“Don’t you DARE cry for me. You understand me?” Liam took my chin in his hands. He stared into my eyes. He could tell that I want so badly to cry right in front of him. And yet, I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I knew if I did, he’d die hating me. I didn’t want him to leave me feeling the same way when we first met; angry and alone. I wanted Liam to leave me with happy thoughts. I want him to close his eyes forever with a smile spread across his face like peanut butter. I wanted Liam to die laughing so that his final memory before he leaves is us.
But in my mind, I knew this could never happen. I knew Liam could never be happy. I knew he could never die with happy thoughts. I knew he couldn’t die with a smile spread across his face like peanut butter. I knew he could never die laughing. I knew all this because he wasn’t the one dying.
I was the one lying in the hospital bed. I was the one who’d been stupid and gotten sick in Minnesota. I was the one who was gonna die angry and alone because I couldn’t help Liam. I couldn’t be there for him. I couldn’t make Liam happy. I couldn’t do anything anymore because I was the one who’d leave Liam the same way I found him; angry and alone. “I can’t promise you that, Liam. You know I can’t,” I turned my head away from Liam. I couldn’t let him see me. I couldn’t let him see me cry and yet, he squatted down next to me. He placed his calloused hand on my shoulder.
I shuddered at his touch. “Look at me. Lia. Look me in the eyes and tell me you won’t cry for me,” he told me not to cry for him. He told me to be brave and to look fear in the eyes and say “No.” Liam grabbed my chin once more and turned me to face him. “I’m sorry.”
Tears ran down my face. The salty tears stung my eyes. I could feel it in my nose and taste it on my tongue. My face was red and I’d felt flustered. My eyes were as red as an apple. My head was hot and it hurt to breathe. “I’m sorry, Liam. I really am. I’m so sorry…,” Liam tucked me away in his arms. I could feel his heart beating against my face. The reassuring thumps pounding from his chest calmed me down a bit. Enough for me to give Liam a chance to speak his feelings.
“Lia, did you know that when we first met in Minnesota, upon the waterfall, you were the first thing I saw? You were down in the stream while I was at the top. I was a pretty sad and lonely kid back then, so when I saw a face in the middle of the woods, I was shocked. I didn’t know anyone would be out there during the winter. But you were. You were there but… you were alone. You were alone in the middle of the woods clueless about the dangers of being in that scenario. And yet, you didn’t scream. You didn’t cry for your parents. You didn’t worry or panic at the time. Instead, you stayed calm.
“That’s why I don’t want you to cry for me. You can’t cry for me. Because I’d you do, I’ll cry too. I’m sorry, Lia that I couldn’t give you a happy life. I knew how you felt. I knew you were feeling miserable, but I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I let you fall and I left you there because I thought you were going to die. I didn’t want it to seem as though I killed you but, I guess in a way I did.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you in school when you were being bullied. I spent so much time focused on my life, I didn’t look into yours. When I first moved to New York, I didn’t know anyone. I had no friends or anyone I could talk to. You came to me looking to be my friend and I pushed you away. You asked me to the school dance a few times but I rejected you. You even asked me to join you and Kori every now and then but I shot you down. Then, when we went on the trip back to Wisconsin, I relived that moment when were kids and let you fall from the cliff.
“I made your life a living hell and all you did was care for me. When I found out who you were, it was too late. You were in the hospital and I had no idea. When I did learn of your condition, I came every day but you didn’t know because you’ve been in a coma.
“I know I’m not the best person in the world, but I’d like to try. I like to have a proper introduction with you. I want to dance with you every day. I want to go out with you and Kori and all of our friends. Maybe just you and me sometimes. I want to travel the world with you and protect you with my life. I want to be there for you. But the one thing I don’t want to do with you is cry. Because I know if we cry together, it means one of us is sad and I never want there to be a day when you’re sad. Never.
“I love you that much.”
“I love you so much. I don’t even care if you don’t love me back because the thought that you are even alive makes me happy. So please,”
Liam took my head in his hands and planted a kiss upon my lips…
There is an event being held at only one school, where once a year, all the lights in the city are turned off at night for a couple of minutes, and everyone is forced outside of their comfort zone. During this time, anyone can do anything to anybody without anyone finding out.
