A Night Game
It’s October and Halloween is on its way! Looking for a fun, creepy halloween read?
Check out the first chapter…
Owen Taft flicked on the light switch as he stepped into the bedroom he shared with his twin brother, Hugh. He stopped short when he saw a big mess in front of him. His eyelids flung wide open and his jaw dropped.
“What the—?” His head whipped back when his brother walked right into him. “Hey, watch it.”
“Sorry.” Hugh peered around Owen into the multi-colored building block minefield that carpeted their room. “Immy,” he muttered.
“What’s going on? I told you to get ready for bed,” Mom said as she walked up the hallway. She shouldered her way between the boys.
“We were, but—” Owen said.
Mom’s mouth pinched in a hard line as she absorbed the scene and crumpled to one side. “Ouch, ouch.” She plucked a yellow block out of the arch of her foot, straightened, and looked at them. Her eyebrows initially pressed into a V shape but smoothed when she took a deep breath. “You boys need to get this cleaned up before you go to bed.”
“We didn’t do it. We’ve hardly been in our room. We’ve been playing Eagle Talon Empire all day.” Owen’s head jutted back and palms flung upward to secure his innocence.
“We actually defeated the Raven Province boss already.” Hugh’s big brown eyes were gleaming.
“I know Imogen did it. She always wants to play with my blocks. I should just get rid of them already.” Owen kicked a few across the carpet.
“Immy!” Mom called into the hallway.
Imogen waddled up to the doorway in her high heel princess shoes. A pink, glittery tiara rested atop her honey blonde hair.
“Yes, Mamma.” A smile pushed her rosy cheeks high up on her face.
“Did you make this mess?” Mom asked.
Immy’s blue eyes drifted from one side of the room to the other, her jaw hanging open as she surveyed the mess.
“No!” Her voice cut like a dagger, revealing the insult the question brought onto her tiny person.
“Yes, you did.” Owen bent over at the waist. His hands on his hips and his face nearly pressed against hers. His emerald eyes glared at her from in between the wisps of shaggy brown hair draping his forehead. He resembled a pecking chicken as his head hurled the accusation.
Hugh stood with his arms crossed, nodding in agreement, one eyebrow raised.
Imogen stared back at Owen. She didn’t appear to be intimidated by her brother towering over her. She stuck her face right up into his. The tip of her tongue rested between her lips for only him to see. She tucked it back in before she glanced over to her mom, casting her most sincere expression.
“I didn’t do it. I promise,” Immy said.
“Liar.” Owen pulled his lip back in disgust and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Owen, she said she didn’t do it. I’m too tired for this. Why don’t the three of you just work together and get these blocks picked up.”
“Just get it done. It’s almost bedtime, and the longer you wait to get to work, the longer it’ll take. Got it?”
“You always believe her lies.”
“Geez Owen, are you twelve or two? Now, if you want to keep acting like a toddler I can treat you like one — take away your video games and give you some tinker toys instead. Sound good to you?” She cocked her head to the side and tapped her foot as she waited for his response.
The three of them plopped down onto the carpet and began to clean.
“Tomorrow we should set up a trap that will alert us if someone sneaks into our room while we are playing games,” Hugh said.
The plastic blocks clinked together as they swept them into a pile and shoveled them into the bin.
“Or someone could just learn not to mess with other people’s things.” Owen shot a sharp look at Imogen.
“I wasn’t even in here at all today,” Imogen said.
“Right,” Owen said. “I don’t know if I want to play tomorrow, Hugh. I played with you most of the day today, and I didn’t have any time to draw.”
“Oh, come on. Just for a little while?” Hugh begged.
“Can I, too?” Imogen asked.
“No!” Hugh and Owen both shouted and went back to scraping the blocks into a pile.
They were nearly finished with a third of the room when Owen spied Imogen sitting and playing with a car made out of the blocks.
“Immy, you have to help.”
“I am.” She picked up a handful of blocks and chucked them into the bin. One missed the mark and fell over the other side.
