The wooden floor under the bed is cold and hard. Johny can feel the pains and aches in his back muscles but he cannot leave now. He has to hide. Hide from the crooked lady that comes here crying every night.
The room lies in darkness and is only lit by streaks of silver moonlight that shines through a dull window. It's a cold night but Johny can feel drops of his own sweat fall from his temple to the floor. The boy looks around his room, making sure that he has already removed his full-length mirror to somewhere else for fear that the lady might see his reflection, see him lying down here under the bed. His eyes go from left to right and right to left again and again to check that nothing can expose his hiding.
Hours and hours have passed, Johny knows well that he has been here all alone but he can’t help feeling as if someone has been watching him all the time. Maybe it is the knots in the dark wood of the bed base above him. They, the knots, sometimes look like a pair of eyes to the boy. The empty black sockets just like a skull’s. They are looking right at him, watching him hiding down here fearfully like this is a fun game.
The clown mask he usually uses for Halloween is in his clear plastic toy box beside the bed. It is pressing its face against the transparent plastic as if struggling to come out from there. Johny wants to get out and cover the box with his blanket but it is too risky; he doesn’t know when the lady will come into this room. So he has to endure it, trying not to think too much of both the clown and the eyes.
A barred owl is hooting outside, sounding like a man who keeps asking “who?” They say this animal can see things people cannot see. Things people shouldn’t see. That’s why it keeps asking “who?” The crickets, too, are chirping here and there as if someone was whispering something to someone. The sound of water drops falling from an old rusty tap to a ceramic basin is echoing in the nearby bathroom. It harmonizes with the tricking sound of the hideous cuckoo clock hanging high on the wall opposite to the bed. Johny has never liked its sound or its look. When the long arm is at twelve or six, the cuckoo will come out of a little door in the middle of the clock and cry. Its sound is broken and raspy like an old man crying desperately for help. There are also villager dolls standing, working and dancing on the clock as decorations. When the clock strikes the hour, they all will move and dance to a lullaby song. The dolls will turn their face to Johny, staring at him with their big smiles, too big, literally from ear to ear. Sometimes he even feels their stares follow him when he walks out of the room. He really can’t look at them for more than two seconds since the longer he stares, the louder he can hear deep chuckles come from them.
The boy doesn’t have much space under his bed. He has to make sure none of his arms or legs are poking outside if he doesn’t want to be dragged out by that bony hands. Actually, it was his best hiding place when he played hide and seek with his mother. She would come into the room, walk around, open his closet and look behind the curtain but never look down here. Johny would wait until she left the room then crawl out and catch her off-guard. If his mother couldn’t find him under here, the crooked lady might not either.
Except that she can smell fear. Except that she can smell his sweaty hands or can hear his shaky breath. Johny feels like he has been hiding here for an eternity. His limbs are getting numb from not moving for so long. A slight movement is enough for the floor to make sounds and he doesn’t want the lady to hear even the faint sound of his breath.
Suddenly, the owl cries louder and the crickets begin to stop chirping. The wind goes quiet and the cuckoo clock starts to chime.
She is here.
Abruptly, the boy holds his breath, shifting his gaze from his own hands to the open door.
Her feet are so pale that he can see her purple and green blood vessels right through the skin. Her nails are cracked and yellow like old paper. Her deep sobs are telling him that she is in pain. They are full of melancholia and mourning, full of death and loss. Her dress is always black, darker than crow's feathers. The moonlight makes Johny see her shadow on the wooden floor clearly. That shadow is the reason why he calls her the crooked lady. Her back is bent down so low, so, so low. It looks like Picasso’s paintings his mother showed him once.
Out of the blue, Johny feels the tightness in his chest, followed by the feeling of pain and aching. His breath comes in short gasps. He wants to cry but nothing leaves his mouth. He can’t see clear and can’t hear that anguished sobs any longer. Memories, then, creep into his head like mildew on the cellar wall. He now remembers that this has happened before and it keeps happening every night. Every night since his death.
Before everything goes black, the boy hears the crooked lady call his name with sorrow and heartache one last time. One last time before everything will happen again tomorrow night.
Her son, Johny, died a few months ago. He was a sweet cheerful little boy with a heart problem. She remembered his face well when she found him dead under his own bed while playing hide and seek together like usual. She shouldn’t pretend that she didn’t know he hid under there every time.
The mother comes to the boy’s room every night.
Everything is kept the same as if he were still alive.
Her sobs are louder and louder as time goes by.
Her back is always hunched over when she cries.
Hi! It's Ing-ing. I wrote this one year ago when I took the creative writing class. This piece of work was very special to me since it reminded me of when I was a student. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay spooky!
— Love, Ing-ing