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Written for my grandson Brandon Marshall Wolfe
By Ronnie W. Wolfe © 2012
-1“Is that my cookie?” shouted Joseph, as he reached for the only cookie left on the plate lying on the table. Jane, his sister, then answered, “No, that’s my cookie.” “Well, then where is my cookie? I left my cookie right here on the plate on the table when I went outside a while ago.” “No, you did not! You ate your cookie before you went outside. I watched you do it.” “Oh, yeah! I forgot.” Joseph was disappointed that he had eaten his own cookie and had forgotten that he did it. He was so hungry as boys almost always are. He walked away from the table with an empty stomach and a bewildered mind. “Maybe when Mom gets home she will bake some more cookies. Then I can have another cookie. That would be so nice” Joseph thought as we wandered toward his bedroom. In the bedroom Joseph busied himself by first taking a book from his own bookshelf to enjoy reading for a while. He noticed the title of the book. It read “Once Upon A Scary Night.” It seemed to be just the thing to get Joseph’s mind off cookie eating and onto something that would satisfy him until Mom could get home and bake some more cookies. Joseph sat down in a small chair that sat beside the window. He began reading at the very first page. He had got the book from the used bookstore a month or so ago but had never read it. Now he would search the book for interesting tales of adventure to occupy his mind. Many books begin with “Once upon a time,” but this book began with “Once upon a night.” That really interested Joseph, and the opening sentence invited him and even tempted him to go on with the reading of the book. Joseph was hoping that the book may scare him a little, and this would certainly take his mind away from his empty stomach for a while. Joseph read one page then another, and as he read, he seemed to get sleepier and sleepier. He could hardly keep his eyes open, but the story in the book kept nagging at him until he was forced to read the next page and then the next page, hoping to finish the book in that very same day that he started reading it. He would not put the book down, he thought, until he had read every last word of the book. As he read, he noticed that daylight was falling down beyond the distant horizon, and it would not be long until night would fall. Joseph was not especially afraid of the dark, but he did not like reading scary stories after dark had come. He tried to hurry his reading so he could get as far along in the book as possible before true darkness had settled around his house, because he knew he probably would stop reading when the darkness had fully come. But it seemed that darkness came quickly, even suddenly, almost surprisingly. Joseph stopped reading at the coming of the sudden darkness, and he looked out the window to see nothing. He saw nothing in the distance. He saw nothing in the nearness. He pushed his head out the window into the darkness, and the darkness seemed to stare back at him almost as though the darkness were a person, an entity, a real, living thing. Joseph brought his head back into his room as quickly as he had felt the hard press of the darkness. He almost shivered at the presence of the darkness upon him. The darkness had briefly horrified him, so he decided to leave off the reading of the book until another time, perhaps the next day when the sun was beaming brightly in the present sky and the darkness had scurried far away from his presence.
-2Joseph sat down again in his chair beside the window. Then he reached out his arm trying to touch the window shade, but he could hardly reach it; so he casually rose up from the chair to grab the shade to pull it down to the very bottom of the window just to hide the deep darkness that he had actually felt through his entire body. He was relieved that the shade was down, and he breathed more quietly as he sat longer and longer in the chair. After a rest of ten minutes or so, Joseph arose from his chair and was going to check to see if his mother had come home. As he raised his shaking body from the chair, in the midst of rising and standing, a sound came to his ears from a fair distance. He stopped in mid-rising to listen more closely at what the sound could be. There he was, half standing and half sitting but very still, to hear whether the sound would come again. It did. This was a sound that Joseph had never heard in his entire life to his very astute memory. He rose further to a standing position and stood very still, again trying to decipher the sound as to its origin and its identity. He did not hear the sound for what seemed as minutes, so he began to walk toward the door very slowly while still listening for every sound his ear could receive. He was almost afraid to open the door, for he was undecided what he might see or hear when he opened the door. Furthermore, he knew that his door would squeak when he opened it; and he did not want to produce any unwanted sounds, sounds that may alert whatever was making the weird noise to either flee away or to come toward him. After standing at the door for about a minute, Joseph finally reached his hand to grip the doorknob. He turned the knob and gently and slowly pulled the door open. With every small squeak Joseph would stop, hoping that the sound of the squeak would not frighten or perhaps warn the entity that he was exiting his bedroom. Movement by movement Joseph finally opened the door entirely, at least enough for him to take a step outside the bedroom. When Joseph got completely out of the bedroom, he noticed the broken light in the hall flickering as usual, on and off, on and off, in such a way that it frightened him even more than he was already frightened. Joseph rose to his tiptoes and tried to move quietly down the hall to where he thought the sound may have come. He got more and more nervous as he approached the faint light of the nightlight in the bathroom. All the other lights in the house were off except perhaps one upstairs where his sister slept. Evidently Mom was not home, or she would have the bright lights in the kitchen turned on. He wondered why he could see no one nor hear anyone talking or even a TV blaring as he usually did. Suddenly Joseph heard the sound again. It sounded this time perhaps like some kind of horn but off key and distorted. It was not a long sound but a brief kind of blare from a horn or from another band instrument or perhaps a vehicle horn. The sound was unidentifiable to Joseph still. But he could now distinguish the direction of the sound. It seemed to be coming from the basement. Joseph had just passed the basement door when he heard the sound this time, so he took a couple of steps backward on his tiptoes and reached his left hand to grab the basement doorknob. As he turned the knob, he heard the sound again; but this time it was a little more faint but seemed to be a little closer to him. “Maybe this is because I am close to the basement door,” he thought. He did not really want to open the door. He thought instead that he might go into another part of the house to get away from this unusual sound; but his mind and his very soul drew him deeper and deeper within himself toward the sound, desiring to know what it was and why it was making this sound. He wondered why he had not simply turned on a light in the house to quell his heart and mind from being so afraid, but he knew somehow that this would not happen but that he must pursue his cause and find out about the weird sound, what it was, and why it was in his house. As he opened the basement door, Joseph gulped; his throat seemed to be getting dryer and dryer. He wanted something to drink, but now he did not have time to satisfy his thirst, because he felt that, if he did not pursue this thing, he may never know what it was.
