Published by Leanne Fitzpatrick at Shakespir
Copyright © Leanne Fitzpatrick 2015
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Shakespir Edition v1.0
Originally published in the Static Movement Anthology Something from the Attic 2
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales are entirely coincidental.
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A brief moment of silence filled the house. Simon stopped crying, lifting his little head. Sally shook her own, hating herself as the hope drained from his eyes. She smiled, pulled a funny face- anything really, to make him smile again.
It didn’t work. It never did. Not once the plates started flying through the air.
“Sally?” His voice was quiet. Only four years old and already, he knew to keep silent, unnoticed.
“Yes?” she whispered.
“Tell me about your special place. Tell me about how friendly everyone is.”
She smiled, gathered him into her thin arms and whispered her stories into his ear. She rocked him gently as she spoke of gingerbread houses as high as the sky, and of children who played all day in the sun- because it was always sunny- before going home to eat strawberries and ice-cream and be tucked up safe in bed until the next day.
By the time she’d told her tale, Simon was asleep. His head was heavy on her shoulder and he snored quietly, mouth hanging open. She lowered him to the floor, placed a cushion under his head and her coat over his tiny body. It had gone silent downstairs. She inched slowly out onto the landing, avoiding the creaky boards.
Half way down the stairs she stopped, waited. Noise from the TV, something with explosions. That meant only Daddy was home. Mummy didn’t let him watch such violent programs when she was in the house. It was bad for the children.
She glanced down the stairs towards the porch. Mummy’s shoes and coat were gone. Her car too. She wouldn’t be back for a long time now.
Ice formed in the pit of her stomach. Alone with Daddy. She heard the snap and hiss of a can opening. A drunken Daddy.
She shivered, crawled slowly back up the stairs and sat next to Simon. When Daddy was drunk, he did bad things. He was always sorry after, and he’d cry and make her promise not to tell.
Tears trickled down her cheeks, and she prayed for him to pass out drunk in the chair. It would mean another fight when Mommy returned home- but it was better than trying to explain the bruises.
The dream came again, just as it had every night for the last six months. She stood in total darkness. She knew she stood because she could stamp her feet and hear the echo. In this place there was nothing, had never been anything, and her heart beat fast.
She had no concept of time or space. Many times she had walked. Sometimes she could only go a few steps in any one direction, other times she could walk forever and still not see a thing. Most times, she woke up sobbing her heart out with Simon standing next to her bed, small pudgy fingers stroking her cheek, telling her everything was all right.
This time she didn’t move. She stood there waiting. Something was watching her, waiting- she could feel its eyes boring into the back of her head.
Cold sweat broke out on her palms. Her armpit’s itched and her ankles ached. She desperately wanted to run, to hide- to find somewhere where she could not feel that gaze on her.
She closed her eyes. At least, she thought she did. She raised her fingers to press lightly on her lids. She watched the green and purple colours expand across her eyeballs.
“Little girl, little girl, why aren’t you running?”
Her body trembled. Her legs were immobile jellied poles in the instant she heard the soft, sibilant whispers.
“What is your name, little girl who comes to my world of darkness?”
She swallowed, shook her head. Her hands curled into fists, arms hugging herself tightly.
“Do I frighten you, little girl?”
Something brushed against her leg. She shrieked, pressed her fists against her mouth. She heard it laughing.
“Little girl, why do I scare you so? Why do you fight me when I am here at your request?”
She opened her eyes a fraction. There was light coming from somewhere- she could pick out shapes and textures see angles and curves.
“Do you remember this place, little girl? Do you see where you are?”
“I’m in the attic,” she murmured.
It stood behind her. She swallowed the scream, choked as air and noise made a solid lump in her throat.
“This is my playground,” the thing whispered in her ear. She shuddered as hands gripped her shoulders. She tried to fight it, but she was outside her body now, watching from the air. She could see the creature turning her. See the glint of sharp teeth in a face black as coal.
It looked up, straight at her- bright eyes and teeth, grinning at her.
“You should join me here, in my playground. It was you, after all that called me here.”
“No!” she screamed, lashing out.
She felt her flailing hand connect, felt the satisfaction at such a solid hit, until she heard the crying, and recognised her little brothers room.
