The house stood at the top of a hill on Home Street in the sleepy little town of Whitmore. It had been apartments previously, an upstairs and a down. This was a time when children played outdoors without any worries, doors were left unlocked, and keys rested in ignitions unattended. The two children in this family were used to doing what they were told. An oppressive atmosphere reigned which was exacerbated when the father, who worked two jobs, was home.
It had an attic which could only be reached by ladder. The brother and sister sneaked into this mysterious space. It had a strange smell, and the girl seemed allergic to the insulation. Their parents had stored several boxes and other random items up there. When they all settled in for the night, an eerie silence ruled except on some nights when they could hear creaking sounds coming from somewhere above—the attic. The boy who was labeled “sensitive” by the parents imagined the sounds were made by a body swinging from a rope. The parents said it was just the old house groaning in the wind, but the boy noticed the sounds from above even when there was no wind.
His sister started sleepwalking not long after they moved in. One night she went down to the basement landing to get the bag she used on her paper route. The parents caught her with it before she headed out the door. Another time she walked halfway down the landing from upstairs to where a door led to the outside. When it had been apartments, stairs had stood on the outside of the house which the parents had torn down. If she’d gotten out that door she would have fallen into space.
These children were drawn to things unseen, defying their parents’ prohibition of occult activities like Ouija boards. They played with their friends, fascinated by the light touch it took to get answers to questions. A young girl had been kidnapped a couple of years before they’d moved to Whitmore, and their neighbors told them how all the houses were searched and how fear gripped the town where nothing like this had happened before. When the brother and sister asked the board, “Is Maria still alive?” the needle slid quickly to “No.”
As they grew older, they became very close. They could read each other’s thoughts. Often at the dinner table listening to their parents’ conversations, they gave each other knowing looks no one else could read. One Sunday morning the children heard their parents talking in hushed tones before mass. The sister hovered near their almost completely closed bedroom door and heard them say that an infant had once died in her room. How they had come upon such knowledge she had no idea. She went and immediately told her brother, and together their imaginations conjured up all sorts of things.
The family had a cat. The father wanted a dog, but the mother put her foot down. The girl named the cat Peter after Peter Tork of The Monkees. He was a good-natured cat and the mother loved to feel it rub against her legs when she was doing dishes or cooking. Unfortunately, the cat was no good at mousing. The mother had seen droppings around the house and had seen a mouse when doing laundry in the basement.
Actually, it was the father who had a terrible fear of these creatures and brought home rat traps with poison. The mother objected but the father was insistent. They would have to keep the cat away from the traps. So, he set a couple of them: one on the landing heading to the basement and one in the basement. Everyone was given strict orders to keep the kitchen door which led to the basement closed at all times.
A couple of days later, on a Saturday morning, a scream echoed throughout the house. Seeing the kitchen door open, the mother had gone down to the basement to investigate and found Peter curled up dead by the furnace. When the sister found out, she became a bit excited about what they were going to do with Peter. “Can we bury him in the back yard and put up a cross?” she asked a little too eagerly. “I can help dig.” The brother suspected she had left the kitchen door open, for he had heard her creeping downstairs after they had all gone to bed. The brother wondered if the spirit of the dead baby were responsible for the changes he saw occurring in his sister.
The following morning, she told him she had had visions when going to bed the previous night. As she lay awake staring at the wallpapered walls, she saw faces appear in the pattern. In a couple of them, mouths were slowly moving. She had been very scared and had put her pillow over her face. Each night now she would have trouble falling asleep. In addition, she obsessed over how she didn’t want to attend the all-girl Catholic school their father was now insisting on. The brother could sense how angry she was. He’d started feeling afraid of his sister’s thoughts. They were disturbing and violent. He struggled with whether to say something to their parents.
One night he awoke in fear thinking of his sister. She had gone down to the kitchen, gotten a butcher knife, and stealthily crept into their parents’ bedroom. She smelled her mother’s cold cream, noted her father’s pipe in its stand. The mother, a light sleeper, heard the floorboards creak, awoke to see her daughter holding a knife over the father. She screamed and shook the girl’s body to get her to drop the knife, for she knew her daughter had been sleepwalking. The “sensitive” boy stood watching from the doorway reading his sister’s real thoughts.
Marc Frazier has published poetry for decades in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Slant, Permafrost, and Poet Lore. He has memoir in Gravel, The Good Men Project, decomP, et al. His fiction appears in Flash Fiction Magazine and Autre. His three poetry collections are available online. See Marc Frazier Author page on Facebook, @marcfrazier45 on Twitter, or marcfrazier45 on Instagram.
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