Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things That Go Bump

Title: Things That Go Bump
Author: Ranger

I jerked upright in the bath, shaken out of my reverie by my friend and lover's voice and the nearness of it. Instinctively, I did the first thing that came to mind and put the book under the bathwater.
Damn. I hastily yanked the book out of the water, shook it and dropped it on the floor, pulling the towel over it.
Thank God, Damien didn't actually walk in.
"I wondered if you were dozing off in there. It's ten pm."
And no one was anywhere near turning into a pumpkin, thankyou Mr You Need Eight And A Half Hours My Boy I KNOW You. Early nights were a current fad. Which I was being as patient with as possible, since it was clearly something he needed to get out of his system.
"Ok, I won't be long."

"Now, Nick."

Grrrrrr. Sweet as he was, he was going to have to get over this one SOON. Anyway, I was READING.
I cautiously unwrapped my wet book from the towel. Not in a good condition really. Dripping, wrinkling noticeably. I squeezed it in the towel, keeping my eyes on the door. Maybe if I stood it on the radiator-
I just checked where I'd broken off reading. Print still distinguishable. Even in the dim light of late evening. I'd sort of forgotten to turn the light on as it was still light outside when I got in the bath. It was dark now. And the only light came from the landing.
"Nick, I don't hear any getting out of the bath sounds." Damien pointed out from our room.
Possibly because I wasn't making any? I swooshed my legs around in the water, still reading.
"Nice try." Damien commended, still from our room. "Now get out."
I looked up, realising that was about my last warning. And then realised how spooked I was.
Damien's copy of The Shining dripped gently in my hands. It was one of those books you can't put down- it demands to be finished. On the other hand, it's NOT a good book to read in the dark. NOR in a room full of mirrors. God alone knows what you might see in a mirror when it's dark and you're thoroughly spooked. I was tense all over, my chest was tight and my heart was thumping.
"In a MINUTE."
I needed at least that to nerve myself to get up. The room was dark, the mirrors surrounded me, the window was curtainless-

"Do I need to come and get you?"
I hastily dropped the book on the floor and scrambled.
"I'm out, I'm out."
I heard nothing further. Out of the bath, I had a brief go at towelling off and then gave up and put his bathrobe on, since I had no idea where mine was. It was almost too dark to find anything. I grabbed the robe, AND the book, stuffed it deep into the pocket of the robe and fled over the landing to the safety of our room and him.
The room was light, he was there, large and comfortingly cheerful as he turned down the bed, already half dressed.
"There you are. Finished in the bathroom?"
"Sort of."
"Where's your robe?"
"I don't know." I admitted, looking at him hopefully. He pointed at the door.
"Go and look for it then."
"I will in the morning."
"Now. Try the dining room. That pile of clean laundry in the dining room that I asked you to put away this morning."
"I'm wearing yours now."
He Looked at me.
I trailed- slowly- onto the landing.
The problem with going downstairs at night, is that the living room light is some way from the foot of the stairs. Which meant going across a DARK room. It was still light late enough in the evenings that we didn't draw the downstairs curtains. I avoided looking the glass, which looked out into the garden- the likelihood was all too high of seeing a face there. SOMEONE there. The lounge was even worse. Patches of darkness hovered, intimidating and definitely containing something nasty.
It's strange how the most familiar items look odd at night. Strange shapes filled the room, all definitely sinister. My chest was getting tighter by the second. A sort of greenish light at the foot of the stairs made me freeze, looking at it with a horrible wariness for what I was likely to see if I looked too hard. Our house was OLD. God alone knows who lived here. What HAPPENED here.
It was DEFINITELY green.
That was it. I fled back upstairs to the light and Damien.
"Where is it?" Damien demanded, undressing.
"I can't find it." I said with all the offhandedness I could muster.
Damien didn't turn around. "Then look again, properly. If you put things away-"

"In the MORNING."


"WHY?" I demanded. "It's not going to go anywhere! I don't NEED it this minute! It's not doing any HARM down there!"

Damien pointed at the door.
"No." I said assertively. "I won't mess around at this time of-"

He took a step towards me.
I dived back onto the landing.
That green thing was still there.
Heart thumping, I stood at the foot of the stairs and tried not to look at it. The light was half way across the room.
"Nick what are you DOING?" Damien demanded from upstairs.
I took a deep breath and scuttled for the light. The room looked a bit better lit. Opening the dining room door was nasty- the room was dark and the floor in there is wooden tiles, which reflect light- but the robe was there. I grabbed it and ran upstairs.
"Got it."
"Good." Damien held out his hand. "Let me have mine back then."

