“Your house is weird.”
William left a worrisome amount of lasagna on his dinner plate. He loved lasagna.
“And what makes you say that?” Grandpa asked.
“It smells funny. An old, musty smell.”
“William!” I scolded.
Grandma chuckled. “It’s okay, sweetheart.”
She took his plate, a small expression of disappointment flitting across her mouth. “What else?”
“Things move by themselves.”
I looked at him in horror. “I’ve never seen that.”
“You don’t see a lot of things, my obtuse older sister,” William replied. “Like this morning. When I left the bathroom, my reflection stayed inside the mirror, looking down at the sink. I watched it from the hallway until it looked up at me. Then the door SLAMMED!”
I looked at my grandparents with alarm. “I don’t want William frightened,” I said firmly. “Mom will never let us come here again if one of you let him watch those old horror movies and give him bad dreams.”
“It’s just the ‘little people’ playing tricks,” Grandma exclaimed, running the sink. The water screamed onto the dirty dishes. “You know, like Irish folktales?”
“I don’t believe in fairies, they’re stupid,” William sighed.
“But they believe in you,” Grandpa tugged William’s ear to try and make him laugh.
“You must not offend them,” Grandma insisted. “Don’t call them stupid.”
This is it, I realized. Our grandparents have finally gone senile. It’s time shop to for in-home nursing and check the fridge for moldy food.
Wait – if they’re the senile ones, then what did William see?
That night, I woke up at 3 AM. Our door was open and the hall light was off. Grandma’s television was making white noise, the static of empty sitcoms finally going off-air. Blue moonlight wavered in through the curtained windows and made squares of eerie light on the bedroom wall, leaving the twin bed where William slept in upmost shadow.
Out of the darkness, William suddenly started screaming. It wasn’t a cry of homesickness or surprise. It was a scream of pain, hammering my mind with panic and adrenaline.
He screamed, “IT’S GONE! IT’S GONE! IT’S GONE!”
I shot out of bed. “WILL! WILL! WHAT? WHAT IS IT?”
I turned to see a shadow standing at the foot of his bed.
Small, just William’s height.
The shadow was smiling.
I was fumbling for the light switch, but it seemed to be evading me, jumping from wall to wall. I heard another door open, and our grandparents running toward the guest room. William’s cries gurgled as he was violently sick, and then he went on screaming, completely overwhelmed with terror.
I found the light switch and hit it hard, but there was nothing by his bed. The curtains fluttered as something slipped away. William cradled his hand to his chest, rocking back and forth. There was blood everywhere. His pointer finger on the left hand was gone.
It had been bitten off.
“You shouldn’t have called them stupid,” Grandma whispered at the door.