I tried to tiptoe past them. I didn’t want to make a noise because I had a memory of a huge canine with slavering jaws and yellow, razor-sharp teeth. But as I was moving through the sea of buckets, I looked at their contents.
The liquid was not rain. For a start it was viscous and red. Blood. I knew it was blood. That should have been enough to make me run but what I saw next was worse. A tiny face had floated to the surface, its eyes staring blankly into mine, its skin dyed red by the solution that it was kept in.
I had seen many things that could keep sleep at bay, but this was something else. Holding my nerve, I turned around to retrace my steps to the door. The rain was still hammering down and I hoped the witch and her beast would never learn of my visit.
As I picked my way through the buckets, face after face reached the surface and looked at me. These eyes, though, were not blank, they were following me. One tiny hand reached up and grabbed at my trouser leg as I passed.
That was when I lost it. That was when I screamed. That was when I saw the witch in the frame of the door.
“Are you okay?” Ruth’s anxious voice asked.
I was back in the room with her. No witch blocked my way to freedom.
“Yes. Just a dream. A bad dream.”
“It must have been bad to scare you.”
For a moment I thought that she was going to ask me to relate it. I would have done so even though it would have sounded stupid. She just sat there in the muddy mix of light and dark and watched me.
“Just a dream,” she consoled. “Dreams don’t hurt.”