NaNoWriMo: Day 27

I watched in horror as Owd Hob lowered a single finger down, and touched my uncle on the forehead. My uncle’s eyes lolled back in his head, and he collapsed in a heap on the ground. Behind them both, on the porch, my mother fainted, and fell as well. Owd Hob bent down, and prodded my uncle with a finger.

As I watched, I knew that Owd Hob would not stop, and intended on doing something awful to my uncle and mother, probably would eat them too. I wondered where on earth Ms. Cleary was, and why she wasn’t already there, and helping to keep them safe.

My uncle’s eyes flickered open, and he tried to scramble back when he saw the monster in front of him. He didn’t get the chance. Owd Hob took one long-nailed finger, and stabbed him through the heart.

Blood spurted out from my uncle’s chest, and he grimaced, and squirmed on the ground. Owd Hob took his finger out, and chuckled, lifting his hand to lick the blood off. He was kneeling down, and his other hand crept toward my uncle, spider-like, on the ground. My Uncle Martin was clutching his chest, trying to keep the blood in, and backing away as well as he could, scooting himself across the grass. Owd Hob was playing with him, enjoying the frightful look in his eyes, and chuckling to himself the whole time.

I knew that I could not just sit there and watch. Owd Hob would only kill my uncle, and then turn to my mother and kill her too. Then he would find me, and kill me as well, and probably Ms. Cleary too. There was little that I could do to help, and I was not sure that I could get there in time to save my uncle, even if I could. But I did know that I at least had to try. If I didn’t, I was for sure going to die, or lose my only family, or both.

I set the mirror down, and laid back on the cool, soft grass, and closed my eyes. I found the little fire in me, the essence of me that was entirely separate from my physical body. I plunged myself into it, and felt my body stiffening, and fading to the edges of my consciousness. It was even easier to grasp this time, for I knew that I had to act, and act quickly, if I wanted to have any chance at all of saving anybody.

I lost all sense of my body, lying there on the grass, and willed myself to rise above the ground. When I opened my eyes again, I was floating there, above my body, an ethereal being in space. Light streamed from my fingers, and spilled out around me.

Wasting no time at all, I immediately rose above the treetops, and flew towards my home. The sky above me was dark. A summer storm was coming on, and lightning flashed in the distance; a spark that lit up the sky for a single instant, and then plunged it back into gray and darkness once again. I kept going, moving as fast as I could, and hoping against hope that Ms. Cleary would get there before I did.

I flew past the graveyard and over the fields, past the hill, and over the fence I had once had to climb up and over, with a lame hand. I saw my house just a couple hundred yards ahead, but no silver Buick, and no Ms. Cleary. What could be taking her so long?

Then I arrived, a hundred feet above my house. My uncle was there, still trying to gain distance between himself and Owd Hob, who followed him with two walking fingers, and giggled to himself. There was no one else who could do anything, except me. I allowed myself a moment to gather my courage, and then flew down, over the ring of salt, to my uncle, and Owd Hob.

I put myself between the my uncle and Owd Hob. It was fairly obvious that my uncle could not see me; he made no indication that a flying boy made up of light had just landed in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere. His eyes were still fixed on Owd Hob, and they were wide and staring, and filled with fear.

Owd Hob could see me though, and he stopped walking his fingers toward my uncle, and blinked at me, surprised. I tried my best to strike a heroic pose, hands on my hips, and legs spread apart, as much like Superman as I could appear. Which wasn’t much at all, really. I imagine I only looked like exactly what I was: a little kid, trying to seem brave, when in reality he was so incredibly close to wetting himself, that if he was still in his body, he would have done so already.

It was as if Owd Hob could sense this, sense all of my false bravado, and saw right through me, with his piercing yellow eyes, and knew all of my fear. He paused, staring at me like this for several seconds, so long that I actually thought that he was a bit hesitant. Then he let out a great guffaw of laughter.

“Hee hee, hoo, hah!” He giggled and crooned, clutching his hairy stomach. “Ah foolish boy, foolish boy. Did you have a plan to stop me, or is this as far as your little mind could think ahead?”

I blanked, didn’t know what to say. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought it through at all, had only known that I had to try and help, in any way that I could. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to stop this giant monster, when I couldn’t even stop the boggart from coming in, and making my world a living misery. At the very least all I could hope to do was buy some time for Ms. Cleary to get there.

Owd Hob leaned way down, until he was laying flat on his stomach, with his head propped up on his elbows. “Do you know what I’m going to do?” he asked.

Speechless, powerless, all I could think to do was shake my head at him, dumbly.

“I’m going to pick you up, put you in my mouth, and swallow you whole, until you’re nothing but memory and shadow. You won’t die, no. You’ll still be alive, a part of you, at least, but you’ll also become a part of me, and everything else I am.” He smiled wolfishly, sticking his head out, so close to me now. “He’s in there too, you know. The one I just took. And I’ll let him out a bit, so that he can play with you, and have his fun. And when I take the rest of the ones you love and care for, they’ll all be there, and nothing will have changed.”

I was paralyzed with fear. Things had all seemed like they would work out just a few hours ago, and now everything was wrong. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. If I had only listened to Ms. Cleary, done what she said, and stayed behind, I would be safe. But no, I had to go and play the hero, trying to act like the ones I had read about and played in games. But I knew then that real heroes didn’t exist, not really. There was only the strong and the weak, and everyone everywhere only strove to protect and care for themselves.

There was still time, I thought. I could try and get away then, and fly so fast back to my body and then run, and keep on running, until I left everything I knew behind: my uncle, my mother, this home, everything.

I almost left then. Almost obeyed that sudden, fearful impulse. But I looked into Owd Hob’s eyes, just before, and knew that it would be useless. His eyes were glued to me, and the fingers of his hand inching closer, twitching in anticipation. He would catch me as soon as I tried to leave. My fate would be the same, whether or not I tried to play the hero. And as soon as I realized that, I decided that I would rather go out, swinging and defiant; would rather my last act in this world be one of bravery, that emulated the heroes I loved, rather than one of cowards and children.

So I raised my fists, and stepped forward, and glared at Owd Hob with all the hatred and courage I could muster. I thought of what Spider-man would say to one of his enemies, when he was afraid.

“Come on, fuzz-face,” I said. “The worst you can do is give me fleas.” My voice wavered at first, but grew stronger as I spoke. Owd Hob wasn’t anything really, but a big hairy dog, trying to be the alpha. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of.

