Bumps in the Night

It's Sue's first Halloween after she becomes able to see strange entities and creatures. All she wants is to spend a quiet night home...

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1. Bumps in the Night

My best friend Amanda Harding, Manx to her friends, was practically bouncing as we walked out of the school gates.

The disco’s tomorrow night!’ she cried.  ‘I am so looking forward to it! Aren’t you?’

Oh, that’s right; I hadn’t told her.  ‘I’m not going.’

‘What?’ Amanda shrieked.  ‘But we’ve been planning for it for months!’

‘Sorry, Manx,’ I apologised, using her nickname.  ‘It’s just I’ve got a lot of homework to get through, and you know what my mother’s like.’  I felt a little bad using my mother as an excuse, but it was the only one that she would believe.

‘You don’t come out with us anymore!’

‘I’m really sorry, Manx,’ was all I could say.

I suppose that was true that I’d been neglecting my friends since I started taking refuge in the school library.  It was easier to ignore the things I saw when I had something to occupy my mind, and there was nothing better than a book to occupy my mind.

Ever since I starting seeing strange creatures and wisps, it’s been one nerve-wracking day after another.  School was hard enough, but the odd looking creatures lurking around the school were distracting.  Several times I’d been reprimanded for not paying attention in class.

‘What about your ticket?’ she demanded.

‘I gave it to Delia the other day.’

Delia, full name Delia Norton, was one of our friends.  She’d been planning to go the disco, but kept forgetting to buy the ticket she needed to get in.

While, strictly speaking, there wasn’t anything stopping me from going, I was not confident that I wouldn’t start screaming my head off during the course of the evening.  So instead I decided to stay at home.

The rest of the walk was spent in silence until we came the fork in the road where Amanda would now leave me to walk the rest of her way home.

‘I guess I’ll see you at the weekend, then,’ she said as she turned away.  ‘See ya.’

‘Yeah. Maybe,’ I mumbled.  ‘See you.’

As I continued on my way, I took in my surroundings.

It was well and truly autumn now.  The leaves on the trees were a riot of colours; though some were still in that limbo between green and brown.  And the ones that had fallen to the ground were dry and crisp as they crackled under foot.

The air has started to turn chilly enough to justify wearing a thicker jacket.  Soon it was going to be cold enough that I was going to need wear a woolly hat and gloves.

‘Susana, wait up!’

I stopped short.  No-one called me Susana; it was always Sue, or sometimes Suzie from my extended family.
I turned.  Jon McGregor was pedalling up to me on his bicycle.  The blood rushed to my face.  Hang on, didn’t he live in the town centre?  What did he want?

‘Will you be at the disco tonight?’ he asked.

‘No, I’m staying at home tonight,’ I replied.  ‘I’ve got some homework I need to finish, and I thought I’d get an early night.’

‘Oh.’

‘Are you okay?’ I asked.

‘I’m fine. I guess I’ll see you after half-term,’ he replied.

Was it just wishful thinking or did he look disappointed?

Shaking the thought from my head, I continued my walk home.
 

I had to walk by the local church on my way home.  The churchyard also doubled as the graveyard.  Whenever I went to and from home, I would often see a black dog just inside the gate or just lying on top of a stone coffin.

It was a very handsome, with inky black fur that looked so soft and silky, and deep wine red eyes.  It resembled a Labrador, but it had a very unusual tail.  It was like someone had made it into a long plait.  Other than the eyes and tail, it seemed like any other dog.

I spared it a glance as I walked by.

After I walked a couple more yards, I got the sense of someone, or something watching me.  Then I heard the click of its claws on the pavement as it padded after me.

I stopped.  There was no sound.  I looked behind me.

The dog was sitting on its hind legs in the middle of the pavement.  Its wine red eyes watching me intently.

I flicked my hand at it.  ‘Shoo!’

But it just sat and stared at me.

It didn’t seem inclined to go away, so I just continued on my way.  After a couple more yards I took another glance behind, and it was following me again!

I started power-walking. The dog started trotting faster after me, its paws pounding softly on the pavement.

It wasn’t long before I felt the burning cramp starting in my calves.  I had to stop and stamp it out and also catch my breath.  I glanced behind for the nth time.  It had stopped again.  I sighed.  Why was it following me?  But it wasn’t as if it could answer that question.

In the end I just decided to ignore it.  It wasn’t doing anything to harm me, anyway.

The dog followed me all the way home, always keeping its’ distance.  When I stopped, it stopped.  And when I started walking again, it followed after me.

I picked up my pace as I turned onto the street when I lived with my parents.

There were no cars in the driveway so Mum wasn’t home yet, and Dad wouldn’t be getting home until about half past seven.

After letting myself in and locking the door, I quickly padded to the living room and peered out the window from behind the curtains.

There was no sign of the black dog.

I waited.

And waited.

More than five minutes passed, but no black dog walked by the house.  It must have turned around back to the graveyard.  But I wasn’t going out to make sure.  With that thought I went up to my room, dragging my schoolbag up the stairs with me.

I changed into something more comfortable, before sitting at my desk and turning on my computer.  While it was booting up, I pulled out my school year planner and consulted this week’s list of assignments.

