Peter’s fear of the dark has only got worse since moving house, when unfortunately his night-light got broken... [read part 1]
Guest fiction by Pamela Cleaver
Quietness descended on the house, except for the creaks he remembered from the night before, of the old house settling itself. Peter tried really hard to clear his mind of horrors and closed his eyes attempting to sleep. Suddenly he heard a small scuttling noise from the corner of his room. His eyes snapped open again, alert and wary. What could it be? Instinctively he new that this was different, this was not THEM, it was something else.
Was it a mouse perhaps? A mouse would be infinitely better than a creeping, shapeless horror. He heard more scuttling and then suddenly something landed lightly on his pillow, something substantial and furry, much bigger than a mouse. A cat perhaps? He was less frightened now, he could feel warm fur against his cheek, he could move again. He put out his hand to investigate the furry body beside him, stroking the thing. It was not the silky fur of a cat who would respond to a human hand with a purr, it was dense, curly fur and its response to stroking was a kind of quiet chattering. The animal kept still while Peter stroked it, as if it was used to being handled. He was not at all afraid of it, he actually felt comforted by its presence, but what was it?
Because he was no longer afraid of THEM, Peter wasn’t paralysed any more. Stealthily, trying not to disturb his companion, Peter crept out of bed, walked to the door and put on the light. He looked back at his bed to identify his friend and saw — nothing!
He was amazed. His room was too small for the creature to have left it during the short time it had taken for him to cross the room and put on the light, so it must be hiding. Quietly (for his room was directly above his parents’) he began to search – under the bed, behind the door, at the back of the bookshelf, behind the curtains and even in the cupboard. He reasoned it couldn’t have got into the cupboard because the door was shut and no animal Peter could think of was able to open a door and shut it again. Nothing. There was no sign of any animal having visited the room at all. Peter was bitterly disappointed, the creature which he felt had come to comfort him had gone. He was alone again.
Sadly, he put out the light and went back to bed. He lay there thinking about the creature which had been as big as a cat but not a cat, woolly not silky and it had chattered not purred. What could it be? He was so busy trying to identify his visitor that he forgot about THEM and so tired out by his busy day and his earlier sleeplessness, that he fell asleep.
Next morning when he went down to breakfast his mother asked him if he had slept well. He was able to say, “yes thank you,” because, to his surprise, he really had.
“Good!” his mother said encouragingly as she stirred the eggs she was scrambling for their breakfast.
“That’s the ticket,” said his father approvingly from behind the paper.
For a moment Peter considered telling them about his visitor, but decided against it. If his mother thought there was an animal in the house she might start searching for it. Peter did not want that. He just hoped that whatever it was would come and visit him again that night. But this time he would not scare it away by putting on the light.
That day, while Mrs Newsam hung curtains and arranged furniture, books and ornaments in the sitting room, Peter and his father set to work to clear the garden. They began by raking up huge piles of leaves which had blown in from the woods behind. Then Mr Newsam got his saw and ladder to cut back trees and shrubs, pruning and tidying them. Peter’s job was to collect great armfuls of branches and add them to the mountain of leaves. Late that afternoon they had an enormous bonfire whose flames leapt up in the twilight. When Peter’s mother called them in for tea they were happy and dirty and very hungry.
After they had eaten hot buttered crumpets and some very good fruit cake, they went to admire the way Mum had arranged the sitting room. There was a fire in the big fireplace and the room looked welcoming; Peter was happy to see that the house was really beginning to look like home now. He began to think he might quite like living at Captain’s Cottage after all.
At bedtime, bouyed up by the hope of seeing the strange animal again, he was not as reluctant as he had been the previous night and still felt quite cheerful when his mother turned out the light and bid him goodnight.
“Could I have the curtain drawn back?” he asked her, “so that just a little light comes in?”
“If you want to, darling,” she said openining them up, “but there’s too much cloud for you to see the moon tonight and the sun may wake you in the morning. But try it anyway and see how you get on.” She was so pleased that he was no longer fretting about the nightlight that she agreed readily.
But after she had gone, clattering down the stairs, the old horrors began again. Peter felt the menace of THEM crowding round his bed, he was sure his voice had gone again and that he must not move a muscle otherwise THEY would get him. The darkness, a little less black than it had been the night before because of the open curtains, seemed full of strange, shadowy shapes. He was breathing faster and faster, his fear turning into panic when suddenly, this time without any preliminary scuttling, something landed on his pillow by his head. Again he felt a warm, woolly body, then a long tail curled round his head and across this throat like a comforting scarf. He turned his head sideways to try to see his companion and this time, because the blackness was not absolute, he made out its shape.
It was a monkey! It sat there on his pillow, its neat roundhead moving from side to side and its long tail moving gently. Its compact body was covered with short, curly fur like a lamb’s and it seemed to glow faintly in the dark.
“Hello monkey,” he greeted it, a note of amazement in his soft whisper as he ran his hands over its fur.
The monkey chattered as if in agreement. Slowly, not wanting to alarm the little creature, he sat up in bed; he held his arms out to it and the monkey jumped into them, clinging lovingly to him with hand-like paws.
To be continued …