My nana and grandpa have always lived in the same house. My dad and his brother grew up there, and it’s always been the hub of our family get-togethers. However, I’ve recently found out a secret that had torn my family apart.
Nana’s pale blue door was always a welcoming sight but not now. When me and my brother stand before that door, we know that behind it are nana’s freshly baked cookies. Grandpas endless stories, and hours of fun with my father’s and his brother’s childhood toys. Although my uncle isn’t with us anymore and I’ve never met him. He died when my dad was just a boy, and it’s never spoken about. Until now.
My father has never told us how he died and once when my brother asked at a family dinner, it ended up making my grandpa break down in tears, my father left the house for hours, and my nana looked like she was gonna pass out.
So we never asked again, but it’s always been on our minds. I think my brother is a bit too young to understand, but I do, and knew I know what happened.
As my father pulled up on the pebbles driveway, I pushed the car door and raced my brother to the front porch. I won, as usual, it wasn’t really much of a contest, to be honest, he’s only seven, and I’m 13. Grandpa must have seen us pull up as he stood with his hand on his hip and his usual stupid grin on his face.
“Ah ha. I thought I heard a loud racket coming from outside, and low and behold; it’s you two raggamuffins.”
He tossed our hair in turn and steered us through the door as he straightens to embrace my mother.
“Hello, Mary.” He kissed her on the cheek and waved to my dad.
“You need some help there Roger?”
Dad waved back but continued to unpack the car.
The smell of freshly baked bread wafted down the corridor, and I almost felt my feet lift from the wooden floor as you see in the cartoons. Nana was in the kitchen donning her favorite apron — I love Paris — printed in big letter, the shabby chic decor spread all over it. Mom got it for her last year when we went to Europe on vacation.
My brother was at my heels trying to look past me, but I wouldn’t let him, we must have looked like a pair Egyptian dancer bobbing down the hall. I saw a large bowl of cookies waiting on the side and reached for one.
The sting of the wooden spoon echoed down the hall, and grandpa turned and chuckled as he pointed to us, sharing a private joke with my dad, who just shook his head. I pulled my hand from my armpit and inspected the welt. Nana tutted and bustled around the kitchen muttering to us.
“They are for after dinner Thomas — Ah, Ah Sean, you too, not till after dinner. Now go and play.”
She shooed is with a wave of her kitchen towel, and I turned to Sean.
“Race you upstairs?”
My little brother’s eyes lite up, and he grinned at me.
He pushed me hard in the stomach, and I fell to my bum as he skidded over the polished floor. Nana called something at me as I barrelled to the staircase, but my laughing was too loud. Sean beat me to the landing, and he stood frozen outside what was once my uncle’s room.
My uncle’s room always smelt weird, like moldy cheese and bad breath. We have never been allowed inside, no one has. Dad said its stayed the same since he died. We were only allowed to play in my dad’s old room, never in uncle Johns. My dad said that Nana couldn’t bare for anything to be changed and it’s become something akin to a shrine. Whatever that means?
“Go on. I dare you” I pushed Sean toward the door, and he scrambled back.
“Haha. Scaredee cat.”
“You do it if you’re so brave.”
He said as he crossed his arms and glower at me. I wasn’t afraid to go in, but I was scared of getting told off by Nana. The memory of that dinner came back, but I shook it off. That was years ago, and besides, I have always imagined what cool toys lay beyond this door.
I pulled the handle, and the door creaked slowly open. I heard Sean suck in a breath, and I suddenly realized what we were doing. A moment of dread and doubt crept into me, but I pushed it aside just like the door.
A hand grabbed my shoulder, and I froze.
“Boys you aren’t allowed in there, you know that.”
Dad twirled us to face him.
“No, but’s boys, this room is off limits. OK?”
We both agreed, and dad watched us go to his room before going back downstairs.
Sean looked at me and darted out the door back to my uncle’ss room and poked the door.
But it was too late, he was already inside.
A layer of dust covered my uncle’s room; it made the carpet look furry, except for a few scuff marks that led to the bed, where a dent marked a vacant bottom. Along the wall that held the bed, was a window and the wall opposite had been painted to resemble the wild west. A massive black and green locomotive streamed along the tracks with Indians on horseback chasing after it.
Another wall held shelves of trains and toys and besides that was a big vacant space. I thought maybe it once held a wardrobe for my uncle’s clothes, but as he didn’t need clothes anymore, perhaps it got transferred to another room.
Sean surged ahead and drew his own set of shuffling footprints through the carpet. He grabbed a train and began to play on the floor. I couldn’t help but wonder at how un-touched the room was, as the dust particles glisten in the sunlight through the window. An old set of comics sitting neatly by the bed drew my interest, and I sank down to read them.
I was so engrossed in them it took me a moment to realize Sean was talking to someone. I initially thought my grandparents or Dad had come into the room but when I looked up he was sat in front of a opened wooden chest, and he was playing with some sort of cards.
