Night of toys. Familiar plush and wooden faces

Night One  A handtapped against the window.   It wasfour in the morning and a figure stood outside Michelle’s bedroom window. Paleand grey was its figure. Its eyes were blank and its smile slight virtuallyunnoticeable.

Michelle could hear and see it breathing as loud, hoarse breathsfogged up the glass. The figure raised its hand and tapped the glass again. Itmouthed four words, lips barely moving.  “It’s cold out here.” It sounded more afraidthan anything.  Michelle pulled the covers over her head. Shelistened to the creaks and groans of the house settling.

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It would be dawn soon.  The tapping started again. NightThree  That night, Michelle dreamed of toys. Familiarplush and wooden faces from her childhood.

She saw the wooden dolls Granny hadgiven her; the hand-me-downs from her big brother, although they looked grimierthan she remembered. She found herself digging through what seemed to be anever-ending treasure trove of toys. Whatam I looking for? Michelle wondered.

  She decided for a minute later, it was QueenPaws, her favourite stuffed cat. She loved her immensely when she wasyounger.  But why couldn’t she find her? Shemust be somewhere. Surely this relic of her past was not so easily buried. But QueenPaws hadn’t been buried, had he? She’d gone missing.

She had vanished from herlife one spring night. Michelle had never been quite the same since. With thisrealization, Michelle began to sob. This rush of emotion pulled her back intoreality.

   The pale figure was standing outside thewindow again. Clutched in her mouth was a tattered stuffed cat. NightFive   Last night Michelle slept in her big brother’sbed, complaining about nightmare. How immature that must’ve sounded. NowMichelle was alone in the house. Her brother and parents had now left thepremises, the former due to a friend’s party some streets away and the latterhad a meeting to attend.

They would not return until late tomorrow.     Prior to bed, Michelle locked all the doorsand windows in the house. She made a bed for herself on the living room sofa.And as one final precaution, Michelle took a garden rake from the garden shed.She laid it next to her bed within arm’s reach.

It was raining outside. Michellelistened to the raindrops splattering against the window pane as she dozed off.Occasionally, she was convinced she heard something else.

A footstep? A bang?No, it was her imagination. Or perhaps the wind. Michelle snuggled deeper intothe blanket.

More noises. They sounded as if they were coming from her bedroom.But that was impossible. The window was closed.   Butwas it closed? The thought shot through her mind like a bullet.

 Michellesat up, heart pounding. She thought her lockdown of the house had beenthorough. But hadn’t she intentionally avoided her bedroom, trusting the windowto be closed? Yet anyone in her family could have opened it prior to leaving. Evenmore noises. Banging and perhaps footsteps. And Michelle was now certain theywere coming from her room.

She clutched the blanket, quivering. What was she todo? Investigate? Flee? But what if that really was her imagination and thewindow was firmly shut? If so, stepping out of the house might put her in moredanger.    She through off the blanket and dropped tothe floor. She had to know. Perhaps she was walking to her own death, but itwas better than simply waiting for some unknown horror to grab her. Michelle cautiouslytook the rake in her hands before she went upstairs. The house was silent, butMichelle wasn’t fooled.

She approached her bedroom with caution. Part of herexpected the door to fly open and for the awful creature to pounce. But havinga weapon of sorts made Michelle feel brave.

Brave enough to push to door openwithout hesitation.    The window was open. The wind was slappingsheets of rain and leaves into the room. Judging by the twigs and leaves that hadgathered under the window, it had been open for a while.    But the open window was not the part thatmade Michelle stop.

It was not the cause of the scream that died halfway in herthroat. She saw it within seconds and once she did, Michelle thanked God shehadn’t stepped into her room. Something was in her bed. A body-shaped lump wasvisible under the covers.

It was moving, chest rising and falling with everybreath. Michelle thought she smelled something rotten and dusty, like the pagesof a very old, dusty book. She didn’t move. Neither did the creature, save forits breathing. Michelle realized the creature didn’t notice she was there. Itdidn’t stir as she stood frozen in the doorway.

