Daddy has a pair of dangerous slippers.
Grandma and Grandpa gave them to him for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy laughed when he pulled them from their nest of white tissue and blue wrapping paper. They said “What a delightful gift.” I knew, though, that they were bad.
The slippers have blood red noses, light brown ears, a row of white fangs on their upper lips and bulging white plastic eyes. Dad put his feet into the mouths, pushing his toes up into the monster's brains. They could bite his feet off. I didn't like how they glared at me.
Mom and Dad looked at each other when I said how they scared me and then everyone laughed, especially my little brother Wesley. Mom tipped her head to one side like she did when she was reading a recipe book. She pulled her housecoat little tighter around her and said that eight was too old to be scared by a stuffed toy, and weren't the slippers just that, a toy? I tried to explain but Dad ran his hand over his head as if his fingers could comb the few strands of hair up there. He said I needed to stop before I upset Wesley. They went back to opening presents but I didn’t want to. Something black had moved into our house.
Later, I took my new dolls and dresses to my room. I made space in my closet and drawers and put away my new clothes. I looked at each item as I put it away. I loved every lace pattern, every colour and every pleat. My parents knew what I liked--and not just Mom. Dad picked out a lot of things for me and his meant the most because I knew it was hard for him to choose.
"Jenny's scared of old slippers, Jenny's scared of slippers." Wesley sang from my door. He scrunched his face up letting his tongue hang out as he mocked me, making the words slurred and cruel.
"Shut up LITTLE boy," I emphasized "little" since he hated being only six. "Get out of here or I'll punch you out." He also hated that I was stronger than him.
"Slippers of death, yah! yah!" He sang, strumming an air guitar like a rock star. "Slippers of fear." I slammed the door in his face. "Yu cain't hyde fm slprs of dooooom," he had pressed his lips to the crack along the bottom of the door.
I jammed Ken doll's arm under the door and heard Wesley cry out. He went away.
I apologized to Ken and played that he had hurt his arm in a bad accident, tragic really. Barbi nursed him.
Lying in bed that night I thought about the slippers. They were waiting to get me. I just knew it. I heard them in every night sound. I felt them moving. I was almost asleep when the floor creaked just outside my door.
My door! I sat up, almost screaming. I had left my door open a little bit. I should get up and close it tight but was afraid to leave my bed.
What was I going to do? The slippers were in the hall. There was nothing between them and me. I needed my door closed. Would I have enough time to jump out of bed, slam it and get back to safety? What if they caught me half way?
I couldn't decide what to do, so I did nothing. I lay there, a simple chicken, pulling the covers tighter under my chin. I hoped the slippers couldn't hear my breathing. I heard them though, breathing as one, shuffling, sniffing, trying to smell me. They stared around my door with their bulging eyes.
I squeezed my eyes tight but could still hear them breathing. It changed when they slithered into my room. They knew where I was even with me trying to hide. Their breathing got faster but quieter, trying to be silent. Just like me.
They stopped just inside the door. I could feel them watching me. I tried not to squirm. Tried not to let them know I was awake and that I knew they were there.
They watched me until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. In the morning the memory was thin. I played in my room.
After supper I offered to help do the dishes. Mom looked at me with that little tilt of her head and a tight mouth but said, “Why, thank you Jenn.” Then she smiled and asked “What are you looking for?”
I lied and said I just felt like helping. We talked about my new clothes and the project I had to do before I went back to school. While she was scrubbing the potato pot, I told mom I didn't like the slippers, that they were scary. She stopped rubbing the pot and stared out the window for moment before laughing and saying I was being silly. I was too old to act like this.
Wesley came in the kitchen and bared his teeth at me, making his eyes go wide. I asked if I could go watch TV. Soon Mom and Wesley came in the family room and we laughed through the show. Then dad came in. With his slippers on. Wesley saw me staring at them and sang in a whisper, "Slippers of death." I went to my room.
They visited me again that night. They came just inside my door and their silence made me feel awful. My stomach hurt. My mouth was dry but I couldn’t get a drink. In school we learned about how some people scare others to make them do things. That is called terror. Those slippers terrored me. Again I fell asleep before they left. Again I woke to a safe morning. I felt a little better but it still felt wrong in the house. It got worse whenever dad was home. He always wore those stupid slippers.
Every night they came and terrored me to sleep. When my breathing matched theirs, I would fall asleep. I got used to their quiet watching. Then they moved closer.