Sean still being young would often talk to himself as he played, I think I used to do it too when I was younger, I imagine everyone does. But I don’t ever remember arguing with myself.
“No, that one is mine, and that beats yours, see?”
Sean poked the card and then huffed.
“Ok, well you don’t explain it very well. This is the first time I’ve
played. You should be a better teacher.”
I shook my head and chuckled to myself; Sean could be totally nuts sometimes.
“No, that’s not fair! You don’t…I didn’t… that’s not fair!”
I heard a crash and was shocked to see my brother clutching his head crying on the carpet; a dark green toy train lay scattered on its side by his head. A crack ran down one of the green panels, but it seemed to be old as it was held together by a layer of glue.
“Sean, what the hell, you can’t breaking uncle John’s stuff. Nana will go mad.”
My brother’s weeping slowed to a sniffle, and he rubbed his head.
“It wasn’t me Thomas; it was Charlie.”
He said pointing to a patch of carpet opposite him. The space was free of dust and resembled a giant pancake. I thought it weird until mom’s voice drifted up the stairs.
“Boys come down and wash your hands, please. Dinner is ready.”
“Come on; lets put this stuff back.”
I put the comic away and reached for the box.
“What?” I said, but my brother wasn’t looking at me.
“He’s my brother, that’s ok isn’t it? Ok, well maybe we can play again after dinner, can’t we Thomas?”
I laughed and ruffled his hair as my grandpa does to us.
“Yeah of course Sean. You can come back and play with Charles.”
“He doesn’t like being called Charles, Thomas.”
I thought it strange again but left him to it. Like I said my brother could be a bit nuts at times. As I approached the stairs I felt Sean push me in the back and I stumbled down the first step, but luckily caught the rail and steadily myself.
“Damn it, Sean. That’s dangerous you idiot.” I turned angrily to him, and he had the grace to look sorry.
“I didn’t do it; it was Charlie.”
“Don’t be stupid; Charlie’s imaginary.”
I was angry and wanted to hurt him, I clattered down the stairs and stormed into the dining room. Nana looked over the food-laden table from her conversation with my mom and smiled.
“Oh Thomas. Look at how big you’re getting.”
Sean came through looking all sulky and sank into a chair next to my dad. A strange smell wafted across the dinner table, and at first, I thought Sean had broke wind.
“Oh, what’s wrong Sean? Thomas, have you been picking on your brother again?”
Nana pinned me with a stare, and I started to protest when Grandpa came through with the Turkey.
“Ah ha, here’s a bird I like the mosted, especially when it’s been roasted.”
He chuckled at his own pun, placing the large bird on the table and started to crave it.
“Thomas, what have you done to your brother’s face?”
I glanced over at my dad and saw him cradling Sean’s chin in his hands, twisting his face from side to side. Four long angry scratches marked his face from eyebrow to lips.
“It wasn’t Thomas, Dad. It was Charlie.”
Grandpa’s craving knife clattered to the floor, and my dad sat bolt upright, the color drained from his face, and his eyes went wide.
“Where did you hear that name.” He hissed.
He looked to Sean and me with an eagerness I’ve never seen. He pulled at our tops, like Jacob does — at school — when he wants my candy.
“Sean said it upstairs,” I said.
My dad turned even whiter, “Oh my god, You went into Johns room, didn’t you?”
I knew I was in trouble but nodded slowly, hoping that dad wouldn’t be too mad.
Dad threw his cutlery across the room and toppled his glass.
“Damn it boys; I said not to go into uncle johns room for a reason.” He was pleading almost frantically.
I’ve never seen dad like this; he paced the room like a lion in a cage and Nana looked sick, since Charlie’s name, she hadn’t said a word. Grandpa had sat back in his chair and had placed his head in his hands.
I looked at Sean, but he was too busy playing with the cards from upstairs. He was muttering to himself. I didn’t know what was happening, and when suddenly Sean freaked out on the seat, I didn’t know what to do.
Dad charged over to my side and swept Sean up; he jittered and convulsed. His eyes flicked to the back of his head and a low moan purged from his mouth in a singsong voice.
“Imaginary fiend, Charlie. Imaginary friend, Sean. Imaginary friend, Charlie, Imaginary fiend not gone.”
Mom cried out as my brother turned to her with white eyes, I feel off my chair. This wasn’t my brother anymore. Dad let Sean go, and he crashed to the floor. Sean didn’t seem bothered as he jumped up and trotted out the living room and up the stairs.
We waited anxiously as we heard him banging about upstairs. Worried eyes glancing at each other over the food on the table. Eventually, he returned. But he wasn’t my brother anymore; he didn’t move like him. He walked like my science teacher at school. She was like ninety and had a crooked back. Sean was stopped and walked with a limp.
Dad broke down then and its the first time I have ever seen him cry. Nana jumped up with a scream and ran behind Grandpa, and my mom lost it completely. She ran at Sean and tried to hug him, but he threw mom like she was a football. She crashed into Nana’s dresser and crumpled to the floor. It took her a while to sit up, and when she did, dad spoke.
