Emma.

 

Hey Face­less,

Anoth­er “I’m avoid­ing work­ing on my man­u­script” short sto­ry to share with you… enjoy!  (and as always, feedback—good or bad—is wel­come)

 — Your Writer.

 

Emma.

 

The scream­ing start­ed at about 3AM. What­ev­er the cause, it was odd­ly punc­tu­al.

To call it blood­cur­dling wouldn’t be doing it jus­tice; that would be like say­ing that the desert is hot, or that the ocean is wet. No, this sound was noth­ing short of unearth­ly. Those reli­gious­ly inclined would say it was ungod­ly, but ‘He’ and I have nev­er been close enough for me to ask. It was the sort of noise one would expect from some­one being drawn and quar­tered, or hav­ing their fin­gers slow­ly and method­i­cal­ly pulled off, like wings off a fly.

My guest that evening was tak­en off-guard by the com­mo­tion, and right­ful­ly dis­turbed. She bolt­ed upright in my bed by the first shrieks and near­ly fell off the side. These episodes had slowed in their fre­quen­cy, becom­ing almost non-events in the past cou­ple of weeks. It hadn’t occurred to me to men­tion it.

She grabbed my arm and shook furi­ous­ly. “Alan, Alan! Wake up, oh God, what is that—”

I sat up and flicked on the side table lamp, shift­ing the shade to spare her from the blast of light. “It’s just Emma. It’s okay.”

She looked stunned. “Just Emma? She’s scream­ing, Alan.”

I know, I know. I’m sor­ry, I should have warned you.” I was grog­gy but on my feet, slip­ping my robe on while brac­ing myself for the trip down the hall. I told her to lay back down, to try and go back to sleep — but she was hav­ing none of it. She was already reach­ing for her robe and pulling it over her beau­ti­ful­ly freck­led shoul­ders, her long legs swing­ing over the edge of the bed.

I’m com­ing with you.”

I cir­cled the bed and walked to the door. “I’ll be just a minute, Sarah, real­ly. Just try to go back to sleep.”

She walked up behind me, stretch­ing her head up high to kiss the back of my neck. I loved it when she did that. “I’m already up. And we’re a team now, right?”

I smiled as I reached back for her hand. “Yes, we are. Okay, let’s go.”

We approached the epi­cen­ter of tonight’s hor­ror movie: the bed­room of my sweet, nor­mal­ly qui­et and peace­ful three year old daugh­ter. Well, near­ly three and a half, if I’m being entire­ly accu­rate. In her wak­ing hours, she was the most gen­tle thing you could ever imag­ine; it would be hard to imag­ine a child more serene. But over the past few months, some unknown ghoul made a habit of creep­ing into her dreams, forc­ing out the bun­nies and but­ter­flies and replac­ing them with things of unspeak­able hor­ror. The scream­ing inten­si­fied as we approached, her small paus­es for breath the only punc­tu­a­tion in what­ev­er jolt­ed her from her pre­vi­ous­ly peace­ful slum­ber.

I turned to face Sarah as we stopped at Emma’s door.

You ready?”

She looked at me quizzi­cal­ly. “Um, ready? For what, exact­ly?”

I smiled. “The first time you walk in there it can be a bit, um, shock­ing. It still freaks me the fuck out. But she’s okay, I swear it.”

She squeezed my arm and steeled her­self for what­ev­er was to come. “Okay. I’m ready.”

I pushed open the door. My lit­tle angel sat at the end of her bed and faced the wall, scream­ing blue mur­der, her hands down at her sides grip­ping her sheets. She looked pos­i­tive­ly demon­ic; her thick curly hair stood straight up from her round lit­tle skull, point­ing in every direc­tion at once. I was nev­er sure if she’d be lying down or stand­ing up when I opened the door, if she’d be fac­ing the wall or look­ing straight at me. (That last one does a fan­tas­tic job of keep­ing you wide awake for the rest of the night, believe you me).

I took a breath and quick­ly walked to the side of her bed, tak­ing a seat behind her. Despite Sarah’s best of inten­tions, she stood her ground at the door. The bewil­dered look on her face told me that she had no idea what to make of the scene, and I didn’t blame her one bit; this entire thing weird­ed me out, and this was my lit­tle dar­ling. I was quite proud of her for stay­ing at all, instead of bolt­ing down the hall and pack­ing her bag.

I placed my hand on my howl­ing angel’s back, rub­bing it slow­ly, reas­sur­ing­ly. She didn’t flinch and was unaware of my pres­ence at all, as usu­al. I whis­pered in her ear. “I’m here Em, it’s okay.”

You say she’s okay — what’s wrong, exact­ly?”

The doc­tor called them night ter­rors. It’s like she’s stuck in a dream and can’t wake her­self up. Freaky, huh?”

Sara nod­ded silent­ly, her hand still grip­ping the door frame and what I assumed to be her mind plot­ting her escape. But, she stayed.

It was always a guess as to how long it would last. Some nights, she would calm fair­ly quick­ly; on oth­ers, we could be sit­ting togeth­er on the bed for a half-hour, my hand on her lit­tle back, try­ing to com­fort and con­sole my baby girl until she broke free from the hor­rors her beau­ti­ful lit­tle mind had con­coct­ed. And even then, she nev­er real­ly woke up; the pan­ic would sim­ply sub­side, the scream­ing would thank­ful­ly stop before a social work­er end­ed up at the front door, and she would resume her night’s sleep right where she left off. I, on the oth­er hand, would often require a drink of some­thing fiery to even con­tem­plate clos­ing my eyes again.

The pedi­a­tri­cian told me it was rare, but not uncom­mon. She’ll out­grow it, he told me as he non­cha­lant­ly pat­ted me on the shoul­der. It’s just a phase, some kids go through this. Just hang in there.

Easy for him to say. He’s not the one sit­ting in on a night­ly film­ing of the Exor­cist at 3AM.

 

 

One Comment

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  1. Hi Steve,
    it’s a good drink, but I think it needs a twist of lemon or per­haps a lemon twist. Maybe some­how the ex or some­thing else is trig­ger­ing these episodes or the whole thing is a dream. You’ve put on the shoes, now tie the laces.
    Tom

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