It’s 7 PM at the moment. The venue is gorgeous; the ceiling, pitch black with little blue bulbs which are lit up like stars. In the center, there is a huge chandelier that gives off a dull glow. Beautiful tables are scattered along the room,excluding the stage. Everything would have been perfect if my friends didn’t ditch me. Wonderful, right?
We girls are all wearing gowns or cocktail dresses, while the boys are dressed in expensive suits, with matching bow or ties. This night would go along much better if I had a date. Oh well, at least my best friend, Gail is happy; flirting with her so called boyfriend. She happily smiles at my direction as I walk over.
“Angelina, don’t give me that look, I’m sorry for not accompanying you,” she looks at me with pleading eyes. I roll mine at her.
“It’s okay, be happy with your boyfriend,” I say sarcastically, emphasizing the word ‘boyfriend’.
Suddenly, Gails boyfriend -Rease- contributes into the argument. “Are you jealous of Gail not being with you, or are you jealous of me being with her?” he mocks.
Once Rease started going out with Gail, he changed. We all know how terrifying it would be if she found out that Rease is going out with other girls. In short, he is afraid of my best friend. He is such a coward. I let out a smile, and remember that he had the nerve to tease me.
I stare, shooting daggers at him. Then he laughs. “Get out of here and get your own date, so you won’t be lonely anymore. And if you don’t find a date, I’m here. I can date two girls at the same time,” he chuckles and winks, as Gail slaps him on the shoulder playfully.
“If you dare to,” she starts. “Then I wouldn’t have a choice but to leave you dead cold in the middle of the street,” she grins then starts to laugh.
“No babe, we both know you won’t do that, you can’t resist me.” he pouts.”Aww, you’re so cute.” she leans into him giving him a peck on the lips. I jokingly cover my eyes at them being lovey in public place. I then slap the back of Rease’s head.
“Hey you two, no PDA here! God, you’re so embarrassing,” After my remark, they both laugh.
“You’re just jealous, admit it already,” he teases me again.
I sigh. “Okay okay, if that will make your mouth shut. I will leave you two now, it seems like you want me out of here anyway.” we laugh.
While I give them space, I walk to the catering and look at the food. As my eyes wander among the tables of entrees, my mouth starts to water. I decide to eat now, since there’s no way I would ask a guy:
“Would you be my date? Because I don’t have a date,”
That would never happen, it’s far too embarrassing. That’s why I should eat everything in plain sight. There is still is an hour before the party starts. I need to find my other friend, Russel. I cross my fingers, hoping he is still dateless.
“Hey there, Angel,” well, speaking of the devil. I smile as I turned around to see him.
“Hey-” I stop when I see him with a girl, and my smile turns into a frown.
“Why didn’t you tell me you have a date?” I raise my eyebrow as I question him. He’s with a girl who is quite pretty, wearing baby pink dress falling above knees, hugging the shape of her body matching her silver heart shaped necklace.
Surely, Russel knows how to pick a girl.
” I just met her, her name’s Trisha. Where is your date, Angel?” he asks me suspiciously.
I start panicking. “I don’t know, I think my prince’s late, well he didn’t really ask me I think. Okay I’m not going to lie, I need to find a date. What should I do Sel?” I whisper at him. I could tell he sees the fear in my face. as he looks at the students scattered around the venue, everyone seems to have a partner.
“Well good luck, Angel. You look beautiful tonight, I’m sure you’ll find your prince. Sorry I can’t be your partner,” he smiles and kisses me on the forehead. Well, my friend is naturally sweet.
I couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks Russ, go enjoy your time with Trisha, she’s your date right?”
“If you need me I’m there,” he points to bar beside the cater. The bar has various types of drinks: pop, juice, and even tea.
“Ehem Ehem, mic test,” The principal says while holding the microphone, and standing is the small stage. “Our party is now starting!” All of the students scream happliy “Let’s start with my very long speech,”
We all grumble in unison, which made us all laugh, including the principal,
“Just joking. I want to thank you all for coming to this event, this is a celebration for upcoming valentine’s day, yes tomorrow will be the day, I want to thank my wife for taking care of me, for loving me with all your heart, I love you, and always be in love with you,” As people start to lose interest, he quickly to wraps up. “Students, enjoy this party, I made this for all of you, for my wife, and for all the couples there.” The principal in his mid thirties. Young and handsome, wearing simple white tuxedo. We all cheer as he takes out a bouquet of flowers and gives it to his wife sitting at a table.
