Shinny crystal chandelier and the deep black nothingness of a new home. A giant place filled with echoing walls and layers of dust. Priscilla the cat screeches somewhere in the dark. My name is Juniper Williams and I am nine years old today. My family and I moved to this dreary place for what they called a new beginning. A fresh start! Pretty filthy looking for something new. I stand here on this checkered floor barely lit by daylight and wait. I was being bad. I kicked the cat with my Mary Janes and would not apologize. I just stood there with the biggest frown on face tugging on the ruffles of my new black and white sundress. I glared at them both. My insufferable parents. No way was I going to say I’m sorry. Not after that mangy old cat shredded my favorite dolls dress. Now what was Miss. Pretty going to wear to the ball? Nothing! That’s what. Stupid ball of fur!
I always wanted a dog, but all we got was a ugly, nasty, smelly old cat my grandmother left us in her will along with the house. Ugh there’s nothing to do here at all. A game of kick the cat seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I’m always getting in trouble. Maybe one day I’ll just disappear. Then they’ll be truly sorry for punishing me for every little thing. Like the time I threw the dishes in the washing machine, and put the dirty clothes in the dishwasher. Not my fault all of the dishes broke and the clothes came out pink! I was just trying to help. I’ll just stand here and keep frowning until my face aches.
After a half hour my face began to go numb. Just when I felt I was ready to scream a whisper broke the silence like a glass cup falling to the floor. I quickly turned but nothing was there. Then the I heard it again coming from a darkened corner sending chills down my spine. Why the long face little one? I stared into the backness. Who’s there? Show yourself! Come with me little one and I’ll show you oh so many fun new games. I said show yourself at once! As you wish. From the shadows just beyond the grand staircase hobbled a little man. His skin was an odd green color. His clothes reminded me of a bell hop from one of grandmother’s fancy hotels. His face was smooth. He had a long pointy nose, and pointy green ears that shot up through black matted hair. When he was mere feet away from me he curtsied, lowering his gaze. May I introduce myself? You may, I replied with a shiver in my voice. I am Graugspilirallzaur, or Graug for short. Hello Graug? Do you come with the house as well?
How presumptuous of you young lady, but in a manner of speaking yes. Are you my servant? Graug looked a little displeased with this question, but he was still very sweet about it. Not a servant young miss, but we can be playmates with your permission. Without even waiting for my reply Graug pulled out a pink sliver of chalk and began to draw a hopscotch playing field on the floor. You’ll get us in trouble Graug. Please stop that at once! Graug paid me no mind. His version of hopscotch was a little odd though. There were eight squares, but they were much more rectangular. Stretched if you will. They led from the daylight into the dark past the staircase where he had emerged. This worried me until he began playing by himself to demonstrated how it was done. He pulled a ornate golden button from his pocket at tossed it into the first square. Then he hopped to the second square on one foot and began to hop through the course expertly not touching any lines as he did so. When he reached the eighth square he disappeared into the dark. Graug, I cried out. A reply rang out from above me at the top of the staircase. Up here little one he shouted with a little giggle trailing at the end. How did you get up there I asked under hushed tones, and please be quiet my parents will hear us. I’ll come back and show you he replied in a much softer and quieter voice. Graug hopped back through a patch of dark at the top of the stairs and reemerged on the playing field before me making his way back to the start. When he was back in the first square he looked up at me and smiled.
I was a little nervous but still curious on how the trick worked. Simple as pie right Juniper? It seems so, but… how did you know my name? I don’t remember introducing myself. As you said Juniper I came with the house so I know all about you. As he said this his smile grew even wider. What are you playing at little man, I inquired with a distrustful look on my face. Just a game he replied playfully. He then reached into his pocket, produced a silver button, and dropped it in my hand. Your turn. I paused for a moment but was also anxious to see if I could do it. As if through instinct I dropped the button on the first tile and began to skip. Right foot hop on two, left foot on three, both on four and five. By the time I got to six everything was black around me. I paused for a moment and took in just how silent it had gotten. It was as if the world had just stopped being. As if there was nothing left of it in this place. Only me.
