* * *
Darkness surrounded the children like the inside of a buried coffin. The tight grip of fear had them at its mercy, and the silence of the house crept inside of each one's ear. Four little hearts thumped nervously, for their only means of security from the invisible force was a thin, flimsy peace of cotton sleeping bag. They scurried deeper inside it, drawing the fabric up to their noses.
"Kelly, are we safe down here?" Phil asked.
"Sure," Kelly responded, trembling inside of the bag.
"It's so quiet," Chris responded, looking around the darkened room. "All I can hear is my heartbeat."
RRRRRR. RRRRRR. A sound rumbled from somewhere below, in the basement.
Chris' eyes grew large. A lump formed in his throat and his body tightened with dread.
"What wwwas ttthat?" he stuttered.
"I don't know. Probably nothing. It could be the house settling," Julie suggested.
"That was settling? It doesn't sound vvvery sssetttling to me. It sounds like a mmmonster," Chris responded.
"You’re just being a baby!" Julie cut in.
"Baby nothin'. Remember Matt? The monster got him!”
"Kelly, I swear, if I ever make it through this night, I'm never going to speak to you again. Ever!" Phil insisted.
Kelly slumped deeper into his sleeping bag. His heart ached with sorrow. It wasn't his fault. He didn't want the ghost here, either; he didn't even want to be here himself.
"I'm really sorry, guys. I didn't know this would happen. Please, don't be mad," he apologized, as his voice broke up.
"You're weird, Adkins. And your house is weird!" Phil said angrily.
"Its okay, Kelly. I know it's not your fault," Julie whispered, lying beside him.
It was of small consolation, and he sighed wearily.
RRRRRR. RRRRRR. The noise bellowed again.
Outside, the wind picked up and pressed against the window, howling like a wolf at the moon.
The frightened children moved closer against one another and alertly monitored the dining room and kitchen area.
Footsteps creaked slowly upon the staircase.
Sassy, lying beside Kelly, lifted her ears with sudden alertness, aware of the strange noises that were going on in the house.
Each child's heartbeat intensified dramatically.
The floorboards snapped with life as the sound moved from the upstairs level toward the kitchen.
"Something’s ccccoming," Chris whimpered.
The steps continued to squeak in the darkness.
"Kelly do something! Do something!" Julie begged.
Closer and closer it approached. It was now only a few, small steps away from the dining room.
Phil's head became dizzy and he shook uncontrollably.
Go away! Just leave us alone! Kelly screamed within.
The room was quiet.
Each child focused on the dining room, waiting for the Devil's shiny, blood red eyes to appear.
They waited. They watched; even Sassy, tight with anticipation, kept still, listening.
For the remainder of the night, the children lay awake motionless in their sleeping bags. Their gaze never wavered from the dining area as they prayed for daylight and sanctuary from the creeping invisible force.
For three children, the night was one that they would never forget.
For Kelly, it was one he would relive again and again.
* * *