Hmm, I haven’t touched the Lit and Lang homework that I received yesterday.  It was on the Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  It was interesting but definitely not my favourite of the Bard’s work.  I would have to write an essay plan.  About half an hour after I started, I could hear Mum’s car pulling into the driveway.

I’d taken the key out of the lock when I locked the door, so she could get inside herself.  As usual she barged into my room without knocking.

‘Oh good.  You’re doing your homework!’ she said, happily. 

I had to refrain from rolling my eyes.  Of course, she was happier that I was spending more time on my homework, rather than “making a nuisance of myself when I should be making better use of my time”.

‘Now, Mum, I want to get some of this done before dinner,’ I said, turning my back to her.

‘All right, dear.’  She closed the door and left me to it.

I had pretty much finished my essay plan, now all I needed to do was research the subject; important quotes and what they could possibly mean, as well as analyse key characters in the scene.

Thankfully there were free online study guides that had all the information that I needed.

I was copying and pasting important bits onto a Word document when I heard dad come in.  He chatted to Mum about something, but I couldn’t really hear them so I just got on with my homework.

‘Hello, Sue.’

I looked up from my computer.  Dad had popped his head in.

‘Hey, Dad.’

‘What are you up to?’

‘Just doing my homework.’

There was that cloud hovering over him again.  He was worried that I was shutting myself off from my friends.  He never actually said it, but somehow I could sense it.

‘I’m okay,’ I shrugged and went back to what I was doing.

I heard my bedroom door quietly close.

Dinner was a quiet affair.  Mum had made butternut squash soup and bread, which I ate slowly.  Neither of my parents spoke, which was fine by me.  After I finished eating, I went back up to my room to finish my French homework.  It was a review of the conditional tense; one of my worst areas in the subject.  I could never remember the verb conjugations.

By half past ten my eyes were starting to droop.  Time for bed.

I went through my nightly ablutions and changed into my pyjamas.  But the moment turned off my bedroom light, I saw something that made me pause.

A sliver of light was lancing the wall above my bed.

What is that?

My bedroom was facing the street, but it wasn’t the street lamp as it cast a yellow light, and the spear of light on the wall was a blue tinted white.  Whatever it was, it was flickering outside and it was shining through the crack in my curtains.

I peeked through the curtains and my eyes were met with a strange sight.  A strange wispy looking figure was hopping along the street, leading a line of lights.

What in the world?

The wispy figure paused.  And turned towards me.

I jumped back from the window and hurried over to my bed, burying myself under the covers.  I shut my eyes tight.

It took me a while to relax again.  I was just dozing off when,

‘AHHHHHHHHHH!’

A blood-curdling shriek sent me tumbling out of bed with a thud.

What the hell was that? I mentally shrieked, gently rubbing at the spot where I’d banged my head on my bedside table.

It sounded like it came from the garden.  I quietly padded to the spare bedroom, and cautiously opened the curtains and peered out into the gloomy darkness.  Thankfully the wispy figure and the trail of lights were no longer there.  In fact, there was nobody there as far as I could see.

I tiptoed to my parents’ bedroom door and opened it as quietly as I could.

Dad was snoring away, and Mum was tucked up tight.  They didn’t seem to have heard that have been roused at all; though I didn’t know how that could be; it was loud enough to wake the dead.  And if that didn’t, I was sure that my tumble out of bed would have at least woke Mum.

I went back to my bed.

What could it have been?

Suddenly, a terrifying image jumped into my head; a blue-faced hag with a long hooked nose and long wicked iron claws.  Black Annis!  A cannibalistic faery from Leicestershire folklore that was partial to children and lambs.  When she is hungry, her howl can be heard for miles around.  I didn’t think it was true.

I violent shook my head.  It was most certainly not true!  How could such a sound carry itself all the way to Oxfordshire?

It was probably just some tomcats fighting over territory or a female!

Yes, that was it!  Nothing to work myself up over.

And yet again before I could fall asleep, another strange sound assaulted my ears.  The music was so beautiful that it made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. 

My eyes flew open as I remembered something else I’d read; the flute and violin were the favourite instruments of the fairies because it closely resembled their own.  I clapped my hands over my ears.  The sound was muffled but I didn’t dare fall asleep, in case my hands moved from my ears.

It until the sky was just beginning to lighten that the music stopped and I could let myself fall asleep.

I blearily opened my eyes.  From what I could see, the sun was already high in the sky.

A glance at my alarm clock on my bedside table told me it was just after ten o’clock.  I was surprised my mother hadn’t come in to drag me out of bed.

I sighed.  My eyelids were so heavy.  It felt like I hadn’t slept at all.  I picked up my compact mirror from my bedside table.  The circles under my eyes were ever darker than yesterday.  I looked like a panda!  I was going back to bed.
But before I could drop back to sleep, my phone started trilling on my bedside table where I’d left it to charge.
‘Hello?’

‘You missed a great party last night!’ she

‘That’s nice, Manx,’ I yawned.  ‘Could you tell me about it later when I’ve had a bit more sleep?’

‘Ooh, were you kept up by the things that go bump in the night?’ she teased.

I sighed.  ‘Something like that.’

Halloween was definitely my least favourite time of the year.

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