Now his heart began to beat faster, his hands became sweaty, and his eyes blurred with sweat streaming down his forehead. He tried to wipe away the sweat from his eyes with his arm, but flesh does not wipe away sweat very well, and it seemed to only smear the sweat instead of getting rid of it. Joseph was determined that, no matter what happened, he was going to find out about this “thing,” whatever it was. He stood at the top of the stairs for what seemed like an hour, but it was more likely just a minute or two. “Now,” he thought, “I must go down the stairs one step at a time, carefully, in order not to reveal myself suddenly to whatever or whoever this is.” The whole house now carried an eerie silence, no sound from anywhere as if someone or something were stalking him. He could feel eyes peering at him, but he could see nothing. The darkness in the basement was surprisingly like the darkness he had experienced in his bedroom. What was this darkness? Why is it so personal? How can it speak to me in such silence? These were thoughts that went through Joseph’s mind as he stood there, ready to take his prowl into the basement darkness, unafraid yet nervously shivering, quiet yet with every beat of his heart being heard in his own head, feeling every rush of blood going through his body, taking every breath purposefully.
-3One slow step at a time, Joseph proceeded to descend the steps into the basement. He finally arrived at the last step and could feel the concrete floor under his feet. He tried to look around to see what he could see, but the darkness was so deep that he could see nothing. He could barely come down the steps, because he had to feel each step with his shoe and hold onto the banister in order to make it safe to the bottom of the stairs. He knew the basement from memory, so his careful movements around the basement were not too strange to him. He knew where almost everything was located in the basement, because he had spent much time there. He walked first to the left of the steps, then under the steps around to the right side of the steps so that he could perhaps hear the sound again, for he was sure that the sound had come from the basement. He tripped over something on the floor and realized that someone had put the shovel in the wrong place, and it probably was Joseph himself. He briefly smiled as he tripped, but then his mind went immediately back to the strange circumstance in which he was now trapped. “Where is that sound?” he whispered. “Why won’t the sound happen again?” Joseph kneeled down and stooped for a while as he listened for the sound. “Nothing! Nothing! Why nothing?” he thought, as he now arose from his stoop, his knees hurting from his pose. By now Joseph was not quite as frightened as he had been, so he began to speak by saying “Where are you? Who are you? What are you?” There was no answer, so Joseph began to build up a little courage in his mind and body so that he now wanted to turn on the light to just see with his eyes what was going on, so he made his way to the wall where the light switch was located. He felt along the wall until he found the switch, knowing that, when he turned the switch, the four or five lights in the basement would come on, and he would be able to see very clearly what was going on in the basement; but, when he turned the switch, there was no light. He turned the switch down and up, down and up until he knew that the lights were not going to come on. “Now,” he decided, “I know why it is so dark in the house: a breaker has been thrown, or turned off, probably by using two electrical appliances at the same time.” Now Joseph must go to the breaker box and try to find the breaker that had been thrown and turn it back on in order to have light in the basement and other parts of the house that were affected by that breaker. He wondered why no one else had noticed that the breaker was turned off, but he moved along the outside wall of the basement trying to remember where the breaker box was. He finally remembered that it was close to the outside door of the basement, so he made his
way through the darkness to that door. When he had found the breaker box, he began to feel the breakers with his fingers to decide which one was off. To his amazement, they all seemed to be turned the same way, which meant that, either they were all off, or they were all on. Which was it? He began to switch the breakers back and forth, turning them on and off alternately; but no lights came on. “What is going on here?” he thought. “There must be an electrical outage around the neighborhood. “Yeah, that’s what it is.” Joseph almost forgot about the sound for a few moments, but then he remembered that he was trying to discover the source of a weird sound that he had heard. He opened the outside door of the basement and walked out a step or two in order to look around the neighborhood to see if anyone else in the neighborhood had lights in the house. No lights were on anywhere, so what must he do? “Well, I suppose that I must just go back into the house, find my way upstairs, and go to bed and begin looking again tomorrow when it is daylight,” he said in a whispered voice. Joseph maneuvered his way back into the house, back up the stairs, and back into his bedroom, found his bed, and laid his head on his pillow and collapsed from near exhaustion and fell asleep. He awoke the next morning at the very break of dawn, when the first rays of sun began