“Just keep cleaning, liar,” Owen said.
“I’m not a liar. I really didn’t do it.”
“Sure, whatever.” Owen turned back to his task. His cheeks grew red and warm with frustration.
Every time one of the boys glanced up at Imogen, she hurriedly scooped up some blocks and tossed them into the bin. Owen suspected she wasn’t doing much cleaning because she wasn’t making any progress on her side. He was unsure if she was lazy or if her four-year-old hands were simply unable to pick up many blocks.
When they finished on their side, the boys helped her clean up the last bit of remaining mess. When they finished, they called for their mom.
“I told you it’d get done quickly if you worked together. Goodnight, boys.” Mom took Imogen’s hand and led her out of the room.
“Night, Mom,” the boys said in unison. They kept their eyes down on the floor until they were sure she was gone and then pulled on their pajamas.
After crawling into his bed, Owen lie awake and listened to the old clock in the hallway announce the time with its hourly chimes, first ten of them and then eleven. Sleep does not come quickly when one’s mind is brimming with the bitterness of injustice.
He rolled onto his side and stared at the moonlight streaming through the window. It seemed to float and swirl the way dust does when it’s stirred up in sunlight. It was as though there was some substance to it as it cast a stretched rectangle on the floor. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink until he released some of the anger pressing on his chest. Above him, the mattress shifted and groaned. He wondered if Hugh was still awake, too.
“You up?” he whispered.
“Yeah,” his big brother—by sixteen minutes—said.
“Aren’t you sick of Imogen? She never gets in trouble for anything.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“If we make messes, we have to clean it. If she makes messes, we have to clean it up, too. It’s such bull crap. And all she does is lie. I’m surprised she didn’t try to blame Laslow.”
The dog lifted his head from the floor when he heard his name.
“Mom always believes her and thinks we’re big fat liars. She’s been lying since she first learned to talk,” Owen said.
They both laughed, and Owen relaxed down into his pillow. After releasing some of the anger that had built inside of him, he hoped sleep would finally take over and transport him to a brand new day. He rolled on his side again and sighed. His blinking eyes slowed until they didn’t open any longer.
Laslow, who had been fast asleep on the floor, twisted his body upwards, ears alert, and growled. Owen startled out of his brief journey into dreamland. His heart pounded in rhythm with Laslow’s constant pulsing noises. The boys had never heard Laslow growl before. He only ever barked when a stranger approached the house. His aggressive behavior sent alarm bells ringing throughout Owen’s body. Hugh leaned over the rail of the top bunk, his eyes darting between Laslow and the doorway. Owen felt frozen, and his voice released with a squeak when he finally managed to form the words.
“What is it, boy?”
Laslow’s concentration didn’t break. His eyes remained locked on the hallway outside the door. Ignoring Owen’s voice, his ears turned farther forward like a radar dish tracking a target. A thumping sound echoed from the hall. Laslow lifted himself up onto all fours and crept toward the door, little grumbles spilling out of his bared teeth.
Both boys jumped
“What was that?” Hugh hurried down from the top bunk. Owen had already scrambled out of bed and followed Laslow as he inched his way to the doorframe. Hugh came up behind Owen and the three of them craned their necks around the wall, peering out into the dark hallway. The long black and white fur on Laslow’s back stood tall like a ridge.
“Mom? Dad?” Owen called.
They stood there a few more moments, listening to complete silence, before Laslow lunged forward like a racehorse bursting through the gate, and flew down the hallway. The boys chased after him.
“Maybe Immy fell out of bed,” Owen said.
They entered the doorway to their sister’s room, knowing there was no way a fall could have made such a noise.
“Uh, I don’t think so.” Hugh pulled back the covers of Immy’s bed, only to find the empty indentation of her little body.
Owen froze and stared as Hugh lifted up the covers from the floor around the bed—no Imogen.
His skin prickled, and the hair on his neck stood at attention. Owen’s emerald eyes frantically scanned the room for any sign of her. His heart jumped into his throat.
Something was very wrong.
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