“You’re probably going to die tonight.” John whispered to Peter.
John had sneaked into his little brother’s room. The lights were already off, but he knew Peter would still be awake, clinging with every bit of his seven year old might to his tattered, one eyed bear.
“Stop it!” Peter screamed.
John reached for Peter’s mouth to smother his voice.
“Don’t scream. The screaming just makes it worse. They can hear it.”
“Who can hear it?” Peter asked much more quietly.
John leaned closer to Peter’s shivering face and whispered as softly as he could.
“The dead things under your bed.”
Peter was just about in tears, “Stop it John! I hate you. You say this stupid stuff every night and it’s never true.”
“But you still believe it. Don’t you?”
Peter wanted to shake his head ‘no’ but he couldn’t. He couldn’t lie. Not about this.
John continued his slow whisper, “In your heart, you know that one of these nights I might be telling the truth. And if it’s tonight, I’m the only one who can save you from what they’ll do to you.”
Peter buried his face into the scraggly remains of his bear.
“I’m four years older than you, I know things. I know that evil things like to be near nice things.”
John softly traced the outline of Peter’s neck with his finger, “You’re a nice thing aren’t you Peter?”
Peter shook his head ‘yes’, trembling, keeping his eyes buried, safe from the shadows on the walls.
“I know that evil things want to touch the nice things. When it’s dark. When the nice things are most scared. They want to find a way to grab you. And sometimes it’s not hands that reach out. It’s something else. Something far more terrible. Something that knows the awful secrets that frighten you most. Something that…”
Their mother’s voice interrupted.
“Stop it John.”
John rose straight up.
His mother wasn’t finished, “You know you shouldn’t say things like that to your brother. You need to be punished.”
From the way his mother’s voice got louder Peter knew she was coming into the room. It was his turn to be afraid.
“Lies are what’s evil.” Mother said, “And only evil comes to evil little liars.”
John was nearly in tears. He could feel his mother standing there. He imagined the things she might do to him. The ways she would punish him. John held Peter as tight as he could. He was sorry. Sorry for what he said, sorry for all those years he tortured Peter with stories of dead things and vengeful spirits that walked the earth long after they passed.
He felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder. But it wasn’t the warm comforting touch he’d been yearning for.
He tried to say something. He wanted to apologize. He wanted to say “Please make everything ok.”
Both of his mother’s hands were on him now. Pulling him away from the brother he loved and blamed for everything that happened.
He tried one final time to cry out, but he was trembling too deeply, every muscle paralyzed by excruciating fear.
A fear far colder than the one he felt the day his mother died three years before.
©2012 Brian McDermott
Brian is a corporate refugee and a very nice guy writing very strange things.