Photo Source: Pixabay
Her head is on the pillow, but her neck is rigid with fear. She is trying to ignore the dark and the feeling of unpredictability that it brings. The moon is trying to help, but it does not reach the recess where the shape sometimes appears.
For endless hours, she plays in this little room. And when the sunlight filters through the lace curtains and across the face of her plastic animals, it momentarily brings them to life. Her sanctuary by day, so warm and vibrant and filled with laughter and pretend voices—but at night the black and white room feels cold and joyless. The howling wind tonight delivers a haunting soundtrack to this little girl’s fear.
Be brave Sophie—she tells herself—be brave.
I think I saw it. I think I saw it.
She lifts the covers over her head and chants into the darkness, “Pink fluffy unicorns, pink fluffy unicorns.”
Her heart beats fast as she holds onto her breath. What was that noise?
“Who—who is here?” she whispers sheepishly. Please don’t answer, please don’t answer.
Nothing but the sound of the window rattling in its frame, until the belated reply, “I am!”
She immediately tries to scream, but such a ridiculous noise comes out. It is so silly in fact that she wants to laugh. And she does.
“Why are you laughing?” The gravelly voice asks.
“Did you not hear?” replies the girl. “I tried to scream, but only squeaked.”
“But aren’t you scared? I am a demon.”
“Of course, I am scared. But I am nine, and funny noises make me laugh.”
The sheets are dragged away, and face to face with the demon, she freezes with fear. The sight of the yellow eyes and cracked red skin sends a chill down her spine.
The demon moves towards her and reveals layers of razor-sharp teeth.
“Phew,” the girl utters, “you are not brushing your teeth properly!”
“I don’t have time for this!” the demon screams. “You are not the only one I have to visit!”
The girl reaches across and grabs its hand. So slight are her fingers compared to the long red digits of her visitor.
“Let me show you something,” she says, before closing her eyes and whisking them both off into her imagination.
“But I—” the demon splutters.
It’s too late.
Within seconds they arrive in the forest, and to the smell of pine and damp leaves.
“Can you smell that? Breathe it in,” she says.
The demon inhales but seems unimpressed.
Next, they are on the beach eating ice-cream. The demon’s red forked tongue flicks in and out at lightning speed.
“What do you think?” she asks.
The demon shrugs, “It hurts my teeth.”
And off they go again.
The waterfall cascades over the rocks and collides thunderously with the river below.
“What do you think?” she asks.
“I prefer volcanoes,” it replies.
They are at the movies watching a comedy.
She laughs out loud and thinks she notices a slight upward movement of the demon’s shoulders too.
“I prefer horror,” it says.
As the rollercoaster edges towards the peak, she turns towards the demon whose legs are tapping nervously. Screams explode as their carriage shoots downward. “This is fun!” the demon shrieks.
Next, they are at her favourite candy shop.
“Here, try this one—it fizzes on the tongue,” she says excitedly.
The demon’s eyes begin to water, “It’s like fire in my mouth.”
The gusty wind no longer provides its symphony of terror but puts on a show of delightful twists and turns as the kite dances through the air.
“Cool,” the demon says.
At the carnival, the smell of popcorn fills the air as the demon throws the hoops. She dances to the music and notices the gentle sway of the demon as it collects its winning tickets.
Suddenly, they are propelled into the blackness of space.
“Where are we?” the Demon asks.
“We are on the moon,” she replies as she kicks up some dust and laughs.
“Why are we here?”
“I wanted to thank it for being so mysterious and beautiful.”
The demon’s eyes become watery, and its mouth loses its curve.
“What’s wrong?” the little girl asks.
“I have failed. You are not afraid of me.”
“No, but I like you. Can we be friends?”
They are back in her room now. The demon holds out one of the golden tickets—the one it won on the hoops.
"If—If you ever need me, lift it high,” it says. “Can I ask why you were not terrified by me?”
“I was for a while, but I have a big brother, and he’s much worse,” she says as she grabs the ticket. “But I am trying to find the light in him. My mum says that everyone has it. Sometimes it doesn’t burn very brightly, and it can get lost in the darkness. I want to use my light to help other people find theirs.”
The demon smiles and says, “I don’t even know your name.”
“It’s Sophie. What’s yours?”
“I don’t really have one.”
She turns to put the ticket in her drawer and when she turns back around the demon is gone.
“Goodnight, Stinky,” she says as she smiles at the moon and nestles into her pillow.
The morning light carves her room in two. She wipes the sleep from her eyes and excitedly opens the drawer—and smiles when she sees the golden ticket.
“Darling, you look so fresh today—no nightmares last night?” her mum asks as she brings her a sweet cup of tea and kisses her on the cheek.
Sophie shakes her head and smiles.
Her mum nods towards the drawer, “What’s the ticket?”
“Oh, that’s from my new best friend, Stinky—they don’t brush their teeth, and they have bad breath.”
“Just like your brother then, huh?”
They laughed, and she knew Stinky would be smiling too.
After a 30-year hiatus, Mark recently gave up a lucrative career in sales to pursue his dream of being a writer. His passion and belief have resulted in pieces in many prestigious magazines, including Flash Fiction Magazine, Raconteur, Colp, The Horror Zine, Antipodean SF, Page & Spine, Twenty-Two Twenty-Eight, and Montreal Writes. His work has also appeared on podcasts such as No Sleep and The Grey Rooms. Twelve anthologies to date include his work, two of which are on the 2019 Horror Writers Association recommended list, with a further eight set for imminent release. His debut collection of horror, ‘Face the Music’ has just been published by All Things That Matter Press and is currently haunting the Amazon new release charts. It is also available via Barnes & Noble, Dymocks and all the other usual outlets.
If you are interested in checking out his book, you can find it on Amazon here. You can find his Wordpress here and his Facebook here.