I didn't notice until they were halfway to my bed. Little by little, night by night they were slinking closer, cats sneaking up on a bird. Were they tired of scaring me? Were they getting hungry? I got not-used to them and they terrored me more. I heard them whisper my name, words; telling me I was pretty and soft and they wouldn't hurt anyone so tender. I wanted to tell mom they were right beside my bed but she would say I was lying. She wouldn't believe me. I cried into my pillow and closed my eyes hard to squish the slippers away. Then they touched me.
It was soft but they were lying. I barely felt it through the quilt but it was a dark touch. They were going to get me and it would be slow.
The next morning I talked to mom. I told her the slippers had touched me. They were going to do worse. "It must have been a dream Jennifer," she said. "I’m surprised those slippers still frighten you. Maybe we should have you speak with someone about them. Your school nurse can suggest someone. Would you like me to call the school?"
I knew what would happen then, another adult would laugh at me and then all my friends would find out about it. Everyone would laugh at me and call me sissy and not like me anymore. "No," I smiled like you do for pictures, "it must have been just a dream." I felt more afraid of mom right then than the slippers. What would she think if she knew the truth?
I wondered if maybe I had done something to make the monsters hate me and want to hurt me. I knew they were lying to me, they were going to hurt me, in their own time. Why were they picking on me and not Wesley? Or were they? I wanted to ask him about it but I was scared of telling him. I couldn't stand any more of his teasing. He had told his friends about it and they all laughed at me. I had to pull his hair hard to make him stop. I had to be terrored alone.
On my birthday they touched me under the covers. They pulled the blankets back and stroked my hair. They said I was growing into a fine looking young woman, getting so big and mature. I was too frightened to stop them from pulling the blankets down, off my head.
They stroked me like I was a puppy. It was soft but it was dark. I knew it was bad, it felt bad. It got worse.
Then they touched my private parts and I knew I would never be clean again. Those parts were supposed to be mine only. My private places became a playground for hurting fingers. How could I ever tell anyone about this? I bathed and scrubbed but could not rid myself of the wrong that was on me. The monsters were not done terroring me. They made me touch them. They told me it was my fault they had to do this. I had to do this to them. My fault. I was to blame. I was shame. I did what they told me. I touched what they told me. I let them touch me. I wllt them because they kept the secrets. They wouldn't tell. They hurt me, marked me but no one could see. Then dad went in the hospital.
He had to have an operation. Mom took his monsters to the hospital. I slept undisturbed.
On the second day mom took me and Wes to visit dad. He showed us his stitches and we talked. Wesley and I got bored in dad’s room and went to the TV room.
After a while I went down some of the hallways, looking at all the strange stuff on trays and chairs with wheels. I was bored and was just waiting for mom to be ready to leave. I didn't want to go to dad's room, it smelled strange. I looked in all the windows along the hallway and pushed on each door. Most were locked. One wasn't but I had to push hard to open it.
It was dim inside the room. A lone bulb burned high above me but it hardly kept the shadows in the corners. The room felt small, not much more than a closet. It didn’t smell like a hospital.
The door pulled itself shut cutting off the extra light from the hallway. The darkness in the corners got bigger. My heart caught in my mouth for a moment and I backed up against the wall. I was trapped. I reached toward the door handle and gave it a little pull. It opened, not locked as I imagined. I could hear moving air echoing around the room. A hollow, sucking sound with a whistle in the background drew my gaze to a handle in the wall a foot above my head.
I reached for it, grasped it, pulled down. A small door slid out, pivoting on its lower edge, like the chute on the postal box. The moving air became a roar and startled me. The handle was smooth and slipped out of my fingers. The door slammed shut, cutting off the sound.
I reached for it again. I pulled myself up by the handle, straining to get a peek over the lip of the chute door. I wanted to see what made that sound. Suddenly the door to the room opened.
"What are you doing in here little girl?" The voice was rough but gentle. I let go of the handle and fell to the floor. I turned to the man who was just a shape in the doorway.
"Nothing," I answered. "Just exploring. I didn't mean anything."
"This is no place for you. Do you know where that chute leads to?"
"It leads to the incinerator in the basement. Do you know what that is?"
"I don't think so." The man's face was hidden in shadow but he didn't seem mad.
