I knew exactly what breaking glasses sound like. I had heard it two times before.
The first time, I was little. Granmy was always telling me I shouldn’t put down my glasses on the floor, Not Ever. But I like to sit on the floor and read and draw and do puzzles, and I didn’t always need my glasses for all those things back then. They were new and I wasn’t used to them, so I took them off whenever I could. And since I’m Absent Minded, I would put them down somewhere next to me and just forget about them. Although, maybe sometimes the little boy moved them, and I just didn’t know about him yet. But that’s not important. The important thing is, I put them down next to me on the floor so I could work on my puzzle, and in the middle, I had to go to the bathroom, so I stood up and I took one step and I heard the sound of breaking glasses for the very first time.
Granmy was angry, because she had told me not to put them on the floor. Granpy said it was okay, because now I had Learned My Lesson and I would be more careful with my new glasses. And I was. I never, ever put them on the floor again. But Granmy didn’t trust me after that, and I had a sick, sick feeling in my stomach for a long time, because I knew she was right.
The second time was only a year before I went into the Haunted House. That time it wasn’t because I was Absent Minded, it was because I was Clumsy. They were on the table. I was drawing a picture, and it was coming out really, really well. It was one of the best pictures I’d ever drawn. I was using my Brand New colored pencils that Granpy bought me for my birthday. They felt so nice in my hands, and they felt so nice when they wrote on the paper, and the colors were Just Perfect. I was so excited, I wanted to show Granpy how nice it looked, so I put the pencil I was using down and I grabbed the paper and stood up, and I guess that was too many things to do at one time, because the pencil rolled off the table onto the floor, and when I tried to grab the paper, I hit my glasses, and they Went Flying off the table and hit the floor, which was made out of wood, and that was the second time I heard the sound of breaking glasses. It ruined my good mood and I ruined my picture. I was so upset that I Couldn’t Help It, I threw the pencils across the room and I ripped the paper in half, and my beautiful picture was gone forever.
Good things never happen after you hear the sound of breaking glasses. And now it was the third time, and I was in the Haunted House, just me and Simon and the worms and probably a lot of ghosts and the Duchess and, I hoped, somewhere, Jose. I didn’t have any extra glasses.
Now, I’m not completely blind without glasses. Some people say that they are completely blind without their glasses, but that’s never true, because if they were completely blind, then glasses wouldn’t help them. But some people can barely see anything without glasses. I can see a little bit. But things that are far away are really fuzzy, like trying to look through a foggy window.
I could see Simon by my feet. He was a little bit blurry, but I could see his eyes. He was looking at me. He looked worried.
I tried looking up the stairs. The top half was just a blob of different kinds of brown and gray. I squinted, and the blobs changed shape a little bit. Maybe something was moving. Maybe not. I wasn’t sure.
The one thing I was sure about was that I was in big trouble. I didn’t have any extra glasses. Even at home, I only had a really old pair. They were the wrong prescription now and didn’t work very well, and they were a little bit too small for me. They were for Emergencies Only. Granpy had put them away somewhere in the bathroom. I didn’t know exactly where they were, and it would be hard to find them when the world was all blurry. I needed Granpy’s help, and I needed Granpy to help me get a new pair. And Granpy couldn’t see me or hear me.
So I didn’t have any glasses. I didn’t have any way to get more glasses. I couldn’t see what was in front of me. And then someone screamed.
It was the Duchess again. I recognized how the scream sounded. The kind of scream that comes from inside your head. Simon hissed, and the scream stopped. Maybe he’d scared the ghosts a little.
Then I wondered, Do ghosts get scared? It was another thing to add to my list of Unanswered Questions.
Jose. I had to find Jose. Jose could help me. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to see me, just like Granpy, but I had to hope that he would, because I didn’t know what else to do. My stomach was falling down into my feet and I was crying a little, but Simon meowed a little bit and took a few steps up the stairs. I saw him stop and look back at me.
I couldn’t see, but Simon could see. His eyes were even better than mine. He could even see in the dark. And he knew where to go, so I followed him.
We went up the stairs very slowly. There was no railing and I was afraid I would slip and fall down. Worrying about it made me even more Clumsy than usual, and when I Lost My Balance and almost fell, I decided to get down and use my hands to help me go up the steps. Me and Simon, both of us On All Fours, probably looked very silly, but it didn’t feel silly. It just felt scary.
