The night had grown increasingly noisy as rain pelted relentlessly on the window near where I sat holding tightly to the book I had clutched in my fingers. Occasionally the wind would knock over some wobbling garbage can that guarded the curb on the dark street. Each time I heard the noise I would flinch and try to ignore the idea that tonight was starting to make me nervous. When I had agreed to babysit for my sister’s kids I hadn’t any idea that there would be a storm. Let’s get this straight from the start. I am no coward! I live alone and have for many years, but tonight for some strange reason had me on edge.
My sister had begged me to watch my niece and nephew for a few hours while she and her husband celebrated her 35th birthday. They had promised to be back before 1:00 o’clock and it was only 9:00 p.m. Still four more hours to go with a noisy storm raging outside and my nerves growing more and more on edge. I actually like thunderstorms. I like the energy and the mystery that they project. I even love the lightning. I often think of my Mom describing the whole storm thing to me when I was a little girl, as God having a bowling tournament in Heaven. Usually it comforted me, but tonight?
Restlessly I flipped the T.V. changer from Chanel to Chanel searching for something boring and dull to take my mind off of the noise outside. A huge crack of thunder crashed through the night and a blazing blue flash followed almost immediately. The lights flickered for a moment. I began to wonder if my sister had any flashlights out in the kitchen? Knowing my sister she probably did but it probably didn’t have working batteries inside it. I lay my book down on the footstool and pushed myself up out of the chair and trudged off to the kitchen to begin searching the drawers, just in case. The lights flickered again and the house was swallowed up into darkness. I involuntarily gasped and tripped over the throw rug that separated the kitchen from the living room. The night and the storm outside seemed suddenly still and all I could hear was the thud of my heart pounding in my chest. Upstairs the kids seemed unaware of my dilemma. They dreamed their children’s dreams in quiet peace while I grappled with some unknown growing terror inside me.
I caught myself, regained my balance and supported myself against the wall. Another flash of light flickered through the darkness now as thick and heavy as black velvet. I caught a reflection of a woman’s drawn, ghost-white face in a nearby kitchen window. I realized it was my own face I saw and even as I began to realize that it was my own reflection I somehow felt sorry for the woman that I saw. The wind began to pick up and another crash filled the night. This time I jumped and cried out loud. I grabbed for the knob on the drawer closest to me and felt around. A familiar shape hugged my palm and I sighed with relief as I lifted the flash light out and flipped on the switch. Nothing happened. The darkness was still complete and I cursed my sister’s lack of preparedness under my breath. I staggered through the darkness to where I knew that the household phone sat. I successfully lifted the receiver to my ear and started to dial. Silence was all that awaited me. The phone of course was dead.
I tried to quiet my breathing and began to inhale slowly to calm my pounding heart. There, that felt a bit better. My breathing slowed and I headed off in the darkness to find the stair case which led the way to the children’s rooms where they resided so silently. As I headed slowly up the carpeted stairs I cursed my active imagination and all of the silly movies I had watched. You know the ones where just as you climbed the steps, some gnarled hand or claw slithered out of the darkness to pull you back into the abyss. I cursed under my breath again as lightning again lit up the night. Ahead one of the children whimpered. No monster tugged at my heels as I reached the top stair successfully. For this I breathed a prayer of thankfulness. I laughed softly as I began to realize that there could not possibly be anything to fear here, in my sister’s house. I silently opened the door closest to the stairwell. A picture of a blue and white car hung askew on the door with the name Tommy scrawled in block letters across the top. The light up here was better. There was a vague gray light radiating throughout the hallway. I slipped inside the door and tried to see the bed where my young nephew slumbered. I reached out my hand to touch the shape of the little boy that I imagined laying there. There was nothing. No warm body tucked snuggly under the covers lay there! Where was he? My heart began it’s dance within my chest once again as another crashing boom of thunder filled the room. I hurried out quickly to find the entrance to my ten year old niece’s room farther down the hall.
I turned the knob quickly while whispering my niece’s name. Maybe Tommy had become frightened by the storm and had sought refuge with his sister in her bed. Lightning filled the room brightly though momentarily. The bed was empty. A solitary, blue elephant sat forlornly on the blanket. Where were the kids? I hadn’t passed them during my search through the house. Goose bumps tickled the backs of my arms and crept along my spine. I caught a glimpse of my watch and noticed that time had seemed to stand still. Fifteen minutes had passed since the lights had gone out. The kids must have tried to find comfort in their mother’s bed together. I vaguely realized that despite the noise of the storm that had raged outside, except for the one whimper I had heard, the children had remained silent and invisible. I wished with all of my heart that I had stayed at home and that most of all I had not begun to read the book that had made me imagine demons and ghouls lurking in the darkness.
I closed the door silently behind me and went to the only remaining door. Before my hand touched the knob the door began to creep open. It actually squeaked as it swung on it’s hinges. On the bed sat my sister, my brother-in -law and both of the children. A cold dread filled my brain as an arm shot out to grab me. The children quietly gazed at my sister as she smiled gently at me. A hand or maybe it was a claw seized my arm and dragged me towards the bed. I screamed and began to babble not quite understanding. Struggling against the strength that held me down, darkness began it’s swift descent once more. The children licked their lips and began to feed