“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” My 6-year-old daughter shrieked from her bedroom, her screams penetrating my subconscious.
I leaped from my bed, my eyes wide, darting from one side to the other. I was disoriented. I didn’t know if it were real or a figment of my imagination.
“Aargh!!!” The shriek came again, but it wasn’t ‘daddy’ this time. It was a gut-wrenching scream from a voice that sounded like my daughter’s.
“Anna!” I said in realization.
I shuffled to my feet and was about to make a mad dash for the door, but I tripped and fell, banging my head on the bedside table.
“Ouch!” I yelled, cursing at my bed cover that had entangled my legs, causing the fall. I didn’t dwell on that for long, neither did I pay attention to the pounding on my head which was from hitting it on the table.
Fleeing my legs, I ran off, flying through the door and through the short hallway leading to my daughter’s room at its end, hitting and banging into object and walls on my way.
My heart was already pounding dangerously against my ribcage, threatening to explode as I flung the door to Anna’s bedroom open.
The whole room was in total darkness. It wasn’t that way a few hours ago when I tucked Anna in for bed.
I immediately flipped the switch, my eyes diving straight to where I laid my daughter.
My baby girl was curled up in a ball, her bed cover over her tiny frame.
My heart ached, and without hesitation, I rushed to her side and grabbed her little body, encasing her in a protective hug. Her tiny body was jerking rapidly from what I presumed to be shock.
“Calm down baby, it’s alright. I’m here now,” I consoled, rocking her back and forth.
“Daddy, it’s Joe,” Anna whispered with shaky breaths.
“Shhh, it’s alright,” I said hugging her tighter.
I looked towards the wardrobe, where Anna claimed Joe usually came out from. The door of the wardrobe was wide open, but I could see the back of it clearly, and there was no one there. That’s if I was supposed to see a human being.
For the past three days, my daughter has been having these nightmares or whatever this is. Weird thing is, every time I rush into her room, the light were turned off. My daughter loved to sleep with her lights on, so that was how I always left it. That was why I found it strange that since that first day, it had continued till now.
With the revolting thought that someone was definitely creeping into Anna’s room at night, I barricaded her windows every night since that first night, so that even Anna wouldn’t be forced to open it for anyone. Yet, this was the Fourth time this week my daughter called out to me in massive fright.
“Daddy, he said he will take you away from me,” my daughter revealed, looking up at me with her teary, big, brown eyes.
My heart clenched tightly as I began to boil inside. Looking at her little scared face was breaking my heart. I wished I could just get my hands on whoever was playing a sick joke on my daughter.
“Baby, no one’s going to take me away from you,” I assured my little one. “Daddy will hurt them so bad that they would disappear, never to be seen again,” I threatened. Unbeknownst to my daughter was the hidden meaning behind my threat. Yes, I was going to annihilate whoever thinks of taking my baby away from me.
Later that morning, I helped Anna brush her teeth, gave her a bath, made breakfast, and a launch pack then prepped her for school.
I had another agenda though. This tale of Joe visiting Anna began when their class teacher told them a story about a clown named Joe, who punished kids that misbehaved or disrespected their elders.
I had thought, ‘that is fine. Anna won’t be so naughty anymore,’ because truly, my daughter was the most mischievous. But now, I was beginning to question everything. Children had active imaginations that could always seem real. Just like having an imaginary friend. However, that couldn’t explain the light switch turning off.
When we got to Anna’s school, I kissed her goodbye and made straight for the proprietor’s office. The proprietor, Mr. Steven, is a man in his early sixties. When his secretary permitted me, I entered, greeted him, and without delay, poured out my concerns. He listened attentively and then summoned Anna’s young class teacher, alongside two other older teachers, a male, and a female.
Mr. Steven relayed everything to them.
“Why would you tell your kids scary stories, Miss Sawyer? That’s plain wrong.” The older female teacher chastised Anna’s teacher
“I meant no harm sir,” Miss Sawyer began calmly. “Just like Santa, Joe is a tale of a clown who visits mischievous kids in the middle of the night, and take their most prized possession,” she explained.
“That’s downright demented and disturbing,” I fumed, staring daggers at the lady I had once admired. Yea, I know I was being a hypocrite, but come on, my daughter was severely impacted by this story and whatever it is that goes on in her bedroom at night.
She looked straight into my eyes, her pupils dancing with unshed tears, and at that moment, I wished to take back my hurtful words.
“Thank you, Miss Sawyer. You may take your leave,” Mr. Steven said to Anna’s class teacher, then turning to me, he began after she left, “Mr. Richard, please calm down, we will sort this thing out. However, amongst all the kids in her class, yours is the only one experiencing this, so I might suggest you broaden your investigation,” he stated.
“My daughter has never acted that way before, ever! Not until three days ago, right after the so-called story about a mythical clown named Joe!” I yelled, boiling with anger.
Mr. Steven stared at me blankly, making no move to say anything further.
“You know what? To hell with you guys! I’m going to sort this thing out myself. Just be ready to hear from my lawyer once this is all over,” I threatened and stomped out, ignoring the call of the proprietor and the two teachers that were still in the room.
That night, I was restless. Being a single dad was tough alright, but having to deal with something as strange as this was way beyond me.
I had tucked in my daughter for bed, with her lights left on as usual. I had planned on spreading my camp bed on the floors of her room and staying with her long enough so I could get to the root of things. And of course, to keep her from being scared.
Two hours after putting her to bed, and reading her a funny bedtime story, my phone rang downstairs. It was the landline in the kitchen.
I contemplated rushing down to pick the call or leaving the caller to drop a voicemail.
“Shoot, I haven’t set a voicemail yet,” I muttered, then stood up from my place on the floor and rushed downstairs.
“Hello, Richard’s resident,”
“Hello, Mr. Richard,” the panicky voice began from the other end, “I’m Mrs. Buttercup. My son is in the same class as your daughter,” she said with so much distraught laced in her voice.
“Okay, but are you alright?”
“No, I’m not,” she said with shaky breaths.
I had intended on telling the caller to call back in the morning so I can go back to my daughter, but with how scared she sounded, I got distracted.
“Calm down Mrs. Buttercup, what’s wrong?”
“It’s my son,” she began, her voice breaking. I could sense she was crying.
“What about your son?” I said, tension rising within me. Deep down, I sort of knew where this was going.
“He complained two days ago of seeing a scary-looking clown in his bedroom! Now….now….now…,”
“Now what?!” I yelled, the tension overwhelming me.
“I went to his room when he called out to me, but my baby…my baby… is no longer there!”
Just then, I heard series of foreign sounds, right above my head, just where my daughter’s room was situated. It sounded like many hollow boxes were dropped on the floor simultaneously, making a somewhat distant sound.
“Daddy!!!!!” Anna gave a heart-stopping shriek.
My heart did stop that instance.
My vision blurred immediately. I dropped the phone harshly, allowing it to dangle on its cord, with Mr. Buttercup still at the other end yelling ‘hello’.
“Anny!!!” I screamed, running up the flight of stairs to save my daughter from Joe.