“Hush little baby don’t say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird…”
I looked up towards my mother’s face, chuckling lightly as her smile widened. She had the sweetest, most soothing voice and I loved to hear her sing. She always sang to us that song before bed, and that was my favorite moment of the day.
“... and if that mockingbird won’t sing, mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”
There was a loud crash downstairs and I jumped, startled, but my mother gently pulled me back in the bed, caressing my forehead and moving a string of strawberry-blond hair out of my face. She kept singing. Relaxing, I looked up at my mother’s face again.
“... and if that diamond ring turns brass, mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass…”
She is beautiful, I thought with adoration. My mother was the most beautiful person in the world - clear, fair skin, same strawberry hair as mine, and eyes so blue that the sky was probably envious.
“... and if that glass gets broke, mama’s gonna buy you a winter cloak…”
The sounds from below were getting louder, and it was getting harder to ignore them. Even her hypnotizing voice could not keep our attention for much longer.
“Mommy, what is going on?” Ethan asked from the second bed by the wall. I turned to glare at my brother, unhappy that the song had ceased. He was sitting upright, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. He was always ruining things, doing everything to get our mother’s attention. Even on my birthday, he was still doing it.
I wanted to tell him to shut up, to let our mother sing, but then a scream came from the corridor and all three of us looked at the closed door. Our mother slowly got up from the bed, taking me in her arms and motioning for Ethan to follow her. I watched him jog with his small feet to match our mother’s speed, glancing over his shoulder towards the door. His face was pale with fear and he was biting his lip as if to stop himself from crying.
Our mother halted in the middle of the other room and put me down next to my brother. She then rushed to the window, glancing outside for a second before stepping back. Her eyes landed on the closet, then on the massive chest next to the wall by the window where we usually kept the heavy winter blankets.
“Mommy?” I cried out, suddenly scared by the panic on my mother’s face. Fear crept into my mind and my eyes blurred, ready to unleash a river of tears.
“Shh, shh, quiet, my love,” our mother said with a smile, kneeling in front of us. “I’ll need you to be a strong girl, Mia, okay? Like the heroes in the fairytales. Can you do that?” I nodded hesitantly, somewhat relaxed by the smile on her face. She looked at Ethan. “And I will need you to protect your sister, Ethan, can you do that? You are stronger than anything, my love, can you do that for me?”
I was looking at our mother, so I didn’t see if he nodded or not. She smiled at us again, then grabbed our hands and urgently pulled us towards the window. She opened the chest, picking me up and placing me inside, then helping Ethan do the same. She kneeled in front of us again, her entire body trembling as if she was cold.
“Don’t make a sound and don’t come out until someone comes to get you.” She said. I was ready to cry again, but her assuring smile stopped me. “No crying, love. Listen to your brother and be brave.”
She closed the top of the chest, drowning us in darkness. I let out a whimper, but then suddenly my brother’s arms were around me, embracing me gently. I hated him for stealing so much of our mother’s attention, but I was happy that he was with me now. I snuggled closer to him, listening to the noises outside.
The rattle sounded really close, almost as if whoever was downstairs was now in the same room. A threatening growl broke the heavy silence, a sound that was both angry and desperate. A few seconds later an earsplitting crash made both of us jump, and the room filled with the sound of shattering wood and glass, followed by a loud scuffle and even angrier growls. Painful whimpers mixed with the noise of nails dragging against the floor and the walls, of something tearing and then landing on the wooden floor.
I snuggled against Ethan, closing my eyes, and gritting my teeth. Even with my eyes open, I could see a picture of horrific monsters cramming into the room with us, destroying everything in their path. And our mother was there, with the monsters.
Still holding me with one hand, Ethan reached with the other and carefully lifted the top of the chest, just enough to peep outside. I pulled on his shirt, scared that the monsters were going to find us. He ignored me.
Something slammed into the chest we were hiding in and he was sent back, instinctively wrapping his hands around me and squeezing tight. I cried out in horror, hiding my face in his chest. He hushed me, but it was too late. The sounds in the room had died down, giving place to complete silence. I could hear my brother’s rapid heartbeat, I could hear his sharp breaths.
Seconds passed painfully slowly until finally, we heard steps. We held our breaths in anticipation of the monsters finally finding us when the top of the chest was pulled up and a face looked down at us. I let out a whimper and hid in Ethan’s neck, tightening my small arms around him.
“Don’t be afraid,” the stranger said with a soothing voice and I turned my head, surprised by his mild, human voice. The lights were off in the room unlike before and at first, it was hard to say if it was a man or a monster staring at us. But his voice was calm and nice and sweet, and he didn’t sound like a monster. Ethan was sitting rigidly next to me, his hands so tight around my frame, it almost hurt. “My name is Julian. You’re safe now.”