Continued from Sleep Tight, III.
I’d tucked my feet safely in beneath a blanket fold, just as I’d done all those years ago in my childhood bedroom. I’d mostly convinced myself that cloth was a sufficient barrier between me and potential insects, questionable mattress stains, and lingering dust.
Watching dancing shadows cross the ceiling and recalling disturbing memories did little to assure my hypersensitive mind against other possibilities, however.
If not for the exhaustion of traveling hours to arrive at these “free” lodgings, I would likely not have even thought to sleep in the house. If not for cleaning the upstairs all afternoon, my aversions to physical impediments (like vermin) would have sent us scuttling to the car. If not for an evening spent in emotional stress over a broken leg and the physical labor of hoisting an eight-year-old boy up a large, dusty, winding, creaking staircase –
Nope. Exhaustion alone was only working to frighten me more, as my body complained of serious physical limitations to action. My mind said, Why was the door moving? There was no wind; no breeze. It sent panicked shivering down my poor, sore limbs. They, in turn, responded with, Can’t move; need sleep.
A face had looked at me from beside my son’s reflection in the mirror this afternoon. We need to move; take action; freak out! screamed my anxious brain, but exhaustion was winning out.
Doors and faces slunk from their corner memory spaces to dance and moan amidst feverish dreams. Background creaks and groans from the house itself accompanied them, unbeknownst to my snoozing consciousness.
Daylight came, with my usual three alarm clocks: Sam, Jonny, and Ollie.
“Mo-o-o-om!” All three called, in asynchronous cadence. They pounded into my bedroom; Sam hopping to do so. Though not all able to walk precisely the same, all three faces bore the same looks of terror. I sat up, fully awake. Not-too-distant dreams haunted my perceptions as I nervously waited for their answers.
Sam spoke first. “Were you downstairs this morning?” His face had settled somewhat more than his brothers’. Clearly, he expected an affirmative answer.
Instinctively, my ears strained to listen for any noises from the floor below. For once, I heard only us, and a bit from Nature just outside the single bedroom window. It was glowing innocently in the morning sunlight, beyond our meeting around my antique bed.
I looked up at my children’s faces. They were so trusting. “Why?” I asked them carefully, needing to hear the answer but knowing I didn’t really want to.
Ollie spoke first. “Dere was clunking,” he said, in the typical manner of a three-year-old.
“Clunking?” I wondered aloud.
As if on cue, something dropped to the floor in one of the rooms downstairs.