The house was out of town. Down an overgrown track where thick vines grew from one side to the other. The sun was blocked out. The air is damp, thought Silky. Silky and Tom stood looking around inside their new home. It was huge and reminded Tom of a small castle. This is no castle from a fairy tale, Tom thought. He shivered as the chilly air inside the house flowed around his body, and he tightly hugged his teddy bear. The walls were nicotine yellow and the heavy window shades were closed. Silky walked towards a single candle burning a yellow glow and spread her hands to catch the warmth. The furniture was old; old and dirty. Silky and Tom stared at each other with sad, tired eyes.
The accident which took Silky and Tom’s parents from them had been 3 weeks prior to the relocation. A strong, gripping shock held onto the children and tore at their hearts. Silky was 14 years old and knew in her almost adult mind, it was up to her to boost her younger brother of 12. It’s too hard, thought Silky. Reaching for each other’s hands for comfort, they both felt the soft tears running down their cheeks. The only living relatives the children had left were Vivienne, their mother’s mother, and Mike, their mother’s brother. Silky and Tom hadn't met either of these family members.
Mike had left the family home as soon as he was old enough to find a job. He had contacted his sister over the years from one far flung country or another. A wanderer, happy in his own world, were descriptions they had heard their mother whisper time and again. Mike had no children and never married. Silky felt there was more to Mike than her mother let on, but the questions only flitted through Silky’s adolescent thoughts. Mike had not come home for the funeral. He was in India and planned to stay there for an indeterminate time. Mike was a photographer. Silky and Tom had seen the beautiful shots he emailed home from his travels. He had called and spoken to Silky and Tom briefly before they moved. It had been an awkward conversation. He wasn't happy about the children going to live with Vivienne. Silky picked up on that even though Mike didn't say it outright. Wonder why, thought Silky?
The children’s mother had rarely spoken about her own parents. All Silky and Tom knew was when the children were young, the father had gone to work one day and never returned home. There had been 3 of them back then. The youngest brother, Harry, had disappeared when he was 5 years old.
Silky knew her mother didn't like Vivienne. She has an evil way about her; Silky had overheard her mother say once, in a hushed voice. Vivienne scared Silky’s mother. Angie, their mother’s best friend, was appalled to find out the children were going to live with Vivienne. Angie had tried everything she could to stop it from happening. Unfortunately, blood was thick and Angie’s pleas fell on deaf ears with the child welfare department.
Silky had been christened Sarah. Her nickname came along at 2 years old due to her fine, white blonde hair. The name had stuck. Their mother always told them Silky had a way about her; a pure shining light to live by which gave Silky the ability to protect herself and her younger brother. Tom agreed. He had seen the aura within his sister. Numerous times in the school playground when he was being teased or bullied, Silky would appear out of the blue to help. When she walked on scene, the bullies would slowly ease back mumbling among themselves, before gradually slinking away. Tom and Silky had discussed Silky’s way numerous times whilst sitting in the tree house. Tom insisted Silky fill him in with the details when she had one of her funny feelings about something. He wanted to protect his sister just as much as she protected him. After all, he was a man!
Looking at her now, Tom knew Silky was sensing something.
“What is it Silky?” asked Tom. Please tell me, you know you have to or I can’t help.”
Tom watched as his sister’s eyes roamed the sitting room. He held his breath and watched. Silky fixated on a brick alcove at the end of the room. It was grubby, and the space in between the window seats was covered by an ugly grey material that rats may or may not have chewed on.
Silky put her arms out and pushed Tom behind her as she started to walk slowly and cautiously toward the alcove. A door opened. Both children jumped. Neither had heard approaching footsteps. Turning around, they saw a woman enter the room who could have been the wicked witch from the West. Her long fine black hair trailed down one side of her head in a matted braid. Grey tendrils had escaped the braid and were slick with grease. Not a pleasant sight. Dark clothes hung on her thin body as though still on a hanger. The face was grim, and both children picked up a sour odor as she entered the room. Oh God, she’s an old hag, thought Silky.