to sneak across the rolling hills in the distance, the birds began to sing their lonely songs, and other familiar morning sounds made their way into Joseph’s ears. He was so anxious now to get back into the basement to try to identify the sound he had heard the night before, so he rubbed his sleepy eyes, trying to open them as wide as he could, clearing them of the mucus that had built up during his sleep. He proceeded toward the basement, opened the basement door, and almost ran down the stairs and stopped as he put his foot on the concrete basement floor. He looked around, and things seemed to be the same as usual. Joseph was confused as he realized that nothing was different from what he knew would be in the basement. He walked over to the shovel, picked it up, and hung it up on the wall in its proper place. Then he began to look around the basement with a searching eye, looking here and there out of his strong curiosity. As he was walking around with his eyes looking down toward the floor, he noticed a very unusual thing. He stopped and stared at what looked like a bone. He wondered why a bone would be in the basement. “I wonder how this got here?” he said in a quiet voice. “Maybe the dog has been here, and maybe Mom got him a new bone.” But then he noticed the bone was much larger than a bone that the dog would own, so he became very curious about it again. He reached down to the floor to pick up the bone, but as his hand got close to the bone, a sound came from the bone. It was the same sound that Joseph had heard the night before. Joseph jumped back away from the bone and drew his hand back into himself thinking that he did not want to touch a bone that made sounds. As he stood there with a little fright and a little amazement, he heard the sound again. Then Joseph leaned down over the bone to hear the bone from a closer distance. As he bent closer to the bone, the sound came again with some identifiable words: “Scary bones! Scary bones!” was what the sound said. This frightened Joseph to an inch of his life. It is one thing to hear a sound in the distance, quite another thing to hear a sound from a bone, but it is quite a different thing again to hear words, understandable words coming from a bone. “What is the meaning of this?” he thought.
Joseph did not know whether to run, listen to the bone, or do something with the bone. Perhaps he could talk with the bone. He was more undetermined now than he had ever been in his entire life. He just did not know what to do. He decided that he should pick up the bone, take it somewhere and get rid of the bone so it would not be around his house any more. That would settle the whole problem. He reached down to pick up the bone; and as he touched the bone, the daylight coming through the windows of the basement dimmed, which he thought was the result of a cloud covering the sun. As he clasped his hand around the bone to pick it up, the basement became darker and darker. Joseph’s hand was now clutched on the bone so tightly that he could not let it go. What he must do he must do. He was determined to rid himself of this crazy bone. As he walked away with the bone, the darkness became deeper and deeper. The sound “Scary bones, scary bones” continued to come from the bone. Joseph was more and more afraid, but he was still determined to get rid of this bone for good. By the time Joseph reached the stairway, the darkness was so deep that he could hardly see to get up the stairs. By the time he was at the top of the stairs, the darkness had settled so deep that Joseph could not see at all, reminding him of the darkness he had experienced the night before when he was in the basement. The darkness, however, was not just in the basement, but it had crept into the entire house again, and he had to grope his way through the hall and back to his room. Because of the deep darkness, he placed the bone under his bed and made his way over to the chair beside the window where he could sit and rest a while, because he was again very tired from his journey downstairs and from the anxiety he had experienced with a talking bone. Joseph sat down in his favorite chair and seemed to fall asleep, but soon he felt something in his hand. He tried to wake up enough to realize what was in his hand. He was so fearful that he had not actually put the bone under the bed and that it possibly had been left in his hand from bringing it from the basement. Gentle fear struck his heart as he moved his hand a little and realized that in his hand was the book that he had been reading, the one entitled “Once upon a scary night.” As Joseph realized that he had been dreaming this entire adventure, he was calmed by this realization; but he looked across the room and noticed under his bed a bone, a bone somewhat smaller than the one he had dreamed of that was in the basement. As he sat up straight in the chair, Joseph heard his mother say, “Joseph, come get a cookie. I just made some fresh cookies.” Joseph was pleased at that sound and very thankful that his experience had only been a dream and not a reality. As he arose from his chair, his dog, Champ, ran into his bedroom, scurried to the bed, fetched the small bone beneath the bed, and ran out into the hall. Joseph smiled as he made his way down the hall to the kitchen. Everyone in the house could hear Joseph as he walked down the hall and said, “Oh, how I love cookies!”
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