Then I heard Simon meow, and I remembered. The door was open. Had Simon opened it? That would be amazing, because he didn’t have hands, and the doorknob was one of the round ones that you have to hold on to and turn to open. Did he still need my help? I still couldn’t move. The thing was still holding my leg. I forgot that for a second, and tried to step towards the sound of Simon meowing, and almost fell down again. That made me Lose Control for a second, and I yelled, and I kicked the tentacle thing with my other foot. That made it scream.
It was the Duchess’ scream.
It let go of my leg and I stepped backwards through the door. I was hoping I wouldn’t step on Simon. I didn’t expect to bump into someone. I definitely didn’t expect hands to grab me and hold on to me.
I was already panicking. I tried to get away, but the hands were strong and they held on to my arms and wouldn’t let me move. I heard a voice say Shhhhh right next to my ear. Then the voice whispered, “Hold still, and she can’t see you.” I didn’t know who the voice meant by She, or whether I wanted Her to see me or not, but there didn’t seem like there was anything else I could do, so I stopped moving, and squeezed my eyes shut, and held my breath, and let the hands pick me up and carry me back out of the room and down the stairs. You would think that I was thinking about who it was and where they were taking me and what was going to happen, but all I could really think about was getting Motion Sickness from being carried, and what would happen if they dropped me.
The person carrying me stopped then, at the bottom of the stairs, and I felt them squat down, then stand back up. Then they carried me further. I kept my eyes squeezed shut, trying to Stay Calm. I could tell that we were in a light place, then a dark place, then a light place again. The air got colder and colder the further we went, until I heard the light screen door open and shut like thwack, and I felt the outside air on my face and my hands. I realized I had dropped my gloves after I dropped my glasses, and my hands were cold. My new blue gloves, the ones Granpy had bought me, where gone, and I did not want to go back and look for them. My phone, then my gloves… Granpy was going to be So Mad.
And then I remembered that Granpy couldn’t see me anyways, and that was an even worse feeling.
Finally, the hands put me down on the ground. It was tricky, with my eyes closed, trying to find the ground with my feet so I didn’t get dropped. I was still too scared to open my eyes, though, until I felt something rub on my leg, and I had to open them to see if the tentacle thing had grabbed me again.
I looked down, and there was the blurry dark cat shape of Simon. He was easy to see with the snowy white ground underneath him. He said Meow, and it was the same Meow he uses to tell me he’s hungry. Actually, what it means is, “I love you so much, and you are so wonderful and perfect, and I bet I don’t even have to ask for food because you’re so amazing that you’ll just know that I’m hungry and give it to me.” There wasn’t any food where we were, so I decided it just meant the first part this time.
So whose hands had been on me? Had Simon carried me down the stairs and outside? I always knew that he was a special cat, but I didn’t know he was magic. I didn’t know he could grow hands when he wanted them and carry things around and say Shhhhh and whisper into my ear.
Then Simon whispered to me again. He said, “I’ve got your gloves. I grabbed your glasses, too, but I don’t think they’ll do you much good. Can you see to get over the fence? We can talk once we get away from here.”
It was amazing. I didn’t know how long Simon had been able to talk. I wished he hadn’t waited so long to tell me. We could have been having all kinds of conversations before that. Me and Simon have a lot in common. It would be nice to talk to someone who actually Makes Sense.
I wanted to ask him about it, but he said we could talk when we got away from the house, which probably meant we shouldn’t talk while we were close to the house, so I Kept My Mouth Shut and just looked at him.
Suddenly, it got hard to see him. A shadow came out from his body. The bright, light, snowy ground got darker, and his dark fur blended right in to it. I squinted and tried to see better, but it was No Use.
Then I heard Simon’s whisper again. It was right next to my ear. It said, “Come on, we have to hurry.” I was wondering how Simon got his voice right up next to my ear when something touched my arm.
I jumped and tried to get away from it because it might be the Duchess or the tentacle thing or some other horrible thing from inside the Haunted House. I would have run away but I couldn’t see the tree very well and I didn’t think I could climb it fast enough to get away. I turned and looked to see what it was.
There was a person standing there. I couldn’t see very well because the sun was behind them, but it definitely did not have tentacles. “Whoa, calm down,” said the whispering voice, a little bit louder this time. The voice was coming from the person. I looked down and Simon was still there on the ground. I looked back at the person and squinted my eyes, which didn’t help. Actually, that almost never helps. I don’t know why I ever do it. It’s some kind of Instinct. Instincts are not always right.
So I squinted anyway, and then I heard the voice say, “Relax. It’s just me. It’s Jose.”
It was Jose! He was there, and he had gotten away from the Duchess, and he had helped me get back outside, and he was trying to give me something blue, which turned out to be my gloves. I put them on my hands and they felt a lot warmer.
My face was very cold, though, because my cheeks were wet from all my crying. And now I was crying even more, because I was so happy that Jose was there and he was okay and he didn’t Get Killed because of me. And then I realized that he could see me, and that meant that everything was going to be okay. Whatever magic the old man had used on me was gone. We could go home and see Granpy and everything would be alright again. Thinking that made me cry even more, which made it even harder to see.
Jose helped me get over to the tree and over the fence, and he and Simon came over right behind me, and we walked as fast as we could back towards my house, or at least, as fast as I could, without my glasses. Jose held my arm so that I wouldn’t bump into anything.
