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by The Jotter
There it was again. That noise. Jack put down his newspaper – yes, he was a bit old-fashioned, still reading a newspaper – and looked at the window, frowning. It was not a new window, but it did its job, being a window. However, it's job was not to make noise. He sighed, looking down at his pet, Mephisto, shrugged his shoulders, and wearily got up from the chair he was in. By taking a couple steps he was at the window, and peered through it, searching for anything that might have made that noise, but he really couldn't see anything except a faint mirror image of himself, at which he frowned, shaking his head. Returning to his chair, he sat down and patted Mephisto on the head, smiled, and picked up his newspaper. Giving the paper one of those satisfying crisp newspaper snaps as he opened it, he relaxed in his chair and became lost to the world. It was only five minutes or so later that he heard the noise again. Peering over the newspaper, Jack 's eyes looked absently at the window. Yes, there it was, the noise. Shaking his head, Jack threw his newspaper down onto the ground, accidentally covering Mephisto who had to crawl out from under the day's headlines, and Jack was at the window tapping a crooked finger on the glass pane. Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap. He paused, cocking his head. Tap-tap-tap. He began to get the willies. Was something on the other side of this window? He remembered back about four years, when this same scenario had happened, and it had continued for months. Something had been on the other side of this window, making noises not long after it got dark which was about the same time that Jack sat down with his newspaper, expecting a quiet evening and good reading to play out without interruption. He'd earned those evenings. However, he'd actually become so spooked by the noises back then that he had begun to read in a different place those four years ago. He had only recently returned to this place. Something about it, some undefined ambiance, made the reading better by this window. Thus, he was here, tonight, hoping to relax and take in the day's events. “Here we go again,” Jack, without looking back, said to Mephisto, who was thinking of peeing on the newspaper in retribution for being covered with it most unceremoniously mere moments before.
Jack raised himself out of the chair again and went to press his face to the window. It was at that very moment that the curtain, on the other side of the window, parted to reveal Joey, a seven-year old boy, who had heard a tap-tap-tap on his window pane and been a bit unsettled by the noise. However, Joey had decided that it needed some investigation, for boys at his age were certainly 90% curiosity. He had decided that only an idiot would have gone to sleep after that, even with the covers over their head. So, at a moment of unfortunate synchronous timing, both Jack (the retired demon who lived in the window-well of 1422 Lake Drive Lane) and Joey (the seven-year old boy who lived in the room on the other side of that window-well at the very same address) pressed their faces to the same pane of glass at the same moment in history. “AHHHHHHH!” Jack yelled, stepping back and tripping over Mephisto, his rat, and landing on his haunches in the petunia patch. Jack looked disgustedly at the flowers. “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” Joey yelled, jumping back from the window, stepping on a matchbox car he should have put away before bed, a model of a red 1964 Mustang, a real prize, and was now yelling “OWWWWWW!” as he ran one-footed to his door. Outside, Jack was on the ground still, staring at the window, and making the sign of the pentagram on his chest. “Heavens, what was that thing?” Mephisto cocked a weary eye at Jack and shook his head, in an exaggerated fashion so that Jack could see it in the dark, even. “Sorry for swearing,” Jack said. “I meant, Hades help me.” The rat, rather piqued at all the unnecessary (in his opinion) excitement and commotion, let go a stream onto the newspaper and, shaking his head, went off to find a rotting piece of fruit in someone's trash. Inside, Joey was met in the hallway by Susan, who picked him up in her arms and asked, concerned, “Joey, Joey, what is it? Tell mommy what it is?” “A monster! A face in my window! It was horrible! He had big teeth, ugly purple hair, yellow eyes, a pointy head...” He trailed off as Susan patted him on the back gently, feeling the safety of her arms, as
all boys at that age are wont to do in the middle of the night, when their friends aren't around. Susan wished her husband wasn't working late tonight. She carried Joey into her room and put him into her bed. “You stay here, little man, okay?” When Joey nodded, Susan left the room. Joey went under the covers faster than a roach finds a hole in the wall when the light is turned on. Susan walked determinedly to the bedroom that was currently Joey's. She thought back four years, when Ellie had claimed the same thing for a while. What was it about this room? Or was it a phase the kids went through? She pushed her satiny brunette hair behind her ears and reaching Joey's room, prayed that his baseball bat would be against the wall, where he usually kept it, despite her suggestion that there were better places for it. She felt along the wall, in the dark, stepping on a matchbox car (a replica of a 1972 Cadillac, not much of a prize) and suppressing a desire to yell “Joey, I thought I told you to pick up your toys!!!” eventually found the bat. Feeling a bit brave, as she was now armed and dangerous (she had never swung a bat outside of gym class 22 years ago, actually, but she felt oddly assured by the heft of polished wood in her hands), she steadily made her way to the wall next to the window. Flattening herself with her back to the wall next to the window, she turned her head and lifted the corner of the