Things that go bump in the night
Written by Imp
The school summer holiday of 1970 I remember it so well, weeks and weeks of endless days stretching before me, no school, not that I minded school it was fun to learn all the new things they showed us. School at 7 years old was so different to what it would become at 11 or 15 and of course I knew nothing of it, that was the future and I never gave it a single thought. I was 7, I’d always been 7 and I always would be 7, and the summer was golden and life full of surprises and wonders, but not quite the kind I imagined.
There were five of us in the family Mom and Dad, my two older sisters and myself. Cal went to work in a hairdressers and I thought she was so beautiful, every week her hair was a different colour or a different style and her clothes were marvellous. I was so proud that she was my grown up sister. She was 15 and would be 16 in September and I thought that was so very old. Dee was a different matter. She was 13 almost 14 and always in trouble, for answering back mostly and unfortunately she had to share her room with me a spoiled brat as she would explain to her friends, usually when I was within earshot. Up until that summer there had been teasing of course, as the youngest in the family it was expected and I don’t think I ever really thought about it. It was just something that well … was. But this particular summer, things changed and Dee became the bane of my life.
It must have been so difficult for her, not a baby anymore like me but not grown up and working like Cal, neither one thing or the other and having no space of her own to figure out just exactly who or what she was. There was no one who had time to listen to her, children didn’t really have problems in those days you see, or that seems to me now how it was viewed. So no one knew except for me and I was half her age and didn’t really know what to do except to listen.
Our room was strange. I can still remember it vividly, my side had pictures of castles and fairies and different animals, a collection of gonks and teddies and lots and lots of books and crayons, everything tidy and in its proper place. Her side had make up and posters of singers and actors, magazines, records, a secret stash of cigarettes and Cal’s clothes that Dee took periodically without asking, and more often than not ruined.
Before Cal started working, Dee was great, she’d let me watch when she put on her make up and she’d tell me stories that she made up herself, help me when I was colouring something and sometimes she’d tell me about how she felt. We’d sit there, her on her bed and me on mine and I’d listen for hours as she told me about her friends and music and why she liked this singer or that actor and what she wanted to be when she left school. An amazing collage of emotions and hopes and fears. Once Cal got a job though, that was when things changed. The days were bad but the nights were worse. If I wasn’t asleep by the time Dee came to bed she’d start to tell me stories. I still believed in fairies and pixies and unfortunately witches and goblins and trolls too. Those nights were torture and I’d lie awake the bed clothes pulled up tight around my face my fingers gripping so hard my hands would cramp as I imagined things slithering across the floor, coming to whisk me away to some terrible place where I’d never be allowed to read or play.
It went on for weeks. Then one terrible night, I’d managed to fall asleep after a particularly nasty story of a troll called Gajid who ate children and used their bones as a xylophone… please don’t laugh, my sister was and still is a wonderful and graphic story teller… I heard a noise, a groaning, a creeping, dragging sound and then something grabbed my foot through the bed clothes. I’m not sure who was more frightened. I sat bolt upright from half sleep and screamed and continued to scream, I couldn’t stop, Dee was sitting on the floor by my bed her face frozen in shock and then Mom, Dad and Cal came charging into the room. It took them ages to calm me down. Dee was sobbing and all she wanted to do was hold me and tell me everything was ok and she’d never let anything hurt me but she was sent to her bed, while they tried to find out what was wrong with me. Finally I calmed down and funnily enough all I could see was Dee’s white scared face. I never told, wild horses wouldn’t have dragged it out of me. When everyone went back to bed I could hear her crying so I got up and stood by her not really sure what to do. She looked at me and then held out her arms, I never gave it a second thought, just snuggled up next to her.
She never apologised and I never expected her to, but I remember she told me a marvellous story about a young potato that lived in the garden and his adventures with the vegetables and insects and the tricks they played on the gardener. That story lasted for two years on and off. I lost Gajid that night and my fear of the dark too but I got my sister back, Dee developed a dislike of dark places which she still has to this day, but I think that was more than fair really, all things considered.