At the top, it was dark. So dark that maybe it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any glasses. Simon rubbed on my leg and started walking. It was hard to see him, but he kept waiting for me. I had no idea what there was around me. It was only dark browns and dark grays and lots of black. After only a few steps, I started to hear noises. Creepy crawling noises, like with the spiders. I thought I could see things moving. Maybe it was just my imagination. Maybe it wasn’t. I could try to touch the walls and find out, but I was too scared.
Simon kept going, though, so I kept going after him. Since it was hard to see him, I had to really focus to follow him, and that helped, because it stopped my brain from coming up with too many scary ideas. Finally, we went through something, probably a doorway, and it was lighter. I could start to see the floor a little bit, and some furniture. I saw a chair, and a table, and a big old-fashioned bed, and a window with a little bit of light coming in, and a person sitting at a desk.
I stared and squinted. I was scared, because it might be the Duchess, but I really hoped it was Jose. It was still too dark, and the person was too far away, and they were facing away from me, so I couldn’t tell who it was. They were by the window, so the light was coming in and making a dark person-shaped shadow.
I felt Simon rubbing against my leg. He wasn’t running away. That was a Good Sign.
I wanted to look down at Simon, because I knew he would make me feel better, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop looking at the shape of the person at the desk. I hoped it was Jose. I hoped so hard it made my whole body shake, like it does when I’m really cold.
I felt Simon rub against my leg again. It was like he was hugging me. It made me a little braver. If Simon could be brave, I should be brave, too. So I said, Jose?
The person-shape didn’t say anything. It was quiet. Even the creepy crawly sounds of the spiders were gone. That’s why it was so easy to hear the magazine page turn.
Then the door slammed behind me and it made me jump and stop breathing for a few seconds. Simon rubbed against my leg again. I wondered, How can he be so calm after a loud noise like that? It was still quiet in the room, except for my heart beating inside my ears, which was very loud, but I still heard it very clearly when Simon meowed. It was his scared meow, the one he uses when he sees a scary ghost and wants me to help him. That would make sense, that I would hear his scared meow right then. What didn’t make sense was that it was quiet. It was coming from behind me. From behind the door.
I looked down. Simon was not rubbing on my leg.
I couldn’t see exactly what it was. It was still too dark, and too blurry without my glasses. But it was Most Definitely not Simon. Simon is black, and furry, and cat-shaped. The thing that was wrapping around my leg was red, and slimy, and shaped like a great big tentacle. I was too scared to move, so I tried to figure out where the tentacle was coming from. It went away from me, to the side, and disappeared in a dark spot in the wall that I guessed was a doorway. I did not want to go through that doorway.
I heard the voice of the old woman coming from the desk. “Don’t pay her any mind. She just wants attention.”
Simon meowed again, behind the door. He was scratching it, like he scratches at the back door when he wants to go outside. His meowing was getting louder and louder. He sounded like he needed help.
Simon had been looking out for me the whole time, and I had to look out for him, too. He needed my help. When I was just standing there, and I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t decide anything. But when I realized Simon needed help, that made making a decision very easy.
I tried to turn around, but the thing on my leg wouldn’t let me move it. I was stuck where I was. I reached as far as I could, trying to get to the doorknob so I could open the door and get Simon. I couldn’t reach it.
I stretched and stretched. I leaned over so far I was almost falling over. If the thing wasn’t holding my leg, I probably would have fallen over. But no matter how much I stretched, I couldn’t get to it. Simon was crying for help and I couldn’t get to him.
I was so close, too. I could just barely touch the edge of the doorknob with my fingertips. Just a tiny bit further would be enough. But any further, and I was going to fall down on the floor, and then Who Knows what the tentacle thing would do.
The door flew open and bumped into my hand. It hurt, and I said, Ow! It’s a funny thing, how when something hurts, No Matter What else you are doing or thinking about or worrying about, you forget about it Just Like That, because all you can think about is the hurting. It hurt so much that for a few seconds, I forgot that I was standing in a room in a Haunted House with no glasses and a tentacle thing on my leg and the old woman sitting Right There and I couldn’t get to Simon and Jose was missing and the door had just opened all by itself.