“Wow sweet.” I said bitterly. I still don’t have a date, and everyone is slow dancing right in the center of the hall. How can I be the only one who doesn’t have a partner?
Suddenly, someone taps on my shoulder. I look in their direction, and see a pair of green eyes. I Immediately know who the owner of those eye are. “Sel? Why are you here? ” I ask, confused.
“Can I have the honor of this dance, my lady?” he takes out one of his hands.
I step closer. ” Where’s Trisha?”
“Don’t worry, she didn’t ditch me, she said we should dance with our friends and later we would meet up again,” he smiles.
“So, would you be my dance? Angel?” he says with his unrealistic British accent. He’s wearing red polo inside his black coat with matching green necktie, which made his beautiful emerald green eyes sparkle. I am wearing a red and black sweetheart dress that matches his outfit perfectly .
“Yes mister British,” we laugh. I then I take his hand, and we go to the dance floor.
We talk about the memories we share during our childhood: the amount of embarrassment we caused, and all of the fun we had with Gail, Hans, Raven, and Sean.
“Come to think of it, where’s Sean now?” I ask Russ. Sean was the one who always bullied me. Not the typical kind of bully, he is more verbal; always insulting me: my looks, failures, and many imperfections I make. You think I would ditch him, but he was very nice if he put his mind to it.
“He went to France two years ago. Remember?” he points out like it is the most obvious thing in the world.
Why didn’t Sean tell me? Am I the only one who didn’t know?
“Don’t tell me he didn’t tell you?” he says, startled. “That’s why you couldn’t come that day, when we sent him off in the airport,” I’m so shocked, that I am unable to even mutter a word. “He said you’re sick. Angel.” Russ finishes.
I don’t feel well now. “Russ, lets meet later,” I say, distantly. “Dance with Trisha now, I’m going to bathroom.”
(Play the song here===>)
I retreat from his sight. I’m more than confused. Oh my God, Sean didn’t tell me anything, and he is one of my childhood friends. As I was franticly keeping calm, I heard a click sound, and my sight was gone. God, already? I am still in the dance floor, and I don’t have any plans to be kissed by a stranger. Yet, I don’t see anything, and I don’t know which way I should go.My mind went blank, when someone suddenly grabs me. He places both hands on my waist. Once I realize he wasn’t letting go, I wrap my arms around his neck. The song is still playing, and I am starting to believe it is a wonderful night. I don’t even know who this guy is; yet I won’t say anything, since he might recognize who I am, which would ruin the magic. I sway with the mysterious man, feeling bubbly inside. He smells like expensive cologne, which is very addicting. When the song stops, everything started to happen in slow motion.
I felt his breath fanning in my lips, and in a second maybe, before he starts kissing me. I was frozen still, savoring the minty yet sweet flavor of his lips.”I missed you, Angel,” he says in a whisper. His voice was unrecognizable. I can feel my body is slightly shaking
ONE DOLLAR AND EIGHTY-SEVEN CENTS. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheek burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas. There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it cer tainly had that word on the look-out for the mendicancy squad. In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name ‘Mr. James Dillingham Young.’ The ‘Dillingham’ had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, the letters of ‘Dillingham’ looked blurred, as though they were thinking seri ously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called ‘Jim’ and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good. Delia finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. To-morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Some thing fine and rare and sterling – something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim. There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Per haps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art. Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its colour within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length. Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the Queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy. So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, rippling and shin ing like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet. On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out of the door and down the stairs to the street. Where she stopped the sign read: ‘Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.’ One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, pant ing. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the ‘Sofronie.’ ‘Will you buy my hair?’ asked Della. ‘I buy hair,’ said Madame. ‘Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.’ Down rippled the brown cascade. ‘Twenty dollars,’ said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand ‘Give it to me quick,’ said Della. Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present. She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation – as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value – the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain. When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends – a mammoth task. Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, closelying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically. ‘If Jim doesn’t kill me,’ she said to herself, ‘before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do – oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?’ At seven o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove, hot and ready to cook the chops. Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit of saying little silent prayers about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: ‘Please God, make him think I am still pretty.’ The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two – and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves. Jim stepped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face. Della wriggled off the table and went for him. ‘Jim, darling,’ she cried, ‘don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again – you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say “Merry Christmas!” Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice – what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.’ ‘You’ve cut off your hair?’ asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labour. ‘Cut it off and sold it,’ said Della. ‘Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?’ Jim looked about the room curiously. ‘You say your hair is gone?’ he said with an air almost of idiocy. ‘You needn’t look for it,’ said Della. ‘It’s sold, I tell you – sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,’ she went on with a sudden serious sweetness, ‘but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?’ Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year – what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on. Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table. ‘Don’t make any mistake, Dell,’ he said, ‘about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going awhile at first.’ White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat. For there lay The Combs – the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped for long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoiseshell, with jewelled rims – just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone. But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: ‘My hair grows so fast, Jim!’ And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, ‘Oh, oh!’ Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit. ‘Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.’ Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled. ‘Dell,’ said he, ‘let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em awhile. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.’ The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the unevent ful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
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A couple of months ago, my friend’s cousin (a single mother) bought a new cell phone. After a long day of work, she came home, placed her phone on the counter, and went watch to TV; her son came to her and asked if he could play with her new phone. She told him not to call anyone or mess with text messages, and he agreed.
