I Spy With My Little Eye
I Spy With My Little Eye
I stare out my kitchen window. My six-year-old is playing in the backyard with Barbies. Her pale skin shines in the afternoon sun. I watch her golden hair softly reflect the light of the sun; each strand catches the mild breeze and moves freely across her face. She kneels in front of her dolls and feeds them leaves and flowers.
My little girl, trying on mama's shoes already.
Suddenly she looks around, but she is not looking at me. She instead stares at the trashcan lying at the far corner for a brief second before walking uncertainly towards it. I notice her hands pull on the ends of her pink dress. I gaze at the direction of the trashcan, wondering what piqued my little girl's interest.
I see a shadow lurking. Something darker than the color of the night stood still at the corner of the trashcan. Even the sunlight doesn't stream through it. I crane my neck a little more through the window to get a glimpse of it, but all I see is a blob of black.
Must be Mr.Cuddles, our cat.
My daughter has been very fond of Mr. Cuddles ever since we got him home a few weeks back. He was a rescued Persian black cat that my friend had in her shelter, and for my daughter, it was love at first sight. She refused to look at any other cat after she set her eyes on him. I had always wanted my daughter to have a playmate, as I knew she was getting lonely in the house. Seeing her bond with the kitty was heartwarming.
I go back to cleaning the dishes that have piled on the kitchen sink. Being a single mother has been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I, like a thief, try to steal such small moments to watch my little girl grow up. Most days, I am swamped with my job, never-ending bill payments, getting groceries, and making ends meet, that I rarely get the 'me' time with my daughter.
Out of nowhere, I see something dark move on the kitchen counter through the corner of my eye. My heart skips a beat. I gasp when I notice Mr. Cuddles perched at the counter, purring innocently. I close the tap and immediately look out of the window. My daughter is still staring at the trashcan but smiling.
"My name is Abby," I hear my daughter say.
"Okay - we can be friends!" She says again after a long pause.
Fear grips my body and I race out through the kitchen door as if my feet no longer touched the floor.
"Abby… play inside, baby. It's too hot outside!" I say.
She looks at me with her big blue eyes and then gives a long look at the trashcan. "Bye!" she whispers and walks inside sullenly.
I close the kitchen door behind her. I tiptoe all around the trashcan looking all through its gaps. I jerk it open, and the dumped waste squeak from underneath their plastics in a sleepy way.
There is nothing there.
I walk back inside, feeling a little uneasy, but I try to shake that feeling off.
My daughter has started to play with her teddy now. I pour her a glass of juice, and she slurps it away hungrily. She has reached that age where she wants to do all things by herself. I smile as I watch her stuff her mouth with cookies and drink her juice.
"Abby …. Who were you talking with outside?" I ask.
"My new friend - John John," she says with an impassive face.
"How was your day at school?" I ask as Abby gets into the back seat of the car.
"Okay," she mumbles.
Abby has always been a shy, introverted girl. But I know what will cheer her up.
"You want to play I, spy?" I ask.
She nods cheerfully.
"I spy with my little Eye…something that begins with J…" Abby starts the game immediately.
She must have seen the jar of Jam lying on the passenger seat.
But I still decide to humor her.
"Is it inside the car or outside?" I ask.
"Inside!" she screams joyfully.
"Huh! Inside? What can it be?" I scratch my head intentionally as I look at her reflection in the rearview mirror. She likes it when I take the time to guess the word she is thinking of. The more hints I ask for, the more thrilled she becomes.
Such little joys!
"So…Is it an animal?" I ask.
"Nooo! Guess again!"
"Is it a person then?"
She nods excitedly.
That can't be right!
"Umm...I don't know, sweetie! Are you sure it is a person? There is no one else in the car and both our names don't start with J" I give a quick puzzled look to Abby.
"It's John John, Mommy! He is right here next to me!"
I drive in silence. My heart vibrates silently.
Things I can't see, scare the hell out of me!
I scratch my eyes with one hand as I pour the pancake batter on the pan haphazardly. I hardly slept the whole night. Mr.Cuddles scurried in the hallway all night. I hope he caught a mouse or a rat, but he sure did mess up my sleep.
Why are cats such nocturnal beings!
"Sweetie…Come down…breakfast is ready!!"
Abby doesn't answer. Usually, she comes running down the moment I call her.
"Abby…come now, baby….You will get late for school!" I say after a minute, again.
I hear something move in the upper staircase. Abby is standing right outside her room.
