It started just after I was potty trained. My parents got a kick out of watching me stumble into the living room, then the kitchen, then a closet, until I finally found my way to the bathroom. That’s usually what my sleepwalking is. Just trying to find a bathroom so I could pee. As I got older, I thought I’d stopped until my roommate showed me a video of myself walking into the living room, declaring that I was going to wal-mart, and then curling up on the sofa. She and I both laughed pretty hard at that. After that I just considered it an weird personal quirk. I went on to graduate college and get a job as a pharmacy technician, got married, and had my son, Tyler. My wife saw me sleep walk a few times, and she was a little creeped out by it. Rather than laughing, she’d gently lead me back to bed.
It never affected my life. We were a little family of three, and the happiest in the world, it seemed. My son was the light of my life. I was ‘momma’ and my wife was ‘mommy’ and he was most definitely a momma’s boy. He’d run out to the car every day after school to show me his report cards and drawings. At age 6, he was already a pretty talented artist, and his favorite thing to draw was zebras. It came as no surprise, then, that when Halloween rolled around, he wanted to be a zebra. My wife bought his costume and apologized again and again for having to work, but as a nurse, I knew she really didn’t have a choice. I promised to take plenty of pictures. I was going as a fortune teller, and I carried a large paperweight for my ‘crystal ball’. We had a wonderful time. Plenty of kids ran up to me and asked for their fortunes, and I usually told them I predicted they’d get lots of candy. My son got enough candy to feed his entire classroom, though of course he wouldn’t even let me have one piece. Jerk. We got home and I got him up to bed, poured a glass of wine, put on some netflix and totally stole some of my son’s candy. I woke up to my wife laying a blanket over me and tip-toeing in the direction of our bedroom.
“I’m awake,” I said. She turned and smiled at me and melted my heart. I held the edge of the blanket up and she snuggled in beside me.
“Long night?” I asked. She’d changed the scrubs she had been wearing.
“Long night,” She said and poured herself a glass of wine. “Had two kids OD on heroin, a kid find out he was allergic to peanuts after he ate an entire snickers bar, this old lady who had chest pains that turned out to be heartburn but she was convinced she was dying, a guy who accidentally set his hand on fire trying to do some dumb trick, and a pretty bad physical assault on a solitary trick or treater.”
“Yeah, someone bashed him in the head repeatedly with a blunt, smooth object. We’re thinking a baseball or rock or something. Kid says he has no memory of the attack, or of any of the past week. Pretty bad concussion.”
“Yeah. Did our little zebra have fun?”
“He’s in a sugar coma.”
She laughed and we went up to bed. In the morning I saw a little more about the attack on the news. They said they were probably looking for a teenager, the classmate of the victims elder sister. I made sure to watch my son until he disappeared through the school doors when I dropped him off and headed to work. I mostly forgot about the poor kid until that evening, when I came home and decided to sort through some of the junk on top of the fridge before my wife and son got home. It was mostly papers, and a few doodads that I’d swiped from my son and put out of reach. I reached my hand as far back as it would go and my fingers came into contact with something smooth. I jumped a bit to grab it and pulled it down. It was the paperweight from my costume last night. I stared at it for a moment before looking towards the coffee table where I was certain I’d left it. It wasn’t there, obviously, and I tried to remember putting it on top of the fridge, but I couldn’t. I put it back and decided to start dinner instead.
That night I tried to let the familiar creaks and groans of our old house lull me to sleep, but it didn’t work. I lay there until it was almost morning before I was finally able to drift off. Even after I woke, I felt uneasy. I don’t like not being able to remember when I sleep walk. Going to the bathroom is one thing, but moving things around is another thing completely. It was my wife’s turn to take our son to school, so I walked down the stairs to an empty kitchen and made myself some cereal. I plopped down on the couch, popped open a coke and turned on the news.
Apparently there’d been another assault. Not big news for a big city, but in a small town like mine, this was worthy of it’s entire segment. An elderly woman had been stabbed repeatedly, but was now in stable condition. Better yet, she recognized her attacker.
“It was a short white woman with short brown hair, tattoos of flowers on her arm, around 30 years old I think. I remember she had freckles.”