Nor did the heavy wind and raindisturb it.    Michelle eventually left the room after afew minutes, quietly shutting the door behind her. She went back downstairs,slower this time as not to make too much noise.

She ended up spending the nightin the shed. When her family returned and demanded an explanation, she made upsome half-believable story about a burglar. She refused to return until all therooms had been searched and double-checked. As she expected, there were nosigns of a break-in, save for her open bedroom window.    Michelle returned to her bedroom after thesearch was complete. Other than a few dry leaves and the lingering smell ofdecay, there was no indication of anything having slept in her bed.

However,Michelle found that one of her dresses in her wardrobe was covered in dirt andwhat looked to be a bloody handprint. She burned the dress in the fireplacelater that day. Night Nine   Michelle knew her family thought she wasinsane.

She couldn’t blame them. Every morning she’d woken up underneath herwindow after she’d slept in her bed. She was aware they were planning to takeher to the doctors. Whatever they planned to do, Michelle was confident hertroubles would end soon enough.   She opened her window that night. She waiteduntil the sun had almost sunk below the trees before she did so. Her family hadgone to sleep a short while ago.

Confident she was the only sleepless soul inthe house, Michelle left her bedroom and went downstairs.    In the kitchen, Michelle procured an old gaslamp. She also took the sharpest kitchen knife she could find.

Far more usefulthan the rake she’d previously chosen. But in this case the purpose was notmere defence.    Michelle waited until darkness had trulyfallen. Then she crept back to her room, the gas lamp held precariously in onehand and the knife in the other.

She nudged the door open, careful not to makeany noise. The creature was again lying in her bed, its form outlinedunderneath the covers. Michelle placed the lamp on the floor. She froze as ittouched the floorboards with the slightest thump.

But as the creature didn’tstir, Michelle held back a sigh of relief. Michelle waited a few more minutesto ascertain that the thing was asleep. She then approached the bed, clenchingthe knife. She was shaking but she refused to hesitate in this moment ofaction. She reached the bedside and pressed both hands against it. She easedherself up, carefully pulling herself on the bed next to the creature.   And then the creature moved. It was a slightshift, as if I was trying to get comfortable.

But it was enough to destroyMichelle’s nerve. She dropped the knife, a squeak ofterror flew from her mouth. She pressed her hands to stop it, but it was toolate.   The creature sensed that Michelle was near. It moved in one swift, jerkymotion, arching its back and bending its head in a way no normal personcould’ve managed. The creature gave a long growl, its body appearing toconvulse as it threw the covers away.   Michelle screamed, leaping from the bed.    The creature leapt from the bed as well,moving in a way like a spider.

It resembled a human, but its neck was bent atan unnatural angle as if broken. Its head was bent to one side and upside down.It regarded Michelle with its upside-down grin, a grin extending far past whatshould have been possible. Its tongue hung limply from one side of its mouthlike an excited dog.

It was panting in eagerness.    Just then, her father rushed into the room,baseball bat and his own lamp in hand.   “What the hell is going on?” He saidbreathlessly.

   But Michelle could only whimper, pointing atthe creature that now stood in silent triumph near the window.   Her father’s eyes widened in bemusement andhorror. “What the FUCK?” he gasped.    The creature moved its neck again,adjusting to a more normal position.

Its mouth stretched even farther, thepupils smaller than pinpricks. It was breathing heavily, a foot-long tonguegaping from its maw. Its legs coiling back, bracing to lunge at them.   On instinct, Michelle’s father threw hislamp at the creature. It shattered, setting the vile thing on fire.

   All at once, thecreature’s twisted face rearranged itself. It now became more human. The flamesbegan to engulf it immediately. A scent not unlike that of sulphur rose as patchesof skin burned away. The creature objected loudly, alternating between screamseerily like that of a young girl and deep screeches not unlike that of atortured bird. The skin and flesh burned away at an unnatural rate, the screamscontinuing long after they should’ve ended.

The last to surrender to theinferno was its pale, grey head.  After a while, all that remained was a charred skeleton.