At around 11:20, she was drowsy, so she decided to tuck her son in and go to bed. She walked to his room and saw that he wasn’t there. She then ran over to her room to find him sleeping on her bed with the phone in his hand.
Relieved, she picked her phone back up from his hand to inspect it. Browsing through it, she noticed only minor changes such as a new background, banner, etc., but then she opened up her saved pictures. She began deleting the pictures he had taken, until only one new picture remained.
When she first saw it, she was in disbelief. It was her son sleeping on her bed, but the picture was taken by someone else above him… and it showed the left half of an elderly woman’s face.
Caution:This is a true story. Read at your own risk.
My nightmare started like this.
I was driving my car on a deserted street in some little beach town. It was the middle of the night. A storm was blowing. Wind and rain ripped at the palm trees along the sidewalk. Pink and Yellow stucco buildings lined the street, their windows boarded up. A block away, past a line of hibiscus bushes, the ocean churned.
Seeing a strange deserted house made me obsessed to explore it. My senses told me not to enter,but I overcame my fears and drove to its drive-way not knowing what the house comprised of, there was a haunting atmosphere. I was curious to know what’s inside the house so I got out of my car. The gravel path crunched under my boots, I went up the stair case and through the portal like doorway, It felt like I was in another but horrifying dimension. As I proceeded, I heared strange noises. I saw writings on the walls and even heard childrens laughter and footsteps through out the living room. Doors were slamming shut by themselves and even the music player which I thought hadn’t been played for years was playing a strange horrifying music.The house was haunted as I deduced; I saw webs all over the place and even saw shadows moving.
The wall’s natural colour was grey, I deduced, but now It was red, covered with blood. The house was very dark and gloomy. The furniture was covered with white cloth but now the white colour had become yellow with age. The carpets had dirt and blood stains on, The curtains were drawn and had gaps in them, the moonlight had managed to peek through the ratty curtains. As I saw a shadow come near me, I tried to swallow, but my mouth seemed drier than the Nevada desert. The shadow came even closer, as I saw it touch me, I closed my eyes with dread and fright, as I managed to open my eyes, I saw the worst sight of my life, The shadow was so close I could feel and hear it breathing, it breath was stinking, I held my breath as long i could, as a dog barked outside the house, The shadow rippled and vanished, as it went it touched my forehead and I fainted, the last thing I saw was, DIE, written on the wall. When I woke up I was on the floor and had blood on my face.
I heard screams and saw monsters, after a while a moster came running towards me.I sat bolt upright shivering in my bed. There was NO STORM, NO MONSTERS. Morning sunlight filtered through my bedroom window.
I thought I saw a shadow a flicker across the glass – a humanlike shape. But then there was a knock on my bedroom door. A fifth-storey window with a rickety old fire escape… there couldn’t have been anyone out there.
My door knocked again and the familliar rippling of a shadow startled me…..
The Knock became a bang and suddenly my bedroom door was crushed into pieces and I could see the same monster infront of me. It rushed towards me and he looked at me for a while and then held me up. In no time he squezed me and I was no longer alive.
What if you were there? What if you saw a strange deserted house? What would you do? Because I Think Your Next.
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“I just want you to look at it, is all, or call a psychologist in to
look at it.”
“What would a psychologist want with a nursery?”
