‘Tell me a spooky story, Mummy.’
‘No Lewis, it’s late. It’s way past your bedtime.’
‘Please Mummy, just a little one…’
‘Lewis, no. Look…’
‘But Mummy, it’s Halloween!’
‘Lewis, no. Just go to sleep, ok!’
‘Just a quick story…’
‘No. Now goodnight!’
Jane leaned down and kissed her 8 year old son softly on the forehead, caressing his arm. She reached down by the side of the bed and switched his bedside lamp off, smothering the room in darkness. She stepped away gently, trying to project a serenity onto proceedings, ushering him hopefully into the realms of sleep.
‘…Mummy…’ came a faint whisper.
She grimaced. Yet continued walking tentatively towards his bedroom door. Ignore it, she told herself. Ignore it. It’s all those sweets he’s piled down his throat. He’ll crash out soon enough.
‘…Mummy…’ another whisper.
No. No, she told herself. Two more steps and she’d be out of the room. Two more carpeted steps until the relative safety of the staircase.
‘…Mummy…’ the volume increased, ‘…Mummy…what about The Monk Man…?’
Her bones jolted. Her spine tingled.
Words trembled on the tip of her tongue, failing to fully form.
‘W-what…?’ she finally uttered.
‘The Monk Man, Mummy. Can you tell me about The Monk Man?’
Her son’s voice was steady. Direct. Assured.
‘…How do you…I mean…I’ve never…’
The words retreated down her throat. She stood there in the darkness of her son’s bedroom. Her figure ever-so-slightly hunched, the weight of the moment temporarily skewing her frame.
No, she thought. No, she had never told him about The Monk Man. Never. She’d never told anyone. Well, not anyone that wasn’t there at the time. And they were dead, the other three. Veronica. Damien. Annabelle. Maybe because it had all seemed like a dream, a nightmare. That Halloween night thirty some years ago. Bathed in a surreal, hallucinogenic haze. But it was real, wasn’t it? Of course it was. But still. There was no way of him ever finding out. Unless…no. No. No, she had never uttered a word of it to Jonathan. Not once in their ten years of marriage. Not even when drunk. She’d been too careful. She’d never even told him when speaking to his gravestone, never once when whispering to his memory in the dark of night. Was ‘careful’ the word? No, wary, perhaps. Too wary to utter a word. Oh Jonathan, she thought, her heart aching slightly. It’s times like these, times like these. Four years now. If only you could find a way back to me. To us…
‘Mummy, who even is the Monk Man?’ Lewis’ question interrupted her introspective wrangling.
She hesitated. Only for a second. Before allowing her practiced levels of parental bullshittery to kick in.
‘Don’t be silly Lewis, there’s no such thing as any Monk Man’ she answered, amplifying the derision in her voice. ‘You’ve just had too much sugar tonight. And you’ve been watching too many Halloween cartoons and films.’
‘No buts young man. It’s time for bed so get that sweetie-filled little head of yours down on that pillow and get some sleep! School tomorrow remember. The week doesn’t just stop because it’s Halloween!’
‘Goodnight Lewis.’ The tone of her voice was stern this time.
‘…Goodnight Mummy…’ came the answer, drenched in an encroaching slumber.
She stepped out the room, taking a breath to compose herself.
‘Bloody Monk Man…’ she whispered to herself dismissively as she began to walk down the stairs, the half-drunk bottle of White chilling in the fridge calling out to her with a sudden pull.
She stopped. Again. Her hand grasping tightly hold of the banister. The word seemed to have slipped from the darkness, caressing her earlobes. Almost like a light breeze tickling her skin.
She felt her body clench. Her chest tightened. Her breath shortened. No. NO.
‘There’s no fucking Monk Man!’ she hissed into the darkness, shaking her head. ‘There never was! It was a daft children’s story! An urban legend! A myth! Lies!’ She loosened her grip on the banister and took another step down.
The Monk Man…
No. God, no! Don’t listen, she told herself. Tricks. The mind playing tricks.
The Monk Man…
Shadows. Sounds. Trickery. That’s all.
The Monk Man lives…
The whispers taunted her, piercing her from every corner of the darkness. Filing her ears with the half whispered, half childish-lullaby. Her mind buckled under the weight of memories. Under the weight of images. Of that day. Of that day all those years ago. Of her friends. Of their playful singing, their teasing, their taunting. Of their bodies, laying strewn on the ground. Lifeless. Of the face. That eyeless, expressionless face. Of the terror, the murder it wrought. Of the helplessness. Of the fear. Of the woods. Her daring escape. The escape she never thought possible. The one that seemed almost too easy. As if he…as if IT…had allowed her to flee. Images of its robed figure almost floating through the field, weaving effortlessly through the trees in pursuit of her. The bloodied roped dangling from its lifeless arms. Like a dream. Like a nightmare.
The words racing through her mind.
The Monk Man. NO. The Monk Man. Stop it! The Monk Man lives. No please god no! Run girls, run boys. No no no, they’d been told not to chant it, not to sign it, it would summon him, that was the legend. The Monk Man lives.
Her legs gave way beneath her. She stumbled on the stairs, her ankle twisting in the process. Shards of pain ripped through her legs as she turned and scrambled up the handful of stairs she had descended.
She burst into Lewis’ room, reaching for the light on her way in and missing it, connecting only with the wall.
A sharp stab of fear echoed through her bones as she arrived at the foot of his bed. A slither of moonlight had worked its way in through the otherwise shuttered curtains, enough to illuminate his features. His eyes were closed. To all intents, he was sleeping.
But she heard them.
Saw her son’s lips moving.
Knowing what she would hear before the volume would even reach her ears.
The Monk Man
The Monk Man
The Monk Man lives
Run girls, run boys
The Monk Man lives
Tears streamed down her face as she stared at her boy, sleeping peacefully yet all the while uttering those chilling words.
Tears of trauma. Tears of memory. Tears of resignation.
Before she even started to turn she knew what she would see in the darkness.
The robed figure. Eyeless. Expressionless. Without feature, without nuance, consumed only with purpose.
She had escaped once before.
Or had been allowed to flee.
To carry the fear in her heart perhaps. To taunt her. Tease her. With hope and misery, happiness and grief in equal measure. A punishment worse than her friends had suffered that day.
But now, she knew, her time was nigh.
Yes, she knew. She knew he was behind her. In the darkness. The shadows.
She’d somehow always known.
She stared at her beautiful son, lying peacefully. Blissfully unaware.
The tears, the sobs, hastening.
‘I love you baby…’
The whispered, trembled words fell silent in the darkness as she felt the rope slip tightly around her neck.