Friday, September 2, 2011

Paisley Curtains

The gentle curls became sinister shadows in the dark. Scott sat with his action man against the wall on the side of the room farthest from the window. The toy was anything but active, though; it just sat with its lightning blue eyes glaring into the gloom.

The sounds were bad. The wind hissed in breathy drafts which lifted the skirts of the curtains and the dressing gown on the back of the door. It could have been a cat, Scott thought, that he heard padding across the roof. Yes, he decided, it must have been a cat.

But it was the curtains which terrified him most. The paisley fabric turned into thousands of eyes, watching, and mouths with razor-sharp teeth which seemed… hungry.

Scott tried to burrow even deeper under his duvet, but he recalled the warnings. Donald’s mum had insisted that they’d be smothered if they put their heads under their duvets whenever he slept over, and he knew the panic of pushing the boundaries- feeling the air grow moist and warm as he converted it to carbon dioxide.

He made a tube, a breathing hole so that he’d make it. Felt a little like that explorer he’d seen on television- the one who had gone in search of Tarzan, and slipped, instead, into a pool of quicksand. The reed he’d used as a straw to breathe through was left on the surface next to a pith helmet.

He could hear his little brother sleeping on the lower bunk, and the tick, tick, tick of his Hong Kong Phooey watch on the chest of drawers.

Downstairs, the house was silent, but the fridge shuddered every now and then, as if shivering from the cold it generated.

The streetlamp was lukewarm amber, and couldn’t penetrate the gloom. He listened more carefully. Somewhere in the house, he was almost certain he could hear crying.

A daddy-long-legs brushed across his face, and Scott whimpered. How would things be, when they moved to another country? Would there be quicksand in Africa? Would he have to sleep in a hammock, with the calls of jungle cats echoing in the distance? Would the curtains and fridge- the objects of fear for him now- even be there to comfort him when they climbed off the aeroplane?

The Action Man was ready. He sat in his World War II Arctic Fatigues, and prepared his rifle, the one which shot matches. He’d protect Scott. It was his pledge.