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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 6

Dana had gotten into the habit of taking a nap in the afternoons while William took his. It recharged her, helped her feel ready for the rest of the day and William’s demands.

She put William into his crib, whispering, “Sleep, baby boy.” He twitched, half asleep already, and his mouth moved as if he were suckling. She caressed his cheek and left the nursery, leaving the door ajar.

She stretched as she walked down the hall and crawled gratefully into bed. Just half an hour, she thought and yawned, tucking the pillow beneath her head.

She must have dozed off quickly and slept longer than she intended. She felt the bed dip with added weight, a hand stroke up her ribs, lips caress her cheek. Dana smiled, turning her face to be nuzzled. Lips slowly traced hers, and a hand stroked her thighs apart. “Mm, John,” she murmured, opening her eyes.

There was no one beside her. No one at all.

Dana sat up and put her hand on her side, where she’d felt the touch. “Who’s there?” she demanded and got to her feet. “Answer me!”

The house was silent. Nothing appeared different: the pictures were straight, the doors were closed, the shades were drawn, and the only imprint on the bed was of her own body.

Dana said quietly, “Whoever you are . . . you’re welcome to rest here, but only if you tell me what you want. I can’t help you unless you tell me what you’re looking for.”

Silence.

All right, she thought. She had been dreaming. It was nothing. She had seen Luke’s picture before: she’d simply put a face onto the strange feeling that had dogged her ever since she moved in. That was all. It had to be. It wasn’t the first time she’d had strange dreams.

The row of pictures on the wall between the windows started swinging back and forth on their hooks, and the windows rattled. Dana gasped, wrapping her arms tighter around herself, as one picture jerked away from the wall and shot across the room, banged against the closet doors and fell onto the floor. A cold wind blew through the room, through Dana, into the hall.

Her heart pounding, Dana ran back to William’s room, expecting to find an open window and an empty crib—but there was only William and a presence—she had no other word for it—hovering over the crib. It was pale gray and white, vaguely human-shaped, and it reached it arms onto the crib.

That was too much. “No!” Dana shouted. “You leave him alone!”

The presence burst into a million motes of dust and disappeared. In his crib, William gurgled and stretched up his hand.

“Oh, God,” Dana breathed and gathered the baby up into her arms. “Oh, my William. My William.”

Oblivious, he rested his chin on her shoulder, his fists wrapped around her shirt, babbling his William-talk as if he had nothing to fear.

Dana grabbed up his diaper bag and carrier. Back to the bedroom only long enough to get her shoes and car keys, and then down the stairs towards the garage.

At the back door she stopped. William hung onto her shirt, looking at her with confusion. She took a deep breath. “What do you think?”ushe said quietly. “Do we let it win, or do we stay?”

William sneezed and laid his head on her shoulder.

Slowly Dana
put down his carrier and her shoes, and rubbed his back. “You’re right,” she said to him. “You know that? You’re right. Besides, where would we go?”

She wandered to the living room and curled up in her favorite chair, resting William on her drawn-up thighs. He smiled and pumped his feet against her stomach, waving his hands. “Tell me something, though. Why aren’t you afraid of anything? How do you manage that, hm?”

He toppled forward and she caught him against her chest and kissed his head. “Goofy,” she said. “You’re my little goof, aren’t you? Yes, you are! You are!” She tickled him and he squirmed and laughed.

Strange, she thought. She was terrified for him, but still could play.

She kissed him and held him close, closed her eyes and felt him breathe.

* * *

John knelt on the floor by the fallen picture. “Did you have the fan on?” he said quietly.

“No.” Dana hugged the baby to her tighter.

“Were the windows open?”

“No.”

“And you saw it? You didn’t just hear it?”

“I saw it. I was awake, John.”

“Because somebody touched you.”

“Yes, John,” she said impatiently. “There was someone else here. Not Luke—someone different. “

John stood and said, “So, we’ve got two ghosts now.”

“Maybe we do.”

He looked down at the carpet. “There’s broken glass over here. I’ll get the vacuum.”

“I’ll do it, John—”

“You’re barefoot,” he said, taking off his suit coat and laying it on the bed. He caressed William’s head as he walked past them.

The vacuum cleaner was in a closet downstairs. He lugged it up, back to the bedroom, where Dana still stood with the baby in her arms like she wanted to enfold him completely. Her face was tense and pale, and John couldn’t pass her by without saying something.

