Now I lay me down to sleep

Sterrebeek Moon

My name is Victor and I am 11 years old.

I live in a place which is full of strange noises at night.

My mum says it’s because our house is old and full of cracks which let the midnight wind slip in and shake things up. But I have always believed there is something more to it than that. So one night I decided to get to the bottom of it. This is the story of that night….

Every night as I go to bed, I kiss my father and mother goodnight.

I pass by the dying fire in the living room chimney and quickly climb up the staircase which takes me up to my little bedroom. I brush my teeth, put my pyjamas on and hastily slip into bed, giving my room one last look before I turn out the light. I always feel uneasy when I go to bed as I regularly hear the weirdest sounds in the middle of the night. They usually wake me up abruptly turning me into a powerless audience to a creepy concert. For hours I lay awake in fear, only drifting back to sleep in the early morning when the sounds disappear with the rise of the sun.

On the night of the 12th of December, I was woken up again by a familiar scratching sound. I listened in silence….hiiiiiiiiiiiinnn…scraaaaatch…hiiiiiiiiiiiinnn…scraaaaatch… hiiiiiiiiiiiinnn…scraaaaatch. On and on it went methodically. At first very distant, it gradually became more insistent, reverberating on my bedroom walls. I opened my eyes and stared blankly at the darkness. The rest of the house seemed perfectly quiet.

I slowly pushed my covers away and tiptoed my way to the nearest window giving on to the cobblestoned driveway. Moving the curtains aside, I peeked out. A figure was bent over my father’s car, scraping off the ice from its windshield. At first I thought it was him but when I took a better look I realised the shape was something different. Disturbingly enough, it didn’t seem to touch the ground. It was just a dark shape floating alongside the car’s hood, with one “arm” moving meticulously across it. It suddenly marked a pause. As if sensing my presence, it turned in my direction, uncovering a pale shape which seemed to be its head. Startled, I realised it had neither eyes nor mouth; just an expressionless ghostly white shape which left you wondering what was the front and what was the back of it. I backed away and dropped down to the wooden floor to catch my breath. What was it I just saw? As I was thinking about it frantically, the scratching resumed. I gathered my courage and looked out once more; the figure was hunched over my dad’s car, scraping off the ice again …

Another noise started behind me. Click, click, click…. I’d heard this one before too. It came from the landing bathroom. Getting down on my belly, I crawled my way to my bedroom door and looked across. A faint white light was shining out and revealed a thin dark shape which kept on floating in and out of it. Just like the one in our driveway, it didn’t touch the ground and seemed to have a faceless ghostlike head. Each time it went in, it switched on the light, each time it came out, it turned it off. Click, click, click…endlessly.

A gush of wind tickled my neck as I heard the front door open. It sounded like my mother had just come home from work and was dropping off her keys in the silver dish on the entrance buffet. Her light steps were racing through the ground floor rooms, doors banging and closing as she moved along her usual business. But it was the middle of the night so I knew, as I crawled my way to the landing railing, that I would find no one there. The noises went on and on until finally fading away in the sound of her hurried footsteps coming up the stairs. As I looked over the railing, a dark shape was slowly vanishing as it came my way. After a brief pause, it started all over again with the sound of the opening of the entrance door.

My parents’ dressing room light was now also on and a shape was moving inside it, pushing the clothes to one side then the other on the lowest railing. Shrrrrrrit, shrrrrrrrit, shrrrrrit. The shape seemed to get thicker and thinner depending on where it stood. I’d been staring at it for a while when it turned its ghostly head towards me, faded out then reappeared, going on with whatever it was doing.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me. These shapes were not “alive”. They didn’t even seem to have a purpose for what they were doing… They were just enacting the same motions over and over again. I wasn’t sure why but it felt like they were caught in never-ending daily routines. Scraping the ice, getting ready in a bathroom, getting dressed, coming home from a day’s work… Again and again and again… Just like all grownups do every single day. When I looked over to the bathroom, the shape was still putting the light on and off. « How terribly enslaving » I thought…

The noises became overwhelming as another one started in the kitchen downstairs. I retreated to my bedroom in a hurry and closed the door. Looking outside, the dark shape was still at work and the street in front of our house was now packed with phantom cars, all still and silent, apparently stuck in a massive traffic jam on their way to nowhere.

I looked around my peaceful room. How strange I thought that no spectral shape mimicked any of my actions in here. Then again, I only played with my toys in my bedroom and the stories I invented here were never twice the same. There was no meaningless routine to reproduce as I constantly reinvented my childhood world….

 

What I had just witnessed left me scared and confused. These spectral movements…just waiting for their actors to step back into them when the morning came… Accompanying each person on a blind walk through counted time until reaching their final dying day.

I looked around and, in the moonlight shadows, my room seemed like a safe little ship on a rolling sea. For the first time I was experiencing a very new and different kind of fear. The fear of something which was just waiting to happen to me: that I would one day have to go out there and loose myself like everybody else in the endless hypnotic race.

 

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About writingbrussels

Seven Writers. Three Languages. One City.
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