Becky was wrapped in her soft velvety covers. Her long white hair spread out on her pillows. A silver music box on the bedside plinked away its winsome melody. But in her dreams, she walked amongst the stars. Tiptoeing along a slender arch of burnished glass, twinkling in the starlight. Becky held out her arms to keep her balance, humming along with the music that surrounded her.
A crack of thunder rent the violet clouds drifting between the stars. Becky gasped, the thunderbolt nearly caused her to lose her delicate balance. Strange, she didn’t remember it raining as she fell asleep. A flash of light danced across her eyes as another crack rent the darkness. A crack that wasn’t thunder.
Becky peeled open an eye as her music box let out one last mournful chord before grinding to a halt. Becky sat up, as a spark of light lit up the window dressings of her little bedroom. She leaped to the window and the shutters open. Her breath left her and her eyes grew wide. Someone outside was shouting.
Becky snatched her scarf and threw on her boots tying them as fast as she could. She galloped down the rough wooden stairs as quickly as her sleepy legs could manage. Her father’s lantern in hand, she threw open the heavy cottage door.
A dense fog billowed in around Becky’s ankles spreading out across the walnut floorboards. The steam from Becky’s breath mingled with the waist-high cloud of fog. A flash played across her features, a moment later another horrendous crack tore the air. Becky flinched and covered her ears, dropping the lantern. Shards of glass shattering around her feet.
At the same moment, cold hands grabbed Becky from behind, wrapping around her middle. A firm hand covered her mouth before she could scream.
‘Becky, quiet! Stay quiet!’
‘Momma!’ Becky said, going limp in mother’s arms, ‘Where is Da?’
‘Stay quiet little one,’ Mother said, pushing Becky into the darkest corner of the coat closet.
‘Momma, what’s going on?!?’ Becky asked
‘Stay here little one, don’t come out, no matter what. Promise?’
‘I promise!’ Becky said, tearing up.
Mother gave her a quick kiss on her forehead, as she gently pushed Becky’s music box into her hands. ‘You’ll always be my little nightingale,’ Mother said, in a soft, almost, tired voice.
Tears rolled down Becky’s cheeks, as her Mother’s hand slipped out of her fingers, and closed the closet door as quiet and gentle as if Becky had just been tucked into bed.
Each second seemed an era to Becky. She shivered, the jackets and scarves hanging in the wardrobe did little to insulate her from her chilling fear. She mumbled a quiet lullaby to herself, clutching the music box to her chest, when the door she huddled behind slipped open a crack, seemingly of its own accord.
The rocking cage of the still-burning lamp cast long dancing shadows across the room. Something Moved. Becky gasped and withdrew into the darkest corner of her hiding place, eyes fixed on the chink of light streaming in. A muffled footstep, crushed glass trodden underfoot. Heeled boots thudding slowly on floorboards. Closer, closer.
Becky could see a shape stood just outside the closet door. She daren’t breathe. She clenched her eyes tightly shut.
Finally, the footfalls slowly retreated. As they neared the door, Becky exhaled, relaxing. DING! It was all she could do to keep in a yelp of surprise. She was betrayed! She hadn’t realized just how tightly she had clutched the music box, as she relaxed it must have slipped! Three weary notes escaped from it.
Becky froze, teeth clenched painfully tight. Ears pricked for any sound. There was nothing, silence regained.
After a long moment filled only with dread, Becky peeled open an eye. Another moment passed. She opened her other eye. Another, and still, nothing. Becky’s jaw unclenched, she took a quick breath. She leaned slowly forward towards the crack of light…
A bright light filled all her mind, the door swung wildly open. Becky screamed, scrabbling backward away from the blinding light. Iron hands clasped Becky’s ankles like vices. Becky screamed and kicked in vain. The sound of hoarse mechanical breathing echoed in her brain, as the round glass eyes of gas-masked face filled all her vision.