500 sq ft.

I’m trapped in my apartment.

When I woke up the other morning and tried to make my way to work, I found the front door impassable. It wasn’t locked. It wasn’t bolted shut. It had simply ceased to be a door. The handle was there and would turn and I could hear the pieces moving within the lockset, but it would not budge. It was like a wall.

The door to my balcony was the same, and all the windows were sealed shut. I couldn’t even get a fingernail into the cracks of them.

Outside, rain fell, but the streets are empty, deserted. There wasn’t a soul to be seen. No traffic. Not a bird in the grey sky.

It’s been four weeks now. There’s new food in my fridge each day I open it. The plumbing and lighting and TV still work, thank God, otherwise I’d have gone out of my mind. But I’m trapped. Something is different, something has fundamentally changed. And what terrifies me is not that I am trapped, but that perhaps one day I’ll die in here without ever having found out why.

26 Bricks

There’s a hole in the wall in the basement, an unfinished hole, beckoning black and empty where the brickwork isn’t complete.

Sometimes I have people over for tea and if they come down there for whatever reason – for me to show them the wine cellar, my collection of pickles, or how my microbrew is doing – they’ll ask about the hole in the wall. Ah, that hole’s stiil there, eh, Marv? When are you going to fill that thing in already? Seems like it’s been years.

It has been years. Years the bricks have sat next to that hole in the wall, sometimes in a red pile all alone, sometimes with a trowel and leftover bucket of mortar keeping them company.

No one ever seems to notice, but I am filling it in, brick by brick. Because they say if you commit a crime, after 25 years you’ve gotten away with it. And the funny thing is no one ever seems to ask why the hole is in the wall in the first place.

One brick per year. One brick for every finger on her hands, one brick for every toe on her feet, one for each eye and ear and her nose and mouth.

Three more years to go. I think I’ll save her mouth for last.

Crows

We should have stayed in the house. Julia and I are huddled amongst the rows of hanging plastic trays of flowers in the greenhouse, shivering in the humid air from our brief exposure to the howling wind and rain of the outside. The banging on the thick glass panels continues without relent, over and over.

“I’m scared Daddy, I’m scared!” Julia cries, draped beneath the gray blanket around her shoulders. Her little face is red and wet with the rain and her tears.

“I know, honey, I know. It’ll be okay.” This is one of those times a parent fears, a time where as a parent I can’t tell her that I’m scared too. That I’m not sure it will be okay. That I don’t know what to do.

“What do they want, Daddy? Why are they doing this?” She looks up at me from beneath her blond curls.

“I don’t know, baby, I really don’t. Just be brave, okay?”

She’d found a crow behind the barn. Cawing pitifully, it had hobbled on one bad leg and hopped lop-sidedly around in a circle in the grass. It looked like its wing had been broken too.

“Aww, Daddy look!” she’d said, after calling me over. “Can we keep him?” Her eyes had been full of pity.
“Okay, we can keep him in the barn.” I splinted the poor bird’s leg as best I could manage and Julia had a new pet.

Two days later I found my little girl on the ground between the house and the barn, crying, the bird she’d saved and two others pecking her viciously, blood pouring from her face and arms. I ran and shooed the savage creatures away and they flew off into the grey sky. I guess the crow’s wing hadn’t been broken after all?

After that I saw them and many others watching: from atop the barn, sitting on the hydro wires between the house and the road, on the eavestroughs of the house. They were waiting. Waiting for the right moment. And when tonight’s storm had kicked up and knocked out the power they’d had it. We should have stayed in the house. We should have stayed in the house. But they’d broken in through the windows, hundreds of them, and we’d ran, out into the yard in a panic, past the barn and into the greenhouse. How I had the presence of mind to grab the gun I’ll never know.

“I’m scared, Daddy, I’m scared!” Julia cries again. “Shhh, shhh, shhhh,” I say, trying to console her. “It’s okay, baby, I’ll protect you.”