Grrr. I took off his and handed it over. He passed me, swatting before I could put mine on.
"Now go and turn the livingroom light off."

Oh God.
"Yoooooooou do it." I pleaded. He goosed me and headed for the bathroom.
"Go on, lazybones."

The stairs would be GOOD for him. He needed exercise. I wanted his heart to stay healthy. Mine was still going way too fast.
The bathroom door shut. I stood at the top of the stairs, bracing myself, then went back down into the living room. If I memorised the layout before turning out the light, I could run- I stood by the light, counting silently to nerve myself.
One… two….
I snapped the light off and fled.
Upstairs, back in the quiet of our bedroom, I realised I'd left the book in the pocket of Damien's robe. I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, petrified.
It was one of Damien's college books. I'd found it in the loft the other day when we were cleaning up and started to read it. After getting myself thoroughly nervous to the point where I couldn't sleep, he took it away and banned me from reading it.
He banned The X Files and Poltergeist the Legacy for the same reason. Which was not only silly but also humiliating. Except he'd left the book in his bedside drawer, which- all things being equal, was mine as much as his- and I'd WANTED to finish it.
While he knew nothing about it, I'd felt very assertive on that point.
Now I felt about as assertive as a pricked balloon.
The bathroom door opened and I jumped, bracing myself and looking for an excuse as to why one of his books was dripping wet and in his pocket.
Uh- I got up, gathering the look of having a good reason and being totally reasonable. Just incase he needed encouraging to look at this positively.
"I just-"

"You'll just go in there and sort the bathroom out." Damien said sternly, appearing in a towel. "There is a floor in there somewhere, I remember it distinctly."

One day I will break him of that sarcastic habit. I scuttled past him, not quick enough to evade the swat.
The bathroom light failed to respond.
"The bathroom light's gone!" I objected, heading back to our room. Damien glanced up, still towelling off.
"Yes. The bulb blew. We'll have to buy another couple in the morning."

I looked at the dark bathroom. "It's dark in there."

"You can see by the landing light."


"Nick, it's nearly ten thirty."  Damien pointed out. "And I want you in bed in the next FIVE minutes. QUICK."
I hesitated in the doorway of the bathroom. WAY too many mirrors. However his robe hung on the back of the door. I hung around the doorway, scooped all my clothes into one tidy heap with one foot, snatched the book out of the pocket of his robe and fled. . The book slid into the sleeve of my robe. Damien was in bed, setting the alarm clock. I shed the robe, found pyjamas and left the book safely in the heap of robe I dropped by the bed.
"Pick it up." Damien said without looking.
Grr. I pushed the book under the bed and picked the robe up, hanging it on the back of the door before I came back to bed. Damien snapped out the light on his side, rolled over and leaned up on one elbow to kiss me.
"Okay? You must look like a prune after all that time in the bath."

I squirmed away from his investigation of this allegation.
"It's relaxing."
"Hmm." He snatched another quick kiss and turned the light out on my side. I rolled over and hastily snapped it on again.
"No- I want to read for a bit."

"It’s too late to read." Damien fended my hand down and turned the light out again. Ugh.
The image of the twin sisters from the book came horribly to mind.
I rolled over and buried myself against him.
He hugged me and settled down, an arm comfortably around my back.
"You're wheezing." He said a moment later. I took a deep breath and willed my chest to relax.
"I'm not."
"You are. Where's your inhaler?"
Um……. I thought, trying to remember where I'd last had it.
"My jacket?"
Damien got up and went downstairs. He was gone way too long. I rolled over and turned the light on, quick. It was still creepy up here alone. Too silent. Too still. Too many things waiting to walk out from under dark spaces.
Damien reappeared with the inhaler and sat on the side of the bed to watch me take it. It took a effort to relax and time the breath properly to get the drug down. He watched me, reaching to push my hair out of my eyes.
"What set that off? You were fine this evening. You did the nebuliser."

"I ran upstairs a couple of times, maybe that was it."

"What are you stressed about?"
I looked at him, wide eyed. He leaned past me to turn the light out and lay down again, pulling me close.
"Work okay?"
"Yes, I told you. It was a good day."

