A SUMMER TIME NIGHTMARE – Margaret TannerThe ground lay parched and gasping in the grips of a drought. A few birds drooped listlessly from the ghost gums which were tortuously etched against the vivid blue sky. I will never forget this scene, having come up from the city to spend the summer holidays on my uncle’s farm.
Fresh from the city where garden sprinklers gushed night and day I came to this place where it had not rained for months, and the sky had been clear for so long, my relations complained they had forgotten was a cloud looked like.
This one particular night still haunts me. Something woke me up, I couldn’t say what, but I had the strongest sensation of another presence being in the room. It was so dangerously casual up here. Everyone slept with their doors and windows open. Not like at home where we had wooden rods pushed into the tracks of the sliding windows and safety chains securing every door.
I tried to speak, but no sound would come. I, the chatterbox of the family was totally mute. No-one, not even my closest friends would believe this phenomenon.
It was dark outside, but the moon sailed the sky like a ghostly galleon, and the stars looked as if they were pasted on to black velvet. I could see this through the open window which being an old fashioned, double hung one, was quite a distance from the floor.
Fear gripped me. A fear so terrible I’ll remember the taste of it forever. I tried to scream, but couldn’t. I tried to use my hands to cover my heart in case the unknown assailant meant to knife me in the chest.
I debated rolling over and lying on my stomach, but an even worse panic gripped me. I might be stabbed in the back. Which would be worse? To be stabbed in the back or have a knife thrust into my chest. What would do the least damage? No sound would pass through my frozen vocal cords, my hands felt clammy, yet I was icy cold.
If I didn’t move perhaps the intruder might think I was asleep. Would a maniac stab a sleeping child? The curtain flapped in the slight breeze, letting in more moonlight, but the room still remained an abyss of darkness.
I had to be dreaming, I chided myself, nothing like this would happen in real life, I was having a nightmare. Probably too much television. Fear ate away at the small amount of courage I may have had, but finally I was able to croak. “Is that you Ron?” I called my brother’s name, and it echoed like a pistol shot in the darkness. Hateful child that he was. There was no answer because he was doing it on purpose. In the morning I’d tear him limb from limb, I’d pulverise him. No torture would be too great. Of course, he was only six, and small for his age, but I would have no mercy. I had been a master for years of all forms of subtle torture that an older sister could inflict on a younger brother.
Nothing moved. No sound broke the deathly silence. It was as if time hung suspended like a broken pendulum. The moon and stars were suddenly blocked out, and the room became a yawning, black, bottomless pit.
I still couldn’t move, but it didn’t matter because it was only my horrible little brother. Little! Screams rose up in my throat. He was only six, and short. That window had to be all of four feet off the ground.
I prayed as I hadn’t done before. Please God don’t let me die. I was too young to die. Hadn’t I attended Sunday school for years? All those time I had kept the collection money to buy sweets after Sunday school suddenly haunted me. Hadn’t I flicked the bottom of the plate so the offering monitor would think he heard my coins dropping? Those coins. Those dozens of twenty cent pieces forged a chain which somehow circled my throat and was slowly choking me.
I lay for an eternity loathing my cowardice. Why didn’t I scream the place down and bring my uncle running in with his shotgun. Jump out of bed. Put up a fight even. I could scratch, kick and bite, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen, immobile, an easy victim.
After what seemed like hours, the feeling of another presence in the room faded and I was once more alone. Alone, but alive. The hours until dawn stretched before me like a lifetime, but I wouldn’t close my eyes again in case the intruder returned. Now I found that my limbs could move. I could speak, but I didn’t. No use waking the rest of the household now. All I had to do was wait until morning.
The first faint flush of dawn stained the horizon, the pinks and greys announcing the birth of another hot day. At last, after what seemed an eternity I heard my aunt and uncle moving about. After throwing on my dressing gown I ran out into the kitchen.
My aunt was preparing breakfast and I heard my uncle disappear out the door on his way to milking. I babbled my story, and my aunt thought I must have dreamt it all, but I knew I had not. Before my uncle returned, we searched the house for signs of robbery. Money on prominent display was intact. Absolutely nothing was missing.
“See,” my aunt said. “You were having a nightmare.”
On my uncle’s return, he agreed that I had indeed been dreaming, but I knew I hadn’t. Nothing had been disturbed, so I had no option but to let the matter rest.
After breakfast, I went out to the front yard, and there on the dust were imprints of large, crepe soled shoes. Uncle Bill always wore leather work boots and my aunt, leather soled shoes.
I didn’t bring the subject up again, but to this day, I can still remember that terrible night, and the unexplained footprints in the dust.
Margaret Tanner writes historical romance set in
Her latest Kindle release is Savage Possession.
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