Owd Hob blinked, and recoiled, shaking his head in confusion. I doubt that anyone had ever spoken to him in such a way. Without waiting for a better chance, I launched myself into the air at him, aiming to punch him straight in the jaw.

Then I was plucked out of the air, and he was holding me in between his long, hairy fingers. I wiggled and thrashed, trying to free myself, but it was no use.

“Quite spunky for such a little guy,” he said, and opened his mouth wide.

The last thing I saw, as he shoved me into his gullet, was a blackness darker than space, and a chilling cold that seized me with icy claws, and dragged me down.


NaNoWriMo: Day 26

Chapter 14


I stood in the forest paralyzed, just outside of the fairy ring, clutching Ms. Cleary’s hand, as the thing revealed itself, and stepped out from the rip in space.

His hand had been the first thing that I saw, all knotted and hairy, skin cracking around the knuckles. The fingers were long, spider-like, and colored a muddy-brown, but tinged with a sickening yellow that reminded me of vomit. Then he stuck his head through the widening hole. It was big and hairy, shaped much like that of a dog, or a bear. He wore a wolfish grin on his face that stretched up to his pointed ears, and his eyes were a blazing yellow, with small black pupils, that looked like two little bumblebees on his face.

Owd Hob stepped through the tear. His legs were long and spindly, but his feet were surprisingly large, the scraggly toenails sticking out well past where they should, and curving down so they resembled claws. The ends of them looked as if they were chewed on periodically, and were jagged and torn.

When he had stepped fully out, the gray world from which he had come from was lost, as the two edges were drawn back together, as if sewn shut. Owd Hob was long and tall, and his body was covered in a brownish, yellow fur that was short and matted. Everything about him was long, too long, and he towered over me, easily nine feet high, but I was guessing closer to ten, if you counted the points of his long ears, which stretched straight up in the air.

He sucked in a lungful of air, taking in as much as he could before letting it out again, in a deep sigh of contentment. He looked down at me and Ms. Cleary, and gave another wide, wolfish grin.

“Who so summons Owd Hob to this world?” he said. I heard his voice twice, through my ears, and speaking in my head. He spoke in a deep baritone, that was as smooth and clear as river water, and the last kind of sound I expected coming out of him. Listening to it was beautiful and entrancing, and his words were all that I could hear, or concentrate on.

My arm shook, as Ms. Cleary snapped me out of my thoughts with a squeeze of her hand. Then she spoke. “I did. One of yours has overstayed his welcome here, and I’d like you kindly to remove him. I don’t care what else is done to him, other than he begone.”

Owd Hob listened as she spoke, and then bent his long legs, and crouched down, with his arms dangling, resting on his knees. He leaned his big head forward, so that it was right in front of us. His eyes flicked over to look at me, and I pulled Ms. Cleary’s arm over my face to hide. I could feel his hot breath ruffle my hair as he exhaled. Then he chuckled.

“What about the boy?” he asked. “He is fresh, and full of fear.” I felt him addressing me then. “Aren’t you?” he asked. “You don’t want to be afraid anymore, do you?”

His voice tugged, and pulled at me, and I shook my head. He was right. I did not want to be afraid, ever again, and wouldn’t it be easier to just forget all of that fear now, and just let go? To be free from fear, and pain, and to simply disappear in darkness and rest. It would be as easy as going to sleep.

Ms. Cleary held fast to my hand, and kept me from pulling away. I blinked, realized I had been trying to free myself from her grasp.

“You stop,” she said, and her voice was steel on flint. “He’s not for you, and neither is anyone but the one who forced himself here in the first place. Take him, and do what you want with him. I brought you here, and I can send you right back.” Her voice faltered there, at the end, as if she was unsure of herself.

Owd Hob laughed, a deep, booming rumble that matched the rolling thunder that was now all around us.

“Do not overestimate your control over me, woman. I do what I please.” Then a pause, as he sized her up. “But yes, it is true, you brought me here. For that I am grateful, and will take  the worm away for you. He will make an appetizing morsel.” He stood up, and raised his head to sniff the air, his long muzzle bobbing about. “I smell him,” he said, and stepped out of the fairy ring, taking long, loping strides. He soon disappeared through the trees, slipping in between them, and hardly making any sound at all.

Ms. Cleary waited, and then let go of my hand, and released a long breath of air. She ran a hand down her face. She looked her age then, whatever it was. I was sure that it was far older than anyone I had ever met before. Her face looked tired, and drawn, like she had just physically exerted herself well past her limit. She sat down on the grass.

I sat down next to her. “What happens now?” I asked.

Ms. Cleary let out another sigh. “Now, we wait. And hope that he keeps to his word. There is nothing else to do.” Her eyes stared out into space, just over the ring of stones.

“But what if he doesn’t?” I said. “What if he makes things even worse? What then?”

She turned to me and smiled, a sad smile. “Oh, don’t you worry your head about such things,” she said. “I still have one or two tricks up my sleeves.” And she winked at me. Then she stood, pushing herself up with her hands on her knees. “Well, suppose we should keep an eye on him then, make sure he’s not getting up to no good.”

I made to stand up, and follow her, but she stopped me with a raised hand.

“No,” she said. “Be best if you stayed here. I’ll go, and see that things are taken care of.” Then she reached again into the monstrous tote bag on her shoulder. She brought out a long, flat oval mirror, with no handle, and handed it to me. “So that you can watch,” she said. “Just think of who you want to see, and it’ll be just like you’re there.” Then, without another word, she turned, and marched swiftly away.

I sat there in the grass, and watched Ms. Cleary leave me. Once again, I was alone at the fairy ring, where this had all started. I held the mirror in both of my hands, and looked at its surface. It was not a mirror, not really, and did not even look to be made of glass. It looked more like a mirror of polished marble, a wavering, blurred white, with streaks of gray that seemed to sway and shimmer, almost like water.

With the firm image of my mother in mind, the surface of the mirror shifted and warbled, until I was looking in on her in the kitchen. She was scrubbing the counter furiously. She always cleaned whenever her mind was on something, and she didn’t want to think. I could hear my uncle’s voice in the other room, shouting something. My mother turned, and the camera of the mirror followed her out onto the porch, and her face held a look of terror, as she screamed.

