Across A Crowded Room by Elizabeth Marchat

Copyright Elizabeth Marchat

Chapter 1 [Unpublished]

Later in life, when Jason DesJardin recalled that fateful night, he noted it wasn’t an ominous sort of night, not the kind that film directors like to portray in horror movies. It certainly wasn’t the kind of night anyone would have expected to change the course of so many lives.
Even the moonlight couldn’t be blamed for producing the silhouettes haunting the walls in the children’s room, creating imaginary monsters to initiate their nightmares. The real source of light was a small bit escaping the upstairs hallway, sneaking warily through the crack beneath the door. Seeping in, penetrating the ebony space, turning black into shades of gray, it reflected off the ancient oak outside and cast back soft shadows on the walls. Jason didn’t sleep soundly back then…not while his foster father drank.
****
The man closed the door quickly behind him and became nothing more than a massive shape, a mere shade defined by a flash of light. The glow broke the smoky depths of the room, then dimmed to gray, and allowed the stick figures to resume their flickering limbo over the walls. As the man crept silently deeper into the room, Jason held his breath and waited.
Beyond the piles of discarded clothes and other remnants of the day scattered around the waxed wooden floor, the man watched Cade and Harry as they slept soundly in their bunk beds. The brothers’ spindly bodies were still childishly fragile, defined by their delicate bone structure. Each had matching wheat-colored hair, sticking out at all angles from their round freckled faces. So innocent as they slept.
The man stilled allowing his eyes to adjust to the low light, and then glanced over his shoulder to make sure Jason slept.
With his eyes squinted shut and his frame sprawled across his bed, Jason engulfed the entire surface. His gangly limbs extended well beyond the mattress boundaries, and yet Jason didn’t sleep. He allowed his chest to rise and fall evenly, faking it. A few stray hairs from an unkempt lock fluttered across his forehead with each outward puff. When a whisper of sound tried to escape, fear kept him silent. The evidence of his full masculine potential delayed beneath the surface of his still soft features. Jason knew what kept the monster at bay was how the harder planes of his body had already appeared mere moments away from emerging.
“Such a shame to lose all that softness.” The man whispered, “Too old.” He turned away from Jason and headed toward the younger boys.
The real monster wasn’t under the bed—he was climbing into it.
The branch figures danced innocently around the quiet room, muted ghosts unable to forewarn the approaching peril, but Jason could.

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About Eliza March

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