Rayne Kaa Hedberg
Why are you awake? Don’t you know you should be asleep by now? It’s still dark outside and hours shy of morning. Your mother put you to bed a long time ago, and your father read you that story you like about the little prince going out on an adventure. Why aren’t you holding up your end of the deal? One more chapter, he said, and then it’s bedtime. You really shouldn’t be up now. It’s not safe, and I know you are aware of that.
Oh, I see. You need to use the bathroom.
Can’t you hold it in?
Are you sure?
I suppose you have no choice.
All right, here is what we’ll do. I will guide you through this, but you have to promise to do everything I say. Everything. I mean it. If you don’t that means I can’t protect you, and thatmeans you’ll be out there all on your own. You don’t want that.
Do we have a deal?
If we are doing this I have to lay down some ground rules. First of all, you have to stay quiet. I know it’s hard, but be as cautious as you can and make as little sound as possible. This is very important, as you don’t want to wake anyone up, or worse, draw attention to yourself. I can’t stress this enough, which is why it’s rule number one.
The second rule is: make sure to be swift. Don’t linger any longer than necessary and do not get distracted. The longer you’re out of the safety of your bed the more vulnerable you become and the more dangerous it gets for you. Whatever you want to do it can wait until morning. Remember you’re only doing this because you can’t afford to wet the bed.
Lastly, perhaps the most important rule of them all:
Don’t look back.
We should get this over with as soon as possible, so I will start guiding you through it now. Just follow my instructions and you should be able to go there and back without any hiccups.
First things first, remove the blanket. Don’t just push it off like that. Make sure it is accessible once you return. Why? So you can easily pull it over yourself again once you’re back in bed. You might need that later. If you’re lucky, it won’t come to that, but it’s never a bad idea to have a backup.
Remember, every second counts.
Now put your feet down and step out into the room. Don’t keep them there for too long! You don’t want that something under your bed to reach out and grab a hold of your ankles. Don’t even think about bowing down to peer into the darkness. Trust me, you do not want to know what’s underneath and you wouldn’t want it to look back at you.
Next, carefully tread across the floor to get to the door. Once you’re there, push the handle down slowly to avoid that loud clicking noise it makes every time someone opens it. Such things don’t really matter during the day; you don’t think too much of it when the sun is high, but it’s a completely different world at night. A much more dangerous one.
Well done, now the next step is to pull the door open without any nasty creaking. That’s loud even in daylight so you can imagine how much noise it would make in the dead of the night.
Now, tiptoe across the hall to get to the bathroom. I know the distance seems to be so much longer than it usually is. I won’t lie to you. It’s true. The door is farther away than it used to be and it will take you longer to get there. Like I said, the world is a completely different place at night. Those twenty steps have grown into miles.
Do you still want to go through with this?
Are you sure you can’t hold it in?
Fine, I can’t stop you, even if you only have yourself to blame. You’re putting yourself at risk every time you forget to go before you sleep. It’s during the night they come out, once the sun is no longer around to protect you and there’s no skirt of Mummy’s to hide behind, no Daddy to check the closet for monsters. The light is what keeps you safe, but only if it’s already there before dark settles. Flip that switch now and you’ll literally be lighting a beacon that will, without a doubt, lead them directly to you. We don’t want that to happen, so simply forget about it. Who they are? Never you mind. It’s better if you don’t know. Go, before you’ve wasted too much time.
A bit faster, if you can. The hallway is the most vulnerable location for a nightwalker, as you can imagine. Once you’re out in the open they can come at you from any possible direction. There’ also no place to hide. I bet you already noticed that.
Don’t look at the photos hanging on the wall. They might look back at you if you’re unlucky. Everything is not what it used to be, you see. I’m afraid you can’t trust anything during these hours. For your own safety, try not to look anywhere but where you’re going.
Keep your eyes on the destination.
OK, you made it so far. I know I said you really shouldn’t turn the lights on, but I am aware of the problem that you can’t go about your business in the dark. In fact, that would be quite dangerous as well. I’ll wait out here until you’re done.
I know Mum and Dad will be angry with you if they see you haven’t flushed, but at this point it would mean you’d have to spend the rest of the night in the bathtub. You see, every last one of them would be waiting outside the door to get you. I’m not joking, flushing is like a siren calling famished hounds to the steak, and you don’t want to be the steak. You’ll just have to go back early and flush before they wake up so they don’t notice. That way you won’t be in any trouble.