I could not tell what was happening, so switched my perspective, and thought of my uncle instead.

He was in the yard, and looking down toward the fence at the end of the lane. His eyes held pure terror, and recognition in them. The camera followed his line of sight, and I was able to see Owd Hob there, climbing spider-like down from the fence. He only needed to lift one long leg up, and used his hands to crawl over the top. Then he was striding toward the house, and his eyes were fixed on my uncle, the boggart. He smiled a toothy, wolf-like grin.

My uncle was frozen to the spot, and did not move, could not move a single muscle, I suspected, out of sheer terror.

Owd Hob stepped over the line of salt, and bent over my uncle, still smiling.

“My,” he said. “How you’ve grown since coming to this place. And look, the little life you’ve made here.” He turned to look at my mother, screaming on the porch. He clucked his tongue, and shook his head. “All for nought.”

Then Owd Hob reached a hand out, and my uncle’s body began to convulse, and thrash back and forth, as if invisible puppet strings were yanking him about, by a Parkinson’s puppeteer. His eyes rolled back into his head, and his body raised up off the ground. Then, a thin tendril of black smoke escaped his mouth, and was drawn to Owd Hob’s outstretched hand. He twisted his fingers around the black smoke, and gave a sharp tug. My uncle let out a feral scream, one that sliced through the air and was not of this world. The scream changed, as more of the black substance poured out of my uncle, until it lowered in pitch and intensity, and became the human scream of my uncle. It was him now, I could tell, and his face was in pain, as if he had just been stabbed in the gut.

Owd Hob took the wispy black stream in his hand, lifted it, and thrust it into his mouth, smacking his lips, and licking the last of what remained from his long, spider fingers. Then he turned his gaze onto my uncle, who was on his knees staring at him, and smiled.


NaNoWriMo: Day 25

Ms. Cleary was still in the kitchen, where I had left her. She was gathering up all sorts of things in her great beige tote bag on the counter. I saw her put in candles, the jar that held the heartstone, and a sharp knife that she drew from the drawer. The blade was long, and it had ragged teeth that ran down its edge. She turned, still holding the knife, and saw me standing there in the doorway.

She smiled sweetly. “You need a little bit of everything to call out Owd Hob,” she said, dropping the knife in, and reaching for a jar of olives. “That’s the trick. We’re going to be short a few things though. Breath of wind and morning dew won’t be possible with our time frame. But more than anything, it’s the thought that counts. It’s all a matter of confidence, really. You’ve got to mean it.” She clucked her tongue, opened the freezer, and threw a handful of ice cubes in a jar, then put the jar in the bag as well.

“Ms. Cleary,” I said. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes child, go right ahead.”

“Why are you a ‘Ms.’, and not a ‘Mrs.’ If Clara’s your granddaughter, wasn’t there a Mr. Cleary?”

Ms. Cleary fell silent, and stopped putting things into the big tote. She inclined her head as if thinking, deciding how best to answer. Then she said, “That’s quite a rude question, you know, asking an old, grown woman a thing like that.” She paused, waiting for a response.

“Sorry,” I eventually said. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask. I didn’t see what the problem was.

She nodded curtly. “As you should be,” she said. Then she went back to putting random things into her tote. Another candle, and a jar of fireflies, which had been sitting on the counter, glowing faintly. They both disappeared behind the canvas bag.

“That should do it,” Ms. Cleary said, and scooped the whole tote up and onto her shoulder. “Let’s go.”

We went out to Ms. Cleary’s car, a silver Buick. I sat up front, and she handed me the tote bag to hold onto while she drove. It was heavy, and I set it on the floor between my legs. I resisted the impulse to check the armrest between us. It was the same kind my grandmother used to have, where she would hide sweets underneath, in a secret place for me.

“You can check it if you want,” Ms. Cleary said. “But you won’t find anything except empty candy wrappers. Clara cleaned me out before she left.”

I wondered then if that was some requirement, or standard of grandmothers everywhere, to leave hidden sweets in the car to be found and enjoyed later.

As we drove down and out of the lane, turning past the big brown steeple at the corner, a warm spot began to grow in my heart. There was something there, a tiny flame of hope, that was growing, and gaining strength. I had faith in Ms. Cleary, that she would deliver me from the evil that threatened to engulf my family, and my life. I had hope that I would sleep in my bed tonight, and that my dreams would be peaceful and my sleep deep.

When Ms. Cleary turned down the winding road that led to the little chapel and the graveyard, I started thinking about my father again, and then I started talking out loud, without even realizing it, telling Ms. Cleary everything that happened with Clara that night in the graveyard.  I was still curious about what had happened, when I had seen him as that pale green light above his grave. I was sure that he had shown me the night he died, when he was in the car accident that took his life. What I didn’t know was why. Why had he wanted to show me that, and not talk with me, or ask how my mother was doing? It didn’t seem right.

I stopped as soon as I realized that I was speaking my thoughts out loud. I had ended with that same question. Why?

Ms. Cleary was quiet as she parked the car. She gestured for me to hand her the tote bag, and I did. Then she opened her door, got out, and shut it, leaving me in there. I followed suit, and then together, we began walking through the graveyard. It was still daytime. There were no little pale green lights, and no disembodied whispering cries. It was a pleasant day, but I could see tall clouds on the horizon, moving toward us, with shapes like anvils.

Then Ms. Cleary spoke, and her voice was low, and somber.

“That wasn’t your father you saw that night, only a fragment. Only a shell of what he once was. All that part of him wanted to do, was share his pain with his family, and the world. It’s what they all want, when they go, to some extent. It isn’t always just how they died,” she added, noticing my questioning look. “It’s what they hold on to, before they go. The things they just can’t let go, that keep pieces of them lingering here. Clara should never have taken you. She can be foolish, and headstrong at times, but she only thought she was helping. You’d do best not to come back here the way you did.”

We were way out in the field now, and making our way toward the line of trees. Ms. Cleary walked with purpose, as if she knew exactly where she was going, and the shortest way to get there. Wind ruffled my hair and made the branches on the trees sway, and I heard a distant rumble of thunder, as we moved forward and into the trees.

I was following Ms. Cleary through the forest, following a path I do not remember seeing. It was completely clear of any thorns or brambles or underbrush, and the going was easy. I tried to hold a picture in my head of where the fairy ring was in relation to us, but kept getting turned around. The path curved and doubled back on itself at times, and I thought we must be going in circles.

