Sidney's Mask

The Lullaby of Nightmares.

Sidney's Mask
Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

Thinking back, it all seems crazy and to this day my Momma still doesn’t believe me. It started when I was seven Momma hired a new babysitter who was with me 3 times a week while Momma worked night shift at the hospital. Her name was Sidney, she had long black hair and bright blue eyes, she had freckled skin and was tall and thin. I remember her...

"Charlie!" Momma hollered from downstairs in the kitchen. I came running down the hall and butt scooted down the wooden stairs. She popped her head around the corner, hearing me bump bump bump down the stairs. "Come on girly, I want to you to meet Sidney, she will be here tonight and I want you to be good and listen, you hear me?" Momma asked bending down to my level so that I knew she meant business. "Sidney, this is Charlie, she goes to bed at 8:30 or she will not get up in the morning and she has school. Dinner is in the oven and should be done in ten minutes. It's a casserole, help yourself." Momma said gathering her purse and keys as she headed towards the door. "Oh, thank you Ms. O'Malley, me and Charlie will be just fine, don’t you worry!" Sidney said in her very southern and sweet teenage voice. She had to be about 17 or 18 years old, but her eyes seemed older. How I knew this at that age, I could not tell you.

After dinner and getting ready for bed Sidney grabbed my favorite teddy and tucked me in. She sat down in the rocking chair in the corner that Momma had rocked me in when I was a baby. She started humming this very sweet melody as I drifted off to sleep. It hadn't felt like I was sleeping for very long because I felt heavy and groggy like it was late in the evening, I could still hear the sweet humming coming from the corner of the room and when I my eyes fluttered open Sidney was standing at the end of my bed rocking back and forth on her heals, when my eyes traveled up to her face it wasn't her face but a what looked like the porcelain face of a doll. The room seemed to darken and the shadows on the walls seem to loom over top of me. The air felt thick and cold and all I could do was close my eyes; I was frozen in fear.

The next morning momma came to my bed side and kissed my forehead. "Good morning girly" she said pulling my hair out of my face. I jumped out of bed and hugged her so tight, it was like the kind of hug you give someone you may never see again. My eyes must have been big and scared, Momma understood the hug and came to her knees to embrace it. "What’s wrong girly girl?" She said attempting to pull me away. I latched on, "oh momma, please don’t leave me with Sidney again.... she was" I trailed off, even at that age I knew I would sound ridiculous. She looked at me concerned, " did she do something to you?" Momma said frowning and concerned. I shook my head no. " I think it was a nightmare Momma" I said hugging her neck again. "Well girly it's time to get ready for school, and remember dreams aren’t real they can’t hurt you baby." She said standing and walking away.

The rest of that day I spent replaying the song and face in my head. I was terrified, but I wasn’t 100% sure it was real. How could I know. Momma worked again tomorrow night and I dreaded finding out if it was all in my head or if my babysitter was a monster.

Sidney showed up right before dinner just like she had the night before last. She was pleasant and we talked about my day at school and watch tv until bedtime. "Sidney I can tuck myself in tonight" I said shyly not trying to let on that I didn’t want her to. I tried to make it seem like I was an independent woman and could handle it all by myself. She obliged. I laid in the dark determined not to fall asleep. Soon the heaviness of the day took over my body and I drifted off to sleep. Only to wake up a few hours later to the humming lullaby and Sidney again at the foot of my bed. Her dark hair framed the porcelain face, flowing over the edges. Her head crooked to one side and her body rocking slowly to the melody of her humming lullaby. The darkness creeping in as it had before. This time I didn’t close my eyes, I watch as the darkness creeped around Sidney’s body and wrapped her in a darkened blanket. The only eyes I could see were blackened and dark and empty. Sidney's fingers holding on to the foot of my bed dug into the wood, blood ran down the white wood in little trickles. The door to my bedroom swung shut with such force I felt the room shake. It wasn’t the door that had shook me it was Sidney perched on the edge of my footboard, her long hair spilling down over her face. She reached out her bloodied fingers still humming. Just humming. I closed my eyes so tight, tears flowing down my cheeks, not being able to scream, or run, or move.