I’ve never been more terrified in my life. The fluttering and the cawing and the banging is so loud it’s like one animal, one monster coming out of the night for us. And now the banging on the panels is joined by the sounds of breaking glass.

I only have two shells.

The Lost Ring

Where could it be? Where could it be? Oh no, oh no, oh no, how could I have been so foolish? Beatrice Benedict was in a panic. It has to be here somewhere. It has to be here somewhere. Oh my God, my God, I’ve got to find it or Ralph is going to kill me!

She’d turned the whole house upside-down already in a panic. At first she’d not even noticed her ring was missing. It hadn’t been until she’d finished cleaning everything.

Beatrice Benedict trembled at the thought of her stocky husband bursting in through the door, coated in grease from head to toe, then turning bright red in anger when he discovered she’d lost it, the one true symbol of their beautiful union, and then the sound of his thick leather belt flying through the air and the thwack thwack thwack as the blows rained down upon her. God help them, she knew Little Johnnie could hear it, even from upstairs in his tiny bedroom beneath the comfort of his little rocket ship bedspread.

Oh God, oh God, I’ve got to find it! Beatrice overturned all the couch cushions she’d vacuumed only an hour ago and turned over only 10 minutes before once again. She shook them out above the ugly brown striped pattern of the sofa, hoping, just hoping, that her repeating the same process and expecting a different result wasn’t insanity. That her precious missing wedding ring would fall out onto the floor, and then she could breathe a sigh of relief and all would be well again. But it wasn’t there.

Beatrice collapsed to her knees on the carpet, buried her face into her hands, and sobbed. She cried and cried and cried, the sound seeping out into the surrounding beige walls of the simple bungalow she and Ralph called home, and the walls watched silently, shaking their heads in disapproval.

Oh Bertie, Bertie, Bertie, the one wall, the one behind the China Cabinet, cooed out to her. It seemed older and wiser than the others. She felt that maybe it was their mother. Could walls have mothers?

You’ve gone and made a real mess of things, haven’t you? the wall continued. Ralph was right all this time. You really are worthless. How could you lose the ring like that? Don’t you care about Ralph? Don’t you care about your marriage? About Little Johnnie? What’s wrong with you Bertie?

Well, I’m not surprised. We walls all saw it coming. We see everything. And we’ll see it all when Ralph gets home soon and lays into you with his belt again. Just like he has so many times before.

Beatrice stopped crying and sat up. She’d already turned the living room over a dozen times. Then she thought maybe it’d fallen from her finger and gotten sucked up by the vacuum. She’d emptied the bag out and pawed all through the dirt with her bare hands. She’d gone through all of the bedrooms, tearing apart all the sheets and comforters on both her and Ralph’s and Little Johnnie’s bed, but there was not sign of her missing ring.

What was she going to do?

Wait, the bathroom sink? Or the drain in the tub? No, she’d put on her stretchy long yellow latex gloves as soon as she’d started on the bathroom, just like she always did, because she so hated cleaning the bathroom. She knew that the chemicals for getting rid of the kind of filth in there – stray pubic hairs and evil bacteria and mold caked into the grout and festering disease and rot and microbial death – were harsher than anything else she’d use to clean anywhere else in the house, harsher than anything she’d use in the kitchen.

Of course. The sink. She’d taken her ring off and set it on the counter next to the faucet, hadn’t she? Terribly absent-minded of her. But had she put it back on? And that clattering in sink had been that fork the fell from the drying rack, she’d seen it. But if she’d accidentally hit her ring with her elbow at the same time the fork had fallen then…

The garbage disposal. She had to look.

Dark and foreboding, the circular maw of the metal beast gaped at her, taunting her. I’ve got your ring, Bertie, now what are you going to do? You should have listened to the walls! The metal monster laughed maniacally at her.

