My Mum and Dad never seem to be happy. They used to argue all the time, but now they just ignore each other. It’s mainly Dad I think. He never even looks at her. They don’t talk to me much either, really. But when they do, it’s hard to explain, they both just sound so…well, you can hear it in their voices – it sounds like there’s some thing living inside of them and dragging at them and draining all their energy. Sometimes I wish I could just go and do that Heimlich thing on them and get it out. I’d do mum first. I’d do it, and this huge, black slug-creature would come flying out and splat on the wall. I imagine it all the time. It would slide down onto the floor and then I would go and stomp on it and keep stomping until it was good and dead. I told mum about it one time. I don’t know why, I’m surprised she didn’t go mental (that’s what she usually does). But she didn’t. Instead, she did this thing she does where she smiles but looks sad at the same time and she said that I’ve been watching too much X-files.
One of Dad’s friends gave me all these old tapes of the X-files ‘cause he got a DVD player and doesn’t want them anymore. We can’t afford a DVD player. We never get anything new. But the tapes are good. I watch them all the time. Mum watches them with me a lot, but I don’t think she’s really interested in them; she just stares at the TV like she’s not really seeing it.
Mum had to go to hospital a little while ago. She did something a bit silly, my Aunty says. They won’t tell me what though. At first I didn’t think she’d come back, but she did. She can’t work though, so Dad works all the time. He’s a shift worker so he works weird hours. And when he’s asleep, he’s asleep. If you wake him up, you’re dead. I’m serious. It’s like he forgets that you’re his kid and he’s supposed to love you. I think what happens is, ‘cause he’s so tired he doesn’t see me properly and I look like this nasty, evil little demon-child that’s woken him up just for the fun of it. And to him, the scared look on my face actually looks like joy, or… or amusement. And that’s why he does what he does. It makes sense if you think about it like that.
He’s been way worse lately for some reason. I think it’s because he had to leave his old work and get a new job. The new job pays better but he doesn’t like the hours. I don’t like it either, ‘cause things went really bad right around when he got the new job. The first thing that happened was I started seeing this shadow on my curtain – it looked like a huge person, or something, standing there. It never actually did anything, just stood there. So I wouldn’t really have been all that bothered by it except for the fact that it didn’t have a head. I got myself convinced that it was waiting for me to go to sleep so it could come in and steal my head. I wasn’t sure whether he wanted it to replace his own missing one, or whether he just liked to take other people’s heads out of spite (since he didn’t have one) , but I knew that was what he was after.
I got up to go to mum and dad’s room one night because I was too scared to go to sleep in my room. Mum must’ve heard me coming, ‘cause she wasn’t in bed, she was standing in the doorway. She yelled at me – well, she didn’t exactly yell – but I could tell that was what she wanted to do. She hissed through her teeth. She asked me what the hell I thought I was doing and said that I was just being stupid. Then she said that there was nothing outside my room and that I was lucky I hadn’t woken him up. If I ever woke him up for something so ridiculous I’d regret it. She’s scary when she gets angry.
I lived in fear of that shadow being there. Every time it came, it would be in a different place – so I knew it wasn’t just a tree or something. And if it was there, I couldn’t sleep. I’d just stare at it in case it made a move. I always would end up falling asleep though, and it never came in. That was what started me thinking, actually. It had a perfect opportunity to attack, but it never did. And it didn’t come every night either – it came in patterns.
I conducted an investigation outside my window. There was this huge tree on that side of the yard (I don’t know what kind). It was pretty shady because of the tree, but all the grass was brown – the kind that feels all crispy under your feet. The only other thing there was a clothes line that came out from the wall, but we never used it because most of the strings were broken. Dad bought these portable inside clothes-line things ages ago and we use those instead.
I started checking outside my room every night after that, to see if there was anything there. Always before it got dark though, in case he came and caught me there. And whenever he came, the next morning I’d go and check for clues. But there was never anything there.
It took me a while to work out what I had to do. It wasn’t even me, actually, it was mum. I don’t know how she found out about it, cause I’m sure I never told her (I thought she’d just get mad at me). But she knew somehow and she came into my room and she said that if I wanted to know what was going on I had to look out of my window – in the middle of the night, while he was there.
I knew she was right, but I always ended up being too scared to do it. One night though, I got so sick of not knowing that I just sat up and looked. I was still really scared, but I sat up and forced myself to pull back my curtain. I let the curtain drop down behind me and sat there, but I couldn’t open my eyes. Then I realised it was way more scary having my eyes shut ‘cause that way I had absolutely no idea what the headless psychopath outside was doing. So I opened my eyes. I freaked out at first because it looked exactly like what I had imagined – a giant headless man was standing right there. I froze. It was so horrifying. I got that feeling where it’s like someone has gathered up a bunch of goose bumps and made them into a ball and then thrown them at you – they hit you hard in the chest and then spread out all over your body.
But then this gust of wind came and the curtain behind me lifted off my back. And at the same time, the headless man’s legs flew up into the air. It looked so weird. They flapped about up in the air for a second and then just sort of fluttered back down gently. That’s when I figured out it wasn’t a headless man at all. I couldn’t work out what it actually was though. I mean, I figured it was clothes, but who was hanging their clothes on our clothes line in the middle of the night? And why?
I ended up falling asleep before I could work it out.
The next morning I got woken up really early. It was mum. She woke me up and made me come outside. She didn’t really say anything I don’t think, she just made me sit down with her, outside my window, under the tree. I was pretty sleepy, so I don’t think I noticed straight away, but there was a pair of overalls hanging from the only decent string on the clothes line. There was a pair of boots sitting on the ground underneath them too.
Mum explained it all to me. She said that the clothes were only there on nights when Dad was on afternoon shift. And the reason is that when he’s on afternoon shift, he usually gets home around 7 and all he wants to do is slump in front of the TV – but his boots and overalls are dirty, so he takes them off outside, and pegs his overalls up on the line and then comes in. He wakes me up for school in the mornings and by that time he’s always gotten them down again and taken them into the laundry. I guess I should’ve been relieved to finally know, but I just felt tired and a little bit disappointed.
We sat there until he came out and then we watched him take them down. Mum looked really sad for some reason. He laid his overalls over one arm and then bent down and picked up his boots. He turned away to go back to the laundry (Our laundry is at our back door) but then I think he must have noticed us out of the corner of his eye, because he turned back around. He looked at me, frowned and then started walking towards us. He asked me what the hell I was doing up so early. He didn’t even pay any attention to mum. I got really angry then. I mean, I’m used to him ignoring her, but I think I’d just had enough. She’s always defending him whenever I complain about him and she stopped me from waking him up that time and he just acts like she’s not there. So I kinda yelled at him.
I said, “why don’t you ever talk to her?”
And he said, “who?”
And then I got even more annoyed and I said, “Mum!”
And he said “what?” But he said it with this look on his face that means if you keep going you’ll get a belting.
But I kept going anyway, I said, “mum – you act like she’s not even here.”
Then he just froze and stared at me. He stared for so long, and I didn’t know what to do so I just stared back at him. And then he bent down so his face was right in front of my face and he said “don’t you dare mention your mother to me.”
I couldn’t believe he’d said that right in front of her. I was really angry and I turned my head to look at her. But she wasn’t there anymore. Dad looked to where I was looking and then back at me. I think he was going to say something, but then he just shook his head a tiny bit – so that it was hard to tell if he was even shaking it at all – and walked away.
Mum didn’t come back after that.