"Anything you want to tell me?"

"Nothing on your conscience?"
No. It was perfectly within my right to read his book…..
"Worried about anything?"
Yes. Twin sisters hand in hand in a hotel room. Apparitions. Ghosts.

Well, ghosts weren't 'anything'. They were by definition, nothing.
"Can we have the window open?" I said hopefully. Damien got up and opened the air vent at the top of the windows. And, as I hoped, left the curtains ajar to let the air in. The light from the street lamps cast a faint glow over the room, enough to see by.
I settled back, relaxing against him. THAT was better.
"So what did you want to tell me?" Damien said in my ear.
I coughed, startled. "I said no!"

I hesitated. Damien pulled me closer.
"What? Come on. Nothing's that bad."

In HIS opinion.

I knew him. For a start he'd go on and on. And my chest would get worse. And my conscience or my asthma would probably lose it sometime in the early morning, which would mean waking him-
Which would mean being awake- alone- in a dark room.
Arg again.
I took the deepest breath I could and leaned over the side of the bed, feeling for the book.
Damien accepted it with some surprise, as it was still dripping. Then he snapped the light on and looked at it. Then me.

"I dropped it in the bath." I admitted. Damien shook it over the side of the bed. Then put it on his bedside table.
"I see."
"I didn't mean to."

"You were reading that in the bath?"

"Having taken it from my drawer. Without asking."

"After I took it away from you."

"And after telling you not to read any more."
"I wanted to finish it…" I said lamely. "It’s good-"

"And tonight's a WORK night, and we BOTH need sleep!"

"I won't keep you awake!" I pleaded. Damien blew out a short, exasperated breath.
"NICK. It terrifies the living daylights out of you! And over and above you reading books I don't want you to read, I said NO. What DOES no mean?"
"No." I said sheepishly.
"Exactly. Not maybe. Not possibly. Not just when I'm looking. It means NO."
"AND going behind my back to get it and to disobey me. That is lying, Nicholas. Downright lying."

"I'm sorry……." I said pathetically, hoping I sounded too plaintive and wheezy to be cross with. It didn't work. He pulled the duvet off us both and sat up, swinging his feet to the floor.
"It's past ten thirty!" I pleaded as a last ditch defence.
"I know." Damien said grimly. "And you'll be having an EARLY night tomorrow, believe me."

The man's obsessed.
Fed up, I moved slowly and unwillingly across the bed and flopped where he was indicating. Face down across his lap. Damien slipped his fingers into the waist band of my pyjamas and tugged them down to mid thigh.
"Was this why you're wheezing and running up and downstairs?"

Silence. I pulled a face at the carpet, looking for a less positive version of yes.
"You HAVE upset yourself haven't you?" Damien's arm wrapped around my waist, pinning me down on his lap. "Which means we BOTH lose sleep, and you'll be scared to go to bed for days. I am NOT impressed, Nick."

I'd sort of gathered that. Damien's hand slapped down, hard and I was still less impressed with the sting it left.

At least at this time of night he hasn't the energy for long and complicated lectures. He just never runs out of the energy to swat. Hard. And repeatedly. And without missing an inch.
Squirming did nothing to deter him. Whimpering had no effect. Outright requesting that he desist did nothing to stop him either. Eventually I gave up any attempt at changing his behaviour and went for the pressing priority of crying. Hard.
Damien pulled my pyjamas back up before he let go and I struggled up off his lap. I couldn't see him for tears anyway, but one hand held my shoulder as he pulled the duvet straight and turned the light out, then both arms came tight around me and pulled me down to lie on top of him.
I sobbed while he rubbed my back, then sniffled, gradually calming down. Eventually, hot, bothered and not quite so tight chested, I buried my face in his neck. Damien's fingers tangled gently in the roots of my hair.
"How spooked are you?"
"I didn't want to go downstairs." I admitted into his neck.
"And you couldn't have told me?"
"You would have-"
Damien snorted. I trailed off and hugged him, feeling his arms tighten around me in response.
"Okay, so how do we de spook you?"
I snapped the light on yet once more, fumbled and found the book in my bedside drawer. Damien sighed, but pulled me back down against him, opening the book resignedly.
"One day when Pooh was thinking, he thought he would go and see Eeyore because he hadn't seen him since yesterday……."
~ The End ~
Copyright Ranger 2010

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