My heart began to race with fear so I lept forward through the dark, and to my surprise I landed on the seven and eight space of the playing field. I was even perfectly inside the lines, but where was I? I wasn’t at the top of the stairs. Why had Graug landed there and I ended up here? I didn’t recognize this room. It’s dimly lit from a few shafts of light peeking through tattered curtains. The hopscotch playing field Graug had drawn was now reversed. The beginning of the game laid in front of me not behind me as it was before. I could hear a giggle coming from the dark. Graug stumbled forth and tore open the curtains. Then he hobbled across the room and tore a dusty blanket from a large piece of furniture revealing a large standing mirror. Let’s keep playing. You’re doing so well he belted out with a gleam in his eye. Quiet Graug my mother and father will… A loud creak came from downstairs. Then footsteps ascending quickly up the staircase.
Better finish our game Juniper before it’s too late. I didn’t want mommy and daddy to spoil our fun. I quickly hopped back to the beginning and threw my button on the number three. Then I hopped perfectly back then forth on the board. Then it was Graug’s turn. He stepped on a line on his first try. Oopsie he blurted out quietly. I could here my parents frantically searching each room looking for me. My turn again. I threw my shiny silver button on the fourth space, then the fifth, the sixth, the seventh. Each turn I was perfect, and each turn Graug flubbed. I was in the zone. Nothing and no one could stop me. I looked up and the first space was gone! No I protested. Not fair! Life isn’t fair little Juniper, but it can be. Graug rubbed his hands together and turned his gaze to the back corner of the room. I followed his gaze and saw the mirror. The sunlight had illuminated it. In its’ reflection I could see the the hopscotch playing field, but instead of it being reversed it continued.
I tossed my silver button across the room each side of it catching on the light as it flew. I smiled as it made a satisfying tink letting me know it had reached it’s mark. I had just begun my journey to victory when I felt a tug on my dress. I turned. It was my father. He turned back through the open door and shouted I’ve found here my love! I was not about to lose. No matter the cost. Grounded for a week, fine! Whatever it took I would win this game. I bit my father’s hand hard. He yelped and I skipped and hopped my way away from that dreadful man! Juniper Marie Williams you get back here this instant he shouted, but I didn’t respond. I was transfixed on each space. Each hop had to be perfect. My left foot was on the third space and the mirror was right in front of me. The two and one where space stuck in the mirror’s’ reflection. My father was furious. Spit flew from his mouth in large globs as he shouted my name. I could hear my mother’s heels clomping along the wooden floor in the other room.
I looked over at Graug in the corner of the room. He nodded at me in approval. Could my father not see him? He was just staring at me, and screaming. His eyes practically bulging out of his head, and veins throbbing from his neck. I gave my father one last smirk and lept through the looking glass. On the other side I landed perfectly on the two space. Then over my button to the start. Victory I shouted while doing a little dance. CONGRATULATIONS MY DEAR two voices in unison exclaimed behind me. I turned to find my parents. They were smiling, and it seemed not at all angry with me. YOU WERE PERFECT MY DEAR. ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Thank you I replied which came out more sounding like a question. NOW, LET’S GO AND KICK THAT USELESS CAT AND THAT GOOD FOR NOTHING GUARG! Do you mean Graug? I looked at the doorway and saw a whimpering little green man clutching a terrified cat. Sounds like a fun game parents. Yes, lets! YES LETS PLAY WITH OUR DEVIOUS LITTLE REPINUJ!
On the other side of the glass I could see a sad little girl. She whimpered with her dripping eyes and begged the forgiveness of my parents. I’m so very sorry father she exclaimed. I will be a good girl from now on. In the corner Graug smirked. He wasn’t sorry. His tricks had just begun.
Let’s play a game. I’ll tap on my mirror twice. If you can hear me on your mirror tap back. If you hear three taps don’t reply. It’s probably something else saying hello. You don’t want to let it in. @
Featured image by Immortal Alexander.