On the way, I asked him what had happened to him. He said that he didn’t remember much. He didn’t even remember the Duchess taking him into the house. He just remembered being in a dark room with a terrible Thing. It was a Thing that screamed and did lots of things trying to scare him. He said that this thing had brought him in there and wouldn’t let him leave, but kept talking about how he was an Intruder and saying things like “We have to Force Them Out!” and none of it made any sense. I asked him if he had seen anyone with Dead Eyes and he said no, it was dark and he couldn’t see Much Of Anything At All.
Then he remembered Simon being there and the thing didn’t seem to notice, and Simon helped him get out of there, but he wasn’t sure how, because it was All Mixed Up in his head. He only knew that Simon took him to a door and scratched at it and Jose opened the door for him and saw me there and Somehow he just knew what he had to do, so he told me to be quiet and not move and then he took me out of there, and that was the Whole Story.
I asked him if he heard Simon say anything, and he said Noooo, and he said it really long like that, with the O going up a little bit, which is how people say it when they are confused by something. He asked me if I’d heard Simon talk, and I thought it was an easy question, so I said Yes, then I realized that maybe it wasn’t Simon, so I told him what I heard, and he laughed and said, “That was me!” and when I heard him laugh, it made me laugh too, because it felt like all the Nightmare was finally over, and life could go back to normal. I knew I would never, ever go back to that horrible Haunted House again, even if Granpy did make it My Decision.
When we finally got back to my house, something felt Wrong. It didn’t look the way it normally did. I was missing my glasses, and I tried to believe that it was just because of my bad vision, but Jose stopped walking and his hand on my arm held on a little tighter and my stomach went right back down into my feet again.
There was somebody in the backyard, walking around in a strange way, like they didn’t know why they were there or what they were doing or where they were supposed to go. It’s the way someone walks when they need to decide if they’re going to go do something scary or just go back to their bedroom and Give Up. I was scared again. It was my house, though. Inside that house was supposed to be the Safest Place In The World. If I couldn’t feel safe in my house, then it would be like being homeless. So I got Brave and I took a couple of steps toward the house and I said, “Hello?”
The person didn’t answer, so Jose came up next to me and said to the person, “Is everything alright? Do you need some help?”
The person still didn’t answer. I asked Jose who it was, and he said What? in a very shocked way. Then he said, “Oh, right, you don’t have your glasses.” And then he said, “It’s your grandfather.”
I ran up to Granpy and I wrapped my arms around him and I gave him a Great Big Hug. That close, I could actually see his face, and I could smell him. I was safe At Last. But he just kept walking back and forth, and I couldn’t hold on to him.
I said, “Granpy, what’s wrong?” and then I waited for a while, but he didn’t answer me.
Then Jose said, “Sir? Do you need help with something?” and then waited for a while, but he still didn’t answer. He just walked back and forth. Then he started talking, sort of, but really quietly. I couldn’t hear what he was saying because he was Mumbling, which is something I used to do, but Granmy always told me to Speak Clearly or else nobody would ever understand me, and that would be Rude.
Granpy was being rude to me and Jose. I decided that he was being rude, because if he wasn’t being rude, that meant he still couldn’t see me, and he couldn’t see Jose either. And that would be Very Bad.
I tried to talk to him some more. I tried to say I was sorry for going to the Haunted House, and I was sorry for whatever I did wrong in school that made Ms. Fess come over to our house, and I was sorry for dropping my phone and breaking it and dropping my glasses and breaking them, and I was sorry for leaving the door open earlier, but no matter what I said, he just kept walking back and forth and Mumbling.
Finally, Simon walked over to him and rubbed on his leg. Granpy picked him up and hugged him and said, “I don’t suppose you know what it is I’ve forgotten about?” and then Simon looked right at me and Jose and said Meow, the kind of Meow that means Please Help, but Granpy didn’t understand, and he just put Simon down and kept walking.
I went back to Jose. I didn’t cry. I didn’t panic. Something inside me decided that I had a Limit for how much I could cry and panic in one day, and I was already past it. I couldn’t do it anymore.
I said to Jose, I need to find my Backup glasses. And I asked him to help me, and he said Okay. Then he asked me if we were dead, and I said I don’t know. Then we went into the house.
When we walked past Granpy, I heard one of his Mumbles. It was “Don’t Just Open Themselves.” The back door was left open, which was very strange, because Granpy always closes it, because he Wasn’t Raised In A Barn. I wondered if maybe he was confused because I left the door open. I wondered if he was looking for me. I wondered if he remembered that I ever existed.
I closed the door behind us. Maybe Granpy would see and realize that someone was there, because someone was moving the door.
In the living room, I saw a shape sitting in my spot on the couch, but all I cared about was finding my glasses so I could see again.
Jose asked me where the Backup glasses were, and I said they were somewhere in the bathroom, but I didn’t know where. And he helped me dig through all the drawers and the boxes in the cupboard until we finally found them. I put them on, and they were a little too small and not quite strong enough, but it was so much better than having no glasses that I didn’t even care.
When we finished, I left all the boxes and cupboards and drawers Wide Open, so Granpy would see them. Jose said, “I think we can’t be dead, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to move stuff around.” But right then, the little boy walked past the bathroom door, and I told Jose he Shouldn’t Be So Sure.