Then, suddenly, the path ended, and we came out into the clearing. The fairy ring was there, as it had always been. The circle of ancient stones looked older, and more weathered, though it had only been several days since the last time I had seen them. Without one moment’s hesitation, Ms. Cleary walked right into the middle of the ring, and began unloading her bag.

She took out three candles, and shoved each of them into the ground, making a triangle around the center stone. Then lit them with a match, and blew it out. She took out the jar of olives, opened it, and grabbed one, then smashing it on top of the smooth rock. Then the jar of fireflies came out, and they did not fly away as she opened the jar. Ms. Cleary cooed to them, in a low, crooning voice, and stuck out her hand. Three fireflies landed on her outstretched palm, and down they went, joining the olive in a neon, yellow-green smear on the stone. The ice cubes had melted, and she dribbled the water on top, then sprinkled it with dirt from the ground. Crushed flower petals joined them. Then she brought out the knife, and turned to me.

“Come here, and hold out your hand,” she said.

I hesitated. I did not want to get cut by the knife. I knew that that’s what would happen.

Ms. Cleary gave me a soft smile. “It’ll only hurt for a second, one small drop is all we need.”

I stepped into the ring of stones, and stuck my hand over the one in the middle, with the dust and flowers and firefly guts already on it. The knife flashed, and there was a moment of sharp pain in my hand. Blood dripped on the crushed flower petals. Then it was over, and the pain faded quickly. When I looked at the cut, I saw that it was only about an inch across, in the center of my palm.

Ms. Cleary reached into her bag again, brought out a bandaid, and handed it to me with a wink. I put it on, and stuffed the wrapper into my pocket.

Then, she went back into the big tote one last time, and brought out the glass jar with the heartstone in it. She opened it, and placed the heartstone on the very top of everything, balanced it there. Scooping up the bag, she grabbed my hand, and we both walked to stand on the outside of the fairy ring.

Still holding onto my hand, Ms. Cleary began to speak. Her voice was soft, and came in a harsh whisper, but I could hear the power behind it, and everything in the forest stopped while she spoke, and the clouds rose above us, and darkened.

In candlelight and open flame,

Fruit of earth, and fire’s bane;

Breath of wind, and stuff of light,

Dust of men, and blood from knife;


A taste of all, that is what you want.

I give to you now, as a father to son.

Death you bring and sleep you’ll rob,

Come here to us now, King Owd Hob.


Her words hung in the air, and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and the flesh on my arms prickle. There was nothing after she spoke, and I thought at first that it hadn’t worked, that we had failed.

And then the air around the fairy ring became hazy and distorted, and I heard a high-pitched, whine, as a piece of the sky above the ring of stones was ripped open. It was like someone had taken a knife to the fabric of the world, and shown what was behind. Inside the hole that opened up was a gray, formless void, like the static screen of a television.

A hand reached out from the void, and grabbed hold of the other side. It was gnarled and hairy, with long, yellow-tinged fingers, and I knew it to be the hand of Owd Hob.


NaNoWriMo: Day 24

Chapter 13

Ms. Cleary set the jar on the table, and the thing inside rattled against the glass.

“This,” she said,”is how we get Owd Hob to go after what’s inside your uncle.”

I looked inside at the tiny sphere, like a marble, and remembered the feeling of it being lodged in my hand. “That?” I asked, “How?”

“”It’s the heartstone of the boggart. When he meant to use you as a vessel, he stuck it in with his bite. It was a gamble on his part, but I’ll bet he was so desperate to get here, he was past caring for such risks.”

A heartstone. It had such a pretty, magical sounding named, but it looked so normal. It was a dull, steely gray, and did not shine, or emit a pulsing glow, as I would have expected. It just sat there, looking like it belonged on the ground, forgotten.

“We also have to go back to the fairy ring, boy. That’s where we’ll call him. That’s where he’ll come.”

“Okay.” I swallowed back a lump in my throat.

“And there’s something else I need you to do too,” said Ms. Cleary, standing up and walking to the counter. She fished around, and opened a few cupboards before returning to the table, with a blue cylinder in hand. She set it on the table with a small thud. It was a normal container of salt.

“Salt?” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “Salt. You need to take this, and draw a circle around your house with it. It should keep your uncle from getting away.”

“Salt?” I said again.

“Yes. Make sure there are no gaps in the line, and that the circle completely connects.”

“How big should I make the circle?”

She shrugged. “As big as you want to make it. But remember, you only have so much.” And she tapped the side of the salt container with a finger.

I grabbed the salt container, and looked at it. The covering was blue, and there was nothing on it, except ‘SALT’ in big, white letters. A swarm of resting butterflies began to flutter their wings in my stomach. I was nervous, but also strangely clear-headed. There was something for me to do now, something that would help. I could recognize that, and though I was indeed afraid, I knew that this was what I had to do, and did my best to quell my nerves.

“Go now,” Ms. Cleary told me, “and come back once it’s been done.”

I held the salt close to me, and got up from the table. Ms. Cleary showed me to the side door, and out to the garden. I prepared myself to make my way again through the labyrinth of leaves and flowers, but Ms. Cleary took care of it. I couldn’t see whether or not she waved her hand, or nodded her head. I didn’t hear her say any magic words. But she must have done something, for the plants parted, down the middle, making a clear path from where I stood to the wooden gate in front.

I turned back to her, and smiled. “Thanks,” I said.

Ms. Cleary said nothing in return, just looked at me, and gave me a reassuring smile, and nodded at me to go on.

I walked quickly down the grassy path, making sure to watch my step. When I reached the gate I turned back again, hoping to see what Ms. Cleary had done to bring the plants down, and if she would do it again to put them back. But all I saw were towering bushes and branches. The house was already blocked from view, and Ms. Cleary was gone.

I hefted the salt container with both hands, trying to guess at how much was in there. A good bit, I figured, easily more than half-full. I planned on going around the outside of our fence. I could hide behind the trees in the back, and had less of a chance of being spotted. With my mind set, I didn’t give myself another moment to second-guess what I was doing, and plunged into the hedge, and out to the other side.

I was at the side of our house, and there was a thin gap between the two fences that I could just squeeze through. I opened the spout on the salt container, and began trailing a thin line of salt behind me. The going was slow; I wanted to make sure that I was keeping an even, uniform line, and poured it as sparingly as I could. I reached the corner, and curved around it. It would not be a very good circle, and I hoped that that would be okay.

