Behind the Locked Door
It was the last house on the block. Beyond it there was nothing but eerie darkness. The backyard melded with the woods which then spread over acres, covering the hills that went on beyond the horizons. Amongst those hills was the town’s graveyard, where the spirits lurked. But the little boy wasn’t afraid, he would skip over the graves with his friends as the sun painted the tips of his hair red. It was another matter entirely as the sun slowly hid itself behind those hills and the shadows became longer and longer. They would run home as the lanterns were lit in the doorways, for what lurked in those shadows, they knew not.
“Your father left when you were but a tiny baby. He left for the big city because he wanted a better life for himself. The neighbors think I drove him away because I was a nagging wife. They don’t know the first thing about it and yet they judge.” His mother would tell him as she prepared his breakfast. “They look at me like I was the worst wife, the worst woman. They don’t blame that man for what he did.” “But what did he do, Ma?” “You are not old enough to understand yet, my child. Just know that he abandoned us.”
And she would wither under the weight of lies that she kept piling on. The innocent child that looked at her for answers and all she would give him was lies. But he couldn’t know, he mustn’t know. And she would do everything she could do to protect him.
“But I don’t want to sleep, Ma. It’s so early,” he protested, kicking the quilt away as his mother locked the windows. She smiled and ruffled his hair, pulling the quilt back up. “Be a good boy now.”
He heard the soft slam as the door shut and the click as the key turned into the lock. Every day, she did it every day. He was seven now, and the sound of the turning key was as familiar as the claw shaped branch outside his window. Because it had always been there. There were days when he would fall asleep before hearing it click, and days when he could not sleep over the anxiety of the lock that kept him trapped. But when he would wake up in the morning it wouldn’t be locked anymore. As if the rays of sunshine would slip into the lock and mysteriously unlock the door. Why do you do that, mom? Because there are evils in this house that I need to protect you from. Because this is the only place where you are safe. Because there are monsters that I want to keep you from.
Years would pass and he would not question. What was this protection from? What evil did he need to be safe from? Why did he need to be locked away? Because this town is an evil place, there are things here that should not haunt you even in your nightmares. Because centuries of existence has laden this place with curses and suffering, with resentful spirits that seek a revenge. They want to bury everyone in this whole town in that solitary graveyard, until every name is just a tombstone and every house is just dust and memories.
He would ask his friends and they would laugh. But then one of them would recall the mysterious deaths that happened over years. And his mother’s stories would then spook them out too. Did their mothers lock them in their bedrooms too? “No, never did they do that. In fact they would leave the door open in case of something happening.” “And sometimes when I am scared, my parents let me sleep with them too.” So, why would she lock him every day?
He intended to find out. He waited for the click that night as he lay wide awake. He couldn’t climb out of the window, so he got ready to pick the lock, something he had practiced all day in the absence of his mother. The door clicked. For the first time in eleven years it had clicked twice. He pulled it open and tiptoed out, softly making his way in the dark. His heart pounded in his ears as he anxiously thought about uncovering the secret he had mulled over for years. The house was silent and the crickets chirped in the stillness of the night, but there was a soft rumbling that vibrated the floor. As his steps moved closer to his mother’s bedroom he could make out a raspy, heavy breathing coming from it. He stilled, wondering if he should venture further. He took another step and peeked into the doorway.
On the bed sat his mother. Her hair tangled and matted, sticking in different directions. Her eyes out of focus, bloodshot, their irises dilated, the pupils disappeared. Her mouth hung open, sharp fangs dripping with blood that sprayed all over with every raspy breath. Her hands lay on the bed, bony, withered and with sharp claws that had scratched skin sticking to them. A head lolled in her lap, the rest of the body sprawled on the floor, its guts ripped out.
“Mother? Ma? Ma what is going on?” the little boy whispered as his body shook with fear.
She gnarled and hissed as she stood up, the head dropping to the floor. His father never abandoned them, he suddenly realized as it all fell into place. The neighbors had been right, but they had no knowledge of the truth. The truth that his mother was responsible for what had happened to his father, for making him disappear off the surface of the earth. Because she had killed him. Her bony fingers clawed at her son’s feeble throat. The life seeped out of him along with the blood as he gurgled his last words through a slit throat. He now understood why she always locked his door. Because she was the monster she was protecting him from.
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