She swallowed, fought back the urge to vomit.
“Simon?” she asked the air in front of her.
“Y-you-u h-hit m-me!”
“W-hy’d you h-hi-t me?”
“Oh Simon, I’m so sorry!”
She rolled over to him, hugged him gently.
“Oh Simon, I had a bad dream. I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you!”
She held him tight until he stopped crying, and when his arms snaked up around her neck and he hugged her back, she let the hot, tight knot of anger loosen up a little.
“I’m sorry I cried, Sally,” he murmured, voice already thick with sleep.
“Shh,” she soothed. “You have nothing to be sorry for.” She held onto him, rocking him until he drifted back into sleep.
His snores helped to calm her further. She lay there holding him, staring at the ceiling until grey light started to seep into the room.
Eventually she gave up the fight, and she nodded off into a more peaceful doze.
They awoke together, bodies jerking, arms instinctively tightening around one another.
Another door slammed. Shouting, hysterical voices sounded muffled for a moment and then clear as the door opened and both their parents stomped through the upstairs.
Sally felt Simon shaking. She knew the warning signs.
She pushed him under the bed, held him there, begging him silently to stay where it was safe.
She stood just as the bedroom door slammed open, the doorframe split, wood splintered and she heard the plaster crack when the door crashed into it.
“Where is he!” the man mountain roared.
Sally stood silent. Under the bed she heard Simon squeak.
“Simon! Simon! Get here now boy!”
“You’re not taking him!” she heard her mother scream.
She watched as the smaller woman launched herself at the bigger man, nails scratching at his face.
He roared something unintelligible, slapping her hands away, finally grabbing her by her long tangled hair and dragging her out of his way.
She screamed, Sally flinched, her scalp prickling in sympathy.
“Simon!” the monster roared, stomping further into the room.
Sally stood frozen in place.
“Get out of my way, girl,” her father hissed, towering over her.
She tried to speak, but words failed her. She shook her head, terrified and defiant.
He snarled, reached towards her. She trembled.
“You are not taking my children!” her mother screeched. Sally stared, shaking uncontrollably, watching her mother pulling her father back, ripping out chunks of his hair.
“Oh God,” she mumbled. “Oh God, oh God!”
Behind her Simon wailed- terrified out of his mind at this invasion. His fear more than anything broke the spell that held her there. She stooped, picked up the plastic cricket bat so carelessly dropped days ago, and ran forward.
“Get out!” she screamed, whacking the bat against him. “I hate you! I hate you! Get out, get out, get out!”
She punctuated each shout with a blow from the bat, forcing him further back. He lashed out, his giant’s hand smacking against her head.
She swayed; tears bright in her eyes as she reeled back. She knew how easy it would be to fall down, to retreat to the darkness that pulsed at the edge of her vision.
She felt something push past her, the bat pulled easily from her weak grip. She saw Simon rush at their father; saw the bat swing. She heard the roar as it connected with the tender spot between his legs, and she reached out, pulling Simon away as the man-mountain sank to his knees.
Her eyes met her mothers. Something passed between them. She didn’t know what, but she felt suddenly sick and hollow.
She stood, holding her brother and they watched as their mother struggled to drag the monster out of the room, the fight gone out of him for now.
Simon ducked out of her grip and forced the door into its mangles frame. He leaned his back against it, staring back at his sister.
“Sally,” he said, voice barely even a whisper.
“Simon,” she said.
“I had an accident.” The shame she heard in his voice broke her heart, and she looked at the dark stain on his trousers. “I didn’t mean to- I was so scared. I’m sorry.”
“No,” she said, holding out her hand. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop him.”
They ignored the cries, the begging as best they could while Simon washed and changed.
Every slap made them flinch, but their young minds knew that to interfere was to bring the punishment on themselves. They knew they were too small and too weak to do anything.
They sat in the middle of the room, and Sally told Simon her stories, raising her voice to drown out the sounds of their mother crying.
Hours passed. The sun hid behind clouds. Sally stared out of the window, at the blue sky, the white clouds. Everything was bright and colourful, and completely at odds with the detached feelings in her heart.
The door slammed shut, they heard their father’s motorbike rev up, its roar suffocating every other sound.
