Morning came all too soon, and with it, a heavy weight on my chest, that pressed down on me as I laid on my back with my eyes open, staring at the blank ceiling. I felt like I couldn’t move, and didn’t want to. It was so similar to that Sunday-night-feeling during the school year, when you know what’s coming the next day, dread every second of it, and time passes all the more quickly for it.
I drifted off to sleep again, trying to avoid and ignore the morning, and hoping that it would simply change its mind, and it would be night again so that I could continue sleeping. This tactic only worked for so long, however, until I woke up again, with a gnawing grumble from my tummy. It was time to get up, and make some breakfast.
I turned my whole mind to the present moment, concentrating hard on everything. My barefeet were cold on the linoleum floor of the kitchen. I opened the door of the refrigerator and leaned on it, trying to decide what it was that I wanted to eat. Not bagels or toast, and I did not know how to cook eggs or bacon. Cold cereal it was. Again. The box of sweetened oats was reaching its end, and along with the tinkling sound they made as they hit the ceramic bowl, came the sliding, shifting sound of the crumbs and dust from the bottom of the box.
I ate my cereal and opened up a new book. It was called The Hobbit, and I read through the whole first chapter while munching on my cereal, until there was nothing left but sweetened milk, with swirling spirals of cereal residue floating on the top. I sympathized with poor Bilbo. Here he was, just trying to have a regular, nice morning, when all of a sudden he’s interrupted by a gang of rude and unruly dwarves. I wasn’t sure where the book was going, but my grandfather had given it to my on my seventh birthday, and it was as good of a time as any to start.
I was so engrossed in reading, that I scarcely heard the rumbling sound of my uncle’s green pickup rolling down the lane. It wasn’t until I heard the loud thunk of a door slamming that I snapped my head up, immediately realized what was happening, and bolted to the door to lock the handle and the deadbolt. He wasn’t getting in. It wasn’t getting anywhere near me.
The blinds of the windows were shut, and I saw the bulging silhouette of my uncle’s body move slowly to the door. The door handle jiggled, then the wood reverberated with a loud knock.
“Hey buddy,” a voice said. “Let’s get that treehouse started. I’ve got some two-by-fours that I picked up. Want me to show you how to hammer a nail?”
I ran around to the back door of the house, and locked that too. Then I made a lap, making sure that the garage door was locked, and all of the windows as well. Then I went to my bedroom window. I could see the porch from there. I lifted up the glass pane, and spoke through the thin screen.
“You’re not getting in,” I said. “I know what you are.”
My uncle turned toward the sound of my voice, saw me, and smiled. “Hey there,” he said. “Why don’t you come around and unlock the door? Let’s have some fun today.”
He didn’t look any different, still looked just like my uncle, except there was no blood streaming down his face, and his eyes were alive and alert. He wore the same clothes that he had on yesterday. His shirt was dirty and covered in dust, and there were grass stains on his khaki slacks.
“What did you do with my uncle?”
He laughed then, a dry, raucous noise, like sandpaper sliding over gravel. “Hey bud, it’s me,” he said. He stepped off of the porch, and walked over to stand right under the window, so his face was inches away from mine. “Now let me in,” he said, and there was steel in his voice now, a hardness to it, drastically different from the lighthearted tone he had been using just seconds ago.
“No,” I said. “I know the rules. You can’t come in unless I say so. And I don’t, and I never will. So there.”
His eyes flashed, changing for a split second from their normal, caramel brown color to a pitch black, that lowered, like eyelids, but his eyes were still open. They covered everything, whites and all. It was there, I saw it. And then it was gone and his eyes were back to normal, perky and bright and smiling.
“That won’t matter much longer,” he whispered in a smooth voice, like water poured over silk. “Soon your sweet mommy will be home, and she’ll let me in. I can wait. Waiting is something that I am very good at.”
A chill went down my spine, as if someone was holding an ice cube to it, and dragging it slowly down my back. I knew that he was right. I could not keep him out forever. But I could keep him out long enough. And when my mother got home, she would not let him hurt me. She could almost always tell when I was lying. She would not be fooled.
“She’ll see right through you,” I said. “And you’ll have to go away again, and leave us all alone.”
“Oh little boy, little boy, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re so afraid, I can feel it. I promise there’s nothing to be scared of. All you have to do is open the door and let me in, and you’ll never need to be afraid of anything again.”
As he spoke, I could feel his words hanging in the air around me. They were material, and had substance, and moved toward me through the screen, to cling around my head, foggy and heavy. They made it more difficult to think and reason. His words turned my thoughts around, steering them in dark and frightful directions. As they floated around me and hovered, they made me realize just how scared I really was, with this thing so close he could touch me, were it not for the screen.
Then the silver coin around my neck grew hot, jolting me out of the trance-like state. I grasped for it, held it, concentrated on the warmth that spread from it to my fingers. It was like a gust of strong wind had blown away a layer of thundercloud, sending their rain elsewhere, and opening up the sky for the sun to shine down again.
The thing that was controlling my uncle’s face, the boggart, or raven, or whatever it was, convulsed then, as if it had been struck, and snarled and sneered angrily.
“I told you,” I said. “You might as well leave now. You’ll never be able to hurt me.”
Again the grinding sandstone chuckle. “Oh, you don’t understand at all, do you?” He said. “I won’t hurt you. I’ll never hurt you anymore than that little nip I gave you. I’ve got a body now, and that’s all I wanted, and now I’m here to stay.” He took a deep breath in through his nostrils, and exhaled loudly. “This world is a delight. All of the feelings and sensations to experience, free for the taking. I’m going to have them all, with this body as my vessel. And when I’m all done and there’s nothing left of him, I’ll move on to you.”
My heart was racing, and it took all I had left in me to not slam the window down in his face, and crawl beneath my blankets and hide. But still, he hadn’t tried to reach through the window, or break through the screen, so I knew that, for the moment at least, I was still safe.
I spoke up, and could hear my voice shaking as I did, “Just leave me alone!” I shouted. And then I really did slam the window on him. I was done talking. All he would do is try and trick me into letting him inside, and I knew he would not stop. I closed the blinds and went into my playroom, and collapsed on my beanbag, deflated.
I heard him laughing outside, and then the laughing faded, as he walked away. A door creaked open, and slammed, as he climbed back into the truck. But I never heard the rumbling sound of the engine, and knew he was still out there, waiting.
I thought about calling my mother, but I didn’t know her work number– had never needed to, as there had never been a pressing problem such as this, and she never thought to leave it for me in case of emergencies.
The beanbag was soft and cushy, and I sunk way down into it. I wished that it would suck me up, and lead like a gateway into Narnia, or another magical fantasy world, where the monsters were scary, but there were also heroes, too. Right now there was a scary monster outside my door, and I didn’t feel a thing like any of the heroes I had read about. I felt helpless and weak, and I wanted Ms. Cleary, or Clara or my mother to come and save me. I wanted my father back. But most of all, I wanted to be the one who could stand up to the scary monster, and be my own hero, and save the day for myself. But I didn’t know how to. And there was no one there to show me.