For the moment at least, it was over. Connor sighed and relaxed a little bit. He thought he could finally get to sleep and stop being so scared. Tomorrow was the big fourth grade Halloween party and he wanted to be well rested for it. He was dressing up as a cowboy, complete with a cap gun and cool cowboy hat. He hoped it would impress Mary. Connor had such a crush on her. She was his little blue eyed blonde hair gal and he wished they could just run away together and live in peace somewhere in the woods. He’d build them a little wood cabin and they could live together in love and kindness.
Connor rolled over onto his side and adjusted the covers over his shoulder. It was now very quiet upstairs yet Connor caught himself straining to hear. The sudden silence had started to gnaw at him. He opened his eyes in his dark bedroom and quieted his breath. He could hear a very faint sobbing drifting from the floor above him. A terrible mournful sobbing that filled him with regret for his selfish wish that they’d just stop so he could get to sleep so he could be at his best to impress Mary. Mary, who didn’t even know that Connor had such a huge crush on her, would probably be dressed as a princess. She’d be a beautiful princess and Connor wanted so much for her to notice him. He figured a rough and tough cowboy costume would be that way.
His mother had suggested he be a robot or Groucho Marx, but Connor wouldn’t hear of it. A cool cowboy was what he had remembered was what Mary liked. So she helped him make a cowboy costume from one of his father’s old flannel shirts, a little brown vest complete with a tin sheriff star, a plastic gun holster and a silver cap gun six shooter with a plastic white handle, made to look like ivory. It was really cool and Connor was sure tomorrow would be the day that Mary would fall madly in love with him.
A brushing noise came from the floor above his bed along with the glassy tinkle of something being swept off the hardwood. Connor looked up at his ceiling and cringed. He wondered what had been broken. He thought that maybe he should investigate but that might get him into trouble so staying bed would probably be best. He hoped once that sweeping noise was over it would remain quiet and he could get to sleep and hopefully dream of Mary and their cabin in the woods. There wouldn’t be any noises like the ones upstairs in their little wooded cabin. It would always be peaceful and quiet. There wouldn’t be any stomping or screaming or crashing in their home. It would be warm fires in the hearth and quiet conversation all the time. Connor nestled down further into his pillow and tried to ignore the rest of the world so he could finally get to sleep.
The stomping on the front stairs snapped him from his nearly asleep state. The door unlocked and the stomping over his head started again. There were a few more muffled words. He could never make out what was being said. He could only pick up on the tones. They were almost always angry sounds. There was more shuffling as the terrible sounds escalated followed by some muffled shushing. It was like living in a haunted house for Connor. It was all noises and sounds of foreboding but he could never actually see what was making those noises. He imagined some long gone argument being reenacted by some lost souls, forever cursed to have the same fight for all eternity.
The stomping about over his head continued, as if two people were dancing badly at some wedding because they’d had too much wine. It was more balance than actual dancing but no one ever seemed to fall. There was no music either. It was just the hushed words batted back and forth between awkward sounding thuds and bangs. Connor closed his eyes tight again and wished the noise would just stop. Just please stop so the house would quiet down. It was unbearable to hear these sounds almost every night. He longed for laughter or even the gentle hum of the television beaming some dampened tin can laugh track into the house.
Connor wondered what was going on up there. He wanted to know yet didn’t want to know. It always made him so scared. So scared that he wished he and Mary really could just run away to the woods so he’d never have to hear that awful racket ever again. He wondered if she would go with him, once she realized how totally in love with him she was. It would be so nice to just get away from the noises upstairs.
A soft clacking sound emanated from above him, as if something was tapping on the floor. It sounded like long, sharp claws rapping on the wood. It beat a rhythm of terror in Connor’s chest and he felt his heart beating hard. This was a new sound. It was unfamiliar. It sounded like something was coming to get him this time. It was persistent and reminded Connor of the terrible story his father had read him from that Poe guy, about the body buried under the floorboards and the murderer hearing the dead man’s beating heart. He wished his father hadn’t read him that story now. A Tell-Tale Heart was the story. Connor regretted asking his father to read it to him.
The clacking continued, but its beat slowed. Connor shivered in his bed and cowered under his blankets. He hoped it would stop soon. It was getting so late, almost ten thirty, and Connor just wanted it to end. He heard more stomping over the clacking. He heard a deeper muffled voice, a pleading sound. He heard two loud thuds, like someone dropping to their knees followed by more begging sounds. The clacking stopped suddenly.
A lighter muffled voice, followed by lighter sobbing, and followed by lighter thudding. He listened as the thuds trailed off toward somewhere else above him. They disappeared somewhere in the back of the upstairs floors and then stopped completely. He guessed his parents had finally gone to bed. She'd forgiven him again or just decided to give up. He let his blanket fall from over his head and he peeked out into the darkness of his bedroom. He listened. He held his breath. He sat up on his elbows and listened as hard as he could. It was quiet.
He could hear a freight train rattling along the train tracks a few miles away and the faint echo of traffic from the streets, but the noises upstairs had stopped. He lay back and let his breath out in a long exhale. He felt so tired; so exhausted by the scary noises upstairs. He felt himself slipping into sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He felt himself dreaming of the silence in the woods, with Mary in his arms, not worrying about money or food, rain or winter.