An electrifying pulse. It beat her until she shrivelled up into her shell, a cocoon of false safety and disregard. She wanted to hide forever and ever and ever; covering her questioning stares and doe eyes under the reassurance of her thick, pearly-white, songbird-covered blanket (if she closed her eyes long enough, she could hear the songbirds hum their heartwarming tune to the sunrise). Dad, are the monsters still under my bed? Her dad wasn’t here. She ran at a faster pace.
She gulped in breaths of air, yet still remained breathless from the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Her eyes were straining to see under the glare of the darkness. All she could visualize were swarms of swirling trees, their outstretched, twisted arms waiting for the optimal opportunity to grab her by the throat and choke her and leave her to bleed bleed bleed–
Her heartbeat, she could feel it pulsing in her chest. She was afraid that the thump, thump, thump of her beating heart would give her away to the Man. He was running after her, she was sure of it. Sometimes, she could feel his hot breath against her porcelain skin; his voice nothing but a whisper that blends into the wind rushing against her tear-stricken face. Thump. A tremor crept up her spine. Thump. She collapsed onto the prickling terrain, curling herself into a soft fetal position. Thump.
Curiosity was the deadliest trait of all. Her father had mentioned that to her once, so offhandedly and off-putting that she failed to recognize the detriment of his heavy words. How could curiosity be so deadly?
She thought about it: once, a second time, thrice.
She figures that the Man’s voice sounds sweet and reassuring from a far distance, a temptation of the songbird masked by the hues of the moonlight. A grimly shadow covers her in false security. She could sense the monsters lurking, glaring at her with their beady, yellow eyes. She pretends they aren’t there; pretends that her father’s hand is reaching towards her, beckoning the sweet.. sweet call of the sunrise. The sun would rise soon, she realized with her eyes glazed over, and it would be safe for her then, surely. She was curious. She thought of the Man and his honeysuckle voice.
Curiosity killed the cat.. was that how the rhyme went? She almost wanted to laugh, a giggle bubbling up her throat with mischievous glee. Curiosity can’t kill a cat…
The Man, with words as ripe as the reddest apple on the picking tree, whispers in her ear. He asks for compliancy, the soft kneading of the human body as she sinks into the earth with every heartbeat…? Is she still breathing? She presses her shaking fingers onto every part of her arm, searching for a pulse. Thump. She pushes her hand away with a disillusioned, erratic breath. She was hoping for the eerie silence that she was so accustomed to.
She sits on the mounds of rocks and plodded grass now, pliantly. Her legs are crossed beneath her, a simple position she used back in elementary, and she stares at the crevice of the trees until her eyes sting and the monsters get angry and they make her bleed bleed bleed bleed bleed… but then she blinks. She blinks at the same time as her heart pumps blood. She blinks and the world goes dark for just a second, just a moment, but she didn’t miss it. Didn’t miss the way a light glimmered in front of her, a sanctuary, maybe even a-
It reminded her of her nightlight in her childhood room. It was a baby pink light, plugged into an electricity outlet that was once covered in layers of scotch tape. She would lie down on her bed – after a goodnight’s kiss from both of her parents – and remain transfixed on the starry illusion that the nightlight shined above in an array of sweet colors. The last thought she had before she slept every night were the dazzling stars and the smiling moon (and the black cat that would leap across the sky like a shooting star, yet she could never remember the cat by the morning).
Monsters weren’t real, she knew that from the bottom of her heart. It was a fact. Her father had checked for monsters under her bed countless of times, and always replied with the same bittersweet response:
“There aren’t any monsters under your bed, sweetheart.”
She supposes that there weren’t any monsters under her bed, because they manifested within people.
Darkness, it consumed her until she was heavy. The light was unmistakable now, almost taunting her with the gentle sway that the wind teased out of the distance. She slowly brought herself to her feet; ignoring the painful jabs that electrified every part of her body and the initial chase of the prey and the predator. The light was a temptation that she reached for with both of her fragile hands. Once again, she ran straight into the darkness, her eyes swirling around and around and around until she stumbled through the trees. She could hear them laughing at her unsteadiness, pushing her to and fro like a tiny, little doll, yet it didn’t bother her like it once did. She wanted to be saved, wanted to be rescued from the Man with the desperation for blood, and her pure instinct of curiosity led her into an open field. Led her into an area that she recognized, could identify completely, trailing her eyes by the bloody footsteps of someone.
Right back where she started. She was right back where she started, at the winding path of her own home, up the flimsy wooden stairs, centred on the faded Welcome mat, the front door flung wide open. She pondered in the artificial light of her foolishness. How did she run back the way she came? Perhaps, the Man wasn’t anywhere close to her inhabitance. The Man was out searching for her, wasn’t he? She had plenty of time to look through her surroundings.
The front door creaked as she tiptoed inside. She could only identify the hum of the fridge, an electrified world buzzing to life around her as she relaxed into a gentle pace. She felt thirsty, her dry mouth salivating at the sight of her stainless-steel tap. She filled up a glass with water. Sitting down by her plush leather couch, she fixated her eyes on the ceiling, sleek and unattainably full of bright stars. She waited.
She understood why she had ran back to the beginning of her demise, the central point of where the Man had came face to face with her being. Her father had come to save her, a job he had accepted the moment she was born with a caul adorning her face. She needed him as much as he needed her, and in a time of desperation, he had finally come around to recognize the bloodiness of her situation. Finally, she could wait in peace.
Her hand slowly clasped the one of her father’s, a cold skeletal of his once recognizable warmth, but she didn’t let that deter her. His eyes were blank, a lovely chocolate brown, but blank, nonetheless.
The Man was right across from her, sitting on the maple rocking chair that her father loved. Her gaze never left the Man’s, stroking her father’s hand for reassurance (yet he never reciprocated the gesture), and in a fleeting, sudden moment, she pointed a despicable finger towards him.
“You look just like me…”
She remembered the rhyme.
Curiosity had killed the cat, but it was the HOPE of satisfaction that brought it back.