He didn’t know what to say, though. He did the only thing he could think of: wrapped them both up in his arms and kissed her.

“Nothing’s going to hurt you,” he murmured. “You know that.”

She shook her head. “There’s something strange in this house.”

John sighed heavily, stroking her hair. “Humor me a minute, babe. Do you really think if Luke was in this house, that he’d want to hurt you? Or William?”

“He might be jealous of us. He might want you for himself.”

“I can’t believe that. I can’t believe that he’d be malicious. Even if I believed he’d haunt this place—which I don’t—I can’t believe that he’d want to hurt you.”

“Then what is it?” she whispered desperately. “What has been watching me since I moved in? Something has been watching, John— maybe it’s Luke, maybe it’s something else—but I feel it, I sense it, and I don’t know what it means.”

John studied her, then cupped her face in his hands and smoothed out the worry lines with his thumbs. “Dana,” he said. “What do we need to do to make you feel better?”

“I want to call my friend Chuck Burks and have him look this house over. He studies parapsychology. He’d know what to look for.”

“And then what?”

“And then—I don’t know. Chuck will know.”

“Okay,” he said quietly. “If that will make you feel better.”

“It’ll be a start.” William leaned out of her arms towards John, who took him, and Dana watched them with a troubled expression. “I’m not sure I want to sleep in this house until Chuck comes.”

“For God’s sake, Dana—”

“I’m serious. I’m scared, John.” She turned her face away, frowning and blinking her eyes rapidly—classic trying-not-to-cry behavior, John thought. “I don’t like being scared. I was just getting used to feeling safe and then this has to start—”

“You were fine until this morning.”

“Two manifestations in one day, John. What am I supposed to think? How am I supposed to feel? I can’t just brush this off. I can’t pretend nothing is happening.”

“I am not going to let something inexplicable force me out of my own house,” John said. “If you feel the need to not be here it’s your choice, but I’m not leaving. This is my house. It’s mine. Nothing is going to make me run away.”

Dana lifted her hand and hesitantly laid it on his chest. He put his free hand over hers, watching her. “I want to bring the baby in here with us, then,” she said quietly.

“Okay.”

“You don’t mind?”

“I don’t mind.”

“I’ll call Chuck in the morning. He’ll be able to tell us what’s going on—maybe even who’s here.”

“Dana,” John said, but didn’t know how to follow it. He’d never felt so helpless—he had no idea of what comfort to give her, what advice to offer. He said, “Why don’t you lie down for a while downstairs. I’ll clean up in here. We could order in for dinner.”

She shook her head, smiling at last. “No, I’ve got something planned and it doesn’t take long to put together. I don’t need to lie down. I’m okay. Poor sweetheart, you must be hungry and here I’m pestering you about ghosts.”

“I’ll live.” He handed William back to her, despite the baby’s grumbling. He bent and leaned his forehead against William’s, holding the back of his head. “You watch over your mom a bit, you hear?” The baby giggled and grabbed for his ear, making both John and Dana laugh. True, Dana’s was soft and rueful, but it cheered John nonetheless.

* * *

There was something about the stairs that comforted Dana. She sat on a high step with John a few steps below her, enough that he could lay his head against her side, and they watched night descend on the neighborhood to the sounds of kids being called to dinner, cars coming home and crickets chirping in the hedge.

Finally John said, “I’ve been thinking about this all day.”

“Ghosts?” She smiled despite herself.

“Babies,” he said, and she looked down at his thoughtful face. He said, still looking out the window, “Maybe I should have been more insistent about being responsible.”

“We’re both adults, John. We both understand the consequences of sex.”

“Yeah, but maybe I was just so happy about not having to worry that I . . . slacked . . . where I shouldn’t have.”

“I would never call you slack, John.” She had to ask: “Is it the entire baby issue or it is just having a baby with me?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Dana.”

“It’s a legitimate question.”

He sighed. “It’s the entire baby issue. If I were with anyone else I still would hesitate. I know it’s supposed to be joyful and fulfilling but all I can think is, how long do I have before I lose this one, too?”

“Do you think that about William, too?”

Slowly he nodded. “That’s why I do everything I can to bring him home to you.” He twisted his head to look into her eyes. “You’re not going to lose him, Dana.”

