It's night terrors for Jay
'Mum! Muuuummmm! Muuuuuuuu!' The rising, 3am wail made Sylvie groan. She elbowed the sleeping hulk beside her, when he grunted she hissed, 'Your turn.' Not even half awake, Dave stumbled out of bed, wobbled to the landing and flicked the light switch. The wails stopped as she heard the door to Jay's room open. Lying in bed, she saw, in her mind's eye, the routine.
Jay would be sitting up, his duvet twisted into a monstrous worm, his hands fisted in his pillow, his eyes white saucers, his blonde hair looking like he had suffered an electric shock. First, the clinging hug, the small body hard and resistant. As Jay relaxed, a bout of sniffles and a few tears and lots of gulping. Then hiccups because of all the air he had swallowed. A drink of water to calm him and then look in the closet, the toy box and under the bed.
'Missy Snitchsnatch gone.' Sylvie could never quite determine whether Jay was relieved or disappointed. At first, she found the terrors frightening, then disquieting, she fought against being lackadaisical, but she and Dave were exhausted. As if sleepwalking, Dave rolled back into their bedroom, flopped into his groove in the mattress and, within three breaths, was snoring softly. Sylvie lay there, alternating between fury and envy with a little bit of murder thrown in.
'Night terrors.' Doctor Prout gave her and Jay an old fashioned look over old fashioned half moon glasses and added an old fashioned prognosis. 'He will grow out of it.' It was accompanied by an avuncular ruffling of Jay's hair. 'In the meantime, we can't have mummy and daddy being disturbed every night, can we going man?' Jay shook his head, thumb planted firmly in his mouth, his fingers gripping Gruff the penguin. 'How would you like to camp out downstairs with mummy or daddy?' The doctor have Sylvie a reassuring smile. 'A change of circumstances can sometimes break the cycle.' Sylvie's face must have reflected her feelings. 'One parent on hand, the other upstairs getting a good night's sleep.' It was irresistible.
'Missy Snitchsnatch alone.' They had made a bed under the table and thrown sheets over the top to enclose a room. Jay was snuggled under his duvet surrounded by a dozen soft toys, an upturned bucket with Glowbug, smiling through his changes of pastel light, sitting on top and his favourite cushion from the sofa. Now he was trying to get up because Missy Snitchsnatch, the cause of his terrors, was alone.
'Daddy will be right there on the sofa.' Sylvie stroked her son's hair. 'He's very brave.' Jay was sucking noisily on his thumb and spoke around it.
'You look after Missy Snitchsnatch, mummy. It's not nice to be alone.' His eyes were dark with appeal. 'You sleep in my room. Promise?' Sylvie sighed.
'Promise.' She said. 'Now settle down and if you're lucky, daddy might read you a story.'
She left them to it, after insisting that reading an exciting adventure story was not a good idea at bedtime. She left them leafing through Young Astronomer and looking at the pictures of spaceships, telescopes and constellations. She was headed for a good soak in the bath, with candles, essential oils and a nice glass of red. Perfect. And so to bed. Without snoring hulk. Even better. Sylvie starfished under the covers. Then Dave was pushing open the bedroom door.
'Jay won't go to sleep. He's saying you promised to sleep in his bed and he keeps wittering on about Missy Snitchsnatch being alone.'
'Ok. Ok. Tell him I've just got out of the bath and I'm putting on my jimjams.' She blew a kiss at her husband. He rolled his eyes and went downstairs. 'Romance is not dead yet.' She muttered.
Jay's bed was only just big enough for Sylvie. Jay had his duvet downstairs, Dave was wrapped up in theirs so she was left with the winter counterpane and brushed cotton pyjamas. She should be warm enough. At least the mattress was soft and unfolding and she was so very tired. It was odd to be on her own, to turn over without the snoring hulk taking up three quarters...
A searing light burned Sylvie's eyes open. She was bolt upright, her legs bicycling, rolling the counterpane into a misshapen snake. In front of her, where the door to the closet had once been, was an outpouring of light, it roared silently in from another place, seeking. It crackled. It sparked. It was hungry. It was sentient. It wanted. It wavered. It swirled. It dimmed. It coalesced. Sylvie wanted to scream, holding it back, she bit her lip, the pain focussed her scattering thoughts. What was happening?
The hungry light was an ovoid ball, not smooth. Wispy tendrils waved as if sampling odours. Short, stumpy, hollow horns sat between them, some emitting puffs of violet vapour, others sucking it back in. Still more light was pouring in through the door across dimensions. More things were forming. Sylvie stared. They had a horrible familiarity. Germs. She heard a little gasp escape from her bleeding lip. They were gigantic bacteria.
Something flowed out from under the bed. A shadow that slipped across the floor, hissing. Like thick, black smoke it swirled, rising upwards, a sable tornado, bending from side to side. The bacteria's tendrils reached out towards it, questing. Then flicked back as if burned. The tornado steadied, firmed into a trunk and sprouted thick boughs. In their turn, they split into branches, thinner branches, twigs, twiglets. A basket of strands wove a shield around the interloper and began to squeeze. As they tightened they made little noises. Snick. Snatch. Snuck. Snatch. Snick. Bit by bit they forced the infection back, behind the door. And slammed it shut.
In the sudden near darkness, Missy Snickersnatch was nothing but a pile of shadow, sinking under the carpet. Only then did Sylvie scream.