Beatrice peered down into the depths of the hole, but could see nothing. She glanced from all angles but all was black; there was not so much as a gleam of light reflecting off the blades at the bottom.

She ran to the hall closet and bent down to the bottom shelf, rifling amongst the ratty old comforters and a big box of ancient used batteries. She found it, the big yellow plastic flashlight, the one her and Ralph had always taken camping with them each summer those first few years after they were newlyweds. Beatrice Benedict pushed the big black circular button with her thumb and it made a satisfying click-click. The beam from the light was still strong and lit the rusty brass hinges of the closet door next to her.

I don’t see it. I don’t see it. Beatrice squinted. She tilted her head every which way, this way and that way and a hundred other ways, but it was just so damn hard to see anything down that little hole, even with the light of the flashlight. Please God, please. Let my ring be in there. Beatrice tilted her head again and squinted into the depths of metal tunnel leading into the belly of the garbage disposal.

And then she saw it. Thank you God! A glimmer of light reflecting off her wedding ring.

Beatrice took a deep breath. She knew there was nothing in the kitchen, no implement, no wooden spoon or whisk or spatula or pair of tongs or scissors that would reach the bottom of the disposal. She’d have to reach down there with her arm and nimble white fingers and pluck the ring from those hungry metallic depths herself. It was the only way.

Think. Think about Ralph. Think about your ring. What that ring means.

She rolled up her sleeve and then stopped, recalling horrible stories she’d heard about household appliances turning on by themselves. About young boys reaching for things in the bottom of blenders and having their fingers turned into strawberry milkshakes with crunchy pieces of bone. About housewives falling headfirst into clothes dryers and being tumbled-dried to death, roasted alive all alone in empty basements while their cries for help went unheard, echoing in the scalding air of the hungry metal drums.

No, Beatrice Benedict thought. I have to. For Ralph. For Little Johnnie.

Beatrice took another deep breath and stuck her arm down the black hole, down into the hungry maw of the garbage disposal, and felt around with her nimble white fingers for her precious wedding ring. Her hand pawed and slipped against the wet steel, and she swore she could smell something foul rising up from the throat of the beast, up into the sink basin and assaulting her nostrils. Her digits danced a clumsy dance in the darkness. It was there. It was in there. I saw it! Just a little deeper. Just a little deeper. Before Ralph gets home.

There was a loud bang as the front door swung on its hinges and slammed shut. Beatrice looked up from the sink with a start.

“Bertie!” her husband called out. “I’m home!”

Oh God, it was Ralph! He’s home early! Beatrice thought. I can’t let him find me like this! And the ring! Oh God, the ring!

And then Beatrice realized her arm was stuck. And then she began to panic. She pulled and pulled and pulled but her arm was jammed in the hole of the drain at the elbow – she was like a minnow that had swum into a steel trap and but couldn’t squeeze its way back out.

She pulled and pulled but the circle of the drain was a snake coiled around her arm. She heard Ralph’s footsteps coming toward the kitchen. “Bertie? You there?” She was panicking now. She yanked and and twisted, and then her elbow turned the screw in the sink assembly and the metal monster roared to life.

Beatrice Benedict screamed as the garbage disposal ate her arm.


“She’s heavily sedated,” the doctor in the white coat said. “But she’s conscious. You can speak to her now.”

“Thank you,” Ralph Benedict said heavily. His wife lay docile beneath the hospital green of the bedsheets, an IV snaking down to her left wrist and surrounded by beeping machines keeping vigil.

“Ralph?” she said weakly. Her eyes fluttered. “Are you there?”

Her right arm was hidden within the cast. Ralph knew it was a courtesy. A sham to hide an ugly truth. He knew beneath that plaster his wife’s arm was all ground up to hell, a potpourri of flesh and skin and bone. The doctors did what they could, but had already told him she’d never regain use of her arm, let alone her hand, for as long as she lived.