Just to be sure, you should check so nothing is ready to ambush you. Open it up a bit, just enough so you can press your face against the crack and peer out to see if the coast is clear.
Can you see anything out there?
You’re in luck; it seems you have managed to get by undetected. All you have to do now is remain invisible until you can seek protection underneath the covers again. Once you’re there you’ll be safe. But only then.
No time to waste. Go back the same way you came.
That’s it, on your tiptoes.
And don’t look at the photographs, I said, especially not at the one of Grandpa sitting in that rocking chair on the summerhouse porch. Although it is your grandpa, it’s a much darker version of him, one with a smile that doesn’t look quite right, just like his eyes aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.
Just a little bit further—
What was that?
Was that your imagination playing tricks or did you just see a shadow drift through the living room in the corner of your eye?
I told you not to look. It’s hard to tell when you can barely make out anything but shapes, but they are fully aware of that. You can trust that they use it to their benefit.
You won’t see them coming.
I really wouldn’t stay to find out if I were you. There’s still a long way to go and I want this dreadful endeavour to be over just as much as you do.
Keep moving forward.
Keep going. If you only do your piece you will reach your room eventually, although it might feel like ages until the path is crossed. Watch out so you don’t step on any of the creaky boards. That would be a disaster you can’t afford at this point.
Don’t lose your cool. This is no time to have the yellow fever. Keep focused and proceed with caution, otherwise you’re bound to make a mistake you’ll regret.
At least for a while.
…Did you hear that?
That was definitely a noise, and it wasn’t yours.
Don’t try to see what it was.
What are you doing? Don’t even try to turn around. Have you forgotten the most important rule? If you want to get out of here in one piece you have to do exactly as I say, word by word.
There it is again.
Was it louder this time?
Your heart beating hard inside your chest says it was.
That means it’s getting closer.
You have to keep moving. I know all your senses are telling you to do only one thing, but doing so will lead to your doom. You have to listen to what I’m telling you. It’s the only way to get through this. You have to trust me.
I mean it.
You can’t turn around now.
Whatever you do, don’t look for it.
Don’t look back—
It saw you.
It’s too late. It has definitely seen you.
It’s coming for you now.
You have to run before it catches you.
Close the door!
There’s no time; leap straight into bed so the thing under your bed doesn’t steal your feet. Mind the toys on the floor so you don’t fall. They might be friends at day but they’re not your friends now.
Quickly, the blanket! Get under it as fast as you can. Make sure no part of you sticks out. Not a toe, not a single hair on your head. Nothing can be visible if you want to have the slightest chance of making it through this.
It might have lost you. As long as you don’t make a sound and pretend to be asleep it could be enough to make it retreat to its place behind the sofa. No matter what happens, stay perfectly still.
Can you hear that, the creaking sound of the door?
Don’t panic. If you pretend to have been asleep the whole time it might believe that you are and leave you alone. As long as you’re asleep they can’t get you. That’s the rule, and they know that.
This is why I said you shouldn’t be awake.
Can you hear that, the sound of dragging across the carpet?
Something is tugging at the sheets, and it’s not a kitten.
Can you feel that intruding weight on the mattress?
It’s climbing onto the bed.
Remember, you’re asleep. You have been this whole time. You never woke up and you never went anywhere. You don’t know it’s there.
Can you hear its breath, heavy and ragged right next to you? It’s right there, patiently waiting for any type of movement or sound that will tell you’re awake. Don’t give it any. You can’t let that happen. If it does it will have permission to take you. Those are the rules, and we all have to follow them.
Not even I can help you there.
It’s been silent for a while now.
It feels like ten eternities have passed since you felt its presence in the room with you.
Maybe it left. Maybe you managed to get away with it.
Don’t risk it. You can’t trust these things any more than you can trust a stranger. Just because it seems to be safe doesn’t mean it is. Keep your head down and bite your tongue. I know curiosity is urging you to have a look, but I’m telling you, don’t. Your safest bet now is to try and fall back asleep.
You want to take my word. I know what I’m talking about.
It’s still out there. I’m telling you it is.
If you want to live to see another morning you listen to me now.
Whatever you do…
Don’t open your eyes.
Rayne Kaa Hedberg’s work “Donor” has been featured in Sanitarium. Rayne Kaa Hedberg just finished his bachelor’s thesis in English Linguistics and is keen to get back to more creative writing.