"Can John-John come too…mommy?" she asks, a little hesitant.
Without even thinking, I burst out, "No! Come down, RIGHT NOW, Abigail Forbes!"
I am surprised at my outburst, but I know I did the right thing. I have to draw the line somewhere.
I hear Abby whisper as she walks down the stairs.
"Mommy said No…sorry!"
Just ignore her talks.
I watch Abby as she eats her pancakes silently. She doesn't chatter away like other mornings. I try to talk about school and homework, but all she replies with is a nod or a shake of her head. Mr.Cuddles purrs under her feet, but she doesn't pay any heed to him either.
"Did you sleep well last night?" I ask, trying to change the subject again.
She jerks her head slightly in an unconventional nod.
"Huh!…You slept through all the noise that Mr.Cuddles made in the hallway last night?"
Abby looks at me and frowns. She shakes her head. "Mr. Cuddles slept with me the whole night, mommy! He was there next to me when I woke up too".
I stare at her listless, unguarded eyes for a minute, trying to fathom if she is telling the truth. She goes back to eating her pancakes while I stand there like a statue fidgeting with my trembling fingers.
"He must have slipped out of your bed when you were asleep." I finally say, trying to mask the sudden dread that crawled under my skin.
Later that night, I find myself staring at Dr.Google.
Are imaginary friends dangerous for children? I type and hit search.
I feel a little consoled as I read through a bunch of articles.
They all say the same thing - 'Having an imaginary friend is perfectly normal and a healthy part of children's play.'
"She did what?" I ask nervously.
Immediately I feel the unsettling knot grow into a ball in the pit of my stomach as I hear the Principal of the school jabber away diplomatically at the other end of the phone. All I get from him is that my daughter poked someone with a pencil.
"Yeah… I will come right away," I mumble. I hang up the phone and rush to school.
I walk through the deserted corridors of the school and make my way to the Principal's office. The corridor of the school looks a lot different from the vibrant outside scenery. It is dressed in black-and-white tiles like a checkerboard. I feel like a human pawn moving through it. Somehow the whole place sends a chill down my spine and reminds me of some horror scene in a movie. Lately, I haven't been able to shrug off that feeling that something isn't right. It is an eerie feeling. Spooky, if I am not lying. I wrap my arms around my chilled body, wondering what I would learn here.
Is Abby alright?
"I don't get it," I say as I stare at the bloodied pencil.
"Your daughter poked this pencil right through the other girl's hand. She had to be taken to the Emergency Ms. Forbes, as she was bleeding profusely." The Principal says.
I shake my head as I wipe the beads of sweat from my eyebrows with my trembling fingers.
"They are kids…kids fight…don't they?" I try to reason, but I can't find the right words.
"I don't think you understand, Ms. Forbes. You need to talk to Abby, so it doesn't happen again. And…you are right, kids fight, but it's not normal to act so violently."
I nod and promise that this won't happen again.
"You can take Abby back home for today - "
"Oh, no… I can't… I have to go to work!" I say immediately.
The principal shakes her head.
"Sorry, Ms. Forbes, but we can't help you. Abby has scared her classmates today. You have to take her back with you."
I sigh and nod, helplessly this time.
Once back in the car, I look at my daughter in the rearview mirror. She is adjusting herself in the car seat.
Did I just see a grin on her face?
I immediately look over my shoulder at Abby.
"Sweetie …Why did you poke your friend today?"
"She was a meanie. She deserved it!"
"No one deserves to be poked or hurt"
Abby gives me a disdainful look.
"Why can't you be proud of me? John - John is proud of me!"
"STOP talking about John - John. You, missy, have some serious punishment waiting for you when we get home," I can sense my frustration show in my voice. It is becoming hard to contain my annoyance lately.
Abby crosses her arm across her chest and looks out of the window. Her almost adult behavior shocks me, but I decide to let it go. I am not in the mood anymore.
"You are coming to work with me now. I expect you to behave, Abigail Forbes," I say with finality in my voice as I start to drive.
"Mommy - Have you seen Mr. Cuddles?" Abby comes screaming down the stairs.
"No, sweetie… He must be out in the backyard."
"No, he is not there," she shrieks irritably. "John John says he escaped through the window last night!"
I roll my eyes. I still haven't gotten used to Abby's imaginary friend's presence. His name still makes me feel cramped in my own house.
"He will come back, honey! Cats are like that!" I tell her instead and go back to doing my chores.
