A thousand whispers filled every space of the house as Viola made her way up the stairs close behind her mother. It was deafening, she kept her eyes on her mother waiting for her to react to it all, waiting for her to ask her if she heard them too.
Instead she walked across the hall at the top of the stairs and into her parents room. She looked around for Viola’s father.
Brow raised, she turned and went into Edward’s room. Placing him in his crib, she left the room and walked back towards her own, all the while Viola was glued to the back of her heels.
“Viola,” her mother turned back to her, pausing before stepping into her bedroom. “Go on to your room while I check on your father.”
“Viola!” Her mother’s patience was wearing thin. “Go on.”
Turning, Viola slowly walked to her room hoping she would be called back before she reached it. She wasn’t, and as she look back over her shoulder, she was given a stern look from her mother that forced her through the door.
Letting out a long breath, she wondered if Neville was upset with her. Her mother may not believe her, but she knew it wasn’t her father banging around up here. She had heard where the steps came from, felt where they went.
Standing with her back to the door, she looked around her bedroom. “Neville?” Her voice was hoarse as she said his name, suddenly afraid. “What are you doing up here?”
The silence made all the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end and her stomach flip.
She didn’t move from her place by the door, her open palms pressing up against the wood.
“The more intriguing question, dear Viola, is what were you doing down there? It seems suddenly your truest friend has become someone you’d rather get rid of.” His voice was smooth like silk, but she felt like he whipped her with his words, each one maker her more and more afraid.
Swallowing hard, she wondered what she should tell him. From the moment she met him he had seemed able to pull her words right out of her head before she even had a chance to speak them. Her heart beat hard at the thought that Neville may already know she was afraid, know she no longer wanted to hear his stories or play pretend.
“What had been your plan? I wonder. Telling your mother I was the one behind your father’s curious behaviour. Had she believed you, what then? Tell me, Viola. Dear friend. What then?”
His voice made her brow furrow and her throats close up. He spoke slowly to her, yet with this urgency. His voice boomed even though it was merely a whisper and all his sentences seemed to fall away, echoing.
Never before had his words so thoroughly chilled her, never had his presence felt so ominous.
Fear weighed on her, blurring her thoughts. “I… I just want things to go back to normal.”
“Normal.” He hissed the words. “Perhaps they will. After we finish our game.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to play anymore.” She told him.
“You promised.” The whispers surrounded her and she covered her ears, sinking down to the floor.
“Neville, stop it.”
“Viola… you are going to break your word.” There was a pounding on the ground. It was constant, getting louder and louder with every passing second.
Her eyes fogged over as she felt completely helpless. “Stop it Neville, please!”
Her words echoed back to her, all the whispers mocking her.
Play pretend, they sang to her. Play pretend. Over and over.
Pain erupted in her ankles as she was dragged under her bed and into the darkness. Pulled away from the door, her head smacked off the floor and for a moment darkness danced before her eyes. Her ears rang, no longer able to hear the whispers as she blinked past the stars and looked up at the shadowy figure above her. His Darin hands clasped over her mouth as his shining eyes looked down at her. “So you don’t want to play? Fine. Do not think your insolence comes without consequence. You gave me your word. Your greedy promise. You got what you wanted. Stories, stories, stories and now… nothing for Neville. It doesn’t seem fair. No. I should show you the weight of your consequences.”
Viola slid across the floor out from under the bed. Neville had shoved her with such force, she slammed up against the wall and lost her breath.
His words danced around her throbbing head, filling her with new fear. Gasping, she pushed herself to her hands and knees. “Neville,” she coughed. “What consequences?”
His laughter was like someone trying to start a chainsaw, halting and alarming. “You’ll see.”
Silence surrounded her so suddenly she felt like she would collapse into tears of relief. The whispers were gone, the constant banging, all she was left with was the throbbing in her head which kept time with the heavy, panicked beating of her heart.
Neville had scared her, and not like he usually startled her for good fun. This was different.
Sinister, she thought of the word he so often used to describe the entity in his story.
How often had he called her foolish? Maybe she was. He had called her foolish just so often as he had suggested he was the sinister being from the story.
Why hadn’t she listened?
Collapsing on the floor, she curled into herself.
Neville had been her only friend. Could she have done anything that would have her anywhere else but where she was now? Was there something she could have done earlier, that would have kept their friendship as it was? Instead of this daunting thing that she felt trapped in?
Her mother didn’t even believe Neville existed, she would never believe her now.
Her head was throbbing, the floor around her swaying.
Closing her eyes, Viola fell into darkness.