“I know,” she said, cupping his face in her hand. “So how would this be different with a child of your own?”

Again John sighed and looked out the window. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s not. All I know is it scares me to the bone, Dana.”

“So if I am pregnant, then what?”

“Then . . . I deal. I come to terms, I guess. It’s not that I don’t want children, Dana, I do, I just—I can’t—God, I wish I knew.”

Dana sighed too and gazed out at the darkening street. She said, “If I’m not pregnant, and you’re absolutely dead set against having another child, we’re going to have to take precautions and use birth control and be responsible. I don’t want to bring an unwanted child into the world, but I won’t treat a baby like a mistake.”

Crickets buzzed through the open window. John whispered, “It would never be unwanted.”

Dana’s breath caught and she leaned down to wrap her arms around his neck. She kissed his hair. “You love me?”

“Like crazy, babe.” He turned back to look at her again, and tipped up his face to be kissed.

* * *

John felt someone shaking his shoulder. “Daddy?”

He opened his eyes and lifted his head, sleepy and confused. “Luke? What’s wrong, buddy?”

It made perfect sense that his son would be standing next to the bed in his Batman pajamas. John didn’t ask himself why Luke would be in this
bedroom, or why the woman beside him was a redhead instead of a blonde, or why there was a crib at the foot of the bed.

“Daddy, there’s a man outside.”

John got out of bed and put his hand on Luke’s shoulder. “Show me,” he said softly.

Luke led him to the window and pointed outside. “There. Do you see him, Daddy?”

John peered at the empty sidewalk and the quiet houses of the neighbors. The neighborhood was gray in the early morning light, not even a jogger to disturb its tranquility.

“I don’t see anybody, buddy.” He ruffled Luke’s hair. “I think you had a bad dream.”

Luke frowned, his face serious. “No, Daddy,” he insisted. “You have to see him. You have to look, Daddy.”

“Luke, there’s not even a dog outside. Let’s get you to bed.”

Luke’s resemblance to him was uncanny, people always remarked on it—and Luke’s expression was now both stubborn and worried. “Daddy,” he said seriously, “bend down.”

“It’s not the time for games,” John said, but got onto his knees so their faces were level.

The boy put his hands on either side of John’s face. “Close your eyes,” he said, so John closed them and felt Luke’s thumbs brush over his eyelids. “Now, look, Daddy,” he said.

“Luke,” John said, opening his eyes and smiling at his son. “Enough of this, okay? It’s too early to be awake.”

“Daddy,” he repeated firmly. “You need to see the bad man.”

“If I look, will you go back to bed?”

Luke nodded and held onto his hand as John went to the window.

He looked outside, and gasped out loud when he saw the flaming human-like shape standing on the front walk. The creature had no eyes but John knew it was gazing up at the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the house’s occupants. A feeling of evil like a choking cloud surrounded John, and he jerked himself away from the window. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, shaking his head.

“No,” he whispered, clinging to Luke’s hand. “No.”

“The bad man has to stay outside,” Luke said earnestly. “He’s mean. He likes to hurt people.”

John stroked Luke’s hair, then picked him up and hugged him close. “He’s not going to hurt you. I won’t let him hurt you again.”

“Daddy.” Luke put his hands on John’s face again. “He won’t. But . . .” He looked over at the crib.

A chill went through John. “No,” he whispered again.

“Don’t let him come inside,” Luke said, and then wiggled down from John’s arms. “See you later, Daddy.”

“Wait—Luke, where are you going?” The boy had already darted from the bedroom through the open door. John started to follow but a hand on his chest stopped him.

He opened his eyes though he couldn’t remember closing them, to find himself back in bed with Dana’s hand on his chest and her concerned face hovering over him. “John, you’re having a bad dream,” she said soothingly, rubbing his chest.

“I’m—I’m okay.” He put his hand over hers and exhaled heavily.

She reached over and stroked his face. “You were dreaming about Luke, weren’t you, baby,” she murmured. “It’s okay. You’re okay now. It’s over.”

“I’m okay,” he repeated. She studied his face, then lay down and pulled his head to her breast, encircling his head in her arms. He exhaled again, feeling himself relax as she slowly stroked his hair.

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“It was just a dream,” he said, and the words felt like a betrayal.

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