“Follow me,” said the old woman.
There was no welcoming smile on the woman’s face, or compassion in her eyes. The children did as they were told. They were too distraught and exhausted to do otherwise. With a backward glance at the window seat, Silky took Tom’s hand and followed Vivienne’s lead. Vivienne led the children up narrow wooden stairs to a bedroom. The room had two single beds. Tom didn't want to touch the stained bedspreads or lumpy pillows, let alone sleep on them. Yuck!
“You’ll stay here until dinner is served in the kitchen. I’ll ring a bell,” said the children’s grandmother.
“Excuse me, where is the bathroom?” asked Silky. She noticed Tom doing a jiggle.
“It’s at the end of this hall,” said Vivienne. You girl, will look after the boy. While you still can.
“Pardon Grandma,” said Silky.
“My name is Vivienne, girl, and I said, you will look after the boy.”
“But I thought I heard you say something else.”
The old woman gave Silky a look of disgust. The hair on Silky’s arms prickled. With that, Vivienne turned and without her footsteps making a sound, walked back down the stairs.
“She’s horrible. I’m going to the loo,” said Tom
“O.K, but don’t go wandering off,” said Silky.
“Not on your life! This house gives me the creeps. It’s dark and smelly.”
While Tom was gone, Silky unpacked the suitcases. On opening the small wardrobe between the beds, a photo frame fell off a shelf. Silky quickly caught it mid air and turned it over. The frame showed a photo of three small children. The children weren't smiling and the dark circles under their eyes were a sign of sleepless nights. What a sad photo, thought Silky. She recognized her mother and two uncles from a similar photo at home. Home....thought Silky, and a tear ran down her cheek. While looking at the younger of the two boys, Silky felt a jolt of fear wash over her and scream down her spine. She threw the photo frame and it landed on the bed face down.
Tom entered the room and looked at Silky’s face with instant worry.
“What Silky, what is it?” he asked. What’s wrong? Tell me!”
“Nothing” said Silky.
Neither child was hungry when the dinner bell rang. They went down the dark stairs to the kitchen. Vivienne shoved two plates of food towards them. The grey meat in the stew looked revolting. Yuck, thought Tom.
“Take this to your room to eat and return the plates in the morning. Water is in the tap.”
The children sat in their room and cried. Neither had eaten. “We should drink water,” Silky told Tom. She passed a glass to him. He took the glass and sat staring at the water, watching as his tears made small splashes.
“Can I sleep in your bed, you know, like we did when we were little, with our heads at different ends?”
“Of course you can,” she replied wearily. They both climbed into bed and fell asleep instantly.
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.
Tom woke up and gazed out the window at the clouds rushing past the moon. A cold draft came through the cracks near the bed. He pulled his blanket up beneath his chin and listened.
Tap, tap, tap. He did hear a noise!
“Silky?” he said, as he nudged his sister’s leg.
Tap, tap, tap.
“Did you hear that?”Tom asked.
“That noise?” said Silky. It’s just the wind.
“Listen properly sis, it’s coming from downstairs.”
Tap, tap, tap.
“It’s a bit freaky don’t you think?” said Tom. I reckon we should go and check it out? It could a zombie trying to get in the front door.
“Really, you watch too much T.V,” said Silky, shaking her head. I sound like Mum, she thought. A tear rolled down her cheek and Silky wiped it away. If it’s bugging you, I suppose we could take a look.
The children climbed out of bed, Tom with the blanket wrapped around him. Silky knew she’d have to get this over with or there would be no more sleep.
“What if the witch hears us?”Tom asked. She’ll put a spell on us and turn us into toads.
“She won’t hear us,” said Silky. She’s got a drinking problem. Probably snoring her head off. Good grief, there was too much alcohol for one person in the sitting room, thought Silky.
Tap, tap, tap.
