Blankets in the Corner
While the following short story is fiction it is inspired by my real experiences caring for orphans and children in foster care.
Everything about the house was familiar to the little boy. The floor creaked in the right places as he walked through each room and he could feel warm evening air filter in through a broken window. He came to the room that he slept in and was delighted to see his toys exactly as he had left them. Spilling out from underneath the big man's bed were colorful blocks, small and large action figures, balls, and the dirty stuffed animal the boy couldn't sleep without.
The boy's bed - a thin sheet thrown on top of a stack of folded blankets and a dirty pillow - was in the corner in between the pile of toys and an over-filled closet. The small room contained nothing else in terms of furniture, and the little boy sat down on his bed and pulled a few toys towards his knees. He played quietly while waning light crept across the room before it left through a grime-covered window. In the dark, he stood up to retrieve his beloved stuffed animal and was content in the dim room surrounded by his playthings. It was only when he heard the back-door slam shut late in the night that he became scared.
He had played through the night rather than fall asleep, and toys were scattered across the floor. Heavy footfalls shuddered through the house, followed by the occasional thud of an inebriated body teetering against the hallway walls. Once upon a time, there were pictures of a happy young couple on those walls, but the big man had broken every single one. The first to go were casualties of the big man's fits of sorrow that followed the death of his partner. Others were destroyed when the man lost his job, and the last pictures to fall were when he lost control of his addictions. There was nothing left of a woman's touch in the house except for the little boy shrinking between blankets in the corner. It was only a matter of time before the bedroom door would open like the gates of some hideous dungeon deep beneath the earth.
When the little boy's eyes opened, he was alone and afraid. This room was lit by the glow of a blue nightlight shaped like a superhero from a cartoon he had never seen. He wasn't on his corner pallet anymore, and the stuffed animal he loved was gone too. Instead, he found himself lying on an actual bed. The nightlight filled the room with the shadows of large toys arranged neatly along the walls. Then the little boy heard another loud thud from outside. It was not so much like the familiar thuds of the big man approaching the room that he used to sleep in, but similar enough to remind the little boy of the horror he once felt almost every night of his young life. In the old room, the boy had learned to never scream or cry for help, but here in the new room things were different. He had learned that help would indeed come. He had learned words he never knew before and was ready to put them to use whenever that old fear returned.
"Daddy! Daddy, I'm scared!"
The man was already awake when he heard the little boy's voice call for help. Treader, the family's golden retriever, was scratching at the back door and the noise had woken him up as well (he made a mental note to buy a new doggy door tomorrow during his lunch hour). He let the animal in before entering the little boy's room. It was difficult for the man to see, so it took him a moment to locate the boy by the glow of the nightlight. Instead of laying in his bed, the little boy had moved his blankets and pillows to the corner next to the closet door. He was sitting upright on the pile of bedding with eyes wide and tearful.
"Danny, it’s okay," the man said as he scooped the blankets and child from the floor. "It was just Treader."
"Daddy, I'm scared."
"It’s okay to be scared, but Daddy is here now."
The man held Danny and again reassured him that it was only Treader making all the noise. When the man felt the child's body relax into sleep he placed him and the blankets back on the bed. During their foster parent training, the social workers had informed the man and his wife about children having night terrors, but so far, the little boy had only occasionally woken up at night.
There were small scars on Danny's forehead just below the hairline and the man stroked them before leaning over to kiss the boy goodnight. He stood up to leave but stopped at the door when he noticed something was missing. The little boy slumbered while the man searched about the room. He had kicked almost every toy before he thought to look underneath the bed. Wedged between the floor and the footboard was Danny's stuffed animal. It was a dingy white bunny that never looked clean no matter how much bleach his wife used, and with the care of a surgeon, the man tucked the stuffed bunny underneath Danny's arm and left the room.
This story is the #1 in a series of short stories originally published to corey-evans.com