“When I was little, John played the same way; I didn’t know it was Charlie.” Dad broke down. “It’s all my fault, and now he’s got my boy.”
Mom got up, and with a nervous glance at Sean she went to dad’s side and tried to console him. It scared me to see him like this, what the hell was happening?
Dad looked up with glasses eyes, and his word was hollow.
“Grandpa bought a wardrobe from a guy at work; it was your uncles first one. I didn’t mind; I already had one.”
Grandpa nodded sadly and watched little sean playing on the floor.
“A man came and wanted rid of it; I just thought it was too big for his house. I didn’t know.” Grandpa spoke to the table.
Dad watched Sean nervously like it wasn’t his son anymore. I couldn’t understand why he looked that way.
“John started to talk about Charlie, and at first it was ok, everyone has an imaginary friends. But soon he started to destroy his toys. Grandpa worked hard to buy them, and when we asked why he was breaking them, he said it was Charlie.”
Grandad nodded and continued the story.
“I woke up one night; Nana was asleep. I don’t know what woke me, but as soon as I was awake, I noticed that something was off. I could hear a murmuring from John’s room. He was old enough to take care of his self except, you know, the odd miss hap, but this wasn’t it.”
“I pushed the door, and John was playing with those weird cards — he pointed the cards on the table — His favorite green and black locomotive lay broken beside him.”
“I asked him why he had broken it and that thing replied — he nodded toward my brother.”
Sean turned to watch us, and we all froze. I couldn’t see the pupil of his eyes anymore, and it freaked me out. I don’t know how, but I knew he looked at us in turn. He raised a finger and pointed to Dad, then to Grandpa.
“You thought you burnt me, but you were wrong,
Burnt your son now he’s gone.”
That same singsong voice had changed, It was like he spoke with multiple tongues. I shivered but couldn’t stop looking at him.
Nana reached over Grandpa’s shoulder, and he patted her hand.
“I knew we were in trouble; I didn’t know who to turn to. I thought the best thing to do was get rid of that damn wardrobe. Charlie turned up the same time that thing did.”
Sean came to the table, and we all shied back. He reached the cloth and pulled the contents of the table on the floor. He laughed and stomped through the food until he found the pepper shaker. He twisted the top off and walked off into the other room.
He started to sprinkle the pepper around him in a circle. Next, he placed Nana’s candles at various points around him.
Nana spoke shattering the silence.
“My poor boy, We only wanted to get rid of the demon, but he burnt our boy instead.”
Charlie turned and laughed, it was high and twisted, like nails on a chalkboard.
“What the hell is he doing? oh no!” Asked my mom. Charlie had pulled a knife from somewhere and dug the blade into his arm. Blood slowly welled up and trickled down to his fingers. Sean flickered the blood over the circle and traced lines on his face.
Grandpa jumped up and grabbed a carving knife off the floor. He lunged around the table scattering food across the floor, but dad grabbed him.
“Dad no, you can’t, he’s still my son.”
“No, he’s not. He’s gone just like John.”
My Grandpa tried to get past my dad, but he wouldn’t let him, they pushed each other, and I could hear Sean laughing. Suddenly Grandpa’s eyes went wide. Mom gasped, and Nana screamed again, all the while Sean continued to laugh.
My dad looked at the blood on his hands with a dull expression, as if he didn’t really see it. Grandpa collapsed to the floor as Nana came to his side. Her screams hurt my ears, and I covered them with my hands.
Something started to happen where Sean was standing. The lampshade was twirling above his head, and the lights began to flicker. Nana screamed again and reached for the knife, Dad. didn’t see her pass him and Mom was too slow. She drove the knife into my Brother and Sean truned to look at her. A green smoke drifted from his mouth and entered hers. His eyes slowly changed back to his normal shade of brown and then he collapsed on the floor.
Nana chuckled and smeared the blood on her hand across her face. Then she turned and came toward me. Nana’s eyes had gone white like Sean did and I knew Charlie was now inside her. I didnt know what to do and dad wasn’t any help.
I ran under her legs trying to get away but she turned and grabbed my leg. I fell hard and grabbed at a candle. I shoved it in my Nana’s face and Charlie screams. It was like cold water down my spine. When Nana pulled away her hand one of her eyes were burnt and blistering.
She came at me again and I kicked at her leg. She on top of me and suddenly Dad was there. It caught Nana around the throat while she bucked, trying to throw him off.
“Grabbed your mother and get out.”
He shouted at me but I was in a catatonic state. It took him shouting at me a few more times until it sank in.
I raced around them as the fought and grabbed my mom. She was in tears but I managed to guide her to the door.
I heard Charlie scream again in them voices as we stumbled over the threshold and out into the fresh air.
The street lights had just blinked on and the door slammed shut. I watched as a glowing started in the front window. Soon the windows burst and smoke curled out from them. Mom broke down on the driveway as siren sounded around us.
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