A decorative room; a painted, captivating and colourful room set somnolent under burdened shadows in the lightless quarters of night time. The fanciful walls; four sides of blue and white, like a sea of a room it continues around and around without offering relief from the clear contrasts of the ocean and sky. Those frozen images; pink elephants, steam trains, happy clowns and smiling suns all cast in order on strips of cover and pleasant as they dance to and fro and time and again. And a carved crib; a delicate wooden, half-broken shell, resting dead centre in the decorative room, set apart from the fanciful walls and merely a centrepiece, the sole member of the audience to the rambunctious antics of the frozen images.
It is a placid but grand place for a child; a humble yet proud background for nature to be nurtured in. The crib is comfortable and the walls are friendly to the baby; at least when she is encouraged by the light of day or the light of her lamp.
Neither is there to comfort her tonight.
The sun is shrouded by the crawling night and the lamp is sat lonely in a corner of the room, quiet under cover of darkness and cold with no fuse alive inside. The baby, she cannot sleep in this room bereft of the beloved light; she cannot fall asleep because if she does then she will be vulnerable to the shifting mass of gross black tides, swashing at the boundaries of her crib like gargoyles at the church walls; they want to creep through but the lord will not let them, he will not consent it. The baby, she tosses and turns, restlessly clutching at cover and cushion; she presses her head into the velvety fabric of her mattress, but she finds no solace. The white walls above the blackened blue of the engulfing ocean turn to wind, circulating and hurtling; it comes to life as a chilly vortex about the baby’s crib. It too wishes to penetrate the crib; to break it.
The crib rocks, gradually with hasty impetus. It sways, backwards and forwards and side to side; the ferocious blackened ocean is lapping at its surface. Its wooden shores are repulsed by the waves, thrashing the flanks of its body harshly and bitterly. The baby girl inside clutches to her comforter, her favourite toy; he is the scruffy resemblance of a rabbit – a solemn but loyal character in the dense glades of her daydreams. His stuffing is full of wisdom and his skin is resistant. Often he will tell her that the ‘bad ones’ will not harm her and she will believe his trusted words. But tonight, amongst the swell of sick ocean, even that staunch rabbit’s constitution cannot ride out the storm. His eyes shimmer like crystals and she knows he is crying. She wants to cry; so badly does the baby girl want to cry. But she cannot cry and she will not listen to the crash of the black waves on the flanks of her crib. Her crib has become a boat, a boat molested by the irrepressible swell on the outside. Her boat is weakening.
A spray of black globules enters her boat’s innards and mottles her face as faded tears of the sea. The baby splutters in disgust as the sea spray taints her face; it stings and burns. She yanks her covers and pulls herself up; she is young but strong. Her soft, breakable hands grip the boat’s rim and her eyes see out of the defensive hood of her craft.
The black ocean and all that is around her is alive: gargoyles, real gargoyles have chewed through the walls and peeled off the paint to reveal their naked evil; bony sharks emerge from the turbulent waters and display vicious sets of teeth; and the frozen, once friendly images of elephants, trains, clowns and suns have melted to become gremlins and run amok with smiles turned to vile grimaces. The air around her boat is cold and moaning; the wind now chants like a stilted banshee with a vice squeezing at its throat. The baby girl’s eyes ache and pound as the alien visions disgust her. She looks to the corner where her lamp sits, still alone. She wants to reach for it and switch it on; but the demon sharks may snap off her hands, and if not then the gargoyles will steal her and drag her into the crevices that they came from. She pulls her wise rabbit close and hugs him to her stomach, and she cries and sobs and looks all around, but all she can see are the faces of gargoyles and gremlins – all devilish – and the sparkling, deadly jaws of the sharks. And then the ‘nothing’; the void of black that now fills the decorative room; the colour of empty that has eaten the fanciful walls and turned the frozen images into miserable gremlins.
The baby girl hollers and screams, but none of her noises can oppress the cacophony of the beasts and gremlins in the black void around her; they chatter and screech and squirm. The demonic sharks began to bite the hull of her boat and the gargoyles beat its wooden surface with their wings. The grimacing gremlins scuttle across the black void like rats on a cheddar canvas, gorging and gulping down the black brie without bothering to taste it. She watched in horror as they rushed for her lamp, the last remnant of a room once bright, and snatched it from its lonely corner. She cries even louder and clutches her rabbit harder. The gremlins bit it but did not like the taste, so they unscrewed the bulb and crushed it. They laughed as they all dove down through the opening and into the lamp like a swarm of genies back to the bottle. They filled it to the brim, stuffing the last one in and then once they had finished it exploded.
