Nightmare Fuel 2020 – Oct 1st

For a full explanation, head to NightmareFuelProject.
tl;dr is using pictures for writing prompts all October.

El Pombero, by Samuel Araya, via Instagram

Window Cleaning
by James Hatton, 10/01/2020

“Aiden!” Helen chastised from the living room, glass cleaner and rag hand in hand, losing another battle in the war against the entropic forces of a seven year old.

“What Mom?” the tiny terror yelled back from the kitchen table, his mouth gummed up with his peanut butter toast.

“I’ve asked you please not to touch the glass on the windows when you have sticky hands,” she pleaded in the thankless voice of a mother who had cleaned this window no less than twice this week. Small purple smudges were visible against the glass in the exact way a small boy might make if he pressed himself to the window to see something interesting and splayed his hands, sticky with grape jelly, right onto the glass. As if to create irrefutable evidence, she blew a wave of hot air over the window to reveal the shape of the small handprint.

“Sorry Mommy.” Helen thought how amusingly manipulative it was that when he didn’t know he did something wrong it had been Mom, but stricken with apologetic guilt, it became Mommy. She was half-tempted to make him clean it up himself, but that would only mean having him do it, having to check on it, and then having to do it again because he would still do it as well as a seven-year-old child does anything. There were even odds that afterwards, both the window and the spray bottle would still be smudged, but now with peanut butter.

She spritzed each window, wiping away his already fading handprint and running the rag from corner to corner. She could hear from the kitchen as the light of her life talking conversationally to himself through his snack. It was a habit he had picked up over the last few days, but it always sounded like he was just narrating his own life. “Washing the dishes, because it helps keep the kitchen clean.”

Working hard on this insistent thin streak, Helen continued to listen as he narrated putting his dish away, washed his hands, and decided to go into his playroom to watch a cartoon. She sighed, fearing that this was the result of them moving. The move was necessary though, and one day when he was old enough, she would tell him all the reasons they had to move to a new town.. away from his friends.. his school.. and his father.

“What did he do? Scratch the glass? Dammit!” She said to the air, fighting against the white line in the window that wouldn’t fade or let go of its grip on the glass.

Helen laughed out loud, realizing she was talking to herself, “I wonder where he picked it up from, huh?” She took a step back from the window, recognizing that even thinking about her son’s father had made her shoulders tense up into steel wire bound knots.

Taking a step back also made the white line on the glass turn to two. She took the step back up to the window and watched as the two became one. A step back again separated them into a line and its parallel twin… a line… and its thin semi-transparent reflection. Whatever she was trying to wipe away, was on the outside of the window, not the inside.

“Running outside for a second,” she announced, but got no response but the sound of Robin and Beast Boy yelling at each other on Teen Titans.

Helen stepped out onto the front porch of their home and listened to the peaceful quiet that surrounded them. She missed the city, but not as much as she loved this quiet. Birds instead of traffic, wind through branches instead of blowing through avenues… everything about it made her happy with her decision to go.

Stepping up to the the living room window, Helen eyed the offending streak. She stared at it, her head tilted, trying to figure out what it was. It was most certainly not a scratch, but it also was something in the same way that Aiden’s grape jelly fingers were something.. or rather, it was something more than a white line of bird shit or paint or something. From this side of the glass, she could see that the shape was bigger than that single line. A darkened pattern of oily residue suggested a larger shape, but nothing she could see completely.

On the exact same place she had on the inside of the window, she breathed a hot breath on the outside. The glass fogged up in the same way, revealing the same shape, but larger. 

Another handprint.. but larger than her son’s. Like the person on the outside and her son on the inside had been comparing hand sizes against the glass.

Helen put down the rag and glass cleaner and walked to the front door, turning the knob slowly and quietly.  She slipped inside, making as little noise as she could. The sound of cartoons hid any sound of her approach as she stood outside Aiden’s playroom and listened. 

“, silly, Mommy is outside, she can’t hear us at all.. but when can I tell her about you?”

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