Hide and Seek

The sound of breaking glass rattles the floor beneath us.

“Carl, what was that?”

“It was probably the furnace, you know how it gets in the winter.”

“Damn it! Carl, go do something!”

“All right.” Daddy gets up from the couch, while Mommy swaddles me in the blanket as if I were still a baby.

“Where are you going?” My mom asks me as I try to follow Daddy downstairs.

She lifts me up and cradles me in her arms. The rapid beating of my mother’s heart pounds against my ear. A cold sweat breaks out across her skin as she keeps me silent.

“Hey!” I can hear Daddy shout from all the way downstairs, “Who’s there? Who are you?”  The sound of a gun being shot makes me cry.

Mommy gasps.

A family of three, they will never be again. Graphic by Katie Sickman.
A happy family of three, they will never be again. Graphic by Katie Sickman.

“Shhhhh. You have to be quiet, Eli.” I hear what she wants from me, but I can’t stop my tears. I keep wailing and wailing like the baby I am. All the while, Mommy is running, frantically looking for something. I don’t know what. First she runs into the bathroom but then retreats back to her room. I want to go to my room. I want to sleep. Suddenly, she turns and throws the both of us into her closet and closes the door behind us. The darkness makes me cry harder. Mommy pulls down all of the clothes from her rack, and then reaches up to the top and pulls down every soft blanket and bed sheet. She pushes me to the floor and leans me against the wall. I flail out for her. I feel her side and latch on. She doesn’t stop though; Mommy keeps moving everything around until they’re all perfectly on top of us.

We’re on the inside of a cloud, its soft and cozy, but it’s a dark cloud: I can’t see. Mommy’s smothering me against her chest as I cry. My tears run down my cheeks like a cold rain. I don’t like storm clouds.

“Eli,” she stops for a moment, “You must listen to me. You must be quiet.”

But that noise was so loud!

“Shhhhhhhh” I shake my head in fear as she smothers me, “Shhhhhhh, It’s okay sweetie. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

I feel her tears drop down onto my head. She’s crying too, but she’s being quiet. Maybe we’re playing hide and seek with Daddy? The floor vibrates, and I can hear footsteps outside.

“You’ll never find us in here, Daddy!” I snicker, loving how clever I can be. It helps me stop crying for the moment.

Mommy gasps, and dampens my words with her chest. The door opens moments later. Everything falls silent, even myself. I can’t let Daddy find us too easily can I? Mommy squeezes me tight. I can barely breathe.

The gun goes off.

Mommy screams.

I cry.

Something hot lands in my blanket.

Warm liquid flows out of mommy’s chest.

Mommy holds me in her arms.

I can’t stop crying.

Mommy shushes me.

“Shhhhhh.”

That calms me.

“Eli.” She starts shaking. “Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you, Eli.”

The warm liquid stuff is all over my blanket.

“I love you.”

Mommy squeezes her arms together, pressing me against her heart.

She keeps squeezing, but suddenly stops.

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