It started out fairly inocuously; Kid the Younger and their paramour, a few friends we haven’t seen in a while, and a few of KtY & P’s friends just hanging out and watching movies, playing games. Some of us were upstairs in my childhood home and some of us were downstairs. There was a bit of strangeness when some of us went to bed in my mother’s bedroom, which had the Big Bed (that apparently sleeps four or five) and a double bed in a corner that doesn’t actually exist; and some of us went to bed in my old bedroom, which was appointed more like a hotel suite, complete with a room divider and a big screen TV.
Mysteriously, my father’s bedroom was nowhere to be seen; the house had swallowed it up, closed off that entire section of the house, walled it in. Somewhere in my subconscious version of that house is a secret room with drawers full of old coins, unused wool sweaters, a silver chalice, and the head from a manequin. (The remainder of the manequin my father took a chainsaw to out in the yard. It was the weirdest, and the most fun, experience with a chainsaw we’ve had as a family since the Great Chucking Experience of 1988.)
In the basement, music played quietly and someone was doing laundry. This is par for the course for every party I ever had in that house (that number being 2). But as the sweet cloak of Eerebus sheltered us and Hypnos himself emerged fully formed from the shadow behind the door to heavy our eyes, there came an unearthly racket from the kitchen. Bolt upright I sat, glancing first at the double bed in the where-corner, to see a half-child half-dream giggling there, scrunched up at the head of the bed against the wall.
“You,” I said, pointing at it. “Out.”
It didn’t leave so much as it winked out of existence. I rose from the group bed, tucking in whichever attendee I’d been curled up with, and padded over to the door. The sounds from the kitchen were growing more raucous, and it was time to ask the revelers to tone it down. Then I was in the kitchen, just like that – I thought about it, and I travelled instantaneously. The kitchen was full of young folk, some of whom looked familiar but many of whom were strangers to me.
“Time to turn it down,” I said. “People are trying to sleep. You’re welcome to stay, just stay quieter, if you please.” They were accommodating. Kind. Understanding. Gracious.
Then the half-child peeked around the corner from the living room. It lives in corners, I suppose, in the places where light meets shadow, where dust gathers unnoticed for weeks, where nothing fits quite right, where paint drips and paper doesn’t quite meet wall. This time I did not instant-travel, but strode to the living room purposefully, my head whipping around to the corner to see the half-child there, its emaciated limbs much too long for its wire-thin body. The misshapen head lolled on a shrivelled neck, then clicked back into place, five degrees at a time. Its eyes sucked up the shadows around it, its mouth a cracked, hard line slashed across its face. The half-child began to open its mouth.
The sound that emerged was the cracking of chintnous carapaces, the skitter of rats’ feet inside walls, whispering children’s voices, and a hollow, continuous wind.
“You,” I said, pointing to the front door. “Out.”
This time it did not wink away. It sidled, its back pressed to the wall, leading with its legs – feet first; the toes of its left foot crawled their way 90º to be parallel to the wall, then the arch of the foot rose up, then the knee pulled itself perpendicular to the foot. Its left leg was bent at a right angle; its right leg trailing behind, almost lifeless. Next, the half-child’s head lolled back between its shoulderblades. Its chest moved then, pulling itself to a position against the wall above the left knee. Then the hips, and finally the right leg sloughed along. The momentum of this strange, segmented dance flopped the half-child’s head forward on its neck, its chin touching chest. Yet still those eyes remained fixed on me; the thing’s face remaining upright as it had been, as if affixed to a gyroscope inside its flesh.
In this manner, the half-child skittered and inched and angle-crawled its way across one wall, then the next, to the large window. There it paused briefly before it…sucked itself out through the glass into the yard. Its hands stayed planted on the glass, the small starfish hands of a toddler, fat-fingered, knuckles hardly formed, splayed out against the huge pane, first at half a metre off the ground, then two metres above, then updside down, crawling sideways toward the door.
The party in the kitchen was getting out of hand again. I returned there, turned down the music, levelled a Stern Glare. “Quiet, please. If you want to stay.”
From the basement rose shouts of inebriated exhuberance, voices raised in sauce-assisted aggression, squeals and peals of smoky laughter. Down the stairs I trod, ire piqued.
“Okay,” I hollered. “Enough. Everyone out.”
There were some groans, some protestations, and some people stumbling off to the rollaway cots that seemed to have multiplied since last I’d been in the basement. People began filing out the basement door, grumbling and grumping as they went. But, they went.
Then a crash from above. I muttered expletives and took the stairs two at a time back to the kitchen. This time the back door was wide open, a clutch of thirty-somethings who looked vaguely familiar, as if my subconscious mind had conflated my own friends from a few years back with how they might’ve looked as teens, but also aged them appropriately but also blended into one another. “The party’s over,” I said. “I asked twice nicely, and now I’ll invite you to take the celebrations elsewhere. Also, your bong is broken.” The shards of glass at their feet tinkled as they shuffled away.
More voices rose from inside. I made my way back through the kitchen, this time grabbing a couple of revellers by the throat and pushing them out the door. At the end of the long hallway there were three police officers removing people I’d never seen from rooms that have never been. In the kitchen, somehow the party-goers had multiplied, like angry ants, burbling up and out from somewhere unseen. I began pushing, throwing, and otherwise person-handling folks out the door, reminding them to “mind the glass” on the way out.
Just before I woke, the half-child scampered back in through the open door. I caught it by its skinny little neck.
“You,” I said. “Out”, and out it went, tossed, unceremoniously, as far as it could go.
I’m positive it will be back.