Self Horripilation

“Jaxxon, there isn’t a skeleton in the closet. I’ll show you.”

Mardi kept a grip on the boy’s wrist and ignored his goose bumps, tears and pleading. What had Conner been showing his little brother to create this reaction? Better nip it in the bud.

The boy was strong for a six year old, but he was in socks and the ancient floorboards were smooth as time. She dragged him to the door and opened it.

“See? No skeleton.”

The light came on, shining on the vacuum cleaner and its attachments leaning into the corners, the cardboard boxes that held the Christmas ornaments sitting on the shelf above the closet rod, and her Dad’s old plaid coat, the lone article of clothing sitting among the accumulated wooden and wire hangers.

Jaxxon stopped screaming, but he didn’t look convinced.

“There’s nothing in there.”

He wrenched his hand free and ran back down the hall towards the stairs, where he grabbed the first baluster and used his speed to swing himself around and up. His sock left a shiny wet splodge next to the step. It was the last in a trail that Mardi followed by eye back to her own feet, to a puddle beside them. She sighed and hoped school would re-open before summer vacation started.

Time passes.

The ivy on the south wall was starting to grow through the shutters and cover the windows. The garden shears couldn’t cut through it. Mardi didn’t have gloves on, but she grabbed the vines anyway, twisted them around her hands and ripped them away from the house. They pulled back. They tightened around her hands, hurting her fingers, then climbed up her arms to circle her throat.

The screams from Jaxxon’s room woke her up. It was mainly instinct that steered her to him. There she emerged fully from sleep, rocking Jaxxon, cooing to him, calming him, stopping the babbling about skeletons under the bed.

“What’s wrong with him?”

Connor was in the doorway, pushing his hair back.

“What have you been showing him?”


“Jaxy. Did you see something scary on Connor’s computer?”


She didn’t believe either of them.

“I don’t play anything with skeletons. It’s all in his weird little mind.”

“My mind’s not weird!”

That set him off again. She shoo-ed Connor back to his room. Jaxxon wouldn’t let her go until she checked under the bed. Not that she could see under there. Groping around she pulled out a couple of Nerf guns, some Lego, Nerf bullets. Jaxxon leaned over the edge, watching her. There was something pointy. She pulled out the long chef’s knife by its tip. Jaxxon’s eyes widened and he bit the edge of the mattress. The hair on her arms stood up.

It had to be Connor. She had washed that knife and put it back in the block right after dinner. She would give him such a telling-off in the morning.

Reaching back under the bed, her hand closed on something thin and hard. She couldn’t guess what it was from the texture. It took a couple of tugs to dislodge it from whatever it was jammed against. She drew out a wooden hanger, dragging with it a clump of other hangers tangled with it, some also wooden, but most of them wire.

Jaxxon screamed and buried himself under his blankets.

“For chrissakes, Jaxy. They’re hangers. Why are you collecting hangers?”

“Get them out!”

He was in her bed when she came back upstairs. On the way to the closet she had attempted to untangle the things but gave up. The light in the closet nearly blinded her. She threw the hangers in on top of Dad’s coat. She’d pick it up in the morning, along with the hangers. The knife went back in the block in the kitchen.

Jaxxon wouldn’t return to his room. She gave in. She just wanted to get back to sleep. With the boy pressed against her the bed was too warm and sleep took her right back to wrestling with the ivy, its vines twisting around her, binding her tight like they were steel wire. The leaves pressed against her face. Jaxxon’s face pushed through them. His skin was white and he was trying to speak. Dead leaves filled his mouth and spilled down his chin.


The vines dug into her arms.


She woke up. Jaxxon’s face was an inch away and he was half whispering, half-shrieking “Mom!” while digging his fingers into her arms. Warmth blossomed across her belly and ran down her side.

“It’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming…”