Soft tapping at the door.
“Kids?” Their Mother: her voice quiet and hoarse. “Can I come in?”
Sally let him go. She stood, but she made no move to go to the door. Simon pulled on the door until it unstuck, and he jumped straight into his mother’s arms.
“It’s okay, baby,” she said. Sally looked away as she stroked his hair. “He’s gone for a while.”
“He scares me, Mommy.”
“I know. He scares me too.”
“Why’s Daddy so angry?”
“I don’t know, darling,” she said.
Liar! Sally screamed in the privacy of her mind.
“Would you guys like some dinner?”
“Oh yes please!”
She nodded, didn’t trust herself to speak just yet.
She followed them down to the kitchen. It was a war zone. What wasn’t broken lay littered amongst the debris. Silently she watched from the doorway as their mother picked up a few things and pushed shattered porcelain about to clear space on the worktop.
“Can you get me the jam out the fridge please Sally?”
She did as she was bid, holding the jar out to her mother. Again, their eyes met. Sally noticed the bruises, darkening with each passing minute. Her mother looked away first. Sally felt sick to her stomach.
“Here you go, my little prince,” their mother said, presenting the sandwich with a flourish. “Chunky peanut butter and strawberry jam. Your favourite.”
“It was his favourite two months ago,” Sally muttered. “He prefers chocolate spread now.”
“Oh.” She looked lost for a moment, and Sally felt rotten. “Would you prefer chocolate spread?”
“No Mommy. I want this. I still like it. Honest.”
Sally stared at the floor, small fists clenching and unclenching.
“What about you Sally? What do you want on your sandwich?”
“I’m not hungry,” she muttered.
“You have to eat something.”
“You can’t make me!” she shouted, glaring at her mother.
“No! Leave me alone! I hate you!”
She turned on her heel, ignored the pain as porcelain sliced into the soft skin, and ran up to her room.
The door bounced back out of its frame twice before it stuck. Sally threw herself onto her bed, buried her face in the pillow, and finally let herself cry. She let every shred of fear, hate, anger, confusion, and pain well up and explode out of her until her throat was sore, her eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and the snot stopped pouring out of her nose.
Eventually she pushed herself up to sit, leaning against the wall and she stared at the sticky wet mess on her pillow cover. She felt drained and elated at the same time.
“Do you feel better now?”
She froze, eyes darting about the room.
“You won’t find me in your bedroom, little girl,” the voice laughed.
“You’re not real!” You’re just a dream?”
“Just a dream? I don’t think so.”
“Then what are you?”
“What I am is no concern. It’s what I’m here for that you should think about.”
Sally swallowed, wiped her nose with her sleeve.
“What are you here for?” she asked, unconsciously scrunching herself into the corner.
“Are you afraid of me, little girl? You shouldn’t be. I’m here for you. Only for you. To help you as you see fit.”
“I don’t understand-”
“Come join me in my playground, little girl, and I will explain it all to you.”
The attic was the same as in her dream. She stood on the ladder, her head and torso in the cold empty space thinking about every horror movie she’d ever sneaked down the stairs to watch.
Her shoulders prickled.
“Hello Sally,” the serpent’s voice said behind her.
She twisted, gripped the ladder so she wouldn’t fall and stared.
It crouched on an old table, eyes bright and blue, mouth wide and grinning. Its teeth were as sharp and metallic as she remembered. She couldn’t make out any other features.
Its body was made of shadow, a skinny black shape against the gloom.
“You’re real,” she breathed.
She looked past it to the Christmas tree it was decorating.
“It’s July,” she said after a moment’s silence.
“It is irrelevant.”
She climbed the rest of the way up into the attic and trod carefully over the beams to him.
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Everyone has a name.”
“Then I’ll give you one.”
They stared at one another as she thought.
“Peter,” she said at last. “Your name is Peter.”
The creature turned its head to one side, thinking for a while.
“I’ve never been a Peter before. It is a good name.”
“Why are you here, Peter.”
“Because you called me here.”
“How? You didn’t even have a name.”
“Little Sally,” the creature smiled, hanging a glass bauble on the tree, “I don’t answer to names. I answer to feeling, to emotions.” He grinned. His teeth set her on edge. Shark’s teeth, she thought.