I fit the description to a T but it didn’t make me feel very strange at first. A lot of women I knew fit that description. Might as well try to hunt down a white man with brown hair wearing a tank top and a sporting a tribal tattoo. But throughout the day I began to worry and doubt myself. I knew I was probably working myself up over nothing but the constant, nagging voice in the back of my mind that asked ‘what if?’ convinced me to go into the kitchen and see if I had any missing knives. Of course, our cutlery was so eclectic that I wouldn’t have been able to tell if a knife was missing or not. I spotted all the most commonly used ones; the red handled chef’s knife, my little paring knife that somehow stayed with me since college, the four butter knives.
Suddenly I remembered my son’s baby monitor. It had a camera feature that you could hook up to a laptop and stream like video of his crib, and the recording would save on your laptop for 24 hours. I dug it out of the basement and set it up in my bedroom. I thought about trying to conceal it somehow, but I had read somewhere that if you’re trying to hide something, it’s best to hide it in plain sight. I left it sitting on the dresser, and hooked everything up on my laptop. I turned the camera on and had a pretty great view of the bedroom. I was confident that this would dispel that nagging little voice in my head.
That evening my wife didn’t notice the baby monitor. She was too tired. When she came home she sent our son to his room and asked me to heat up our emergency stash of baked macaroni and cheese. This was the woman who stuck to lean meats and veggies on Thanksgiving, so I knew it was pretty serious. She recounted her day; how she’d failed to save an infant who was mauled by a dog, how she’d treated an old man who’s son had beat him with a pipe when he learned he’d be splitting his inheritance with his sister. A hysterical mother who’d rushed in asking if anyone had seen her daughter. Apparently she’d never made it to school that morning. I was comforted by the faint rustlings and mutterings that drifted down from my son’s room. When you have children, silence can be scarier than any yelp or cry.
When she was finally done we called our son down and ordered a pizza for dinner, healthy eating out the window for the night.
We put our son to bed early that night. We sat there on the couch for a while. She told me how exhausted she was, and I told her I was too tired to move. We were both liars. After all these years I was still struck with how beautiful her naked body was in the moonlight. When we finally fell into bed I had no time to think about the monitor or the attacks before sleep took me.
The Saturday morning sunlight woke me. My wife was already at work, and her absence made the bed seem cold, and oddly hard. We’d blown through all of our frozen baked macaroni and cheese, and I resolved to make another batch. I walked down to the kitchen, turned on the t.v and pulled out the pasta.
“-ther attack last night, this time, it was fatal. Maurice Brooks was 78…”
I looked towards the t.v and remembered the baby monitor. I felt a cold sense of dread in the pit of my stomach, yet a certainty in my mind that I was being silly.
“Momma?” My son stumbled, bleary eyed into the kitchen.
“Hey honey…” My voice trailed off. Clutched in his hand was a fish knife I thought I’d sold in a garage sale years ago. And it was bloodied to the hilt.
“I found this by my door.” He said. I froze, my heart pounding and sweat trickling down my sides. My mind went blank.
“Give that to me.” I finally said. This couldn’t be happening. I was supposed to have just being silly. “Go up to Momma and Mommy’s room, ok? Just stay there until I come and get you.” I told him. Without a word, he headed back up the stairs and I heard my bedroom door shut. I walked over to my laptop, each movement stiff. I did not feel attached to my body anymore. I opened it, and rewound the feed.
There was my wife and I, sound asleep. I pushed fast forward. We both tossed and turned a bit before I sat up. I pressed play, only noticing my own tears when they splashed onto the keyboard. I turned on the audio and watched myself sit bolt upright until I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood, then walked to the door. Seconds passed, then more. Finally, I heard the whoosh of the toilet, and saw myself reappear in the room, crawl back in bed, and close my eyes again.
My tears stopped. I stared at my screen in disbelief.
I watched myself sleep peacefully. Then I watched the handle of the closet door twitch. It turned, silently, and the door began to open. A woman stepped out, a carbon copy of me, and she was holding the fish knife. She looked at the sleeping figures in the bed, before she began tip toeing towards the door. She stopped, looked directly at the camera, and smiled. Her eyes glowed like a cat’s in the night, and her teeth had rotted down to stubs. Then she left. The video jumped, filled with static and pixilated. It began to fast forward itself, but only for about two hours of real time. When it slowed, the woman appeared again in the bedroom doorway, this time holding the red handled chef’s knife. She went directly towards the closet and silently shut herself inside.
I choked back a scream. My hand shot towards my phone, before a horrible thought struck me. I fast forwarded the video again, this time until I saw my wife get up for work, and saw myself wake up and stretch. The woman had never left the closet.
I ran to the bottom of the stairs and screamed my son’s name