As I continued around the outside of our fence, I made frequent, darting glances to my house, fearing that at any second I would see my uncle tearing out of it toward me. I was still baffled by how easily he had given up looking for me. I wondered what it was he was up to in there, and if my mother was safe, and unhurt.

I came around to the other side of the house. I was more than halfway done now, and could even see the hedge, where I started. I let the heavy weight that I had been carrying on my shoulders to ease somewhat, and relaxed a bit there. But, knowing that this last part would be the most dangerous and risky, I made sure to not let my guard down completely.

We usually kept the front window with the blinds open, and anyone sitting in the living room would easily be able to see if someone was spilling salt down the sidewalk. I had to go up close, underneath the window, and onto the porch, to remain unseen.

I crept slowly, across the driveway, in front of my uncle’s green truck, parked so that it was nearly touching the garage door, and squeezed through the gap. Then I turned back to connect the line of salt through it as well, and continued to the porch.

There was a step to get up onto the porch, and I stopped there, and stared at the spot where it met the cement drive. I would have to go around, on the outside of the porch. I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be seen there, and it was a large gamble to make. I’d have to run if spotted, and hope that I would not leave a single hole in the circle of salt, otherwise I would be done for.

I took a deep breath, and crouched as low to the ground as I could without crawling on my belly. One hand moved along with me, like a third foot, keeping my balance, while the other held the salt container, and kept the steady stream going. The container had grown considerably lighter, and I prayed that it would have enough to close the circle. While I crawled, I kept my eyes trained on the door. I was fully prepared to bolt for the hedge again, the second I saw the handle move.

Nothing happened, though. I was not seen, and I passed the front porch, and then the windows of my bedroom and playroom, respectively. I was just reaching the corner of the house, when the door burst open.

I jumped in surprise, and the salt dropped from my hand. I fumbled for it, but my eyes were fixed on the porch in fear. My uncle was there, and he was staring right at me.

“There you are,” he said, and started walking slowly, toward me. He walked like a wild cat stalking its prey, raising its haunches and getting ready to pounce.

I lowered my eyes for one second, and picked up the salt, and started pouring again. I was close. I was so close to the end now, could see just a few feet away, where the other end lay in the grass.

“What are you doing with that?” My uncle asked, still taking long, creeping strides.

I didn’t answer, and kept pouring. I was going to make it, was inches away now. But my uncle was closer too, and moving faster.

“It’s time to come inside,” he said, and reached out a hand for me, just as I dropped the last bit of salt, and completed the circle. I had made sure to close it while staying on the outside of the ring, not knowing or wanting to find out if it would trap me as well.

There was a sizzling sound and a spout of steam, and my uncle shrieked. I hadn’t seen what happened, had been too concentrated on making sure to connect the circle of salt. When I looked up he was holding his hand, which was still steaming, and cradled it against his body.

“What is this?” he hissed, and it didn’t sound like my uncle’s voice at all. It was feral and grating, like his laugh. His eyes were all-black now too, and his face contorted with rage. He was not fool enough to reach out the other hand, or try and cross over the line of salt. He then covered his face with his hand, and took some deep breaths. It looked like he could have been sobbing, but I heard no noise.

When he lowered his hand, the black eyes were gone, and my uncle’s face was back to normal, smiling and sweet. He reached out his hand, the uninjured one, and held it out to me, just shy of the line.

“Come on, buddy,” he said. “Let’s go inside, and get some ice cream.”

I did the something rude then, something I had seen boys do on the playground at school. I stuck my tongue out at him, and showed him my middle finger.

Then I walked calmly away, around the hedge, and up the walk to Ms. Cleary’s door.


NaNoWriMo: Day 23

I heard my uncle pacing back and forth on the porch, could see his figure as a brief blur from a gap between the branches. Then he stopped for a moment. When he started walking again, it was off of the porch and down the drive. He walked with purpose, each step thudding on the ground. He walked down the sidewalk, and up Ms. Cleary’s little stone path, and to her door.

When she answered she looked surprised. I was close enough to just make out their conversation.

“How can I help you?”

“The boy. Where is he?” said my uncle.

Ms. Cleary gave him a look of genuine confusion. “I’ve not idea what it is you’re talking about, sir.”

“Don’t play games with me. I know this is the only place he has to go. You tried to get him to come over the other day.” He crossed his arms.

“Why, that was only so that he and Clara could play together. But she left just this morning. Her mother came to get her.” She smiled sweetly, the perfect picture of a gentle old woman.

I could see their feet from my hiding place. My uncle’s big brown work boots on the porch, facing Ms. Cleary’s own fuzzy blue slippers on the other side of the door. I could see her bare calves above them. They were wrinkled and pale, lined with varicose veins. The boots shifted every couple of seconds, almost fidgety and uncomfortable compared to the unyielding slippers.

The door to my house opened again, and my mother came out. My uncle called her over to the other side of the hedge.

“What’s going on?” she said, her voice flat, and unemotional.

My uncle spoke, and I could imagine him gesturing in agitation. “He’s in there,” he said. “Tell her you want your son back, and it’s time for him to come home now.”

A second’s hesitation. Then, “I want my son back. It’s time for him to come home now.”

Ms. Cleary spoke very slowly and deliberately, as if she were trying to explain something very simple to a pair of morons. “He, is not here,” she said. “I, have not seen him today, for the last time.”

There was silence then, and my uncle’s boots fidgeted again, one stepping over the toe of the other. It was the kind of embarrassing silence of someone waiting for something to happen, and then becoming uncomfortable when it never did. My elbows dug into the dirt, as I kept myself propped up, waiting in my own way.

“Well,” he said, after a good minute. “Perhaps he isn’t here then. Sorry to bother you.” And then the boots turned and walked away. My mother’s gray flats followed, and the blue slippers stayed where they were for awhile, before the door closed, and they were lost from sight.

When my uncle and mother went back inside, the door slammed behind them. I found that I could not keep a grin off my face. They hadn’t found me.

I began to crawl then, down the tunnel-like inside of the hedge, and toward where it met the two fences in the back. I crawled like a soldier, and imagined myself as one, escaping enemy lines across a border. As I pulled myself along in the dirt, I realized that my mother would be furious when she saw the state my clothes were in. I smiled, and kept moving.

