She lay in bed, sweltering under the covers but not hot enough or rather comfortable enough to sleep without covers. It wasn’t her bed. It wasn’t her room. It wasn’t even her house. You can never know what kind of demons are lurking in the darkness of someone else’s home, and without blankets you’ll always feel vulnerable and exposed.
The children she was baby sitting for the next few days were all in bed and safe. Tucked in and asleep. She’d made sure they had all brushed their teeth and washed their faces before crawling into bed. And although babysitting does come with stress, she had essentially nothing to worry about at the present time. She should have been sleeping. But she wasn’t. She felt eerie.
She glanced at the digital clock on the night stand beside the bed that wasn’t hers. It was midnight. Her eyes felt heavy and yet she dared not shut them. She went over the mental list of assignments she had finished today and a mental list of assignments for tomorrow. The children she was caring for were sweet. The parents had gone on an abrupt multiple day vacation which she thought was unusual but she was happy to look after the little ones. Minutes passed as she listened to the darkness and watched the silence outside the high window and inside the bedroom. Finally sleep grew too strong, pulling her into its own arms. Time continued to pass as she slept.
She woke with a start.
She twisted in the covers, which were oddly cold and chilly as opposed to earlier, and examined the clock. It was three a.m. She inhaled and exhaled and stared at nothing. Why was she awake? the alertness of her mind flushed away promptly. Time at night is hard to tell and all too soon the dream-state of sleep started to engulf her once more.
Suddenly she became aware of a wordless song playing and coming from nowhere. It was a sweet song. A song a mother might play for her child as he took a nap or a tune one would play for a baby as he rolled around happily on the floor. It reminded her of songs she used to listen to as a toddler. Songs she learned in preschool. A happy, fanciful song. But why was it playing?
The careless, incoherent part of her wanted to ignore it and dismiss it as a dream. The logical part of her however, although buried under a thick obstinate blanket of drowsiness, knew that it wasn’t a dream. The logical part of her also knew that it was three a.m. Who and how would there play a wordless children’s song at such a time as this?
She continued to lay in bed in bewilderment, not yet awake enough to bring her logical self to the surface. Not asleep either. Her eyes were happy to stay shut as minutes passed and the tune played eternally. She couldn’t even remember when the tune had begun. It had simply always been. It almost made her feel warm and fuzzy on the inside–almost— but there was something about it that just wasn’t right. Something about it that made her feel uneasy before she could feel calm and content.
Then, over the sound of the endless song that played throughout the night, another sound was heard. The subtle yet distinct sound of old squeaky door hinges, followed by the profound slam of the door itself. ‘Funny’ she thought ‘how it sounds just like the back door by the kitchen…’
At that moment she broke through the heavy, obstinate curtain of sleep that had muddled her mind and sat up in bed. Her eyes were wide and every muscle in her body was tense. She didn’t dare breath or blink but her mind raced at breakneck speed. At last, realization dawned on her as she gasped in utter horror. She threw herself out of bed and wrenched her own bedroom door open. Choking and coughing, she raced down the hall; hopeless and terrified cries and sobs escaping her throat. She raced passed the open door of one of the children’s bedrooms, screaming as she so unfortunately gazed upon its agape stance, and the repulsive darkness within. And now how she wished she hadn’t waited so long to fully wake; how she wished sleep to be cursed! For the sound of hinges could have been nothing other than one of the children leaving the house, and the song… the song which still played its godforsaken tune… was the ice cream truck.