I heard my bedroom door open, and I opened my eyes. My room was filled with light from the morning sun and my momma was standing in the door way. She smiled as she crossed the room picking up my clothes from the floor and tossing them in my laundry basket next to my dresser. It was just a dream I thought until she noticed the red running down the footboard and frowned. "Charlie? Did you color on your bed? What have a told you about respecting property in this house?" She said scratching at it her with her nails.

I couldn't convince her it was Sidney, she said I had another bad dream. None of what I had seen made sense. It was Saturday though and I had two whole days before she came back. Momma was outside workin in the garden and I was in my room playing with my dolls. When I heard a noise come from my closet, it sounded like something had fallen from a shelf up high, but the only thing Momma kept up there was clothes I'd grown out of or clothes I'd not grown into yet. Then the door slowly squeaked open. I grabbed my doll cause of course it was the only thing that would save me at this point. And there at the bottom of my closet setting on top of my tennis shoes was a white porcelain mask. It was Sidney’s… face. There was nothing else in there that I could see. I walked cautiously over to the closet, doll still in hand and reached for the mask. It was thin, and not as heavy as it looked, but it was porcelain. It was Sidney's mask, but how had it been left here. I closed my closet and set down on my bed. Turning the mask over and studying it like I was going to be tested on it later. I slowly started to put the mask to my face, and I heard it. The song, it was the lullaby that Sydney had hummed to me. I put the mask down and it stopped. I got up and looked around the room. I hollard for Momma and got no response. I looked out the window and Momma was still working in the garden. I ran back to my bed and put the mask to my face, the lullaby slowly playing in my head, it wasn’t in my head though it was me humming it. I looked around the room and my closet door slowly opened again. I froze again in fear on my bed. Still humming. Very pale fingers wrapped themselves around the frame of the door and I tore the mask off, throwing it across my bed and watched as it tumbled to the floor. It might have broken if it hadn’t been for the plush carpet. I looked back at the door and nothing was there. I reached for the mask from the corner of my bed and felt something cold grab my wrist and yank me to the floor.

I must have screamed, the next thing I knew I was in the hospital. I woke up to the bright blinking light of a hospital room. Momma said I must have been jumping on the bed, when she heard me scream, she ran upstairs and found me on the floor in a small pool of blood. I had hit my head on the edge of the metal frame that holds my mattress and cut my forehead. The bruises around my wrist suggest something entirely different.

The hospital stay was kind of a blur they decided to keep me over night to observe me and make sure I wasn’t concussed. My Momma knew the people here, so they treated me really well. The day went quick. I fell asleep after dinner watching tv. I remember dreaming that night and being woken suddenly by the sound of my own humming of the lullaby. I jerked awake and found I was clutching the mask tightly in hands. Without thought I placed it on my face and surveyed the room. The temperature fell and the room darkened. I looked to the window that led to the hallway and seen a patient walking by. His head was down, and he walked slowly. He looked up and locked eyes with me, though his eyes were hollow and dark. His steps slowed as he approached my door and turned to come in. I was shaking and still humming, I didn’t know how to stop. As he approached my bed side, I could see open wounds on his wrists, there was no blood, just gaping open wounds. I started to scream and tare at my face. I couldn’t get the mask off. A nurse came running in and grabbed me as I attempted to get off the bed. I was so small it didn’t take much to get me back in bed and restrained. The man was gone and so was the mask.

I could never convince my Momma of what had happened. She had me admitted longer in the hospital and to appease me fired Sidney. It took months for me to be able to sleep soundly through the night. The mask never came back to me and I never seen Sidney again. Though sometimes at night in that moment before deep sleep where you feel yourself letting go, the lullaby comes back to me.

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Jamie Gonzalez
See all posts by Jamie Gonzalez