illustration from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
The Bump under the Rug
“Ah! It’s a rat!” cried Mrs. Harris, my dear every Thursday bridge partner. “I’m not going in there anymore!”
“I’m telling you, it’s the fairies!” said tiny Mr. Field, with his tiny voice, trying to see something from behind Mrs. Harris who wouldn’t budge from the door despite her fear of rats. "They come every night!"
“Where’s your cat, Mr. James?” asked Barry, the delivery boy, in his usual cheeky tone.
“Right there,” I replied annoyed. Kitty was standing at the edge of the rug, too scared to attack, watching warily the big bump under the rug. The bump began moving again, even faster than before, toward that corner where the rug reached right underneath the big, old chest of drawers.
Under our four pairs of unbelieving eyes, the bump vanished. Kitty darted towards it, but it was too late.
Just like one week before. And one week before that, when it had first happened. Barry had been there too, and Mrs. Harris, and Mr. Field.
I said "good bye" to my neighbours, tipped Barry for delivering my bag of groceries from his uncle's store, and returned to my apartment.
I knew there was nothing behind the chest, because I had checked last time, but just to be sure, I checked again. Nothing. At least my neighbours had seen it too so I wasn't imagining things.
That night I didn't go to bed. I sat on the armchair, with a baseball bat in my right hand and a plastic bowl in the other, and waited. I was determined not to fall asleep this time so I didn't eat anything, not even the almond cake. Barry's uncle made a terrific cake.
Soon after midnight, I heard a scraping sound. I kept still, pretending to be asleep, but I was watching carefully. Soon enough, a bump began moving under the rug, from the corner underneath the chest. When it reached the center of the room, I jumped and threw the bowl over it.
Whatever it was, I had caught it.
"Let me go!" said a tinny voice.
I fell on my back.
The bump wasn't moving anymore, but it looked like it was shaking. Kitty was hissing loudly and wagging his tail.
"Who's talking?" I managed to say. "Who are you?"
"Let me go and I'll tell you."
"Talk, or I won't let you go. Who are you?"
"I'm the previous owner of the apartment above yours..."
Mr. Allen? How could that be? I knew him well. We'd been neighbours for twenty years. He'd recently sold his apartment and had moved to Florida. The apartment was rented now by a young woman, Miss Jones. How could that be?
"Do you like almond cake?" the tinny voice continued. "So did I... so much that I ate some every night. Barry's still delivering it, I see. All full of Uncle Gary's black magic. Until one night, it will be Uncle Gary delivering the cake. His spell will turn you into a doll too. A little, animated, docile doll...And then you too you'll have to obey him. Go through the apartments, steal things, scare people into selling them dirt-cheap to... guess who? Uncle Gary..."
As for me, that was the last time I was going to eat almond cake, or any cake for that matter.
Happy, Spooky Halloween!
And these are my carved pumpkins for this year...