When I started having nightmares I didn’t want to talk about them. When I woke up afraid and my parents would come, I’d only say I had a bad dream. I didn’t wanted to relive the details with words.
When the Man with the Shadow Voice kept coming I decided to tell my parents what my bad dreams were about. Who they were about. My dad told me it was just my imagination and not to be afraid. He bought me a nightlight.
My mother didn’t say anything. She just hugged me tightly. I think she might have been crying, but I was too busy crying to be sure.
At the time, my parents’ different reactions seemed like a matter of personality, but many years later my mother said something that made me wonder if her reaction meant more than I thought.
By the time my mother died she hadn’t been lucid for years. I would sit by her bed and hold her hand while largely dismissing her ramblings. Then she said something that made me flinch.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry about Brendan. I thought the Man was done after your brother. I thought he had what he wanted.”
“What,” I stammered, “What did you say? What man? What about Paul?”
“The Man didn’t help like I thought he would. He’s a curse. Just a curse.”
“Who? Do you mean the Man with the Shadow Voice? Do you see him too?”
“Who, dear?” She was gone in a fog again leaving my mind and my heart racing.
My brother Paul died when he was a baby, years before I was born. Had he been a part of a deal with the Man with the Shadow Voice? Had my mother known about him all along?
Or, I thought, was I just grasping for unintended meaning in the ramblings of an old woman?
I remember when Grandma died. I was 7. I didn’t like visiting her.
She scared me. She was wrinkled and tiny like she was shrinking from the inside. Her breath and skin smelled bitter. She said things that didn’t make sense.
One day she told me not to be afraid because my mom would do the right thing and not let the bad man get me. It creeped me out at the time, but I had largely forgotten until reading my own mom’s words.
* * * * *
What happens next? Read the next part of the story here.
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