When I reached the the end of the hedge I paused. I was a little reluctant to leave, considering how safe I had been in the hedge. But I knew it would only be a matter of time until my uncle thought to check there. I was surprised that he hadn’t checked it yet. I gathered my courage, and pushed through the tangle of thick brush.

I was on the other side, in Ms. Cleary’s yard, standing next to the tall wooden fence. Keeping my head down, I moved along the edge of the fence.

The door to my house opened with a loud creak, and I heard my uncle’s voice calling out, “I’m going to get some beer. Back soon.”

There was no time to think. He would see me any second, as soon as he turned his head this way. I whipped my head around wildly, searching for another hiding place. I was too far from the hedge now, and didn’t want to move closer to him. The door to the garden was just ahead, though. I reached out to turn the knob. And it was locked. The keyhole was round and large. Knowing that it had to work or I was done for, I thrust my hand in my pocket and brought out the key. Then I slid it in, and turned the knob. The gate opened inward on oiled hinges, and I slipped inside, as silent and unnoticeable as a spider.

I put Clara’s key back in my pocket, and closed the door. It made no noise as the latch lowered. Ms. Cleary’s garden was the same as I remembered it, wild and jungle-like. The flowers and plants all grew tall and close together. I could not see the door to the kitchen from where I stood, but knew it to be somewhere straight ahead and to my left, so I walked forward, into the bushes, hoping that I was right.

As I walked, the leaves and vines brushed my shoulders with gentle strokes, swaying in the breeze. I heard a crunch, and felt something. I stopped, lifted my foot, and looked down.

I had stepped on a little snail, crushing its shell. It looked to still be alive, but barely squirmed amidst the broken casings of its mobile home. I felt bad for the snail, and crouched down next to it. I didn’t mean to hurt it. Shards of its shattered shell stuck into its slimy body, oozing mucus.

There was a cluster of dandelions near the snail, and I noticed that the color seemed to be draining from them. They were losing their bright yellow shine, and growing gray and dull, wilting. Then I looked back at the snail, and my eyes grew wide. It’s shell was being pulled back together. I watched in amazement as thin tendrils of light, thinner than the lines that patterned the shell, spiraled across it, picking up the broken pieces, and molding them back together. Within a matter of seconds, the snail was whole again, and began to slither away, barely inching forward. The dandelions were withered and dead. Their petals crumbled, and fell to the ground, only to be swept away by the gentle breeze.

I stood back up, and continued on my way through the garden, making sure to step over the snail, and keep my eyes open as I moved along.

It took some maneuvering, and I got turned around more than once, and had to backtrack until I found the fence again, and start over, but eventually, I reached the sliding glass door that led inside. I knocked on it, and Ms. Cleary answered two breaths later.

“There you are,” she said. “About time, too. I was five minutes away from coming out here and dragging you inside, you took so long.” She stepped back to let me in.

The kitchen was warm, and I figured Ms. Cleary must be baking something, but I couldn’t smell anything. Then I saw that the warmth was coming from a great fire roaring in a wood-burning stove at the back wall. It was the middle of summer, much too hot to need a fire. There were also candles lit up, and strewn about, adding little heats of their own, and casting tiny lights in the dim room. All of the curtains were pulled over the windows, blocking any light from the sun. The place had a dull, orange glow to it.

“Are you going to help me?” I asked immediately. The hope had never left my mind, had only become more real since I left my house.

Ms. Cleary was fixing herself a cup of tea, and hardly made any acknowledgement that she had heard me. She took her mug of tea over to the table, sat down, and took a sip. Then she gestured for me to join her at the table. When I sat down, she spoke to me.

“It’s complicated,” she told me. “This whole thing, just very messy.” She took another sip of her tea, and then coughed, as if it had gone down the wrong pipe. “Very messy,” she continued, “what with your mother an’ everything. And he’s taken a liking to your uncle’s body. Won’t be easy, no. Won’t be easy at all.”

“But you can do it?” I asked, leaning forward.

“Who me? No. I can’t. But there is someone else who can. Only thing is, I don’t expect he’d like being bothered. An’ once he is, you may find you don’t like what you get.”

I shook my head. “I don’t care. Anything’s better than him. Anything.”

Ms. Cleary shrugged, as if it didn’t much matter to her either way. She drained the last half of what was left of her tea in a single, long gulp, and set the mug down, smacking her lips.

“Well then,” she said. “That’s that, then. Get ready boy, cause we’re ‘bout to call up one who’ll make that little wisp next door quake in his boots, Owd Hob.”

I did not recognize the name, but the way Ms. Cleary said it sent a shiver down my spine, and the hairs on my arms straight up. I hoped that I was doing the right thing, but didn’t have much else of a choice. Owd Hob it was.


NaNoWriMo: Day 22

Chapter 12


When I awoke the next morning, it was to the sound of my uncle’s green truck, the coughing of its old engine rumbling, and growing fainter as he left to purchase the locks.

Clara was leaving today. Last night had not been a dream, and before long I would be more alone than I had been since we first moved in. I could not help but feel abandoned, though she had told me that her grandmother was working on someway to help me. But what did that even mean? And how long would it take, how long would I be stuck here, waiting for someone else to come and save me from the monster that threatened to ruin my life? I realized then that I could not allow myself to sit by. With my father gone and my mother turned against me, I was the man of the house. I decided there, still laying in my bed, and wiping the sleep from my eyes, that I would do something. Before the day reached its end, I wanted my life back to the way it used to be.

I rose from my bed, and went to the bathroom to take a hot shower. Steam filled the room, and when I got out and dried myself off, the mirror was all fogged up. I used my towel to clear it off, and looked at myself in the mirror.

I dropped the towel, and stood there, naked. I was smaller and thinner than most of the other boys at my school, and as a result, was often picked on during recess. My first instinct would always be to run away, or hide in the first place, and read a book underneath the slide, or by the door, where the teachers stood. I always tried to avoid confrontation when I could, because I knew that I was weak, and unwilling to fight anyone. I lifted my arms up, and flexed every muscle I could think to flex. There was little change in the mirror-version of myself, other than the straining grimace on my face.

Lowering my arms in disappointment, I realized that I was not a fighter, and never would be one. I could not fight my uncle, who was far bigger and stronger than I was. And even if somehow I did manage to beat him, or knock him unconscious, what then? I knew that I could not kill him, my own uncle, who was still down there, somewhere. No, there had to be another way. I began putting my clothes on, jeans and a t-shirt.

