I guess this has to do with getting older, but I like to be in bed sometime between 9 and 10 p.m., curl up under heavy blankets, open a good book, and read a few chapters before drifting off to sleep, usually by 11 p.m.
Last night was no different. In bed at 10. A couple chapters read, and with a full dinner from hours past weighing heavy, the light was out by 11. Before long, I was fast asleep.
Shortly thereafter something woke me from my deep slumber; a sound, a feeling. I’m not really sure. I looked over at the clock with its numbers glowing red, midnight. I closed my eyes and lingered in that state, not knowing if I was awake or dreaming.
I felt something again. More distinct. Closer. A presence.
I sat up with a start. Someone was in my bedroom.
It was dark, but just enough moonlight streamed past the shades, allowing me to see a little boy, six or seven years of age. He was standing by the side of my bed, staring at me. In his hands he held a red drip-candle, the wax rolling down its sides, overflowing its holder.
I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know what to say or do. I tried to steady my beating heart, the sound thumping loudly in my ears.
The boy was quiet, calm, but looked confused. Unsure of where he was. He placed the candle on the sill of the window, the flicker of the flame cast eerie shadows across his face.
I shook my head, trying to clear my mind and force it further into consciousness. I found myself asking, “Who are you?” I was more scared than I thought. The question was forceful, sounding harsh in the still of the night.
The boy simply answered, “Paul.”
Seeking comfort or some type of connection, he leaned in closer. I flinched, and then noticed hurt in his candlelit eyes at my reaction.
It was at that moment, the boy and I heard a soft Tap, tap, tap coming from another room. We looked toward the hallway.
Tap, tap, tap.
The noise came faster, louder. We locked eyes. He knew his fate as the tapping drew near across the hardwood floor. He reached out to me, his eyes begging me to hold him, to protect him. Before I could, he was gone. Disappeared from view. Vanished, with a soft cry of fear on his lips.
The tapping entered my bedroom. Trembling, I turned to look. It was my dog, Silver, a large Labrador, determined to investigate. She rushed to the side of my bed, right where the boy had stood. She sniffed the air, searching, making sure I was okay.
After finding no trace of what she was hunting, she gave me a knowing look, waited for a scratch behind her ears, then quietly padded to the foot of the bed and sat, keeping a vigilant guard.
I watched her, watching the hall. Her ears went up, curious, then laid back flat against her head. A timid mournful sound, like the cry of a frightened child creeped into my room from beyond the door.
A deep guttural growl escaped Silver’s jowls. It was more than a warning, it was a threat. The cry in the hallway faded to a whimper, and then to silence. Silver’s ears relaxed.
I felt helpless, off-balance, not sure if what I just experienced was real, or not. The candle burned low.
Soon after I must have fallen asleep, sleeping deeply through the remainder of the night.
With sunlight streaming past the shades, I woke in the morning to find Silver standing by the side of my bed, staring at me. Behind her a trail of red wax streaked from the sill and down the wall, pooling on the floor.
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