye before snuggling back down with a sigh. Who said that? Her heart was pounding, but the extra dose of moonlight made it easy to see that she was alone in her postage-stamp bedroom. Overtired, that's it! Go to sleep.
Come morning, the weird night was completely forgotten, taken over by concerns about her chemistry test. Not her strongest subject. Or her second strongest, even. Jan made her way to the kitchen, where her mother was ritually burning the French toast.
"Morning, hon. You're just in time for some Froggie bread," her mom said.
Jan slid into a chair while her mother slapped an egg-soaked slice of cooked bread on the plate in front of her. She stared at the dark brown (nearly black) specimen for a second. Well, you gotta give her credit for trying. "Thanks, Mom."
"You're very welcome." Her mother planted a kiss on Jan's head. "Don't forget to feed and water Cranston before school." She whirled around and put the spent skillet in the sink.
"Who?" Jan asked.
Jan furrowed her brow and studied her mother. Maybe the last few marbles had finally rolled out of her head. "Who's Cranston?"
"Silly girl. Don't go playing your head games with me. I've got to get ready for work, so I'll see you this afternoon. Have a fantabulous day!"
Finishing as much of the burnt offerings as she could, she dumped her plate in the sink, scooped up her backpack by the door and stepped outside to a sparkling and crisp Autumn morning. She skipped down the three steps to the driveway to begin her walk to the bus stop.
"Hey, aren't you forgetting something?" came a husky voice behind her.
Jan slowly turned around, looking out at eye level before settling on her dog, who was standing there gazing up at her, head tilted to one side in a quizzical manner. Not seeing anyone, she turned back around.
"Don't turn your back on me. You know, if we had opposable thumbs we could feed ourselves. But we don't , so we can't."
Turning around again, and, yes, Leo was still standing there. "Was that . . . you, talking?" she asked.
"See anyone else here?" Leo said, his mouth moving to form words like in those hysterical youtube videos.
"So, uh, you haven't been fed yet?"
"Not me. I've been fed. How do you think your mother gets me out from under her feet. You gotta feed Cranston."
Jan strode over to the dog, and stooped closer to his level. "Cranston?"
He rolled his eyes. "Follow me."
She followed the fluffy dog through the gate that led to the back yard. A rickety shed used to stand in one corner, but in its place now was a single-horse stable.
The dog jounced over to the stable and sat down. "Jan, Cranston. Cranston, Jan."