“Why did you answer my call?”
The creature leaned back. Sally noticed just how long he was. Even his fingers were abnormally long. She started to feel sick.
“Because your call was the loudest. Tell me, little Sally, what is so bad that you can call out so loudly for help?”
She watched him silently, and then pulled herself up onto the table next to him. He was cold, his body only semi-solid. She tried to think of the right words, then gave up and simply told him her first memory of the bad times. Once she started, she found she couldn’t stop the telling. He was a gracious listener, silent and accepting, never judging. She cried, and she laughed. She told him everything she had bottled up inside herself for so many years, and she told him of the good times after Simon was born, and of the bad times that soon followed.
Sometimes he asked a question, and she would answer, remembering new things and relaying them to him. She asked once more, what he was, and when he explained that he was her Guardian Angel she accepted it as fact. She didn’t question his origin or his motives again after that, merely content to pour out her hearts sorrows, her dreams and her beliefs to someone who wanted to hear them.
At the end of her tale he smiled and kissed her once on the forehead, and told her he would take care of everything, that he would make everything better. All she had to do was exactly as he told her. She promised she would, and with that, he led her back to the attic opening and watched her climb back down the ladder.
Back in her room, she stared at her crusted pillow and felt nothing. She was exhausted. She checked Simon’s room. He was sleeping peacefully, their mother having finally done something towards looking after him.
The thought of returning to her cold room was not appealing. She moved over to the bed and crawled under the covers. Simon mumbled in his sleep and moved over to make room.
Sally smiled. She felt warm and safe.
She dreamed of muffled pleas and veiled threats. In her mind, the disembodied voices wrapped around her, drowning her in emotion. She twitched, reaching out. She felt Simon, safe and sleeping. Her rock, her reason. She curled up against him, the voices quiet once more.
“Wake up little Sally,” she heard him whisper. She frowned, flapped her hand above her head.
“Leave ‘e ‘lone. Sleepin’,” she mumbled.
“Little Sally, you will die if you don’t wake up.
She felt the shadows tickle her face. She tried to swat them away.
She jerked awake, sitting up. The room was dark, a tree twig tapped at the window. She shivered. Simon had cocooned himself in the entire quilt. She grumbled, lying back down.
“Hello little Sally.”
“None other,” the creature smiled.
“Where are you?”
“Right in front of you. Can you not see me?”
“Why do you talk like that? No, I can’t see you.”
“How about now?”
He dropped onto the bed, crouched like a tiger waiting to pounce. She shrieked, clapping a hand to her mouth before she woke Simon.
“Don’t do that!” she snapped. “You frightened me half to death!”
“A half death from me is desirable when the alternative is a full death from your father.”
“From Dad? He’s back?”
“Oh yes, and he has a friend with him. A scrawny little man by the name of Jack. At this moment they are making sport with your mother, teaching her her place as it were.”
“I don’t understand-“
“Irrelevant whether you do or do not. He will kill your mother first, and then come for you. Are you ready for the game to end?”
“Will be safe. I will hide him in the shadows. This I will do for you.”
“You really are my guardian angel.”
“I am what you believe me to be.”
“What do I have to do?”
Teeth clicked against one another as he grinned at her once more.
“Get up, little Sally. Find the Jack-man. He relieves himself under the stairs. Lock him in. Use what he has dropped to make a fire.”
She nodded, sliding from the bed. Her feet were sweating and the cheap carpet irritated the scabs on her heel.
She turned back, but Simon and Peter were gone. She searched the bed, but there was no one there.
“He will be there when it is time for you to take him,” she heard Peter whisper in her mind.
She crept silently down the hallways; years of practice lent her speed and stealth.
The toilet under the stairs was a tiny affair. She was all too familiar with its dimensions. Many punishments had left her locked in there for hours.
She listened at the door, nose wrinkling when she smelled him. Slowly, silently she pushed the bolts across, locking the familiar, hated man inside. She knew firsthand what he was capable of, and she had no qualms about his death- or his arrest. Either would suit her.
As she moved away, her toe kicked something heavy. She crouched, examined it. A heavy, gold engraved lighter. It looked expensive. She smiled, glancing over her shoulder.
