“Grandma… are you okay in there?”
All we heard was the sickening scratch and thud of furniture. I looked at all my siblings and cousins; they stared back at me with terror in their eyes. I swallowed hard, turning to knock on the door once again. I was the oldest afterall.
“Grandma…?” I croaked.
I couldn’t even finish the rest of the sentence. A hideous hissing seeped through the walls sending the lot of us scurrying down the long, creaky stairway into the massive living room on the ground floor. We huddled together, shaking like a nest of rabbits during a snowstorm. These yearly trips to Grandma’s house were getting worse and worse.
“Is, is… is Grandma… going to… you know… going t-to…”
Eden, the second youngest, couldn’t finish her sentence properly. My throat was dry as I fixed my gaze on her. Desperate. Agonizingly searching for words of reassurance that wouldn’t be a lie.
There were none.
All of us remembered the one night, two years ago, that Grandma had gotten loose in the house during one of her terrible fits. We’d scurried quick as lightning, staying just out of her reach, waiting for the episode to end. But that day… that day Grandma’s skirt had torn. It was her favorite skirt. The one Grandpa had sewn on for her during harvesting season the year before he had died.
A smiley-faced pumpkin patch.
But her skirt had caught on the edge of the doorway.
And the patch had torn off.
Suddenly her hissing gave way to a full on primal roar and she’d seemed to grow two feet taller! And wider! A venomous tongue whipped out from her mouth and the flickering shadows seemed to contract and expand in rhythm with her breaths. Somewhere upstairs a glass window shattered, letting in a dark gust that seemed to suck all of the breathable air out of the room. Ronin, just two years younger than me, was right in her sights.
His deathly screams were absorbed into her merciless glare. Twin pricks of beady eyed white light that somehow had offered no relief from the darkness. Claws had sprouted from her back. His skin had broken under the pressure.
“Graaaaaaace!!!” he’d shrieked for me in a frenzied panic. “Grraaaaaaacccceee!!!”
I was nearly paralyzed with fear, but all I could think was that- after she did… whatever she was about to do, to Ronin- that she would come for the rest of us. I crawled against the gust into the kitchen, grabbed the heaviest pan I could spot, pushed my way behind Grandma’s hideous form and… I had to close my eyes. I closed my eyes and swung for all I was worth.
Ronin’s screams stopped.
Did I hit Ronin?
Grandma’s body had dropped to the floor.
Did I kill Grandma?
Ronin crawled weakly out from under her, and the rest of us helped drag him out. The schizophrenic light flitting through the windows revealed Grandma to be even worse than we’d thought. I didn’t know what to do until I felt something rough in my hand. I’d raised my fist, squinting as I unfurled my fingers.
It was the pumpkin patch.
And by some strange instinct, I’d suddenly known what to do.
Quickly, while she was still unconscious, I had crudely sewn it back into its place down near her lower thigh. Her body instantly returned to its normal form and when she awakened a few minutes later, that nasty light was no longer in her eyes.
She was just Grandma again.
“It’ll be fine Eden.” My voice trembled. “A-as long as w-we s-stay down here… we’ll be f-fine.” My voice was betraying me, but there was nothing I could do, but curse its frailty and keep pushing. “P-plus, I think her patch is still o-on. If it wasn’t… she would have b-broken the door down by now.”
The silence that followed my words was not at all comforting.
I exhaled softly. Time to go check on Grandma again. It’d been a little while since I’d heard any thumping or hissing. Maybe the fit had passed and she was finally back to normal. I locked eyes with each of my cousins and siblings.
“Hey. We’ll be okay. We’ve got this. I l-love you all. And you all l-love me. That’s what’s going to get us through.” Little Hannah put her hand on my shoulder, pleading silently. The wooden floor creaked and moaned as a renegade burst of wind snuck through the chimney, nearly knocking us over with its unannounced presence.
“It’ll be okay. I’m just going to check on her. Like I always do. You guys stay down here. And if you hear me give the signal, remember- don’t wait for me. Do exactly like we rehearsed. Understand?”
I tried not to let their mournful gazes pull at me as I turned and trudged back up the stairs.
As the oldest, I was used to being the one who had to face the fears.
Which meant that I was also the one used to being utterly petrified.
It’s amazing how little use slow breaths actually are when real panic is on the scene.
This was it.
The dreaded moment.
I rapped lightly on the door.
I tapped again.
A little harder this time.
Still nothing. My shoulders began to sag with relief. She must be in there passed out or just too weak to move, because that last episode had been pretty strong. I fished the key from my pocket, fitted it into the door and turned it with a resounding click.
I pushed on it ever so slightly, peeking in through the cracks, when suddenly it flung all the way open and I felt some strange force smash into my chest, sending me sprawling to the floor. The cringing twist of metal filled my ears, followed by an explosive crack! and the explosion of breaking glass. The door had been wrenched off the hinges and hurled through one of the bedroom windows. I crawled backwards as fast as I could.
Grandma’s hideous form consumed the doorway, swelling into every inch of the splintering framework.
Lightning flashed outside, briefly illuminating her demonized body. My eyes skittered from those beady whites down to her lower thigh, flapping in the wind.
The pumpkin patch was nowhere in sight.
Wanna continue the conversation?
Join me on twitter! 🙂