Many Midnights

  A Trip to Grandma's House

         

          “I dare ya. I double dare ya. What’s the matter Spencer, chicken? Bobby Spencer is a chicken!”

            “I wasn’t chicken. At least I told myself so.

            “I got money that says you won’t go up to the front door, wipe the dirt off and look inside with a flashlight.”

            How much.” I replied. 

            “Two bucks,” Burt said.  He was bigger than the rest of us and he was a jerk; he made me glad I was only a visitor to this neighborhood.

            Not that I didn’t like the neighborhood. Even though I only came here maybe five or six times a year. The old church we’d pass on the freeway, the monument to war soldiers in the park, the crazy office building that looked flat from the front, as if would come tumbling down. And of course, Grandma’s house. That little white house with the wide driveway and the odd little path around its perimeter. All these landmarks were as much of the visit as Grandma herself.

After dinner me and my brother Danny would sit and listen to Grandma’s many stories. She would talk about everything from her school days to when she met Grandpa.

It was during one of her stories about the nearby streets, which brought up the old empty party store only 500 feet from her front door. It was an old looking building that was always closed.

            Me and my brother and five or six kids from the block would use it as a base. Timmy Sutton and his brother Joey said that once about two years ago, there was an open sign in the window. None of us believed them though, not even Burt, and he was the one always making up stories.

            “That place ain’t ever been open,” he would say.

            I didn’t believe them either at least until that cold, gray Christmas Eve.

            The car rumbled down the road with Dad at the wheel. We passed all the landmarks and eventually approached Grandma’s house.

As we passed the old party store, my brother Danny suddenly shouted, “hey look! The old store is open.”

Sure enough the closed sign had been replaced with an open sign. Inside I thought I saw someone move.  I wasn’t sure, but there definitely was someone inside.

            I found myself anxious to get to Grandmas so I could hook up with the neighborhood kids and finally see inside the old store. The whole gang was gathered around although no one dared to go in just yet.

            “The store’s finally open, “Joey Sutton yelled as we approached the corner.

            “Got five bucks says you won’t go inside,” Burt challenged.

            Again all eyes turned towards me. I knew I couldn’t back down.

The steps leading to the door seemed made of mud. Each felt a mile high. An aged steel storm door loomed within inches of my hand. The door handle felt aged and neglected. A rusty blank sound escaped as the handle turned allowing access to the inner door. It creaked a hollow noise as the interior of the store was revealed to me at last.

            Surprisingly, the inside was not at all as dirty as I had expected. Four light bulbs hung loosely from thin wires and the cash register sat quietly from its space on the countertop.

            “Well hello there young man,” the friendly voice said. “How are you today?”A large woman of sixty or so gently walked out.

            “I’m Grandma Olcher and this is my store, as I`m sure you’ve guessed. Would you like a candy bar?”

            My fear of a stranger was soon overruled by a kid’s love of chocolate.

“Thank you.” I replied.

            As the folds of plastic were removed, the old lady`s eyes were riveted to mine. She seemed to be talking to me through those eyes.

It’s all right dear. Nothing to fear. Only free candy bars in my odd little store.

Then I felt the unpleasant feeling of worms in my hands. Looking down, I seen the candy bar was full of maggots! Literally hundreds of the obscene worms were neatly encased within the chocolate.

            My screams filled the air only to be mixed with her mocking laughter. I stumbled as I retreated towards the door. The hard polished floor met my palms nearly snapping my wrists.

Regaining my senses, I could feel her behind me and turning my head revealed such a terrible sight that I nearly fainted.

            She was completely upside down, floating six inches above the ground. Her face had elongated in such a way to where her chin was touching her chest. The hair on her head was rapidly growing, no…moving, around her entire body. Occasionally, one would burrow into her skin, only to crawl out again at some nearby point.

            “It’s alright dear,” the unchanged voice calmly stated. “I love children. I have something for you.”

            Outstretched arms reached eagerly for me. Where there used to be hands, there were now pulsating mounds of rubbery matter, resembling wet clay. My age permitted me to escape and I was met outside with surprised looks.

            “We gotta call the police! There’s a monster…a witch. Grandma Olcher is a monster!” I screamed.

            “You’re crazy,” Burt shouted as the rest of the gang nodded in agreement. Even my own brother didn’t believe me.

“Bobby, we didn’t see or hear nothing. We were all watching from the side

window. All we saw was an old lady give you a candy bar. Then you dropped it and just freaked out.”

I knew I had to deal with this. I knew what I saw, I wasn’t imagining. It happened. I left the corner without another word.

            When I reached the opposite curb I turned to look back. That was when I seen Burt going in. That was when I noticed a pair of eyes looking at me from one of the rear windows of the store… eyes that were three feet apart from one another. I ran back to Grandma’s house.

            Nearly four months have gone by now. Dr. Tolan says I’m doing much better. He says I imagined it all and I’m beginning to believe him.

Dr. Tolan says going back there will be good for me. Says facing the truth is the right thing to do. The truth that it’s just an old store with an old lady running it. No monsters, no witches, no fat, upside down ladies with changing faces.

            They’re waiting in the car for me now. We’re going to Grandma’s for Easter. Part of me is looking forward to it. Looking forward to finishing the hallucination. But I must admit, there’s still a small part of me that’s scared.

            As the miles went by, the familiar landmarks came into view.

The old church by the freeway, the monument to soldiers, the building that looks flat. We gradually moved past them all as we’ve done many times before.

            Finally, we turned onto Grandmas street and passed the old store. It looked as it had always looked, no lights and dirty and old.

The usual group was hanging around by the front of the store like so many times before. They were all there, except for one…Burt Gil.

I noticed one last thing before we swerved into Grandmas driveway…a pair of eyes looking at me from one of the rear windows of the store. Eyes that were three feet apart from each another.

I closed my eyes and sunk back into the seat.