Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Knock. Knock. Knock.
I don't know how long the person's been knocking at my door. It's one o'clock in the morning and I'm not sure that I'm even hearing the noise correctly. I roll over on to my side and try to get comfortable again. Whoever is outside the house can come back during waking hours. Sighing, I find a cold spot in the sheets and nestle down into it.
"Mommy," I hear my little one call out for me. He is standing in the door way to my bedroom. "Someones knocking on my door."
"I know, baby." Yawning I tell him to ignore it and go back to bed. I hear his little footsteps retreat as I begin my decent into sleep.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
No. No. No. I am not answering the door. I open one eye to see that it is now 2:30 am. There is no way I am opening that door to anyone at this hour. Whoever it is is up to no good. I get up to look out my window, but the front door is not visible to me. I can only see the side railing of the porch.
"Momma," my son yawns. "I hear the knocking again."
"I do too." I tell him. "Come on. Let's go put you back into bed."
"I don't want to go to my bed." He twists his little four year old face up at me. "I'm too scared to sleep there. Can I sleep with you?"
My son has made a habit of sleeping with me almost every night since I left his father over six months ago. I am trying to break him of this. It doesn't help matters that I find the rhythmic sounds of his breathing just as soothing as he finds my presence. We have been playing a game with each other for the past couple of weeks. I pretend to make him sleep in his bed. He pretends to obey, but always manages to sneak in beside me when he thinks I've fallen asleep. It's unhealthy for both of us, but I figure he'll grow out of it. Or at least I hope he will.
However, tonight I finally put my foot down. I told him he had no choice but to stay in his own room. Using phrases like "big boy" and "little man" I convinced him that he didn't need me anymore. The trick seemed to be working until someone decided to come and bang on my front door in the middle of night.
I walk him to his room, which rests on the opposite end of the house. I ignore the front door and the mysterious visitor on the other side. I'm not too worried about it. Two months ago a similar situation occurred. Only it was closer to eleven at night. The late night guest happened to have the wrong house. Living in a neighborhood can have those sort of disadvantages.
Still half asleep, I don't realize that my little boy has come to a complete stop in front of me until I almost fall over him. He stands, frozen, in front of his bedroom door. I lean down to him. In the glow of the digital clock on the cable box, I can see the look on his face.
"Baby," I take his face into my hand. "What's wrong?"
"There's a monster in there, mommy." He whispers to me. Fear colors his eyes. I gather his small body into my arms. I feel him tremble as I hold him to me.
"Monsters don't exist." I tell him.
He looks at me, eyes wide with terror. "Can I sleep with you tonight?"
Quietly, I carry him back across the living room into my bedroom. I tuck him into the comforter and wrap my body around his. We both drift off into an uneasy sleep.
There are no more knocks at the door.
By the next morning, I have all but forgotten about the knocking. My son is sitting at the table with his older sister. She, having slept through everything the previous night, is oblivious to our sleep deprived state. She is chatting away about school and how excited she is to be going to the media center.
"Sissy," my boy whines. "Stop talking so much. I'm tired."
"Momma," Laura begins to tattle. "Jason told me to hush. That's not nice."
"Honey," I say as diplomatically as I possibly can. "Your brother is tired. Neither of us slept good last night. Try to keep the chatter to a minimum please."
My daughter looks to her brother with worry. "What's wrong? Why didn't you sleep good?" She asks him.
"Somebody kept knocking at the door." He informs her. "It scared me. It was a monster."
"Oh, don't be a silly-nilly." She tells Jason. "There's no such thing as monsters."
"See, I told you." I kiss my tired four year old on the head. "Even your sister agrees with me." I smile at her to show my appreciation. More often that not, Jason will look to his older sister for guidance before he looks to me. It helps when Laura and I are on the same page.
She nods approvingly. "That's right. No monsters. Besides, that was Paint knocking. He was wanting to come out and play."
I sit down at the opposite end of the table. I look at my beautiful daughter and inquire as to who Paint is.
"Well, he's my friend." She tells me. "He's very special. "
"He's an orphan. His parents died a long time ago. So, that makes him special." She says with wisdom that only six-year-olds have.
"Why was he knocking on my closet door?" My son asks her.
I go to correct him. I inform him that the knock came from the front door.
"No it didn't." They say in unison. "Momma," Laura says as she stands to put her breakfast plate in the sink. "He was knocking on Jason's closet door. I keep the door to my closet closed at night. So, he probably went to try and come through Jason's room."
"Why do you keep your closet door closed?" I ask.
"Because if I didn't, he'd always be in my room wanting to play." She states matter-of-fact. "He travels through closets. But, I think he can get around in other ways too."
"I saw him in the bathroom mirror once." Not knowing what else to say or do, I gather the kids up and usher them off to school.
