A Tap at the Window
A tap against the window bit into the darkness of the small bedroom. The moon hidden behind the black-out curtain gave no light to create shadows, which left shapes and ideas up to Tina's seven-year old imagination.
Blinded by the night, Tina's senses expanded. She smelled the sticky, sweet candy stashed under bed. She felt every fiber of the sheets and blankets. She tasted the bile in her throat, threatening to erupt. The tap came again and the sound exploded in her ears. Her stomach turned. Tina cowered under her covers, doing her best not to make a sound; not to move. There was something -- something! -- outside her window on the second floor of her home.
And it tapped.
After school, waiting to be picked up, Jenna and Christy said monsters were real. They lived in closets and under beds. Tina snuggled deeper into her bed. The memory of the stories fed her fear; her bedroom no longer felt safe.
But the tapping is outside, she tried to reason. No matter. What had the girls said? "He'll eat you up! He'll gobble you up! He's got long, thin lips and long, sharp teeth. His eyes are made out of fire and he smells like rotten eggs. His skin is dead white and has got ugly veins all over his body. And he eats you! He slurps your blood and he eats you!"
Under the covers Tina kept her eyes slammed shut. Her heart vibrated in her chest and every breath sounded like a drum in her head.
Tina felt tears slip beneath her eyelids.
She bit her lip to keep from crying. Maybe it'll go away. Please, go away.
After Jenna and Christy agreed the monster would definitely eat Tina, she bawled. By the time her father picked up her she was sobbing. She cried the whole way home.
"Tina," her father said when they parked in their driveway. "Those girls were just teasing you. Monsters aren't real. They were just trying to scare you. You know monsters are fake -- make-believe?"
Her father nodded back. "Okay, so stop being irrational."
"What's that?" Tina asked.
"It means." Her father paused. "It means something that doesn't make any sense. Don't be afraid of monsters that aren't real, because that doesn't make any sense."
Feeling a touch better Tina followed her father out of the car. As her father entered the house, she spotted her older brother Thomas in the front yard with Dylan, his friend and their neighbor, playing with their father's drone.
Thomas, Tina thought. He'll know! He'll know if the monster is real or not! She ran to him, her mind set on his authority bestowed on him as the older sibling.
Tina flung her arms around Thomas screaming and crying. She told him her story. "And," she said. A giant sob filled her mouth. "And they said that it's going to eat me and kill me! Is it true? Is that thing real?"
Thomas shook his head and Tina felt relief bubble up inside of her. "Now you know about him," Thomas said.
Tina's relief stilled. "What?" she asked.
"Now you know about him," Thomas said again. "And when you know about him, that's when he comes for you."
"Stop it!" Tina said.
"He comes for you when it's dark!"
"You know about him!" Tina said. "How come he doesn't take you? Huh?"
Thomas gave her sad smile and shook his head again. "Because he only comes for girls. Your friends who told you are probably already dead."
Tina cried and ran off to the house. She heard her brother and Dylan laugh.
The sound hurried the memories away.
The noise struck Tina's heart.
The sound of the monster at her window.
Tina's shallow breath quickened. She felt hot under the covers. It's out there! It's at my window! I know about him! I know about him!
Tears streaked down her face as a hard sob ached in her chest. Breathing became more difficult in between her sobs and under the stuffy covers as panic set in. Tina thrashed in her bed until, in an effort to breathe, she threw off the covers and was accosted by the darkness of her bedroom. There was nothing; no shapes, no half-made shadows -- just the devastating dark.
Tina looked to the bedroom window. It was locked and the curtain drawn against the night sky.
There was something -- that thing! that thing! -- on the other side of the curtain.
Tina struggled against a cry lodged in her throat.
She cringed. She thought about what her brother said, what Jenna and Christy said. She thought about their laughter. Laughing at her.
New tears gathered in her eyes. They're just making fun of me, she thought. Like Daddy said. Tina slid out of bed, her fear championed by hurt feelings. It's nothing. It's nothing.
Her little feet padded across the carpeted bedroom floor. Make-believe. Fake. Irrational.
Her hand reached for the curtain and grasped it. Fear crawled in her head. It danced with the taunts from the girls and her brother.
"Nothing," Tina said, her voice a mere breath.
She flung open the curtain. A face peered back at her from the window. Tina stumbled back, her scream caught in her throat.
Tina blinked. "Dylan?"
She got to her feet and stared at her brother's friend. He sat, perched, on the small sill of her window. Tina didn't doubt his ability to get to the second floor. She watched him and Thomas climb trees together for years. Relief -- true, wild relief -- flooded over her. She walked up to the window and opened it.
"You scared me!" Tina said. "I thought you were the monster." She put her hands on her hips. "I'm gonna tell Thomas what you did. I'm gonna go get him."
Tina looked to see the large Swiss army knife Dylan nudged the window pane with. He flicked it open.
He reached out and grabbed her wrist, wrenching her forward. Her old fear had fled. The darkness was illuminated by the half moon hanging in the sky. The insanity she felt before was gone, in its stead a new fear welled up inside of her. This fear did not hide in the shadows and instead of making her feel irrational, it made her feel cold.