Short horror by Colin Devonshire
‘Come on young man, time for bed.’
Mum called me from my newly decorated bedroom. The sun was disappearing behind our garden’s lonely apple tree. I padded barefoot from the bathroom, proud of myself. Two days running now, I have brushed my teeth all by myself.
‘There’s a good boy, let me see.’
I opened my mouth wide. The minty smell of Colgate escaped, causing us both to grin.
‘Good job. Do you want a story?’
I handed her my Rupert The Bear Annual, battered and old. It was my dad’s. I not only loved those stories but more, much more. I could remember dad reading to me. I sniffed the odd scent of aged paper and clambered under the new light-blue duvet. Everything was new, except Rupert and his friends.
‘Do you like your room?’ She asked, flicking open a page.
I chose the wallpaper. It was cyan. At least that was what the man in the shop said. It was light blue to me. I had another shade of blue paint on the woodwork. Everything was blue, my dad loved blue. The desk was now covered in my artistic creations. A large sheet of paper with dark trees and bright green leaves in the background. A winding footpath with a scattering of red, yellow and orange flowers on both sides. Rupert was missing because my scissors weren’t sharp enough to cut him out of the thick cardboard. Mum had lent me her dressmaking scissors. They lay next to the bear. I will get on with that tomorrow. Then glue him beneath the tree, and it will be finished.
‘Now, where were we? Here we are, Rupert goes to the woods.’ She thought I wouldn’t notice her mouthing, “again.”
Looking around before I settled, my other books were on the shelf, teddy bears sat under them. My toy chest lid needed shutting before I could sleep. My mum caught my eye.
‘Okay dear, I’ll close it before I go downstairs.’
Rupert’s adventure ended as my eyes closed. Mum kissed me gently on the forehead and crept out. She forgot to close the toy chest. My eyes were shut, but I knew.
Did I doze then fell deeply asleep, for how long? I did not know. I woke with a start as if Rupert had jumped on my chest. I turned and faced the wardrobe. The toy chest was still open. Naturally, I didn’t expect it to close itself, but my mum should have done it before she went to her bed.
Never one to fear the dark, I always enjoyed the gloomy glow of night. We don’t have flickering candles, just my nightlight. I grinned to myself. Should I close the lid? Later, before I sleep again.
It seemed darker than usual. I peered across to my dressing table. Yes, the dim light was still on.
A brighter light showed under my door as every night, mum always left it on in case I needed the toilet. What was that? Is mum still up, maybe she needs a pee. I chuckled at the thought. Straining my ears. Were the stairs creaking? Pulling the bedding tight to my throat, I hid under for a second before peeking at the light under the door. It darkens briefly, then lights again, as if someone walked past a light. Was it mum, not a peep from the bathroom? The hallway was carpeted; the floorboards were quiet. How come I could hear a creak? There it is again. Is someone there?
Where was my Rupert book? I needed its comfort. I dashed to the desk, knocking the scissors aside as I grabbed the volume, and hugged it tightly. Two giant strides and I would be safe. Taking one step, as a thought struck me, gently lobbing Rupert to my bed, I turned and reached ahead. Stretching my fingers, I flicked the toy chest lid down. At last, I breathed as I jumped into bed.
No more odd sounds from outside, no more strange light flickering under my door. A big cuddle from Rupert’s cover and then I could sleep.
After what seemed like ages since I was still awake. Brilliant light flooded my room from a gap between the curtains. I looked at my clock, that’s odd, mum normally wakes me by now. I’d only just learned to tell the time, so couldn’t be one hundred per cent sure. Kneeling on my bed, leaning against the headboard, I looked out of the window as I opened the curtains. Beautiful, the sun was fighting its way through the tree branches opposite. No neighbours or delivery people ruined my view of my front garden, my stretch of road and my fields across the way. At least I could believe I was the king of all I surveyed. Grabbing my book, I offered Rupert the chance to be my prince. What a wonderful start to any day! The bear nodded.
Time to daydream, before mum comes in? No need to rush.
I cuddled the battered volume and dozed.
Time had passed. How long? I wondered. I could see the sun’s bright glow. It was only at the top of the branches. Where was mum? The toy chest was still closed. Good to see it hadn’t opened during my sleep. I turned off my nightlight and replaced Rupert on the desk.
My blunt scissors were there, where were mums? I will need them. Did she creep in to borrow them earlier? A drip smudged my artwork. Oh no. Then another, the trees and flowers welded together. I have dark red paint on my arm. What? How? I looked at my paint set; the lid was closed. My hands were browny red too, wet and sticky.
‘Mum,’ I called as I rushed to the door. My feet were sticking to the carpet. Small footprints, a slightly darker shade mottled the carpet. Looking down confused, I compared the size and shape of my own feet. They were the same. Grabbing the door handle and shouting louder, ‘Mum, Mum,’ I bellowed as I pulled the door back.
Sprinting, then stopping instantly, I tumbled over my mum. She was laying across the doorway. Propped up on one elbow, head against the door frame, dressed in her nightie, soaked in blood, oozing from her stomach. She was clasping her scissors. I pushed myself up and away from the wound. I didn’t want to hurt her.
‘Call the ambulance, quickly,’ she whispered. ‘My phone is by the bed.’
‘Mum, what happened?’
‘Oh, darling, can’t you remember?’
Dad too had forgotten to close my toy box. It all came back to me now. That was a sunny morning too. I’d better wait for some clouds before I make that emergency call. Smiling, I grabbed Rupert and turned the pages.
Coming soon – A new anthology of short stories – The Dark Tulip
Do you like the cover?