When the old woman said that, I felt something strange in my head. It was a feeling like I sometimes get when the world starts to be Too Much and I need a break. The world starts to feel Far Away. All the noises get all squished together and I can’t hear words anymore. That was happening, but only with the Duchess. She was screaming even louder than before. I tried to concentrate and I heard some words, like Injustice and Our Homes and Invaders and Take Back. But she was getting farther and farther away, and I realized I was just looking down at my tree on the ground, and all I could hear was magazine pages turning and Granpy kicking at the bottom of my tree and Jose coughing a little bit and the words Just Looking For Attention and Don’t Pay Her No Mind. It was all getting mixed up, and I wasn’t sure which words came from the old man and which ones came from the old woman.
That’s when the screaming started again. The Duchess’ scream, coming from inside my own head. I looked up again and she was growing really big. Her mouth was opening and her teeth were getting longer and her fingers were getting longer and her nails were turning into big sharp claws and her body was twisting around in ways that made my stomach feel Upset, and she was screaming louder and louder and louder from inside my head. From the Corner Of My Eye I saw Jose and Granpy and Ms. Fess all put their hands over their ears. This time I Didn’t Bother, because I knew it wouldn’t help. Then I saw the old man and the old woman stand up, and they looked up from their magazines for the first time, and their eyes looked all black, and they both said Ignore Her and then something with For Her Own Good.
They didn’t say it loudly, but it felt like they were yelling. My ears and my head were starting to hurt so much from the screaming, and I didn’t know what to do to make it stop. So I opened my mouth and I screamed.
This was the second time I screamed, maybe Ever, because, like I said before, I Don’t Scream. But when all the noise around you is so loud that no one can hear your voice, then sometimes you have No Choice. Sometimes screaming is the only way anyone can hear you. I don’t like how it sounds when I scream, but it was already so loud that it Didn’t Matter. I squeezed my eyes shut, and I put my hands over my ears even though I knew it wouldn’t help, and I screamed. First I was just making noise, but then I said some words. One of the words was Help. Another one was Please. Another one was Stop.
I heard the Duchess again. She was screaming, too. Her words were The Time Is Now, and I opened my eyes and saw all the Dead Eye ghosts. I noticed them Right Away, because their eyes weren’t Dead anymore. They were red, just like the Duchess’ eyes, and they were angry, and they were going to do something bad. Then the Duchess said Now again, and they all started walking forward, towards Granpy and Ms. Fess and Jose and Simon and the old man and the old woman and me. And there was Absolutely Nowhere we could hide.
I realized that I could probably run into the house, and maybe they wouldn’t follow me Right Away. Maybe they would stay outside, and I could hide in my room. I thought about my room in my head, figuring out where I would hide. All my stuff was in a big pile in the middle of the room because me and Granpy had cleaned the whole house for Jose to come over. My Spot in my closet was still clean, though, because I never put anything there, so that I can go in there when I Need My Space, and Granpy isn’t allowed to put anything there, either. I could go and hide in the closet and close the door, and maybe I would be safe. But maybe they would find me, and if they found me in the closet, there would be nowhere I could run to. The closet doesn’t have a Back Door like a house does.
Anyway, I couldn’t run and hide, because then Granpy and Ms. Fess and Jose and Simon would be out there all alone with the Duchess and the Red Eye ghosts which used to be Dead Eye ghosts and the old man and the old woman. I didn’t know if they could even see them. I might be the only one who could help them. But I didn’t know how.
I closed my eyes and I tried to remember what it was like to lie in my own bed and feel Safe And Sound. I thought about my pile of stuff in the middle of my bedroom. I thought about how Granmy was probably up there Right Now looking at the mess and saying You Really Should Tidy Up and How Can You Live In Such A Mess and What’s All This Noise Anyway. And then I realized that I wasn’t imagining that last one. I Actually heard Granmy say those words.
I got as brave as I could get and I turned around, away from the ghosts and my friend and my teacher and Granpy and all the noise and all the scary things, and I wrapped my arms around my own body and shook because I was cold and scared, and I looked at the back door of the house, and there was standing Granmy. Her arms were crossed and her eyebrows were a little bit angry and she had her Line and her mouth was a little bit unhappy, and all that meant she was definitely Annoyed, and maybe even a little bit Angry. She looked around at all the Red Eye ghosts and over at Granpy and Ms. Fess and Jose and down at Simon, who was hiding under a chair, and then up at the Duchess, who was still flying around screaming and laughing a crazy laugh, and she walked forward a few steps, and the old man and the old woman stepped right in front of her and didn’t let her go any further.
Granmy said, “What’s going on out here at this hour?” and “What’s all this noise?” and I bet you can guess what the old man and the old woman said, because I guessed it, and if I can guess it then anybody can guess it. They said She’s Just Looking For Attention and Don’t Pay Her No Mind and Ignore Her and It’s For Her Own Good.
But Granmy didn’t look scared At All. She uncrossed her arms and she put her hands on her hips and she said “I know a thing or two about little girls who need attention” and I thought that was kind of funny, because the Duchess was definitely older than me and I’m not little at all. Then she walked right through the old man and the old woman and looked up at the Duchess. The Duchess started screaming again, which surprised me because I didn’t even notice that she had stopped. But Fortunately, she didn’t scream for very long, because Granmy looked her Straight In The Eye, which she had to lean back and look up to do because she was still flying, and she said, “Young lady, why on earth are you making such a racket?”