“Mama! I’ll be watching movies all night tonight. OK?”
“We’ll see how that turns out. *Yawn* Anyway, I’m off. Don’t be up all night, though.”
“We’ll see how that turns out!” Cora blinked at her mother who shook her head in resignation.
The floorboard creaked as Cora’s mother ascended the stairs to her bedroom which stood at the head of the stairs. It was a familiar creak. The floorboard at the foot of the staircase had been creaking for as long as Cora remembered.
Cora was a fan of horror movies. Tonight was “The Grudge” night. She was going to watch all parts back to back. She switched off all lights, put the DVD in the player and sat on the floor with a purple cushion.
The floorboard creaked. Cora turned around sharply, heart in her mouth, only to find Mousey looking at her and swishing her tail lazily.
“Come ‘ere, Mousey” Cora cooed, relieved. The cat walked towards her and Cora picked her up and put her on her lap. She sat there stroking her pet while waiting for what would happen next in the movie.
Crrreeaak. Cora stiffened. But this time she couldn’t muster the courage to look behind her. Silence. Cora could feel somebody’s eyes burning into her back. I’m not going to look. IGNORE. She told herself.
In the next instant, a cold, frail finger trailed her spine. She gasped and clutched her cat tighter. But Mousey suddenly felt limp. Cora, without moving her head, directed her eyes towards the cat in her lap. Mousey’s head was turned awkwardly, her eyes looking at something behind Cora. He breathed in her ear. She couldn’t breathe. His breath played on her cheek before vanishing out of notice.
Suddenly she felt hot. Really hot. She couldn’t breathe at all. Cough cough. All she could do was cough. She tried to inhale but all that filled her lungs was smoke. Fire! Alarm revealed itself in her eyes. The house is on fire! She shouted but couldn’t, Nothing came out of her mouth. All she did was mouth, MAMA! PAPA! WAKE UP! All she did was croak. She looked at Mousey and wanted to cry but tears didn’t come. I can’t breathe. Mousey! I can’t breathe! She lifted the lifeless furry body of her beloved pet and settled it on the purple cushion which now lay next to her. I have to get up. Only she couldn’t. She was tied down to the floor but she couldn’t see what it was that was holding her down. All her efforts failed. She couldn’t move even an inch. MAMA!!! The house! Its on fire. But she couldn’t see any flames.; she couldn’t see the fire. She could only feel the hotness on her skin, the smoke in the air and then she looked around at the room, the TV. All of it was embraced in a warm yellow glow. It was as if she was looking at everything through golden-colored lenses. There is a fire! I’m sure of it! But – but I can’t move!! The panic and the heat made her sweat like ice-cubes. Where is the fire?! She almost wanted to see the flames engulfing her, her house. It was her only claim to sanity in a world suddenly gone out of control, beyond understanding.
A door opened and closed at the head of the stairs. They’re awake. SOMEBODY’S AWAKE! She was relieved because now they will come down and tell her everything is o-kay. She wanted somebody to tell her everything was o-kay. But instead she heard laughter. Ugly, devilish laughter. WHAT?! Tears came now, but only because of the coughing. They filled her eyes. No! No! NO!! The laughter grew louder, uglier. The creature was descending the stairs and with every passing moment, the laughter grew louder while the distance between Cora and the monster only lessened. Tears only filled her eyes. She felt as if they will fall now but they didn’t; she felt as if they just kept filling her eyes, filling beyond the capacity of her eyes to hold them in but they didn’t fall. The laughter, louder. Cough cough. Louder. Cough. Louder, uglier. Cough. Creak.
You have to turn around, Cora. You have to see who it is. She told herself. The floorboard had creaked but the laughter had not ceased. It had also not grew louder. The man was just standing there, laughing. WHY?! Cora turned around, still coughing. But she saw nothing. Nothing except yellow haze in front of her eyes. It looked as if somebody had spilled water on a freshly done, yellow water-color painting and as if the paint was now dripping. Dripping everywhere. She couldn’t see anything except yellow, watery… something.
She turned back and looked at Mousey. Purple, watery haze. I have to wipe my tears! But she couldn’t. She had covered her mouth and nose with one hand and her throat with another and she didn’t want to let go. But you have to! She let go of her throat and wiped her tears with the back of her palm. The hand went straight back to her throat after the little errand. She could see now. She turned again to see the person standing on the floorboard. But he wasn’t there. And he had stopped laughing. Where did he go? She turned back again and saw two legs in front of her. Two jet black legs. She knew it was flesh, she was sure of it. Jet black skin. But the legs looked polished. Polished, not painted. She studied the polished-jet-black-flesh body that towered over her. Her eyes moved slowly from the feet to the head. He was laughing again but this time the laughter was muffled. She thought he had his hand on his mouth but both his hands were on his sides. She shifted her gaze to his mouth and gasped… or coughed. The mouth was covered with fur. She turned to look at Mousey who still lay life-less on the cushion next to her, the same way she had lain her there. So it was not Mousey’s fur that covered the man’s mouth; it sure looked like Mousey’s, though.
She started moving her eyes to his face again when she shot her eyes open to the chorus of Beyonce’s “Halo”.