I wake with a soft gasp, faintly aware of something heavy on my belly. I brush my hand on my blanket, but I touch the cold air. The weight had already lifted.
"Mr. Cuddles? Is that you?" I whisper, but there is no answer.
I toss and turn for a few more minutes, unable to sleep for a while. I stagger out of bed to make my way to the bathroom. For a brief, sickening second, I feel something cold and wet right under my feet. My hands immediately stretch out to turn on the bed lamp. As light fills the room, I stare at my own feet, feeling a little foolish.
There is nothing there.
I watch Abby sit on the kitchen floor and scribble something with her crayon in her drawing book.
"Did you find Mr.Cuddles? I thought I saw him at night".
Abby doesn't answer. She continues to scribble away angrily. I yawn and let her be.
It is a Sunday morning, and for one day, I just want to unwind a little and not worry about every minute thing. The sun streams into my kitchen, cheerful as if it's an ordinary day. I place some milk on the stovetop while the coffee brews slowly. The aroma of the fresh coffee beans relaxes my mind a little. I open the kitchen backdoor to let in some fresh air.
The moment I open the door, something black falls on the ground, missing my head barely. I let out a squeal only to realize it is Mr.Cuddles. He purrs at me apologetically and starts to lick his paws.
"You naughty cat! You can - " My voice trails off.
Something runs past me.
Before I can comprehend anything, I am staring wide-eyed at the bloodied remains of Mr. Cuddles, his face buried under a brick. Abby is standing right next to me, wiping her hands, with which she held the brick a second before. Mr. Cuddles leg spasms uncontrollably while his skull lay smashed on the cement floor. I watch in horror, life slowly escaping out of his body.
Blood, Bones, and Brick.
"What did you do?" I yelled, shocked at the scene that I had just witnessed.
"She was a bad kitty. She deserved to die, Mommy!" Abby says with a composed look on her face, and yet I notice the signs of cruelty crawling out of her.
I stare at her, horror-struck. From the corner of my eye, I notice the crimson, warmblood starting to pool around my feet. Mr. Cuddles' mangled body lies lifeless in there.
"Stop saying things like this, Abigail Forbes!! Look at what you did!" I say through gritted teeth.
I grab her wrists and yank her forward. My heart feels like a giant frog wanting to leap out of my chest.
"Do you even understand what you did?"
"Bad people need to die!" she says with a frigid look in her eyes.
Those heartless little eyes of her make me tremble. I feel like Abby has long drifted away. I glare at her, all speechless as if she is some stranger.
"You can't kill your pet, Abby!!" I say in a desperate attempt to make her understand.
"Yes, you can - you gotta do what you gotta do!" She walks out, leaving me voiceless.
She had never spoken to me in this manner before!
And what was that language?
For the first time, I start to question things that I never asked before - Can this be some paranormal activity?
Don't be foolish, I tell myself.
But the bigger question still lingers on. It has haunted the back of my mind for quite some time now - Is John-John the root of all this?
I leave Abby in Dr.Harrington's clinic's waiting room as I step inside his office to talk to him briefly. I want to explain the situation to the therapist before he talks to my daughter.
"What brings you here, Ms.Forbes? You have a lovely daughter,", Dr.Harrington has a deep soothing voice. The look of his wrinkled face and wispy white hair immediately puts me at ease.
He looks experienced!
"Yeah - Abby is lovely…or she used to be that. Actually…umm…" I don't know how to put it in words without sounding like I am some crazy mom. I clear my voice and continue, "You see, lately, Abby has been behaving differently…I should say violently, and I am worried about her."
"That's not unusual in kids her age. Can you tell me briefly how it started?"
I tell him about John-John, and I elaborate in great detail about Mr.Cuddles. I am still disturbed by what she did to the cat.
"And I think it all started after John-John became her imaginary friend" I intentionally say that because somehow, I blame him for all this.
"Ms. Forbes …kids are unusual, but what Abby is going through is not out of the ordinary. Imaginary friends are absolutely normal. Did she ever say that John-John asked her to do all these violent things?"
I shake my head.
"Then you have absolutely nothing to worry about!" Dr. Harrington says. "I think Abby misses a father figure in her life. You said you had her through a sperm donor program, right? I am pretty sure she is just acting up because of that! Did you ever try to find her father?"
"Not yet, I will probably reach out to the AMS Fertility Centre. But you think it will all go away once she meets her father? Can I do something in the meantime?"
