“Can I at least watch TV? It’s ridiculous enough my parents hired you. None of my other friends have a babysitter,” Emma says, just shy of angst.
“I bet none of your other friends have a brother ten years younger, either. Do you really want to be left at home, responsible for a toddler?” I don’t wait for her to answer. “‘Cause that’s the downside of not having a babysitter: a whole lot more responsibility on you.”
“Ugh, whatever. I so don’t need a babysitter,” she quips. The joys of misunderstood youth. Emma flops onto the couch and picks up the remote, flipping through the channels until she lands on a costume bomb musical. She glances up between the incessant trilling of her cell phone.
“Isn’t that guy supposed to be really disfigured under the mask? Seems like he’s pretty hot,” Emma says as the phantom belts out “The Music of the Night” and gets handsy with the doe-eyed ingenue. Her phone chirps, and Emma’s strawberry pink nails dance over the surface as she sends another message.
“That’s Hollywood for you. What else is on?” I pull the remote out from under her arm and channel surf until I land on an America’s Next Top Model marathon. “Emma, how much do you know about smiling with your eyes?”
We watch for a few hours, captivated by cruel, pretty things. Emma’s yawn cuts through the stilletto-heeled catfight onscreen.
“I think I’m gonna go to sleep, Rach,” Emma covers her mouth as another hollow sound escapes.
“Well, your mom wanted you in bed by 10. Guess you got to stay up a little longer. Want me to tell you who Tyra kicks off?” I say.
“Nah, I looked it up already,” Emma waves her phone, “and besides, you know it’s the plus-sized one they’ve been harping on in the last three episodes.”
After Emma races up the stairs, I turn off the television and check on Aidan. He’s still curled up tight in the adjacent room, undisturbed by the television and Emma’s cell phone. From the makeshift nursery I get a good view of most of the yard.
The tall oaks stand like soldiers, moonlight streaming between the branches. There’s a jagged darkness that cuts across my field of vision, and it takes me a moment to place it.
When the memory connects, I flatten against the wall. I hear Aidan stir, and my heart pounds hard and fast, like out of some story from my English syllabus. I know what it was, that jagged darkness, that speed.
Something moved in the shadows.
I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and send a quick message to Emma. The notification echoes above me. Outside, I hear the rhythmic clicking and scraping and I know there is not much time. Aidan wakes up and wails, and the sounds grow louder and faster.
I am almost to the stairs when I catch my reflection in the blank television screen. My dark eyes are wide and wild, and my long hair tangles and knots in Aidan’s chubby fists.
Behind me, a section of the wall crumbles and a long, thin appendage reaches through.
I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself: I scream. The thing scrambles, and more of the wall collapses. I want to move but I am paralyzed. Aidan spasms in my arms.
The thing breaks through and its body jerks toward me. As it gets closer, I can see the gleam from rows of teeth and bulbous eyes. I can hear it breathe and salivate.
A sound like a cannon fills my ears, and the thing flies back into the hole, dazed. I see the strawberry pink bracelet around my wrist and realize it’s Emma’s hand pulling me toward a panel receding from the wall.
“Come on!” She yells at me, her blonde curls dancing.
When we’re in the panic room, she drops the shotgun and pulls out her cell phone to call her parents.
“It was one of those things again. No, I don’t think Rachael’s been in an attack before. She kinda froze like I did the first time. We’re all fine though, but I don’t know what’s gonna be here when you get home,” Emma pauses to listen, looking at me with a mixture of pity, concern, and irritation.
“I told you, I so do not need a babysitter,” Emma presses the button to end the call and I burst into tears.
This piece was written for the speakeasy #130 challenge. Word count is 745, right under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!
Update, 10/11/13: This piece won the popular vote and was selected as the Editors’ Pick. Thanks for your support 🙂