FOOTPRINT OF A GHOST

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Chapter 7

I was suffocating, literally, or being suffocated. Not only was I unable to breathe but there was this unpleasant sensation of something small and sort of fuzzy poking me in my gums and inside my lips in a couple of places, and I was engulfed in total darkness. I tried to move my head but was unable to and quickly realized that the soft darkness that had swallowed me was squashing my head into the mattress. And then it came to me: it was my pillow- my pillow was covering my face and in fact my entire head and there was pressure being applied to it from above me. The small little fibrous things that were poking me in a couple of places inside my mouth were feathers from my pillow. Either, the Fred Flintstone pillowcase had come off the pillow or been taken off or the feather had just made their way through the cloth or out the open end and ended up in my mouth.

I tried to scream but my howls were absorbed into the pillow that was being used to deprive me of air and prevent me from sucking breath. I began to fight frantically and fling my fists wildly upward and struck what seemed to be flesh- the skin and muscle and bone of whatever individual was apparently stealing life from me. I could vaguely hear the muffled theme from the Twilight Zone coming from somewhere in my room or beyond. I knew that older episodes of the television series were sometimes aired after midnight. I thought that perhaps my father had not gone to bed. If I could free myself and scream he would no doubt come to my rescue. Or if I could make enough noise somehow...

Then a horrible thought occurred to me: what if it was him? What if it was my father standing over me, crushing my face and mashing my head into the mattress with my pillow?

But why? Had he cracked? Lost his mind? I had heard about a man who went crazy after being fired from his job and out desperation and melancholy murdering his entire family- whatever melancholy was. Was my mother already massacred in the other room? With the little body of my future brother or sister inside her gasping for air at the very same moment as I was?!

Then as suddenly as I had realized I was drowning in darkness I could see again- more or less. The room was just about as black as it had been under the pillow. There was a very small bit of vague light that had managed to wriggle its way through all the trees, branches and leaves outside my window as well as through my curtains. There were a few feeble reflections here and there off the metal knobs of my chest of drawers or the metal fittings and blades of the old oscillating fan on top of the chest. What appeared to be a huge, sentient, amorphous cloud of wheezing darkness was amassed and defining itself over my bed, near the ceiling. I was certain it was not my imagination- something that had followed my consciousness from my dream and formed itself before my sleep sodden eyes.

I felt the sheet and blanket being jerked suddenly off my body- sort of like that old magic trick wherein the magician rips the tablecloth from off the top of the table, out from under all the glasses and plates and bowls etcetera without anything being disturbed- not a blade of lettuce in the salad bowl blinked or a cube in the glass of iced tea twinkled. And then equally as abruptly, something took hold of my ankles.

The only way I can describe it is like... rusty flesh clamping down on me, almost like metal but not really; and then tugging me, dragging at me to seize me off the bed.

I screamed hysterically, resisting to no avail as I felt myself being hauled almost like a fish on a hook, but by my feet, toward whatever was at the end of the bed reeling me closer and closer to it, despite me squirming with all my will and clutching at the sheets. The pain was like fire. I screamed again- resisting even more but losing inch by inch- being drawn nearer and nearer toward what I was beginning to distinguish from the darkness as a bulbous head with an equally round, almost surreal face.

It was Mr. Magoo.

I was freaked out even more. I was being forced from my bed in the middle of the night by a cartoon character that I saw almost every Saturday morning on television and sometimes if I went with my parents to the drive-in theater before the movies started.

Only it wasn’t really him. The real Magoo was a good hearted, kindly old dude who would get himself embroiled in one comical predicament after another because he was so nearsighted. There was nothing kind about the mug of whoever it was apparently in the process of abducting me. It was neutral somehow, the grill of my would-be abductor, inert but still cruel. Something inhuman and pitiless, predatory shown in the eyes, which were wide in the anticipation of having me out of my bed and its control. And he needed a shave.

I screamed again.

The lights suddenly blasted on in the room.

It was my father standing at the door, in his shorts and tee shirt.

“What’s going on in here?”

The bed was a shipwreck of Jersey knit and quilted cotton. The blanket and sheets were tortured and bunched and hanging off the sides to the floor like the curtains in an abandoned burlesque house. The pillow looked like a giant marshmallow with an abstract impression of my face. My pajama bottoms were missing. There were scarlet rings around my ankles sort of like they had been encased and chaffed raw by rusted medieval shackles. And there were scratches that looked like a voodoo witch doctor had taken a mummified chicken foot to the flesh of my calves from my knees to my feet.

“Good lord, son!” my father said seeing the thin ribbons of blood trickling down each leg.

He would come to the conclusion that a stray cat or a rat or something had gotten into the house and attacked my legs as I lay sleeping in my bed.

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