Today simply enjoy “Hide and Seek”, one of the stories in Jezri’s Halloween Nightmares by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Hiding under the bed, Lena held her breath, certain that the big man could hear her heart beating. His footsteps sounded against the hardwood floor, crossing the room and stopping just beside the bed. A glob of blood stuck to the top of his boot and Lena closed her eyes, trying not to think about how it was probably her mama’s blood. If it wasn’t hers, then it was papa’s or Sophie’s and either way it was bad.
The sound of his breathing, raspy… there was a rattle to it that she recognized from when her granddad was sick. He had influenza and had eventually died. Lena wondered if this man was dying. She hoped so, after what he had done to mama. The boot made a scuffing sound across the floor, starting her from her thoughts. Clamping a hand over her mouth, the girl fought the urge to scream. The toe of his boot was inches from her face. He would bend down and find her there and then kill her, like he had the rest of her family.
Scuffing his foot again, the man turned around, barely lifting his boots off the ground. Now his heels faced Lena and she let out a slow breath, then nearly squeaked as he sat on the bed, sinking the mattress down so that she had to press herself flat against the floor to keep from being squashed. She wondered why he didn’t look under the bed and see her there. It must be one of the Guardian Angels her mama told her about at night. Mama had told her the angels would keep her safe and that if she ever needed help, to pray to Jesus.
She did that now. The big man had lifted his feet off the floor and was lying down on the bed. Maybe killing made him tired. If he fell asleep, Lena would scoot out from her hiding place and make a dash for the front door. She wondered if it was still open, or if the man had taken the time to shut it before going to look for her. Maybe that’s why he didn’t look under the bed. Maybe he thought Lena had gone out the door.
She had wanted to. Mama had looked so sad, the light almost out of her eyes. The big man had lain on her and did bad things to her. Blood was all around her and coming out from between her legs. Frozen with fear, Lena sat in the chair, like the big man had ordered her too. Papa…. He’d cut her papa’s throat and now he had little Sophie. Lena cried, screaming at him to put her sister down. He just laughed, picking up the toddler by her hair and swinging her against the wall.
Where was Sophie’s angel? Lena wondered. Where was mama’s angel? Closing her eyes, she pictured her mama’s face, smiling down at her and telling her she loved her. Wiping her tears away, she thought back, “I love you too mama.”
After the man had swung Sophie against the wall, the little girl crumbled to the wall, her body looking as broken as a glass doll. He turned towards Lena. Whimpering, Lena scooted back in her seat. She wanted to run, but her legs felt like jelly and she’d peed herself. She didn’t want the big man to be angrier if he saw that. When he’d pointed his finger at the chair and told her to sit in it, he’d told her to be good. Wetting your pants, no matter how scared you were, was probably not something he would consider as being good.
His grin reminded her of a Jack O’Lantern, one of the evil looking ones with the toothy grins. He had teeth missing. She imagined his mouth would make a scary Jack O’ Lantern. He moved towards Lena, his boot shuffling against the floor and bumping up against mama’s hand. Mama reached out then, closing her fingers around his leg and knocking him to the ground.
“Run, Lena,” Mama screamed. “Run!” Although she didn’t really scream, Lena remembered. She whispered it and blood spilled out of her mouth and onto the blue carpet. It almost matched the spaghetti stain that papa had made and cussed about for a whole hour, because the carpet had been new and they’d never get the stain out.
Lena stared at her mother’s mouth, watching her lips move and seeing the words form. The big man’s jaw hit the floor and she heard his teeth crack together. Lena thought she saw a tooth shoot out from between his lips. Then her mother said it again, “RUN, LENA,” while she tried to hang onto the man’s legs.
Somehow Lena’s legs managed to move, even though they felt like mush. She sprinted towards the hallway and the door, but the man was behind her and it was dark outside. She was afraid of the dark. Mama let her have a nightlight in her room. So Lena ran for her room. There was a monster that lived under there, even though papa said it was just her imagination. The monster wasn’t as scary as that man. Now she thought maybe the monster was scared of him too, because he wasn’t there. She wished he was, maybe he’d eat the big, scary man.
The bed creaked again. The man’s boots were staring at her again, the glob of blood still there, but smeared across the top now. Shrinking back against the wall, she watched his feet shuffle across the floor and out into the hall.
After the door shuts and the footsteps die, Lena scoots out from under the bed. Putting her ear to the door, she listened for the sound of his breathing. She didn’t hear anything. Then she heard the front door shut.
Opening her bedroom door, Lena peered into the hall. It was empty. Tip toeing down the hall, she looked around the corner. The front door was shut, but the doorknob still hung off of it, threatening to fall and hit the ground.
“Mama?” Crossing the floor, she knelt by her mother’s body. Her eyes were still open, but the light she always saw in them was gone. “Oh mama,” she cried, bending over her and letting the sobs come. She cried until she couldn’t make another tear fall. When her sobs finally stopped, she lay there, listening to the silence. There as always noise in the house. Mama singing, papa laughing and Sophie gabbing about something. Lena wanted the noise back. Outside she heard crickets chirping and a wolf howling somewhere in the woods. Behind her a boot scraped against the floor.