A tear welled in the corner of the burly man’s eye, and slowly wandered down the side of his face. He hadn’t cried since his father’s funeral when he was 11.

“Ralphie,” Beatrice said weakly. “I’m sorry…”

“I’m sorry too,” Ralph said, reaching into his pocket for something. He set it down on the tray above the bed.

“It was in the car,” he said. “Found it beneath the passenger seat on the way home. It must’ve fallen from your finger the other day. You’re just so careless, Bertie, just so damn careless…”

Ralph Benedict’s wife cried.

“I’m sorry, Ralphie!” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry! I just didn’t want you to be mad! I’m so sorry for everything….”

“I know,” he said, rubbing his face with his hands. “I know. So am I.”

He took off his ring and set it down next to the other one the tray over the bed, and it rolled in place in a circle, rattling against the cheap plastic. The monitors behind Beatrice kept their steady pace, but nothing would ever undo what had been done.

Ralph Benedict stood and left. A doctor passed by the open door to the room, and the halls of the hospital continued to smell of antiseptic.

Closet Monster

“Mommy, I’m scared! There’s a monster in the closet!” Little Johnnie said, holding the covers up against his face.

Susan Patterson sat on the edge of her young son’s bed, sighing once again as they went through this nightly ritual.

“I told you honey, there’s no such thing as monsters. You’re a big boy now and you needn’t be afraid.”

“But there’s a monster in the closet, Mommy! I saw him! I saw him! He’s gonna get me as soon as you leave!”

Susan rose from the blue rocketships of the young boy’s comforter and walked over to the sliding door of the closet. She slid it aside, revealing the young boy’s hanging shirts.

“See? There’s no monster. I know it’s been hard for you since your Father’s not around any more, but try to be brave, okay son? It’s what he’d want.”

Johnnie shook from behind the shroud of the covers. “Okay Mommy,” he said quietly.

“Good. Goodnight son.” Susan Patterson walked over to the door and flicked off the light.

“Goodnight Mommy.”

Little Johnnie lay back in his bed in the darkness still afraid. He heard a noise, and looked over to the closet with terror to see the other door slowly sliding aside. The monster emerged from the blackness toward his bed, a giant dark shape looming with white eyes and yellowed teeth glinting in the darkness.

“Hello son,” the monster said.

Dispatched

Back in my home country, I could have been a doctor. I came to America to pursue a better way of life, a dream. But I discovered that there are lots of other people in America trying to be doctors too, and my degree from back home wasn’t worth so much compared to theirs.

So now I drive a taxi, like so many other immigrants. I don’t resent it even, I’ve been doing it for almost 5 years now. It’s not so bad, really. If I’d come over here with a family to feed I’m sure it would be a struggle, but it’s just me. I don’t have the nicest apartment, but it’s much better than any place I’d ever have back home, and at least I don’t have to worry about being awoken by the terrifying sound of jets screaming overhead, or bombs being dropped on me.

I’ve found that when you’re a cabbie for a while you start to get the same sorts of questions over and over again from customers – well, the sober ones anyway. Busy night? How long have you been driving a cab for? What’s the largest fare you’ve ever had? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?

I get that last one a lot. As a taxi driver you get to see a cross-section of life afforded to few others in this world. You see it all, unfiltered, unedited, unflinching; life, with all its dark corners, and all the sordid vignettes that play out so many thousand times a night unnoticed. I’ve witnessed so many cross-sections of humanity and most of the time they act like I’m not even there.

But the craziest thing I’ve ever seen? The worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my line of work? Well, when the customers ask me about that, I always lie. I always tell them the story about that group of drunk college kids I made the mistake of picking up on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. They’d stolen a keg from the bar and one of them, a frat boy type, was naked, and threw in up in the backseat.

Why would I lie? Because in order to be a good driver you have to make the customer feel at home. You have to have a good relationship with them, no matter how short their ride is, make them feel comfortable and safe. And if I told any of my customers the real story about the strangest thing I ever witnessed, they wouldn’t feel that way, because it terrified me more than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life.

