She opened her eyes as she started awake. There was a soft rustling as of papers being shuffled and arranged, and a weight shifted in the bed behind her. The light from her grandmother’s bedside lamp cast shadows across the walls as something moved in front of it. She looked up to the wooden wind chimes hanging from the ceiling and shivered as they swayed slightly, casting long dancing shadows of their own.
There was no answer to her whispered call. She rolled over in bed and sat up. There was no one there. She looked briefly at the old black velvet painting of a matador that hung on the wall between the room’s entrance and the door to the closet. In the painting, a man stood holding a long sword in his left hand, and a vivid red cape was draped on his right arm. Was it the dark colors used in the painting coupled with that stark splash of red that disturbed her, or the fact that those soulless black eyes seemed to follow her every move? She had had nightmares of the man on a regular basis, usually involving him being sealed up in the closet. She tried but failed not to look at the closet door, staring at the myriad knives stuck all around the door jam. She wondered, not for the first time, why the door had to be secured from the outside if all her grandmother wanted was to keep her out of the closet. She would never have dreamed of opening that door, knowing in its ceiling there was a black hole, the only access to the attic above.
There was still no answer and she was scared to be in the room by herself. Throwing back the blankets, she stood on the bed, leaping out as far as she could to keep from having her feet anywhere near the edge of the bed. She knew how her grandmother hated it when she did that, but she was scared there was something under the bed and just could not bring herself to put her feet where it might catch hold of them.
She moved to stand in the doorway, but there were no other lights on in the house and she could see little in the gloom. She called out again, slightly louder than before but still afraid of making too much sound in the dark. There was still no answer. She stepped out, edging along the side of the hall to the door to the living room. Her eyes were riveted to the giant fan in the ceiling of the hall, praying that it would not move as she passed. It did not, and she sighed in relief as she slipped through the door behind her.
“Grandma? Are you there?”
The curtains took on an eerie white glow in the light from the moon and billowed out as a chill wind blew through the house. There was no sign of her grandmother in the room, but she thought she heard the sound of foot steps in the kitchen. As she came around the end of the sofa and almost reached the gaping hole that lead into the next room, she heard the rattle of the glass jars that lined the top of the washing machine.
Her voice this time was louder than she had intended and she winced inwardly and looked around in fright. Relief did not find her, even when nothing happened immediately. Her grandmother was not in the kitchen. She walked as gingerly as she could and tried not to disturb the bottles herself, afraid of the sound they made and the attention it drew. Venturing a quick peep into the hall, she looked both ways before jumping out again. She put her back against the wall, trying to muster enough courage to re-enter the hallway as the hairs along the back of her neck stood on end. The bathroom door was ajar and the light was on. While the light from the bedside lamp did nothing to illuminate the hall, and the light from the bathroom did not fare any better, they were both a comfort. Keeping her eyes on the fan, she edged into the hall and toward the bathroom door.
A quick look told her the room was empty. The only place grandma could be was in the bed waiting for her. Standing in the door to the bathroom, she kept her eyes on the unmoving ceiling fan and contemplated her path. If she went around, she would have to go back through the kitchen and the living room without any light to guide her. If she went straight, she would have to go under the fan and the gaping black hole it did little to fill.
She started when she heard a whispered voice.
“Get back in bed.”
Relief flooded her. Edging along the wall, trying hard not to look up, she made her way toward the bedroom door. She gasped as she heard a creak from above, almost jumped out of her skin when two cold hands fell upon her shoulders. She cried out in fear.
“Shh,” a voice whispered, “you need to go back to bed.”
The frozen hands pushed her along, but the girl sighed in relief, realizing it had to be her grandmother. She almost turned around, but the hands on her shoulders tightened and held her.
“No. Go to bed now.”
When the fan above her creaked again she tried to look up, but a hand placed swiftly upon her head kept her looking ahead to the glow from the light in the bedroom.
“Shh. Just go to bed, baby. I’ll come in there for you shortly. I promise. Shh.”
There was a light push from behind and she walked the rest of the way by herself. Coming through the door into the wean light, she looked over to the bed and froze. Her grandmother lay in the bed, asleep.