In the dark, everyone can hear you scream...!
Tess could feel something crawling over her face and there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
She was on a secluded beach with Harry and his acoustic guitar. He was gently crooning ‘Happy Birthday To You’ while gazing fondly at her. Something soft ran across her forehead and around one eye. Harry’s guitar morphed into a chicken leg and a Murder of Crows swooped and began ripping at the white flesh. Sighing loudly, Tess turned and stepped into the elevator and pressing the ‘AWAKE’ button. “Bye Harry...”
She didn’t open her eyes. Tess lay there, stiller than still and waited. She loved her little brother as much as any sister could, any ‘teenage’ sister could. Four days sharing a room Dad said, just until Tim’s room is decorated. Four days. Then Dad fell off the ladder and broke his arm and four days became four weeks.
Tess could picture it in her mind. Tim would have one of his many feathers and be hiding behind her reading bean-bag, springing up to run some dead birds pride and joy across her face. He would be grinning like a maniac she just knew it.
Again, the touch of something soft around her chin this time. Now she was getting just a little angry. She turned slowly to face Tim’s bed, offering a tiny snort as she did to fool him into thinking she was still asleep. Tess counted to thirty then squinted one eye open to check the clock through her eyelashes. The bright red numbers read 11.59.
Her heart did a backflip. 11.59 was the exact time she was born. everyone knew as Mom told anyone that would listen that one minute later and it would have been a Halloween birth. “Might have had a little witch on our hands if I hadn’t pushed hard enough...!” Tess always put her hands over her ears and cried... “Overshare Mom...OVERSHARE!”
She watched the seconds blinking down until the numbers disappeared, leaving four solid zero’s in there place. Midnight and the start of Halloween.
Something ran down her forehead and nose and across one cheek. At the same time the keyboard of her laptop started tapping.
Tess’s heart had stopped back-flipping; now it simply stopped. She’d read about people having panic attacks and the symptoms to look out for and now she had the whole kit and kaboodle, right down to the bladder going into evacuation shutdown!
She opened her eyes now, wide. How on earth was Timmy doing this?
Her brother lay on his back, one arm hanging over the top blanket still gripping his action figure. His slight chest rose and fell in blissful REM sleep.
Tess clamped her knees together. Her first full day as a teenager and she was about to wet the bed. The tapping of her keyboard started again and she held her breath and listened intently.
Four soft taps, a slight pause then the keys were hit hard twice as if proving a point. tap...tap...tap...tap - TAP...TAP!
Something was stroking her forehead again and Tess tried to scream but the four hundred pound boulder in her chest stopped it.
She threw her head back into the pillow and stared at the Demon above.
There was no Demon, only her silver Helium birthday balloon with the bright red ‘13’ on each side. It was hovering just above her head, the pink ribbon touching her pillow.
A loud sob escaped Tess’s quivering lips. A balloon! Oh boy, a balloon!
The tapping started again. four, pause, two. four, pause, two. this time it didn’t stop. Something evil was running around in her stomach and she belched acid. She knew what would come next.
The balloon began to move, floating over her head towards Tim’s bed. Tess watched in mute horror as she realised it should be stuck static to the ceiling. It made a bee-line for the large red fire truck sitting proudly at the end of Tim’s bed. The glow from the full moon creeping around the curtains made the paintwork glisten. The balloon’s pink ribbon touched the fire truck.
The siren split the night wide open and kick started Tess’s heart. Both siblings sat bolt upright at the same. Tim let loose a primeval scream that tipped Tess over the edge and into a world of fear-tears and stomach tearing sobs.
The bedroom door didn’t so much open as disappear into the shadows. Something large stood in the doorframe; something large and angry.
“What in Heaven’s name are you two kids doing...? Timmy, I told you not to put the batteries back in that truck!”
Tim grabbed the fire truck and tried to turn it off. The siren screamed undeterred. Father reached the bed in three stomps and grabbed the blaring toy. It fell silent instantly. With practiced ease the toy was flipped and the battery case removed. More silence then a low slow whistle.
“Tim, could you flick your lamp on please...?”
The young boy clicked the lamp to life and a reassuring yellow glow swept the gloom. Tim stared at his father who was staring at the truck. The battery case was empty.
Tim launched himself at his father, sobbing. “T-T-Tess...!”
Father turned to his newly crowned teenager.
Tess rolled out of bed and looked in the mirror, then turned to her father, weeping.
Keeping his son close he rose and cupped his petrified daughter’s chin, studying her face. He ran a thumb over her cheek and the sooty letters smeared.
“It looks like Joc or Joe...?”
Tess suddenly got back in the game.
“Dad! The laptop was typing...!”
All three stared at the laptop. The lid was down.
Father yanked open the lid and the screen glowed an unsettling scarlet. He studied it for a second then sprang towards the door
“OH NO! JOSEPH! Tess, phone the fire department!”
Tess and Tim watched the sad spectacle from the window. Dad carried out aunt Susan while the paramedics pummelled the chest of uncle Joe.
Tess stared at the laptop message, line after line.
help US
help US
Over and over.
The silver balloon started sinking to the ground at the same time the laptop started tapping again...
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