I’ve never told anyone else before, so you’ll be the only one. But first I need to tell you about dispatch, and a little bit about what it’s like to be a cabbie – because the strangest thing that I ever experienced as a driver wasn’t something I saw in my cab, but something I heard over the radio.

Dispatch calls out the names and addresses what gets called in, and we on the radio, if we don’t have a fare, answer back to accept, depending on who’s nearby. Of course, sometimes you have a fare picked up off the street, so the car accepting what’s called out by dispatch isn’t necessarily the closest one. And some of the other cabbies were lazy, and would lie about having fares, or say they weren’t nearby when really they were. Some of those assholes would even call out the wrong car number or steal other guys fares, knowing they’d never get caught.

You see, it’s a strange thing to work with people you never actually meet face to face. I mean sure, I come in to work every day and pick up my car, and make sure it’s clean and in good order before I head out, so I’ve met some of the other drivers. Tommy from Nigeria. Hank, the retired guy that used to own the pub down the street. But the majority of the other voices I hear on the radio are nameless, anonymous, coming out of the silence with only a number to identify them.

I’ve never met the dispatchers either, but I’ve gotten to recognize them by the sound of their voices and the way they operate. Michael has a low voice, gravelly and rough, so the other drivers are always asking him to repeat himself. He talks more than he should, too, and jokes around a lot.

I like Navid better. He’s got some kind of accent, I’m not sure what exactly, but his voice is higher and melodious, and he’s all business. When Navid is on dispatch, the company is a well-oiled machine, churning through fares like one of those money-counting machines the tellers use at the bank.

When Navid was on dispatch, the sound coming out over the radio was a mesmerizing symphony: him succinctly calling out the fares, the other drivers taking them, and the chirping and warbling of the radio in between as dispatch and drivers squeezed and released the buttons on their handsets.

“Jennifer, 11 37th Street outside The Green Orb Room.”

“Yup. Car 3134.”

“Thank you. Mrs. Hutchinson on 324 Sycamore. She’ll need help her with her wheelchair.”

“Got it. 1554.”

“Thank you. Avinder at 1919 Wallace Drive.”

“Copy. 5821.”

“Thank you. Mr. & Mrs. Brindley outside the Metropolitan Opera House…”

And on and on it went. It made me happy, and was so much better than working with the other dispatchers, some of who would get caught up in mindless chatter, or even argue with the bad drivers. That always bothered me.

The terrifying thing I ever experienced happened that one night in 2013, the last night Navid ever worked. I was on the late shift, 6-6, and it was probably around 3 AM. I was coming back from a fare I’d taken out to the airport, so I had the long drive on the highway all the way back to downtown, with nothing but the warbling of the radio and Navid conducting the Symphony of the Dispatcher keeping me company. But the melodious tones of Navid’s cheery voice and the chirps and squawks of the radio quickly turned into a dark drama, one that I knew to be real.

“Two cars to Key Lofts at 517 Albion for Melvin and his friends.”

“3814. On my way.”

“Thank you. Someone else?”

“5 minutes, this is 4582.”

“Thank you.”

And then another voice came over the radio, one I’d heard about ten minutes ago, accepting a fare on the outside of town.

“Hello dispatch, this is 4317. I’m out at this house in the Gables, but it doesn’t look like there’s anyone here.”

“4317, please try the number. Dr. Johnson at 451 Oak Street to the airport.”

“OK. 2323.”

“Thank you.”

“Dispatch, I’ve tried the number no one’s answering. Think I’ve got the wrong one, could you say again?”

Navid said the number. “Michelle at 837 University.”

“Got it. 4518.”

“Thank you. Mr. Brindley at…”

“Hello dispatch, I’ve tried the number, there’s still no one there. Could…”

“Cut the chatter please, 4317. Mr. Brindley at 13 Northampton Crescent.”