“You know very well what he’d want.” His wife paused in the middle of
the kitchen and watched the stove busy humming to itself, making supper for
“It’s just that the nursery is different now than it was.”
“All right, let’s have a look.”
They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which
had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed
and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.
Their approach sensitized a switch somewhere and the nursery light flicked
on when they came within ten feet of it. Similarly, behind them, in the
halls, lights went on and off as they left them behind, with a soft
“Well,” said George Hadley.
They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. It was forty feet
across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as
much as the rest of the house. “But nothing’s too good for our children,”
George had said.
The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high
noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia
Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede
into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt
appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the
final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with
a hot yellow sun.
George Hadley felt the perspiration start on his brow.
“Let’s get out of this sun,” he said. “This is a little too real. But I
don’t see anything wrong.”
“Wait a moment, you’ll see,” said his wife.
Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odor at
the two people in the middle of the baked veldtland. The hot straw smell of
lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty
smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air. And
now the sounds: the thump of distant antelope feet on grassy sod, the papery
rustling of vultures. A shadow passed through the sky. The shadow flickered
on George Hadley’s upturned, sweating face.
“Filthy creatures,” he heard his wife say.
If you liked this, you might want to try…
“You see, there are the lions, far over, that way. Now they’re on their
way to the water hole. They’ve just been eating,” said Lydia. “I don’t know
“Some animal.” George Hadley put his hand up to shield off the burning
light from his squinted eyes. “A zebra or a baby giraffe, maybe.”
“Are you sure?” His wife sounded peculiarly tense.
“No, it’s a little late to be sure,” be said, amused. “Nothing over
there I can see but cleaned bone, and the vultures dropping for what’s
“Did you bear that scream?” she asked.
“About a minute ago?”
The lions were coming. And again George Hadley was filled with
admiration for the mechanical genius who had conceived this room. A miracle
of efficiency selling for an absurdly low price. Every home should have one.
Oh, occasionally they frightened you with their clinical accuracy, they
startled you, gave you a twinge, but most of the time what fun for everyone,
not only your own son and daughter, but for yourself when you felt like a
quick jaunt to a foreign land, a quick change of scenery. Well, here it was!
And here were the lions now, fifteen feet away, so real, so feverishly
and startlingly real that you could feel the prickling fur on your hand, and
your mouth was stuffed with the dusty upholstery smell of their heated
pelts, and the yellow of them was in your eyes like the yellow of an
exquisite French tapestry, the yellows of lions and summer grass, and the
sound of the matted lion lungs exhaling on the silent noontide, and the
smell of meat from the panting, dripping mouths.
The lions stood looking at George and Lydia Hadley with terrible
“Watch out!” screamed Lydia.
The lions came running at them.
Lydia bolted and ran. Instinctively, George sprang after her. Outside,
in the hall, with the door slammed he was laughing and she was crying, and
they both stood appalled at the other’s reaction.
“Lydia! Oh, my dear poor sweet Lydia!”
“They almost got us!”
“Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that’s all they are. Oh, they
look real, I must admit – Africa in your parlor – but it’s all dimensional,
superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind
glass screens. It’s all odorophonics and sonics, Lydia. Here’s my
“I’m afraid.” She came to him and put her body against him and cried
steadily. “Did you see? Did you feel? It’s too real.”
“You’ve got to tell Wendy and Peter not to read any more on Africa.”
“Of course – of course.” He patted her.
“And lock the nursery for a few days until I get my nerves settled.”
“You know how difficult Peter is about that. When I punished him a
month ago by locking the nursery for even a few hours – the tantrum be
threw! And Wendy too. They live for the nursery.”
“It’s got to be locked, that’s all there is to it.”
“All right.” Reluctantly he locked the huge door. “You’ve been working
too hard. You need a rest.”
“I don’t know – I don’t know,” she said, blowing her nose, sitting down
in a chair that immediately began to rock and comfort her. “Maybe I don’t
have enough to do. Maybe I have time to think too much. Why don’t we shut
the whole house off for a few days and take a vacation?”
“You mean you want to fry my eggs for me?”
“Yes.” She nodded.
“And dam my socks?”
“Yes.” A frantic, watery-eyed nodding.
“And sweep the house?”
“Yes, yes – oh, yes!”