The toilet flushed, the door rattling immediately after. Dirty.
“Joe? What the hell, Joe! Let me out.”
She listened to the door rattling.
“Come on, man, this ain’t funny! Joe!”
She giggled, sidled up to the door.
“Who’s that? That you, Sarah?”
“No. Not Sarah.”
“Who is it? Let me out. I ain’t here to hurt no one.”
“I know who you are Jack,” she laughed, voice singsong. “I know what you did.”
“Girl, you let me outta here right now or I’ll-“
“Hey, no, wait a sec- I’ll give you what you want. Just let me out of here.”
She laughed again, walking away. She had a job to do.
She heard movement upstairs. She peered round the banister. Light flooded the landing. She saw her father walk across into the bathroom. There was something strange and awkward in the way he walked.
The door clicked shut. She waited until she could hear the shower running; then padded up the stairs. It was dark again, the bathroom light blocked by the door. Only the small window above let through enough light for her to see her way around.
The carpet felt wet under her feet. Her father had probably walked water through to the bedroom. She knew her mother hated that.
She stopped at her parents’ bedroom. It smelled strange, like metal and excrement. She could see her mother lying still in the bed.
“Mom? Can you hear me?”
She moved over to the bed. She shook the still figure, pulling her hand away when she felt the stickiness.
By the glow of the street lamp, she could see dark, almost black blood. When she raised her gaze once more she saw what her brain had been telling her was there all along, glinting at her. She felt weak and frightened, like a child for the first time in a long time.
“Mom? Please Mom, wake up.”
She didn’t cry, even though she desperately wanted to. She stared at the great carving knife for a moment; then remembered herself.
She walked quickly down the hallway, paused at the bathroom. She pressed her ear to the door, listening. He was singing.
Her mouth turned down at the corners and her eyes narrowed. She felt the shadows behind her move.
“Did he do it?” she asked quietly.
“If not him, then the other, either way, both had a hand in it,” the dark shadow replied, caressing her bare arms. She nodded, looked at her feet.
“Sleeping like a babe. He is in his bed once more, waiting for you.”
“Good. That’s good.”
She shivered as long black fingers tapped over her shoulders.
“Are you going to back out on me, little Sally?”
“No. He’s gone too far. I won’t let him hurt anyone else. I won’t let him poison Simon.”
The creature chuckled quietly and hugged Sally from behind.
“Then I shall leave you to do what is required.”
She nodded and it backed away.
“What is it, little Sally?”
She paused, thought carefully about her next words, and knew there would be no turning back from them.
“He mustn’t survive.”
“That,” the creature said smugly, “will not be a problem.”
He turned the dial. The water shut off, leaving him naked and clean. So much blood, he thought. Unbelievable just how much blood the skinny little body had held.
He ran thick fingers through his hair, shaking the water from him. There was a cold draught in the room.
He reached for the towel, scrubbing himself dry before wrapping it around himself.
A swipe at the mirror revealed his face. Handsome as ever. He grinned at his reflection. With this face he thought, I’ll have them eating from the palm of my hand.
He went through the motions of grooming- lathering gel over his stubble, using a cheap disposable razor to trim it into shape. He had to look the part, after all- and clean-shaven always went down better with women...
He stretched out his neck, ready to do his jaw line.
“It is all for nothing, you know,” someone whispered next to his ear.
He jumped, the blade slicing through flesh. He hissed as it stung, cursing at the line of red under his chin.
“It is a good colour for you.”
He spun round. Nothing. He crossed back over to the bath, ripping the curtain aside.
“Not in there!” the voice teased. Childlike and singsong.
“Who are you? Where are you?”
“Right in front of you.”
He leaned back; saw the figure on the toilet.
“Who the hell are you, how did you get in?”
“My name,” the figure said, kneeling on the plastic lid, “is Peter. I am a friend.”
He backed up towards the sink, eyes staring at the creature.
“You’re not human!”
“You are correct.”
“What are you?”
“I am-“ he paused, thought about it for a second and grinned a shark’s toothy smile. “I am a Guardian Angel.”
“There’s no such thing.”
“You know, you are taking this rather well considering.”
“You are an adult. And I am here to kill you.”
“Bull. You’re a figment of my drunken imagination.”