"An incinerator is a big furnace that is very hot. There are a lot of things in this hospital that have to be burned after they’re used. That is were they go. If you ever went down that chute we wouldn't even find your bones. It's that hot."
Now I was scared.
"You come on out and I'll help you get back were you should be. Are you here with your parents?"
I remembered what I had been told about strangers but this man seemed nice. He backed up to let me out and, when the light moved across his face, I saw he was black. His face was leather but his smile was satin. I asked him his name and told him mine. His hand took mine as I told him why I was at the hospital. It was warm and safe. He walked me back to where mom was and I thought of a wonderful plan.
I was in trouble for being where I wasn't supposed to be but it didn't bother me. I was making a plan. I had to make sure I came with mom when she visited tomorrow.
I hardly slept that night. I waited for the sound of the slippers in the hallway even though I knew they couldn’t get me from where they were. Their time was up. They wouldn’t be able to hurt me anymore. I was going to stop them before they did worse to me.
On the way to the hospital, I couldn't sit still in the car. Mom scolded me several times for not staying in my seatbelt and for rolling down the window. I felt free, out of danger, happy. Then we walked into daddy's room.
His suitcase was on the bed and he was dressed. "Hi dear," Mom greeted him as he emerged from the washroom with hands full of toothbrush, paste and men's stuff, "almost ready to go?" She had known all along and hadn't told me dad was going home.
"Yes, just waiting for my prescription to come up from the pharmacy. It should be here in a few minutes."
What was I going to do? It had to happen today or the slippers would get back home.
Daddy's slippers were tucked in his suitcase. I pretended to happy and pulled them out. Dancing around the room, waving the slippers I sang "Daddy's coming home, daddy's coming home." Mom and dad believed me but my skin crawled from touching those awful things. I wasn't happy at all that he was coming home.
"Isn't this a nice surprise Jennifer?" Mom asked me. "I wanted to keep it secret." How could she stand there smiling when she was bringing the terror home?
I agreed and put the slippers on over my shoes. I wasn't touching them with my skin but now my feet were right in their mouths. Right where they wanted me. I skipped around the room and then announced I was going to the TV room. "We'll pick you up there on the way out but for...." I didn't wait for the rest of what mom was saying but did hear "slippers away" as the door came between us. There was no way I was going to let them get the slippers from me. As soon as I was out of the room I ran.
The slippers seemed to know where they were headed and they tried to trip me up. They began biting my ankles but I wasn't going to stop now. If I failed it would be too late. I gritted my teeth and ran.
It seemed miles but I made it to the incinerator door. Hoping it wasn't locked I pushed on it. The slippers grabbed each other and I almost fell. The door swung open and I stumbled inside. Shadows surrounded me.
I ripped the monsters from my feet. They stared at me. "We are in the dark! Our domain!" I grew scared of touching them again. Then I thought about them coming into my room, touching me, speaking to me and I grabbed them up, opened the chute and stuffed them in. I heard their surprised screams. I saw their bulging eyes disappear into the dark. I pictured the flames touching them. “Terror that!” I yelled down the chute. Their cries were long distance and hollow. They were cut off when I let go of the handle.
I was in the TV room when mom came to get me. I expected her to ask about the slippers and I wasn't sure what I was going to say. She didn't even mention them. I got to push the elevator buttons. I felt pretty good as we stopped for dad to sign papers before leaving. I sat and looked through a magazine until we were ready to go.
"Let's go, Punkin." Dad spoke as he passed me.
I dropped the magazine onto the table and followed.
I looked at him and mom, holding hands, bums swaying.
“Hold my hand daddy,” I called, reaching for him. He turned and reached for me. The walls closed in tight and my vision clouded. I screamed as dad looked at me with bulging plastic eyes.
Terry has been writing for most of his life and has enjoyed success with both short stories and poetry. Three of his short stories, Commuter Chaos, Onto The Internet and Speed Bumps were published in a 2009 anthology, Kissed on a Boat. He recently won first place with his story Aviator Girl in the Arts Angels short story contest. Previously he won first place in the Quinte Literary Society poetry contest with Quiet Respect and second place in the essay portion of the contest with Embrace The Arts. Terry also wrote the video movie review column, Dusty Movies, which, at one point, was published in eight Canadian newspapers.
Terry presently lives in Duncan with his wife Eileen. He continues to write for the love of the craft.
|< Prev||Next >|