"I am very positive that if Abby has a father figure in her life, it will help. But let me talk to her and see if I learn something more!"
I feel a little relieved talking to Dr. Harrington. I usher Abby inside. She sits down next to the table with crayons and starts to draw.
"Abby, this is Dr. Harrington. He thinks you are a sweetheart and wants to talk to you." I say a little shakily.
Abby nods at him and smiles.
I wait outside the office impatiently. I can hear the faint mumble of my daughter's voice intermittently, and it makes me more restless. I pick up a magazine and flip through its pages without even reading it. My mind is baffled with all kinds of concerns.
After almost an hour, Dr. Harrington and Abby step out. Abby is sucking on a lolly. I look expectantly at the doctor. He gives me a warm smile - "Your daughter is absolutely fine. Abby said how much she loves playing I spy with John - John. You have nothing to worry about. She is quite imaginative and playing with imaginary friends is a good thing. And she seems to trust this John-John."
I nod. I feel a little relaxed that it went well.
"But one small thing, Ms. Forbes, be a little open about John-John. Abby feels that you hate him." Dr. Harrington adds.
"Oh, no - I d-d-don't," I stammered, shocked at this accusation.
He pats my shoulder. "It is okay, Ms. Forbes. Just let her talk about him whenever she wants to. She says that she has told all about you to John - John. Isn't that right, Abby?"
"Yes," Abby says shrilly. "John - John doesn't like mommy because mommy doesn't like him!" She goes back to sucking the popsicle.
Dr. Harrington laughs.
I feel numb.
I wake up with a start. I heard some muffled sounds coming from outside my room.
I jump out of my bed and run towards Abby's bedroom. The door to her room is slightly ajar, and I can see the night lamp glowing subtly in the dark. Something paralyzes my feet, and I hesitate a little to open my own daughter's bedroom. My thoughts are bellowing inside my head and I want them to slow down so I can breathe.
I can clearly hear her talking, and I literally know what's happening in there, but somehow, I feel that the dark hollowness inside her room is mocking me.
"Mommy…Why are you outside my door?" Abby's voice echoes from the room.
I am caught off guard. A tortured groan escapes my lips, and I swing the door open.
"What do you think you are doing so late, Abby?" I ask with a forced firmness in my voice.
"I was playing with John-John…He said you were standing out," she says, coolly.
Her words pierce through my brain and trigger some primal instincts in me. Before I know it, I whisk her out of the blanket, scoop her up, and carry her to my room.
Enough of all this!
"You are going to sleep with me tonight!" I say with finality in my tone.
Abby wails in disagreement.
Something twitches at the corner of my bedroom. It is pretty dark, and I can't see it well. I sit up a little. Abby is finally asleep, her tiny fingers wrapped around my wrists.
Suddenly the hardwood floor creaks a little as if something moved. The sound came precisely from the place where I thought I saw something.
I reach out for the bed lamp and click it on. An unsettling chill spread through me. I stare at the corner.
There is nothing there.
But soon from nothingness, I can see something take shape. It is a shadow of a man, and yet it feels translucent and alive. Like touched by an arctic air, I stay frozen in bed, watching its every move. Every single warm feeling and thought is sucked out of me, and I feel entirely immobilized.
The shadow extends its arm towards me. Its long thin fingers look unreal, but I can feel its roughness when it touches my bare arms. A shiver runs through me, but I can't move a muscle. I can't scream.
At first, his sound was no more than a child's whisper. Then it steadily rises and falls, like it is breathing heavily. Slowly, I feel the sound wrap around my ears, and I can hear the words. It hisses in a language that I don't know, but I can still understand every word of his.
"DON'T TAKE HER AWAY FROM MEEEE… SHE IS MEEEE…MY DEMONS WILL FINALLY UNLEASHHHHH…YOU CAN'T STOP MEEEEE"
The ringing continues. I can't stop the ringing. And out of nowhere, I find my voice, and I start to scream.
I wake up screaming and gasping for breath. Light is streaming through my bedroom window, and I see Abby staring at me. She still has her fingers curled around my wrist.
I force that thought in my mind.
"Mommy?" I hear Abby's voice.
I look at her, still trembling from head to toe.
"Don't worry, mommy! The shadow you saw in your dream… That was just John - John. He wanted to talk to you."
I am sitting face to face with three doctors in a small room of AMS Fertility Clinic. I received a call from them earlier in the morning asking me to come to their facility at the earliest. They had found the sperm donor details, and they knew who Abby's father is.