“Incorrect. A figment yes, but not of your imagination. I come from little Sally.”
“That little brat?”
“Oh yes. I am every dark thought she’s ever had, every wish to see you dead, every fantasy about driving a knife into your chest. The last one, by the way, was from seeing what you did to your wife.”
The thing grinned again, subtly shifting to its feet.
“If she saw, then she’ll have to die too.”
The creature cackled.
“You cannot harm her.”
“You misunderstand. You cannot harm her because you will be dead.”
The creature leapt, sailing through the air faster than the human eye could track. The man reared back, raised his arms to protect himself, and screamed as ten long, sharp shadows sank into his chest.
Blood bubbled in his throat and mouth as he desperately tried to breath. Icy heat leached through him from the shadows. He grunted as the creature slowly pulled them out one by one.
“I made sure to miss your heart,” it said. “You see, Sally didn’t say anything, but I know she wants you to suffer, the same way you’ve made her suffer since you started beating them.”
He gurgled, tried to speak. Managed a guttural scream deep in his throat as the shadows pierced his lungs, stomach, liver- one at a time, infinitely slowly. He flailed about, tried to push the thing away from him, to wrestle it off of him, but it was insubstantial as shadow, impossible to grip, let alone struggle with.
Warm blood dripped from the wounds, soaking into the towel. It became heavy, dark and sodden. His strength started to fail. He leaned against the sink unit, using it to prop himself up. He tried to reach for the door.
The knives bit into his arm. He whimpered, clutching it to his chest.
His eyes darted about, wild, frenzied. He heard the door open.
“Sally,” he gurgled.
She stood in the doorway, Simon curled up and sleeping in her arms.
“Sally, please,” he grated, “Help me-“
“You should hurry up,” she said, voice even, steady. “I’ve called the police. They’re on their way. The fire will reach here soon.”
The creature smiled. Madness danced in his eyes for a moment.
“As you wish,” he said. He turned back to the broken figure beneath him.
“I told you the colour suited you,” he said, plunging his shadow fingers through weak flesh.
“Sally! Sally please don’t go, don’t leave me! Sally! I’m sorry! Help me, please!”
She turned her back on the scene. The sight of spurting blood sickening, the sound of his terrified voice threatening to break her resolve. Even now, she wanted to run to him, to cradle him, to hear him promise it was the last time, that he didn’t mean it, that it was just a nightmare, and in the morning, everything would be okay…
Her knuckles were white as she clung to the banister; Simon was heavy on her arm. She felt him stir.
“Sally? What’s burning?”
“Nothing, Simon, it’s just a dream,” she whispered.
“I can hear screaming.”
She paused, listened. The bathroom was silent. She looked up to the landing. Peter stood there, the bleak darkness of his body illuminated by the fire that swept through the upstairs.
His teeth glinted orange, his eyes glassy and reflective. There read no emotion.
“Goodbye for now, little Sally,” she heard his voice in her head. “It was fun to play with you.”
“Goodbye, Peter. Thank you.”
She thought she saw him step backwards into the flames. She blinked, turned back towards the front door- towards freedom.
She smiled, unlocked the front door, and stepped out into blue flashing lights and their new lives.
“A friend, Simon. A very good friend.”
About the author
Leanne is a graphic designer and complementary therapist by trade. Writing is her escape. She lives in the middle of nowhere, England with her long suffering other half and three cats. Sometimes she emerges from her ever growing aloe vera forest and grumbles at the outside world before retreating back into the shadows.
Occasionally she blogs over on her , but more often than not she’s hunched over her desk drawing and muttering to herself.
Other Titles by Leanne Fitzpatrick
The Bitter Taste
Runaway Dead: A Cherry Garcia Investigation
In the Hands of a Saint: A Cherry Garcia Short Story
Dare to connect socially
Sally doesn’t have any friends. What she does have is a little brother whom she loves and had swore to protect from their downtrodden mother and drunken father, but Sally is only a child herself, and when she can’t do what needs to be done she turns to the only friend she can make. No-one knows what Peter is. Devil, Angel, manifestation of a frightened girls’ imagination. Whatever he is, he loves Sally and he’s been waiting in the attic for her to finally realize he’s there for her. Only her.