On the way to work, I marvel at the imagination of my daughter.
Later that evening, I am tucking Laura into bed. Having spent a full day in daycare on little sleep, Jason shut his eyes and drifted off before we were able to finish our nightly prayers. Laura giggles as I kiss her forehead.
"I love you baby," I say quietly.
"I love you too." I begin to get up and leave her side. "Momma, can you shut my closet door?"
I go to try and shut the door, but it won't latch all the way. Again, I turn the handle and force it closed. The door refuses to obey my commands. It sits slightly ajar.
"I don't know what's wrong with this thing." I say. "I'm going to have to get someone to come over and look at it."
She sits up in bed. "Momma, if you don't shut it tight, Paint will get out."
"Baby, Paint is not real. He is just an imaginary friend."
"He is real." She says, nodding her head to affirm her belief. "I know he is. If he wasn't real, I wouldn't be able to see him."
Trying to close the door for a third and fourth time produces no results. Aggravated, I give up and push it as far as it will go. I place a stuffed animal at the base of it to keep it from swinging open.
"That'll have to work for now," I tell her. "I'm tired. I want to go to bed."
"What if Paint comes back and wants to play?"
"If Paint comes through that door," I say pointing to the closet. "You send him to me."
Cold hands. Icy fingers trail up my leg. I can hear a chuckle in the distance. I turn over to my side and reach for covers that are supposed to be there, but aren't. I roll over to my other side and without opening my eyes, I reach out to find my comforter.
It's not there. But, something is.
I open one eye. Then the other. A smell reaches my nose before my eyes can adjust to the darkness. I catch the strong stench of rancid milk mixed with cookies. I gag as I reach for the light.
I wanna play.
He is laying beside me. I sit, frozen, looking at my daughter's imaginary friend.
In real life, he must have been about 10 years old. He has short carrot-orange hair. Freckles dot his face. A thousand freckles. Hideous freckles that ooze a black sludge. His eyes are yellow. His left eye dangles at his cheek. The right eye is bloodshot and sits a little too far back into his head. He grins a wild grin filled with decaying teeth. Reaching a hand out to me, he sits up in bed and begins to giggle.
His hands are ice cold. His finger nails are black and broken. He wears a battered flannel shirt. My eyes trail down his bloody jeans to his feet which are caked in mud. My bed is filled with dirt, leaves, and other outside debris.
Maggots crawl all around his feet.
I wanna play. Let's go play.
I can not handle the smell that escapes his lips. Before I can help it, I vomit last night's dinner all over him and me. Paint recoils in terror mixed with disgust. He begins to shriek at me.
Noooooo. I wanna play. Noooooooo.
I being to scream. Paint screams back. We sit there, in my bed, covered in vomit, mud, and maggots screaming at each other. Both of us, terrified and revolted, beyond recognition.
My daughter comes running into my bedroom; followed closely by her brother.
"Momma!" She yells. She comes to an abrupt stop at the foot of my bed. She carefully eyeballs the situation. Seeing his mother in bed with a corpse brings my son to tears.
"Momma!," He cries. "Momma, is that a monster? Momma, are you ok?" My poor baby wails.
"Run," I scream at them. I try to free myself from Paint's grasp. "Run and get help!"
Paint continues to scream at the top of his lungs.
"Stop it!" My six-year-old commands. "Stop all this screaming NOW!"
The room becomes silent. Jason looks from me, to Paint, to Laura, back to me again. I look to Paint, to my daughter, to my son, and back to my daughter. Paint stares directly at Laura.
I wanna play.
"Paint," my daughter points her finger to the zombie sitting in my bed. "Not another word."
Paint quickly shuts his mouth. In doing so, his bottom jaw falls into his lap. I can't help but feel a little bad for him. My daughter has such a stern way with words. I gently pick the bottom portion of his mouth up and hand it back to him.
Tank-ew. He mutters as he fixes his bottom set into place.
"I told you we couldn't play all the time." Her eyes are a blaze with anger. "Didn't I?"
"So, why did you sneak in here and scare my poor momma? Huh? Answer me."
I wanna play. And you said to come here. Paint lets go of my arm. He bows his head and looks away with shame.
My son walks over to him and rubs his other arm.
"It's ok." Jason soothes him. "It's just that it's late. We have school tomorrow. But, you can come back tomorrow night and play. Tomorrow's Friday. Right, Momma?"
They all three turn and look at me with hope filled eyes.
"Uh, sure...."I say.
"Yay!" Laura and Jason cheer. Paint looks at me and grins.
"Does that hurt?" Jason asks Paint as he points to the eye that is hanging out of its socket.
"Let me help you with that." Before I can protest, my son has fitted Paint's yellow eye back into his skull.