‘I’m going to lie to you,’ said Grandma, pulling back from the now drawn curtains. They hung over the window like giant bat wings – I was glad she left the hall light on.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked, sitting up straighter against the headboard. It groaned as it took more of my weight.
‘“Once upon a time” doesn’t give the same shivers it used to. But that’s all it means – I’m going to lie to you. I thought I’d mix it up a bit.’
I just nodded because I was feeling pretty nervous at this point, glancing down towards the pale, smiling moon-lamp stuck in the corner plug.
‘Hey.’ Grandma held my face. And her eyes locked with mine. ‘You don’t need that. Now, storytime. I’m going to lie to you. About two very special people – beautiful Eurydice, and her husband, the poet Orpheus.’
I already knew them. We did them in school. But she looked so excited, there was no way I could admit that now.
I only half listened as she told me how every artist has their own letting go issues and that they often look for lost things (not just physical things, but every single thing) because it’ll prove their haunting makes them stronger or better than everyone else. ‘Nonsense, of course,’ Grandma explained. But it didn’t matter; I couldn’t remember this part from Miss Alexandria’s version, so it whooshed over me like a sudden wind.
Also, when Grandma finished, she said that they both lived happily ever after…
I said that wasn’t true. As Miss Alexandria put it, she dies, he cries, the end. And something about never facing behind you, which I wouldn’t have done anyway because it hurts my neck to even try.
Grandma smiled at me, shrugged. Then she turned and glanced at the lamp, which was dulled to grey, same as her hair and her skin.
‘I don’t know. I think maybe we all need help getting through the dark places sometimes.’
She got up and moved beside it, flipping the switch. It beamed yellow and green light, and for a moment I might’ve been in space, on board an alien ship where nothing made sense and anything was possible. I couldn’t help smiling again.
She stood by the door with her eyes down, closing it softly behind her.
I still didn’t sleep again, even with the bright moonglow everywhere, unable to shake off the strange and unpleasant feeling that behind it all, my room was just darkness haunting me with its tender, loving arms.
Robert Keal hails from Kent but currently lives in Solihull, where he works as copywriter. His recent fiction can be found with Cuento Magazine, Fairfield Scribes, and Visual Verse. He loves to walk the tightrope between strangeness and reality.