“I’m seven-years-old and I’m tired of the taste of my own blood.”
The child’s eyes were bright with tears, and the fingers he used to stop them overflowing, looked red and sore.
“They come for me at night,” he sobbed. “I’m hurt and I can’t sit down. Won’t you help me?”
He glanced over his shoulder then turned back wild-eyed.
“They’re here, don’t let them take me. Oh, help me.” His tiny hands reached out in supplication for mercy, and receiving none, he turned away and was slowly enveloped by the darkness, until only his pleas echoed from out of the abyss. “Jesus help me, Holy Mary help me.”
It was then the screaming started.
Sarah fought her way back to consciousness and bolted up in the bed. Her nightdress was bunched around her waist and she tugged at the sweat-soaked material, but it was useless. In her weakened condition this small task left her breathless, and she knew she would have to get up to untangle herself. The room glowed white in the pre-dawn light, and the cold air pricked at her fevered skin. Brushing the perspiration from her forehead, she swung her legs on to the bare floor and struggled up. The uneven, wooden boards caused her to lurch, and she grabbed at the headboard for support. The only sounds within the room were those of her laboured breathing, and the wake-up call of the birds in the trees outside. But she had heard someone screaming.
Her legs shook as she walked towards the window. The thin curtains were almost transparent in the harsh light, and their rose pattern became crimson bloodstains. Unsure of what she would find waiting, she closed her eyes and with trembling fingers grasped the material and drew it back.
The early evening mist had overnight turned to a fog that swirled and twisted, causing small shapes to move within it. Just above the skyline, she could see the tall spires of the old school, gothic, dark and forbidding. The latch on the window was rusted and stiff with age and she hit it with the palm of her hand, until it gave way. Freezing fog crept in to the room and wrapped itself around her like a wreath, she gasped at its touch. Outside nothing moved, the silence deepened and even the birds had stopped singing. The sheer loneliness overwhelmed her, a feeling so extreme and absolute she almost cried out in pain.
It was then, in that quiet time, when the world struggles between sleep and wakefulness, when the air lies heavy with dreams and the wind whispers its promise of tomorrow, that Sarah was reminded of her own unbearable loss. The memory sent her staggering back to bed and she lay shivering beneath the heavy duvet and tried to forget the nightmare image that woke her, but it was useless. Every time she closed her eyes it was there. The figure of a small, naked, bloodstained boy, his hands outstretched, pleading and surrounded by a dark malevolent evil. She reached out to him and for a moment felt his fingers brush against hers before he was snatched from her grasp. Lecherous hands moved across his pale flesh and sinister, mocking laughter mingled with his cries. The bed shook with the force of her sobs, as she recalled his face as it was swallowed by the darkness, blue eyes wide in terror. His voice calling her name over and over until it faded into nothingness, and only then did she realised the screams she had heard, had been her own.