“Car 1325. Yup.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m going to leave, dispatch there’s nobody here. I think they flagged one.”

“Negative, 4317. Please check the door. Arnold at 9987 15th Street at the Velvet Palace.”

“Copy. This is 3624.”

“Thank you.”

“Dispatch, the front door’s open, something doesn’t seem quite right here. Should we call the police?”

“Negative, 4317, cut the chatter and check the door, I have other cabs to dispatch. Tehmina at Eastsider’s Pub at 582 Monarch Road.”

“1147. Got it.”

“Thank you. David at…”

“Dispatch, there’s something behind the door. It’s too dark inside, I can’t see but…”

“Cut the chatter, 4317!” Navid was getting annoyed, I’d never heard him raise his voice before. “David at 935 Slater.”

“1321. Got it.”

“Oh my god, it’s a man, he’s covered in… no it’s huge… it’s…”

“4317, hello?”

“Holy shit, it’s coming! Oh my god, no! Please! I…”

“4317?”

“…”

“4317? Hello, do you copy?”

“………”

“Hello, 4317? Do you copy….?”

Anybody Home?

“Honey, I’m home!” The door slammed shut behind me and I kicked off my boots onto the plastic mat.

“Maggie? Are you home? Hello!” I called out but there was no reply. The hallway was cold and the house empty and silent.

“Maggie?” I checked the kitchen but it was devoid of life. No note or anything either. The living room was silent and still as well. Oh, well perhaps she’s upstairs and just didn’t hear me.

“Honey?” Not in the study. The door to the bathroom at the end of the hall was open, showing the dark blue tile of the wall.

I entered the bedroom and froze. My blood turned to ice in my veins.

On the bed, draped beneath the white shroud of the sheets, was the shape of a body. It lay straight on the mattress like a soldier, head at the headboard, feet at the footboard, arms at the sides beneath the cloth draped overtop.

I found my voice. “M-m-m-m-m…aggie?”

The shape did not move. Slowly, with great trepidation, part of me not truly believing what was happening, I bent down and grabbed the base of the sheet and began to pull, terrified of what I would find beneath.

As the white cloth slid over the contours of what lay below it, the room distorted and bent around me. My cold blood suddenly sang in my arteries and roared in my ears.

The body beneath the sheet wasn’t Maggie. It was me.

Narration

Trick or Treat

“I don’t wanna go in there,” Johnnie said, gesturing toward the dark hedges. “I don’t care if he gives out the best candy every year – Old Man Jameson is creepy.”

“Awww, come on ya scaredy cat!” Mikey teased. “You scared of the dark? Scaredy cat! Scaredy cat!” Mikey was dressed as a Roman gladiator. He had real leather sandals his Mom had made him, but the storebought plastic breastplate he wore was too large and sagged past his waist.

“Yeah, come on Jonnie! Don’t be a girl!” Samantha giggled, hitting him with her goodie bag. Samantha was a princess this year, clad all in pastel purple, in a conical veiled cap and long flowing gown.

“Alright, alright,” Johnnie relented, pulling the drooping edges of his bedsheet up from the ground – he was a ghost. “Let’s go.”

The children walked in through opening in the dark hedge fence, toward the old wooden door of Old Man Jameson’s house. The building was ancient, the exterior made of large round stones set in concrete; it was more of a cottage, really. The walkway toward the chipping red paint of the front door was uneven cobblestone, upheaved into disorder by the frozen ground of many winters past.

“Oh my god,” Samantha said, her voice wavering. “This is soooo creepy.”

Old Man Jameson was always known for his elaborate Halloween decorations. The children glanced around nervously as they progressed towards the door – the gladiator, the princess and the ghost – at the unsettling lifelike quality of the horrors on the display.