Ms. Cleary was still my only hope, and it made me feel even more weak and powerless than I already felt. At least I knew that I had one adult on my side. I only needed to find some way over to her. I blinked. And why not now? Why could I not just run over there now, and be safe? My uncle was still gone, would not be home for awhile yet. The only one standing in my way was my mother.

There was a knock at the door, and I heard my mother’s footsteps in the kitchen, which was separated by the bathroom by only a thin wall. “Now who could that be at this time?” I heard her say to herself.

I knew that it had to be Clara. She must have also heard the truck rumbling down and out of the lane, and knew that my uncle was gone, momentarily. I left the bathroom, and walked out to the front door.

My mother was standing at the door, and nodding her head. Clara was saying something, but I could not quite make out all of the words. Something about leaving, and she mentioned her mom, and one last goodbye.

“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea…” My mother trailed off, sounding more like herself, but scared and jittery. She glanced over her shoulder, but didn’t see me, as if she was afraid that she was being watched.

I came up behind her, and touched her hand. “Can I please just say goodbye, Mom? It’ll only take a second, and she’s the only friend I have here.”

My mother frowned, and I could see the inner confliction on her face, as if either decision would cause her some kind of physical discomfort. It only lasted for a brief moment, and then she spoke, “Well, I suppose so. But make it quick. I don’t want your uncle coming home and finding you here with friends. He wouldn’t be happy.”

Uncle. Not father. So she was still there, in some way. I realized my mother might be fighting against the boggart’s control over her, might have been trying to fight it this whole time, but was unaware of what it was. With my uncle gone, his hold on her seemed weaker, but obviously still there. She stepped back into the living room, but stayed and watched.

Clara looked different. She was dressed well, in much nicer clothes than I had seen her in before. She wore a white blouse buttoned up to her neck, and a navy blue skirt that fell to her knees. She wore her hair down, and it fell over her shoulders in long waves.

“Hey,” she said. She held her arms in front of her, hands held together.

“Hey,” I said back. My mother was still watching, I could feel her eyes on me. I didn’t feel safe with mentioning certain things to Clara with her there, was not sure how much of it would be relayed back to my uncle.

“So I’m leaving today,” Clara said. “My mom is in the car waiting for me now.”

“I’m going to miss you,” I said.

“I’ll be back next summer. And if you ever get lonely, I’m sure Gran would make you some apple crisp again, anytime you wanted to go over. She gets lonely too, sometimes.”

Then Clara stepped forward, and gave me a hug, whispering in my ear, “He can’t lock everything away.” She let me go, and grabbed ahold of my hand, and I felt a cold metal weight pressed into it. “Take care,” she said, louder. Then she waved to my mother. “It was nice to meet you.”

My mother waved back. Clara turned and walked down the drive and along the sidewalk, to the waiting car in their driveway. The object in my hand felt familiar, but I kept it shut, did not open it, for I knew that my mother was still watching.

I do not know why I did, but I went back into my room then. I wanted to see what Clara had given me. When I opened my hand and saw the old iron key, I grew curious. It was a large key, thick and heavy, and rusted with age. It had a ring on the end that my finger fit through, and three long teeth on the other that looked like an upside down crown. Why would Clara give me a key, I wondered. And a key to what, exactly?

I stuck the key in my pocket, and went out into the kitchen to make myself breakfast. Cereal again. It always seemed like I was eating the same old things, every day now. I slurped up the milk when I was done, and left the bowl on the table.

My mother was in the bathroom, and if I was going to leave it should be soon. I crept to the front door, and turned the knob slowly, opened the door. It made the tiniest creaking noise as it opened, but I knew that it was too soft for my mother to hear. The water was going, the sound of her taking a shower. I stepped over the threshold, and onto the welcome mat on the front porch. Then, slowly again, I closed the door with a click.

I was out. But I wasn’t completely safe just yet. I knew that my uncle could still come home at any time. I could see the end of the lane from here, and if he turned the corner now, he’d see me plain as day, and I’d be caught. Keeping this in mind, I crouched down as low to the ground as I could, and moved off the porch, and along the side of the front of the house, towards Ms. Cleary’s place. I planned to creep down the hedge, keeping my head below the top of it, so as not to be seen.

When I was about halfway down the front of the yard, nearly crawling on the grass beside the hedge, I heard it. The rumbling, choking cough of the green truck’s engine. It was faint, but I could still feel it, reverberating through my bones. He was coming.

There was no turning back, I was nearly there. But if I turned the corner to go into Ms. Cleary’s yard he would see me. So I did the only thing I could, and crawled through the dense, scratchy branches, into the hedge.

Clawing branches tugged at my shirt, and scratched at my face immediately, but I pushed through, until I was sitting in the middle of a cluster of roots and limbs. The branches made miniature arcs down the length of the inside of the bushy divider, and I was just small enough that I could fit underneath them. The roaring of the truck grew louder, and I stayed as still and silent as I could, and imagined myself taking root, becoming just another cluster of branches.

I could barely see through the tangle of leaves and branches, but I could just make out the shape and color of the truck pulling into the drive. The door slammed, and I heard my uncle walking up to door, and going inside. After a short while, I heard him yell something, and then the sound of something breaking. The front door opened again, and I heard him shout.

“Where are you? You can’t hide from me!”

I covered my ears and closed my eyes in the hedge, and settled down. I had a good hiding spot for now, and I was going to wait this out.  


NaNoWriMo: Day 21

Chapter 11


This time I pinched myself first, right on the arm. It hurt. I wasn’t dreaming. Or, if I was, I had a resilient imagination that refused to let me wake up. Clara was there, and she was real, at least as real as my eyes were telling me.

She was floating above me, and once again her body was made up of light. She was there as I had pictured her in my head, overalls and all. Except there was that faint, pale yellow glow, like an aura, emanating from her body. She did not say a word, but instead looked down on me, with her sad, gray-brown eyes the color of acorns and treebark.

I remembered the way I had left my body the first time, and I knew what to do. I closed my eyes, and imagined that there was a second body inside my physical one; a body of light, insubstantial like Clara’s, buried just beneath the outer layer of flesh. I could feel it inside of me, thrumming with life. I knew that if I tried to move in bed then, I wouldn’t be able to, could already feel the stiffening of my body into a straight, and rigid plank.

