Fiction Piece: “What the Night Brings”

What the Night Brings

 

     She had fit herself into the corner, back against the wall. Blanket stuffed into her mouth to stop any sounds that might escape her. Anything could set them off. The tiniest whimper would bring on the snarling and the snapping of their big jaws. She was so, so tired.

     It always started the same, the noises weren’t loud. There was hissing and the  swishing sounds of large bodies trying to move around in a small space. Then the noises got angrier and angrier – growling and snorting, the click-clack of clawed feet digging into the wooden floor. They only wanted one thing, and that was her.

She stared into the blackness at the space where she knew the window must be, praying for a bit of light that would let her know she had made it through, she had survived.

     Finally, when the black turned to gray, and then a lighter gray, she leaned her head against the wall and slept.

     She woke to her mother calling from downstairs and she zombie-walked into the bathroom, into her clothes and downstairs to breakfast, where her mother said, “Juliet, not again! You were up all night, weren’t you? I… I just don’t know what to do with you anymore. For the last time, there are no crocodiles under your bed.”

     But then she was always saying that. And she wouldn’t let Juliet sleep with the light on in her room.

     Daddy had talked on and on about how they lived in California and there are no crocodiles in California and shown her maps and books and just kept on talking and talking. Finally, he had given her a small teddy bear and showed her the secret pocket where he had put a flashlight, and said, “Don’t tell your mother.” 

     But that was stupid because you had to get out of the bed to shine the flashlight under the bed and the minute you stepped off the bed the crocodiles would eat you.

    So the crocodiles were still there. Not every single night. And she thought maybe they were thinking about moving to somebody else’s house. But then they started again, quietly at first, the hissing, then the snarling and growling, and they were the loudest they’d ever been, and she covered her head with the blanket.

     The next morning when she woke up the sun was shining brightly through the window.  There was a different feeling in the house. It was so quiet. She listened, and then she heard a strange noise. 

     She went downstairs and found Daddy with his head on the kitchen table, crying, huge sobs shaking his body. And she said, “Daddy?” And he said, “She’s gone. She’s gone.” He took a big swallow from the bottle on the table. 

     She went upstairs to see if it was true and found the drawers where her mother’s clothes were kept hanging open and empty. 

     She went back downstairs and her father hadn’t moved. She went into the living room and turned on the TV. She ate a banana and potato chips for dinner and at 8 o’clock she went upstairs and went to bed. She didn’t have any trouble falling asleep.  She knew the crocodiles were gone forever. They had gotten what they came for.

 

Written By: Barbara Hodder Toohey

About the Author: Barbara Hodder Toohey hates coffee. This puzzles people, and they worry…is it a subversive thing? You can find out by sharing a pot of tea. Find her scribbling away in cafes, workshops, classes. That woman in the corner with a mug of tea, a notebook and pen, that’s her.

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