But looking at their faces, I am not sure anymore. It doesn't look like I am summoned here for some pleasant news.
"So…did, you find Abby's father? "I say, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"Yes, Ms. Forbes, but we have some disturbing findings too…" One of the older women among them says at last. The other women nod along.
"Oh… is he dead?" I ask, a little crestfallen.
"Umm…yes he died a few years back because of a drug overdose, but that's not why we called you here today. Your sperm donor … You know him as 1357 is not what he claimed to be. We recently found, after his arrest, that he had lied in his resume…" She pauses momentarily, probably waiting for me to wrap my head around this recent information.
All kinds of thoughts run through my mind like a bullet train.
"You have a baby with someone you know and love!" My mom's words of caution echo clearly in the back of my mind.
But I am an independent woman. I don't need a man to make a baby.
I close my eyes, trying to block my thoughts. I try to recollect the things that made me select 1357's sperm bio in the beginning. All I wanted my baby to have was his healthy, good looking, and educated genes. Everything I had lacked was something I was trying to balance with my donor's sperm.
"Umm…So you are saying he doesn't look like Brad Pitt and he is not an Electro physicist? Is that it?" I ask.
"Yes - that and the fact that he served time in prison for various petty crimes and misconduct….and he had a drug problem."
I stare at them in utter disbelief.
But the older woman continues, "Recently, we tracked down a few of the other women who had used his sperm to explain them the same thing. But that's when we noticed a pattern. All of their kids had developed psychotic problems early on. And…" she shifts a little in her seat. "Umm…all those kid's moms are dead. We don't know in detail exactly what happened, but we have heard some rumors."
"Anyway, we just traced three single moms so far…You are our fourth mom, and we wanted to check with you to see if your daughter has acted differently at all" A petite woman sitting at the other corner adds, and all three exchange a scared look amongst them.
"What?? "I breathe.
I feel cold and numb. I can hear my heart thumping loudly, and yet I feel hollow inside. My mind starts to shut down, unwilling to think anymore.
Abby…violent…all other moms…dead…killed probably…unleash the demons…
And a whisper escapes my lips, "John-John."
I suddenly feel the warmth of the older woman's hand on my shoulders.
"Ms. Forbes….Are you alright?" I hear her ask.
I nod as I run my cold hand through my hair.
"Ms. Forbes - How do you know the name John - John?" the older woman asks, a little surprised.
"What do you mean? You know, John - John too?" I sit upright, alarmed. My stomach twists and I find it difficult to breathe.
"Umm…yes…John - John was your sperm donor's street name. His real name was Jonathan Johnson. I don't think we ever shared that with you. But how did you hear about him?"
Uh - Oh!
"Umm…my daughter's imaginary friend's name is John - John. And…I saw him in my dream too…he said he will unleash some demons..", I croak. My throat feels parched and tongue dry.
No one says a word for a long time.
Were his sperms little demons?
The fearful thought almost chokes me. "Water?" I ask hoarsely.
The petite woman hurries out of the room to get water for me while the two older women stare at me like they have seen a ghost.
Are they thinking about what I am thinking?
"Ms. Forbes, I think you should bring your daughter first thing tomorrow morning. We should keep her in the Facility for observation. I will talk to my management and arrange everything."
The older woman looks away from me and instructs the other lady "We need to contact all women who used his sperm ASAP"
"Will Abby be fine? Will my little girl be fine? You can fix her right?" I break down completely, unable to withhold the bottled-up emotions. I still can't comprehend what is exactly happening, but I get the feeling that something is not right anymore.
I toss and turn in my bed. I am tired, but I can't sleep. I haven't been able to do anything since my return from the Facility. I hastily fed something to Abby and put her to bed. I can't even close my eyes. I stare wide-eyed at the surrounding darkness. There is nothing scarier than the feeling that things are just beyond me.
I don't know when I closed my eyes. I suddenly jerk awake into the half-light of dawn. My body goes stiff with dread. I stare at the dark silhouette next to my bed.
It's a shadow…but I can almost see it's faint features…It's Abby.
I squirm, but I steady myself immediately.
"Abby…what-what are you doing here?"
I rub my scratchy eyes, trying to peer through the darkness. Something around her moves, but yet she stands there still as a statue.
"Time to Play - I Spy with my little eye…something that is Dead…" she hisses.
A voice, I vaguely recollect cuts through me.