I imagined myself as the thrumming light inside my body, and began retreating from my senses. The coolness of the sheets under and on top of me, the soft, feathery pillow, even the sensation of breathing I left behind, the flowing of moving air in my lungs, and back out, and that was the hardest of all to ignore.

What came next was as easy as opening your eyes in the morning. I simply let go. It was as if there was a little hook in my chest, and I was hanging on it, like a coat in a closet. All I had to do was open the door, and let myself out.

There was nothing holding me, or weighing me down, and I felt myself drifting up, slowly. I opened my eyes, and I was hovering in the air next to Clara. She raised an eyebrow at me.

“Nice,” she said. “Looks like you’re getting the hang of it.”

I lifted a hand, waved it in front of my face. It left a faint trail of glowing particles, that hung, and then faded into blackness, in the air. “Is this real?” I asked. “I thought last night was a dream.”

“It’s as real as you make it,” said Clara. I did not know what exactly that meant. It was not a very straightforward answer. “Now come on, and be quiet.” As she spoke, her body deconstructed into a dusty luminescence, and floated through the window, and outside.

I drifted over to the window, and stopped to think. I looked back down at my body, lying on the bed as if sleeping. If I had left my lump of skin and bones behind, why couldn’t I just pass through the wall, like a ghost? I reached a hand out, and touched the wall. I couldn’t feel it, not the texture, or temperature of it, but there was something there. It felt like I was resting my hand on the surface of a body of water, but it didn’t feel wet, and I couldn’t breach it. I pushed, and felt no give. Did that mean that this body was solid too? I frowned, confused.

Clara poked her head in the window. “Come on,” she said. “What’s the holdup?”

“Why can’t we just go through the walls. Aren’t we like ghosts?”

Clara shrugged. “You could,” she said. “But you run into a mental block. My way is easier. Just imagine that everything that’s holding you together broke off, and that the pieces you need are now on this side of the wall.”

“Is that it?”

“That’s it.”

I tried to do what she told me, and found it remarkably similar to the process of leaving my body. I closed my eyes again, and imagined all of my fingers and toes and strands of hair that were back on my body were actually still attached to me, and that they were like magnets. Then I imagined them falling off, one by one, and popping over the wall in a puff of smoke. I kept that image in my head, and I could feel myself being pulled over to them. I did not have to do anything else.

When I opened my eyes again, I was on the other side.

“See?” Clara said. “Told you so.” She was floating a couple feet above me, her naked feet at my eye level. “Gran told me what happened when she went over. Sorry.”

My voice raised unintentionally.“She didn’t do anything!” I said. A hot fire sparked inside. “And he just slammed the door in her face. I thought you could help me. I thought you would do something. Anything. Why can’t you just help me?”

Clara floated down until she was right beside me. “It’s not that simple,” she said quietly.

“Well it should be!” I was nearly shouting at her now. It wasn’t her fault, I knew, it was my own. For not knowing what to do.

“Do you think we’re not trying?” Clara snapped. “Do you think that we don’t care, or aren’t doing everything we can, thinking of how we can help? There are rules. Rules that we can’t break without consequences. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Her words struck home, and I was hit with the force of them. She was right. I didn’t know at all what I was talking about. I didn’t know anything.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just don’t know what to do. He made my mom hurt me, and locked me in my room, and chased me around the yard when I tried to escape and he’s going to buy locks for all the doors tomorrow and never let me leave. He says he wants us to be a family, but I think he’s trying to trick me.”

Clara’s face grew somber and thoughtful. She crossed her legs, and sat in the air, and chewed on her thumbnail. The wind whistled through the air, and rustled the leaves on the trees. A raccoon scuttled across the street, its fat body waddling. Then she spoke.

“I don’t think he’s trying to trick you, not necessarily,” she said. Her eyes were looking out into space, thumb resting on her mouth. “I think he’s trying to stay here. Now that he’s got a body, it’s like a foothold in this world. He must have been very sad, to want to leave everything he knew behind.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Sad? He’s taking over my life! He’s and nasty and mean, and  just wants to ruin everything. He isn’t sad. He’s evil. A monster.”

“Even monsters have stories. Everyone comes from somewhere.”

“Yeah, and his story is, he wants to do the same thing to me that he did to my uncle.” She sounded like she was on his side, now.

“That may be what he plans on doing, eventually. But it’s not his story. It’s not who he was before he came here. It’s what made him want to come in the first place.” Clara shook her head. “But that doesn’t matter as much now, you’re right. He’s made his choice. Now we have to find a way to get rid of him.”

“But how?” I asked. “I thought you said there were rules.”

Clara squeezed out a wry smile. “There are always loopholes. Gran’s working on something, I think. But she won’t tell me what.”

Hope welled up inside me, like a rising balloon. “Really? That’s great! Will she make him go away forever?”

Clara sighed. “I’m not sure. But that’s not what I came here to talk to you about. I’m leaving tomorrow. My mom is picking me up, and taking me back home.”

It was as if someone had taken a pin to the balloon of hope in my chest, and sent it spiraling through the air, and deflating to the ground. “You can’t go,” I said.

“I have to. I was only ever staying for two weeks anyway, while my mom was on her business trip.”

I found it difficult to imagine anyone related to Ms. Cleary and Clara doing something as normal and adult as going on a business trip.

“I just wanted to tell you, in case I didn’t get another chance to talk to you. I was planning on coming over tomorrow. To say goodbye, before I leave. I didn’t think he would let me, though. But I wanted to make sure you heard it from me, and I didn’t just disappear.”

“Thanks,” I said in a flat voice. “My mom should let me say goodbye when he’s out buying the locks. You can come by then.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll do that. She started moving then, slowly drifting back toward the hedge. “I should go. We both should get some rest.”

“That’s it?” I said. “That’s all you wanted to tell me?”

“Yes,” said Clara, and went away, through the walls of her house in a cloud of light, leaving me alone.

I stayed outside for a few minutes, taking in the night air. I thought about going back to the graveyard, and seeing if my father’s pale green light would be there again. But I did not want to go alone. I was afraid that if I did, I would not be able to come back. So instead, I went back inside, through the wall, using the same trick I had to leave. I lowered myself back down into my body, and as I did, I felt myself falling into a deep, and troubled sleep.