The screams had dissolved. They had petered out into near silent pleas and prayers. She had waited, fixed like a butterfly pinned into a glass case, a recording, playing the only prayer she knew, ran on and on inside her mind.
Lord keep us safe this night
Secure from all our fears…
But they had not been safe, nobody had.
Running alongside the prayer was a film. She called these her mind movies and always played the role of director or leading actress.
In this movie, the one that was now sticking in the place where she least wanted it to stick, she had neither been director nor leading actress. In this movie, she had played the part of the little girl who was not seen, or heard, and the little girl who ran as quietly as she could for the only place she had ever felt truly safe, the back of her walk in wardrobe. From there, she had been able to hear the screams of her mother, father and elder brothers as they had been set upon by an army of rats.
However, she knew that they were not really rats because rats did not offer ultimatums.
With her head pressed to the floor, the little girl, now only just eight, listened with mortified engagement as the sudden smashing of glass, her father’s shouts for the family to run into the next room, her mother’s cries of astonishment and fear, and her elder brothers’ anger were replaced with the submissive sound of near silence. She had strained her ears to pick out anything that may have spoken of hope, but none appeared to be there; none until she heard the note.
At first she thought it had been the sound of somebody hissing and then it had changed into something more soothing. For a moment, the notes of a flute fluttered into the spaces beneath where she lay. Once more, it changed into something closely resembling a caricature of a human voice, one that whistled, grated and cajoled.
“…the way they died…want to suffer…are young…for people like you…join us…die.”
There was a brief pause and then an answer came back from Tim, her eldest brother. Even through the pain and the tears, she knew his tone which was one of defiance.
“…you…rather die…like you.”
Then the fury increased again and the muffled cries of her brothers were extinguished.
After that, came the time of searching.
She knew that they were scenting the air, following trails, feasting on morsels and glorying in their hour. She froze as she heard feet treading their way up the staircase. They were after more things to do and her scent had caught in eager nostrils. She listened as the footfalls reached the top and then waited for the inevitable.
They picked their way along the passageway, taking it in turns to storm each of the bedrooms. The sounds of ripping, tearing and smashing ensued and she realised that nothing was being left to chance. The prayer arose within her and became a mantra. If she said it enough times, believed its lines, then God might just save her.
The entry of the rats suggested otherwise. They fell upon the room like grave-robbers, intoxicated with triumph.
The feet stopped at the wardrobe door. She was wrapped up in coats, only half hidden, but she prayed. And in this prayer she asked (she knew she wasn’t really supposed to ask God for anything for herself) for a cloak to be thrown around her. She wished for a cloak like the one Harry Potter had, an invisible cloak. If this had been part of a book, she would have been granted one. If God had been watching, he would have thrown down his heavenly threads and woven a garment for her, immediately. God, she wondered with the tiniest fear of being disrespectful, was not watching what was going on. He had not heard the cries of her family and did not see those creatures dressed as rats.
A few feet away, the things hesitated as if drawing out the delicious torment of the scene. The little girl visualised the cloak she was about to pull over herself. It was green with threads of gold woven into it and along the hood were symbols like stars that caught the moonlight and shone it back. She hid, pulled deep within this invention and waited for the end.
Secure from all our fears
If I should die before I wake…