“The faces on the wall make me scared...”
This answer has just come from my three-year old daughter as I sit with her on her bed, reading her a Winnie-the-Pooh book that deals with emotions. So far the answers have been what I expected;
‘What makes you happy?’
‘What makes you sad?
‘Not getting treats.’
But then I asked her, ‘what makes you scared?’ and the last thing I expected was that answer.
“What faces?” I say, my blood running cold. “There aren’t faces on the walls.”
“Yes there are,” she insists. “Some of them are nice, but some of them are mean.”
“Where are they?” I ask her. “When do you see them?
“They’re everywhere,” she says, looking around her. “And I see them all the time.
I huddle my daughter into my arms, as always shocked at how quickly my fat little baby, who had dimple in her dimples, grew into this skinny legged, sharp elbowed child.
A shiver runs through me, certain the room is a few degrees cooler.
“There’s nothing on the walls,” I tell her, reaching out and touching one of the smooth surfaces. “You’re seeing shadows.”
She looks at me as only a three-year old can. With total scepticism.
“They’re not shadows,” she almost laughs, as if I’ve told her a dog is a horse. “They’re people and they’re in the walls.”
“Don’t be silly. People can’t get in the walls.”
I know I’m telling her the truth, but there is still part of me that wonders...what if? What if she is right and I am the one who is wrong?
Suddenly claustrophobia presses on all sides, as if I am surrounded by faces, all peering down at me. For once I find myself wishing my ex-husband were here, and I was not alone in the house.
I lean down and kiss her small head, her fine hair tickling my nose.
“Come on, it’s time to go to sleep,” I tell her, pulling the covers up over her narrow frame. She snuggles down into her pillow and pulls her teddy-bear close to her body.
I reach out to switch off her bedroom lamp, but something moves on the wall, something just out of my peripheral vision. I freeze, my hand held in the same position, my heart pounding in my chest. Slowly I turn my head, cautiously needing to know what caught my attention, and almost laugh out loud. There is the shadow of my arm, grotesquely morphed across my daughter’s bedroom wall, frozen in position.
I wiggle my fingers, reassuring myself, and the shadow waves back.
It was nothing, only my imagination. Fears brought on by a child’s imagination.
I kiss her again and whisper, ‘I love you,’ into her ear.
Already she is halfway into the arms of sleep and I quietly back out of the room, trying to tell myself the flurry of movement across the wall is simply a creation of light and shade.
Downstairs, I sink into the arms of my favourite couch and pick up the well-thumbed paperback I’m currently reading. For a while I am taken into a different world; one of heroes with broad shoulders and dangerous smiles, of heroines with heaving breasts and plucky personalities.
A piercing scream tears me from my reverie. My head snaps up, my body launching from the couch. With blood rushing through my veins, I race up the stairs. Bursting through her bedroom door, the first thing I see is my child, huddled in the middle of the bed, her soft toy clutched to her chest. But then, as I take in her surrounding, my eyes prickle with sharp tears of fear.
Her room is back to front, her pillow at the wrong end of her bed, her book case turned around, her toys piled in the centre of the room.
“Honey?” I say, unsure if I should be terrified or angry. “What did you do to your room?”
“It wasn’t me!” she cries, her face in her hands. “It was the faces.”
“Don’t be silly. Faces can’t move things.”
Then I realise what I’ve said. “And there aren’t any faces. They’re just walls!”
I reach out my hand, intending to hit the wall, show her how solid it is, but her shriek of fear freezes me in my tracks.
“No, Mummy! Don’t hit them. They’re the mean ones and you’ll make them angry.”
I open my mouth to tell her the faces are not real, but movement stops me.
Do I see the walls ripple around me, the swirl of dark and light above my head? I squeeze my eyes shut. This isn’t real; it’s hysteria. I’ve watched a documentary about it before, I’m sure. How one person’s panic can take hold of another?
Yet something darts above me, bleeding into the paintwork, and another swoops down like a black cloak, billowing around us.
I grab my daughter from her bed and she clings to my neck, her legs wrapped around my waist. Staring at the mottled pink strands of her bedroom rug— too terrified to look up— I back out of the room and quickly pull the door shut behind me.
I hurry into my own bedroom and slam the door, blocking her bedroom from my own by the length of the hallway and two closed doors. I climb into bed, my daughter still attached to my body, like a monkey, shivering.
It was nothing, I tell myself. Just a bad case of night terrors.
And yet, as I huddle down beneath the covers, holding my daughter tight against the curve of my body, I am certain I can feel eyes peering down at me.
Faces in the walls.
Copyright © 2011 Marissa Farrar. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.