The baby girl’s voice broke and her screams ceased to exist as the shock from her heart sank and jumped. The lamp fragments shattered; they scattered and shattered some more, until the fragments were but pigments of glazed silver in the void. Soon the sharks had torn through and their teeth poked past the wood to harass her. Splinters in their gums, the sharks gnawed fervently; splinters in their claws, the gargoyles scratched hungrily. Their claws punctured the wooden hood of her boat and stretched down to grab her. She scrambled for the safest corner, but lost her grip on her wise rabbit and felt him slip away as a feisty gargoyle hooked him. He was wrenched through an aperture in the hood and sucked out of sight. The baby girl opened her mouth and let a scream go free; but it was a silent scream, and nothing could be heard, and all she could do was blubber. The baby girl then turned, and crawled for her corner; a corner where the dark swell had not yet conquered. She sheltered in her corner and tugged at the blanket, but a thread was caught on a shark’s tooth. She pulled with brave muscles and held with tight fingers, but the tug of war between them was short. The blanket was flung out and the beasts lurched forward. Somehow she knew it was at an end. A gargoyle’s claw grasped her foot. A shark’s snout nudged her thigh. A swarm of gremlins leapt on her night garments. They all looked hungry, they all sounded wild and they spread their mouths wide so she could see their serpent tongues.
But a sound came from outside. The engine of a weary car stuttered roughly; sick of carrying ungrateful passengers, it jittered in the driveway and shuddered to a halt. Then the doors swung open and two people were heard. They were laughing; not laughing like the beasts were laughing. But they were not laughing anymore. The snarling sharks, the grisly gargoyles and the gritty gremlins were startled. Because you see, they can never be seen by the elder ones, for the elder ones do not believe in such raw and unadulterated machinations. And as of this it is forbidden to fall under their gaze, because the look of a nonbeliever draws blood from the lowly shadows and turns them into another part of the spectrum. And when you are part of the spectrum, you are nothing. The beasts know this all too well and they heed the warning of approaching exterminators with reluctant reverence.
The beasts flush with panic and begin to retreat, but in an orderly fashion. They know the routine, they have done the drill time after time after time and this will not be their last shift. They conduct themselves in an abrupt method of reordering the room like they owned the place. The gargoyles fly to the corners of the room, unpinning the dark void from the walls and gathering it up by the edges to fold it. The sharks cock their heads open and swim through the fading black ocean, swallowing it down like hoses in reverse. The gremlins scamper around in packs and collect the strewn fragments of broken lamp, before reconvening in the corner of the room where the lamp belongs and piecing it back together. Each breed of nightmare has its job to do; its occupation of disturbing predisposition dramatically transformed into a carefully executed act of restitution. The sound of the front-door’s lock being released reverberates within the whole house and injects desperation into the beasts as they hurry to restore the mess they had made to its original, pristine condition. The baby girl sneaks a peek at them and watches how they react to fear, nightmarish figures themselves, afraid and panic-stricken. She smiles. And just as quickly as they had generated, they were gone – vanished – seemingly extinct in the meticulous splendour of the decorative room; dead as winter behind the fanciful walls; friendly again in disappearance like the frozen images on strips of wallpaper. Never to be seen again. Gone.
The baby girl’s smile grows in a crescent line from ear to ear. She giggles minutely and turns around, and the face of a mutilated rabbit stares at her, its beady eyes bloodshot and its whiskers dripping with grimy saliva. He looks deeply into her fearful eyes. He raises a measly paw, its stuffing drained from fluffy veins, and extends it forward. She can see what he wants; she knows what he has become. He is not wise anymore. Now he is one of them; a beast. From the paw sprouts three elongated nails. His whiskers twitch. His rabbit cheeks part and show her a collection of needle-sharp fangs like those a rabid fox would possess. The fangs rattle. His eyes dilate as he sniffs the baby’s blood. He touches her.
The door to the room swings open and two adults stride inside, laughing. A switch is flicked and a light blasts colour into the room in a split second. The baby girl looks up and sees her parents, both standing in the doorway. She looks at them; just a look is all they will need to know that I am in trouble. No screams or wailing necessary. Just look into my eyes and you will know. Her parents smile; ‘she seems fine, for the moment,’ says her father, ‘let’s come back in a few minutes and cuddle her then.’
They close the door.
The rabbit keeps looking.
A few minutes…that’s all he needs.