Annabelle and I sat close together on the couch, separated only by a bowl of popcorn. The lights were dimmed but bright enough that a false sense of safety lingered. My eyes continuously glanced around at the darkest corners of the room. A few times, I thought that I saw something move, but it was so quick that I wasn’t sure I had seen anything at all.
A Christmas movie played, but hardly kept my attention. Though it was only fall — a few months too early for Christmas movies — I kept reminding myself that fear was what fed them. If Annabelle and I were not scared then perhaps they would leave us alone.
My thoughts were broken when I heard a gentle tapping on the window behind us. Annabelle and I froze, staring at each other, wondering if we had really heard anything or if our minds were just running away with us. Before the thought could be vocalized the tapping turned to scraping.
I grabbed Annabelle by the shoulder. “I am going to go check that out,” I said trying to hide the tremor in my voice.
“No!” She pleaded.
“It will be fine. I promise,” I told her. I hoped that I would be. “If I’m not back in five minutes then go up to mom and dad’s room, grab the shotgun and call the police.”
“But what if they get you?”
“I won’t let that happen, Belle.”
“Fine,” though she agreed her voice betrayed her.
I stood from the couch and grabbed the flashlight I had put on the coffee counter. I had long since made it a habit to try to have some form of light near me at all times. When I reached the front door, I turned and gave Annabelle a reassuring smile, though I myself wasn’t too confident about the situation.
Once I left the house and went outside, the darkness wrapped around me — the coldness entered me. I shivered slightly as I looked around. I turned on the beam of the flashlight and scanned the yard. I couldn’t see anything or anyone in the yard. I walked over to the window the sound had been coming from and looked around.
I couldn’t see anything on the ground or even a sign that someone had been touching the window.
As I began to kneel down closer to the ground, I felt something wrap around me and force me to the ground. I screamed loudly as I tried to fight whatever had blindsided me. Suddenly, it began to laugh. As it did it stood from its position on top me. I pointed the light into its face to see it was Mark.
“You asshole!” I shouted.
“Oh that was great. You should have seen your face.”
“You’re a real jerk, you know that! You already know I’m scared out of my mind and you do something like this!”
Mark’s laughter died and his face creased in shame. “You’re right,” he apologized. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
“No, you weren’t,” I agreed. I motioned for him to follow me as I headed toward the door of the house, “come on.”
Mark trotted to catch up with me and grabbed my hand on our way into the house.
When we entered the house, Annabelle was nowhere to be seen. I figured that she had ran up the stairs to call the police, however, before I could run up to stop her I saw a figure move swiftly from the room beside me. It was short and it yelled.
It was Annabelle, a baseball bat was gripped tightly in her hands and she was ready to swing. I grabbed her around the waist and picked her up quickly. “It’s okay, it’s just Mark.”
The terror and anger in her eyes slowly faded as she dropped the bat to the wooden floor.
“You jerk,” she said to him. “Why’d you try and scare us like that?”
Mark’s eyes were still wide at the thought of his head being struck like a fastball over home plate. He could only shrug.
“I’m going upstairs,” Annabelle huffed as she trotted up the stairs.
“You are a jerk, you know?” I told Mark.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Why’d you come back anyway?”
Mark slowly approached me and wrapped his arms around me. I felt a warm current of anticipation rush through my veins as he pulled me in close to him. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. You said that your parents would be gone and I didn’t think that you should be alone.”
I smiled. “Sure, that’s why.”
Mark lead me back to the couch and sat down beside each other. He kissed my forehead gently. I playfully pushed him away, “I don’t think so, Casanova.”
Upstairs, in her room, Annabelle was listening to her iPod. The lights filled her room with a safe fortification between her and what lurked in the darkness of the shadows.
As her music played softly her teddy bear — one that dad had bought her when he found out that mom was pregnant — slipped from her grip and flopped to the wood flooring below. The void in her arm where the bear had been woke her.
Annabelle rolled over the edge of the bed and looked down. The lower half of the doll was hidden under the doll while the top portion rested safely in the light.
As she reached down toward the doll, it quickly vanished under the bed. Annabelle let out a horrified shriek.
“Did you hear that?” I asked as I shot up from the couch.
“Yeah,” Mark said.
I don’t know how soon he started after me, but we both ran up the stairs as fast as we could.
I tried to open the door but the latch was stuck. Mark tried too, even throwing his body into the wood door near the frame trying to pry it open. Finally, on the fifth blow, the door cracked at the latch and flew open. The room was blacked out, not a single beam of light could be seen.
Annabelle was still screaming, her bed surrounded by the shadow figures. As they grew closer to the bed, Annabelle’s screams grew louder and a strong wind began to swirl around in the room.
I turned to Mark, who could no longer hide his fear. He was shaking as he began to back away from the door. Annabelle looked to me, her eyes complete with terror. I could see the shadows reaching for her, ready to take her to wherever they took kids.
Without thinking I ran to my sister, breaking through the silhouettes and diving onto the bed, grabbing Annabelle and holding her tight to my body.
“Melissa,” she screamed, “I don’t want to die!”
“You can’t be afraid, Belle. Be strong, okay?”
Though she was shaking, she nodded.
I turned to the figures, there were so many of them that I could not look at just one.
“We are not scared of you!” I screamed, only half believing the words that came from my dried lips. Still, they approached closer. “We’re not scared!”
This time, they froze. They stood staring at us. The coldness and the wind that once howled began to subside.
“Go away! We are not scared of you anymore!” Annabelle screamed. She pulled a flashlight from beneath the blanket and turned it on moving the beam from one figure to the next. As the beam passed through them, each one burst into black mist.
The shadows began to back away. Disappearing to either mist or vanishing into the walls.
Finally, the room was empty again. The lights turned back on and revealed that we were now alone. Mark’s eyes were wide as he came in from the hall. He said nothing as he came to a stop near the bed, his eyes still glued to the walls.
“Is it over,” Annabelle asked. “Are they gone?”
I looked to the closet door which was still slightly ajar. The darkness within the open door remained and a part of me thought that maybe the shadows did too. I thought that maybe it was not over, not really, anyway. But for us, and for Fox Hollow, it was over.
“Yeah, they’re gone.”