Child mannequins in costume, not much larger than the children themselves, were set in lifelike poses around the yard. Here, a boy dressed as a tiny policeman, his eyes missing and streams of blood painting his cheeks red. There, a girl in a costume as fairy, her frail paper mache wings distressed and body eviscerated. Another mannequin was a boy not much bigger than Johnnie, dressed as a Viking. A horned plastic helmet sat on his tiny cranium at a funny angle, and the fake flesh on his face was peeling from the skull underneath. All so lifelike.

“Come on, let’s get our candy and get out of here already!” Mikey said, no longer feeling like the brave soldier of his costume. The children gathered around the red door, and Samantha the swung the brass knocker.

RAP RAP RAP

“TRICK OR TREAT!” The children yelled.

Old Man Jameson opened the door and it creaked eerily upon its aged hinges.

“Well hello!” he said, grinning toothlessly. “Happy Hallowe’en my little ones!”

“Happy Hallowe’en, Mr. Jameson!” Samantha chirped. The boys were silent and stared at the old man.

“Have some candy apples!” he said, and dropped the plastic-wrapped fruit into their open bags.

“Thanks. Happy Hallowe’en Mr. Jameson,” Johnnie said. He made to leave.

“Oh, but wait,” the other said, smiling at the children. His teeth were so yellow. “I just made some hot cider. Won’t you have some before you go? It’s an awfully cold night out there this year for October. It will warm you from the inside.”

“I dunno,” Johnnie said with hesitation. He remembered something his mother had said about strangers once, and felt like this might be that kind of something.

“Sure!” Samantha said gleefully, taking a cup of the hot steaming liquid the old man had decanted.

The boys followed suit, and sipped the cider. It was delicious.

“Good, good,” said Mr. Jameson.

“Ooooh, I feel funny,” Samantha said, raising her hand against her head.

The children collapsed into a heap onto the front step.


“Oooh, Old Man Jameson’s house!” said Billy, pulling his fur-covered cap down again. He was a werewolf this year. “Let’s go! He always has the best candy!”

“Aaaah I dunno,” said Steven, a bashful scarecrow. “He’s sooo creepy.”

“Come on you silly boys,” Jenny said. She was Barbie this year. Marcie, an evil witch in a flowing cape of shiny black plastic, followed her in through the hedge.
The children walked down the cobblestone of the path, past the lifelike decorations in the yard. Dead youth surrounded them in frozen poses: a miniature gladiator bloodied from battle with his left arm missing, a child ghost covered in a gore-smeared sheet, and a young princess dressed in purple cradling her severed head in her hands.

RAP RAP RAP

“Trick or treat!” The children squealed.

Eyemouth

“Mommy I’m scared, there’s a monster in the closet.”

Jessie’s crying wakes me from my light slumber and I sit up against the headboard. She stands at the foot of the bed in the blackness, and I can see the moonlight seeping in through the blinds reflected in her tiny eyes: two drops of bright mercury dancing in the otherwise dark room.

“Honey, there’s no such thing as monsters.” I say, yawning. “You be a brave girl and go back to bed okay? You’ve got school in the morning and it’s late.”

“It’s Eyemouth mommy! Eyemouth was in my room! He’s tall and skinny and covered in black fur! He has long sharp claws and I heard them dragging on the floor of my room!”

“Honey…”

“He’s got a big mouth where his face should be! And when he opened his mouth it was full of eyes! Hundreds and hundreds of eyes looking at me! He wants to eat me with his sharp teeth, Mommy! Don’t make me go back to my room! Eyemouth is in my room!”

“Jessie, there’s no such thing as monsters,” I say sternly, and sigh. “Go back to your room and go to bed. It’s just your imagination.”

Jessie heads back to bed and I lay against the warmth of the sheets. I fall asleep and awake again, to see the two beads of light in the darkness once more – the moonlight reflected in Jessie’s tiny pupils.

“Honey, are you still scared? I told you there’s no such thing as monsters.”

Slowly, the two dots of reflected light are joined by hundreds of others.