drape to peer outside very carefully. She saw what she expected to see. The empty driveway between her house and her neighbors, with a few weeds struggling to grow in the cracks that she had been telling her husband about, petunias which managed to grow despite her lack of gardening wherewithal, and...what was that? A small movement caught her eye by the trash can. She looked harder, squinting, and then opened her eyes wide. “A rat?!?!” She gasped. She stared hard, unbelieving, for there it was, a rat walking on its hind legs and holding up a rind of cantaloupe to its mouth, obviously eating back and forth as it walked leisurely down the driveway. Outside, Jack was pressed against the bricks of the house, right under and to the side of the window, blending in as demons are wont to do when disturbed by these bothersome humans. He was also hissing at Mephisto. “Hey!” he hiss-whispered. “Hey! Get over here! What are you doing? She'll see you, you miserable, ill-behaved, contrarian rodent!” Jack rued the day he had picked up the little
bugger from the rescue shelter. Oh, the demons volunteering their time to run the rescue shelter were so sure this little bugger was the griffin's meow, but this rat had turned into rather an independent little bother. He was definitely not helping Jack enjoy his golden years of retirement. “Mephisto! Take cover!” he hissed again, and then hoped the rat would not come to him and potentially lead to his discovery by the terrible thing inside the house. Urban legend had it the things in these houses didn't like rats. Anyway, why couldn't they leave a nice retired old demon alone??? His right hand began to shake a bit as it held his prize lawn chair against the house, causing it to rattle a bit against the bricks. “Shhh!” he said to the chair. He had rescued the lawn chair many years ago from someone's treasure pile by the street one night (he still didn't understand the ritual of these terrible beings giving away their best stuff once a week to that beautiful and noisy truck that picked it all up, rather gratefully Jack supposed. Perhaps the truck was some sort of ruler? He never had understood this world.) At any rate, the chair was one of those aluminum-tubed frame things with synthetic fabric webbing – an attractive molded beige that frayed beautifully at the edges. It made Jack feel very special to have this throne for his relaxing evenings, and helped him enjoy his – his newspaper! Where was his newspaper? He looked around and then saw it. It was there, in the petunias, his newspaper for all the world, especially that terrible human peering out the window, to see! “Oh no!” Jack groaned out loud, then covered his mouth with a gnarled and callused hand. Inside, Sue said to herself, “I have some litter to pick up, too. Some paper has blown into my petunias.” But she mostly kept her eye on that rat, which had made its way halfway down the driveway, and was almost even with the window now. It was then that Sue saw the rat seem to look at the window and nod at her...like guys nod to each other in that small passing way of “hey, I see you, acknowledge you, but am too tough or lazy to do anything more like actually say hello” way. It gave her a guy nod! She let the curtain fall back to cover the window and put her head against the wall, trying to breathe slow and deep. “I need more sleep. This is ridiculous.” She decided Joey could spend the night in her bed. No use to try and put him back in here. She walked out of Joey's room and down the hall, softly opening Ellie's door. She listened to the dark, peered around and heard or saw nothing but a sleeping just-about-teenage girl in the bed. “Best to let
THAT one continue to sleep...” she murmured to herself. At any rate, all was right with Ellie. She closed Ellie's door and continued into her own room and fished Joey out of the bottom of the covers, which actually took a bit of wrangling. He was already asleep, so she arranged him on a pillow in the middle of the top of the bed and then lay down next to him. She listened a bit to the noises of the house, to the noises of the outside, to Joey breathing softly, but heard nothing. She sighed contentedly and lay some more in bed before finally falling asleep to dream of gallant rats, dressed in prince's clothing, and dancing elegantly with her at a stately European ball of some years ago. Outside, Jack's hand stopped shaking and he peered around at the window. The window was empty again, finally. Jack sighed, and stepped away from the bricks. He looked down the driveway towards the street to see where Mephisto had gone. “Get down from there!” The rat had perched himself on the top of the mailbox on the curb, still eating his melon, almost spotlighted by the moon, his hairless tail swinging back and forth in a merry manner. “Hey! Mephisto!!! Look at me now!” The rat, however, showed him no attention at all. Sighing, Jack bent down to pick up his newspaper thinking he would go swat that rat one but he dropped it immediately, wiping wetness off his hand onto the flowers. “Why you little rat!!!!” He started toward the rat on the mailbox, sans newspaper, with determined steps. The rat, however, had kept an ear and eye on the demon behind him and scampered down and out of sight. Jack stopped, shook his head, unfolded his chair and set it down in the driveway and sat. Fishing out a cigar from his pocket and producing a flame on his thumb by snapping his fingers (a natural talent of demons) he sighed, then had the cigar fully lit. Puffing (with a bit of huffing from all the activity), Jack sat and grumbled about his luck, unaware that he was being eyed rather warily by Mephisto from underneath the petunias a few feet away. Jack would be further upset in a minute by the car coming down the street, driven by Susan's husband and headed for 1422 Lake Drive Lane, but that's another story.
All words and pictures © 2011, The Jotter 6
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