Haunter of the Mansion

This short story was originally published at https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/amber-prohaska/ for a short story contest. Following this link and liking my story helps me tremendously!

Waaa! Waaa! Waaa!

The dreams that we dream time and again bind us into our existing lives, in a weird, often overlooked way. We dream in nightmares and we see nightmares play out around us- shattered plans, large-scale disasters, kidnapped children, death, disaster, mayhem- and then we dream in nightmares. The circle goes round and round. Which causes which is a great mystery. Like skillful spiders, we weave our nightmares with our realities with such intricate details that soon, we can’t tell one from the other.

The beauty of childhood is that children don’t ever spend time nightmarishly frolicking through life. They are adorable and single-minded little optimists who quite easily float through young lives only thinking of and planning for the best, most excitingly wonderful possibilities.

For those of us who used to be children, maybe you remember that mind space that took absolutely no effort to stay in. And for those of you now adults, I am truly sorry for the great chasm of you have fallen into- one filled with constant unwanted fears chasing and nipping at your heals. It is depressing indeed.

They say that the more you have, the more you have to lose. I wish with all my being that wasn’t true.

I woke up at 3:24 am with the feeling that my heart was going to flutter out of my chest and that quite possibly someone had come into my room and stolen every last molecule of oxygen from my lungs. I gasped and sputtered, coughed, and shook, gulping in air like it was going out of style.

Waaa! Waaa! Waaa!

I threw my left arm across the bed, groping wildly for my husband in the dark. Finally connecting with his chest, he sat up in a half-asleep, half-terrified stupor.

“Wha, what!? What is it!?

“What’s that sound!? It’s the house alarm!”

We were both out of bed in a flash, my husband drunkenly grabbing the mag-lite flashlight under the bed that would crush a skull if used properly. I greatly doubted the chances that he would be able to use it properly in our crazed frenzy, but we were much too afraid to have a gun in the house with a child, so here we were- murder flashlight in hand. We raced out of our room and I immediately went to my daughter’s room to check on her.

It’s probably just wind or a glitch. No one is in our house, no one is in our house. I lied to myself.

I immediately noticed that my 8 year old’s bedroom door was open and she was not in her bed. I screamed her name over and over. I couldn’t believe I was living this nightmare- I had fought nightmares and daymares for years over all the terrible things that could befall my family. But in the back of my mind, I usually ended up listening to the cute little fluffball of positivity that lived in a run-down shack in the corner of my brain that I forgot to visit that said, “that will never happen to you so please stop being so dramatic and start worrying about things that MAY actually happen- like a broken bone, or maybe a car breakdown, or quite possibly that you could develop an anxiety problem!”

“David!” I screamed, not caring that I would make my presence known to any intruder with ill plans for me. “Sasha is gone!!”

Not knowing how I even moved from that spot upstairs, I was suddenly down at the front door and had a brief moment of thankfulness that I didn’t actually break my neck flying down the full set of hardwoods- which IS something that I also had nightmares about on the regular.

My worst nightmare had come true. The front door was open.

The door opening had triggered the house alarm, which I just became aware was still blaring like a firetruck right there in my living room.

If I couldn’t breathe when this all started, I was suffocating in the deep end under 13 feet of water now. I didn’t know how to take another step, how to breathe, how to exist. Someone had kidnapped my daughter. She was gone.

Sky blended with ground and everything material, corporeal and theoretical lost all meaning and distinction from each other. Nothing mattered anymore; everything mattered.

I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling fan spinning wildly above my head, silence. After searching the house my husband turned off the alarm and called 911. I melted into despair again as I realized that I hadn’t been dreaming. Someone was sobbing, and shrieking somewhere; I realized with uneasiness that it was me.

Suddenly my focus turned sharp like it was being controlled by an illicit drug. The phone was ringing. It was 3:29am.

True to form as in my rational life, I took charge and grabbed it before David could.

“Hello!?” I cried

A moment of silence too long and I began losing it again. Then finally, a gravelly voice said, “Hi, Is your daughter’s name Sasha?”

My world literally collapsed on top of me again. They had her, the intruders. They were calling to tell us. They would do awful, unspeakable things to her. There was nothing we could do- we didn’t have money.

“Honey,” David said, gesturing to the phone.

“Yes,” I cried and sobbed, “that’s my daughter, WHERE IS SHE!? WHO ARE YOU!?” I shrieked with the fury and terror of a mother grizzly whose cub was in danger.

“I… sorry… I realize how this sounds… I didn’t mean to scare you, she is here, across the street. She knocked on my door and I think she is sleepwalking. Can you please come get her?”

The fear that binds us and holds us down in life can often be the thing that breaks us. Most times though, that fear is from an internal source; not an intruder, but someone much closer, something much more diabolical. It is our own imaginations that are often the real haunters of the mansion.

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