Following the noise led the children to the sitting room. Silky stopped so abruptly inside the door; Tom ran into her and fell down in a heap of tangled blanket. He watched as Silky walked slowly towards the alcove under the large window at the end of the room.
Tap, tap, tap.
“Stay there Tom. Get up and stand by the door.
“O.K sis. What is it? What’s going on? Is it one of your weird feelings? Uh oh, thought Tom. Now this is really freaky.
Silky shot him a cranky look. She could feel her skin crawling and a cold sweat running down her back. I’m not feeling so good right now, she thought.
“There’s a trap door in the space between the window seats. That’s where the noise is coming from,” Silky whispered. I’m gonna lift it up and check for an animal or something. It’s not an animal.
Tap, tap, tap.
The noise was getting louder, more urgent. Silky walked up to the trap door and leaned over to pull on a brass handle sticking up from under the dirty material. Silky lifted it an inch. A loud bang was heard as the door flew up and back, landing on the bricks. Silky was thrown backwards. Tom jumped and ran out the door. He peeked back around the corner. He felt his body shaking all over and clutched tightly at the blanket. Silky sat where she fell and tears ran down her face in torrents.
Both children watched in shock as two tiny hands emerged from the hole. Slowly, a little boy crawled out of the dark space. He doesn't look so good, thought Tom. His skin was pale and his clothes were in rags. He crawled towards Silky and sat with his hands outstretched. Silky was quietly sobbing.
“Sis? Who is he? Should we like, go?” said Tom. He watched in awe as red tears fell from the boy’s eyes. Tom felt sick. He turned and threw up. Silky looked at the small boy and cringed at the the purple marks around his neck.
“It’s him, Tom. It’s Mum’s little brother. Look at his hair. It’s just like mine, and I've seen him before.”
“But, that means he’s a....”
“COME HERE GIRL!” shrieked Vivienne. Neither of the children had heard Vivienne enter the room through the kitchen door. They both jumped. Tom winced as warmth ran down his legs. Vivienne, holding a rope, ran towards Silky.
“Run Silky, run,” screamed Tom. Silky stood her ground and glared at Vivienne. Tom felt nauseous again. The little dead boy shrank back with his hands covering his face. Tom raced towards Silky. Driving him forward, his adrenaline kicked in, with fear and overwhelming love for his sister. Vivienne turned and swatted him away with the back of her hand.
“MOTHER!” a stranger’s voice yelled. Silky, Tom and Vivienne all spun around and looked at the man in the doorway. A fire sprung up in the disused fireplace giving warmth to the room.
“Help me Silky. We can do this together,” said Mike. Silky grinned.
“You stupid boy, you failed once and you’ll fail again,” said Vivienne. There’s no place in our family for boys and girls with pretty blonde hair and special feelings. I’m the only one who can continue our history. You are all damned.
Silky stood up. Mike and Silky both walked towards Vivienne. She backed away. She knew. Her horrid way was no match against two family members, especially an adult and a nearly adult. The little boy crawled over to Tom and they both cowered under the blanket.
At the realization she was outnumbered, Vivienne’s face changed to one of fright. She tripped and fell backwards into the alcove. Her body going down through the trap door. A scream tore up from below and seemed to go on and on. Then it stopped. Jolted out of his trance, Mike ran over and closed the trapdoor and slid the bolt into place.
“Silky,”said Tom. Sis, look!
Tom and Mike spun around. The little boy was fading. A shimmering, silvery light was emanating from his skin. He put his hands out to all family members, and smiled. The tears running down his cheeks were clear and the marks around his neck were disappearing. Pure love shone from his eyes, and before they knew it, he popped out of existence. Mike looked at Silky and Tom with a weariness they didn't yet understand.
“I’m so sorry,” said Mike. He held his arms out. Silky and Tom ran into them. The three cried as they embraced.
Thank goodness for long lost Uncles, thought Silky and Tom simultaneously. Glancing at each other, they grinned.