“But I thought that’s why we bought this house, so we wouldn’t have to
“That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and
mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a
bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub
bath can? I cannot. And it isn’t just me. It’s you. You’ve been awfully
“I suppose I have been smoking too much.”
“You look as if you didn’t know what to do with yourself in this house,
either. You smoke a little more every morning and drink a little more every
afternoon and need a little more sedative every night. You’re beginning to
feel unnecessary too.”
“Am I?” He paused and tried to feel into himself to see what was really
“Oh, George!” She looked beyond him, at the nursery door. “Those lions
can’t get out of there, can they?”
He looked at the door and saw it tremble as if something had jumped
against it from the other side.
“Of course not,” he said.
At dinner they ate alone, for Wendy and Peter were at a special plastic
carnival across town and bad televised home to say they’d be late, to go
ahead eating. So George Hadley, bemused, sat watching the dining-room table
produce warm dishes of food from its mechanical interior.
“We forgot the ketchup,” he said.
“Sorry,” said a small voice within the table, and ketchup appeared.
As for the nursery, thought George Hadley, it won’t hurt for the
children to be locked out of it awhile. Too much of anything isn’t good for
anyone. And it was clearly indicated that the children had been spending a
little too much time on Africa. That sun. He could feel it on his neck,
still, like a hot paw. And the lions. And the smell of blood. Remarkable how
the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and
created life to fill their every desire. The children thought lions, and
there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun –
sun. Giraffes – giraffes. Death and death.
That last. He chewed tastelessly on the meat that the table bad cut for
him. Death thoughts. They were awfully young, Wendy and Peter, for death
thoughts. Or, no, you were never too young, really. Long before you knew
what death was you were wishing it on someone else. When you were two years
old you were shooting people with cap pistols.
But this – the long, hot African veldt-the awful death in the jaws of a
lion. And repeated again and again.
“Where are you going?”
He didn’t answer Lydia. Preoccupied, be let the lights glow softly on
ahead of him, extinguish behind him as he padded to the nursery door. He
listened against it. Far away, a lion roared.
He unlocked the door and opened it. Just before he stepped inside, he
heard a faraway scream. And then another roar from the lions, which subsided
He stepped into Africa. How many times in the last year had he opened
this door and found Wonderland, Alice, the Mock Turtle, or Aladdin and his
Magical Lamp, or Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, or Dr. Doolittle, or the cow
jumping over a very real-appearing moon-all the delightful contraptions of a
make-believe world. How often had he seen Pegasus flying in the sky ceiling,
or seen fountains of red fireworks, or heard angel voices singing. But now,
is yellow hot Africa, this bake oven with murder in the heat. Perhaps Lydia
was right. Perhaps they needed a little vacation from the fantasy which was
growing a bit too real for ten-year-old children. It was all right to
exercise one’s mind with gymnastic fantasies, but when the lively child mind
settled on one pattern… ? It seemed that, at a distance, for the past
month, he had heard lions roaring, and smelled their strong odor seeping as
far away as his study door. But, being busy, he had paid it no attention.
George Hadley stood on the African grassland alone. The lions looked up
from their feeding, watching him. The only flaw to the illusion was the open
door through which he could see his wife, far down the dark hall, like a
framed picture, eating her dinner abstractedly.
“Go away,” he said to the lions.
They did not go.
He knew the principle of the room exactly. You sent out your thoughts.
Whatever you thought would appear. “Let’s have Aladdin and his lamp,” he
snapped. The veldtland remained; the lions remained.
“Come on, room! I demand Aladin!” he said.
Nothing happened. The lions mumbled in their baked pelts.
He went back to dinner. “The fool room’s out of order,” he said. “It
“Or it can’t respond,” said Lydia, “because the children have thought
about Africa and lions and killing so many days that the room’s in a rut.”
“Or Peter’s set it to remain that way.”
“He may have got into the machinery and fixed something.”
“Peter doesn’t know machinery.”
“He’s a wise one for ten. That I.Q. of his -“
“Hello, Mom. Hello, Dad.”
The Hadleys turned. Wendy and Peter were coming in the front door,
cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles, a smell
of ozone on their jumpers from their trip in the helicopter.
“You’re just in time for supper,” said both parents.
“We’re full of strawberry ice cream and hot dogs,” said the children,
holding hands. “But we’ll sit and watch.”
“Yes, come tell us about the nursery,” said George Hadley.
The brother and sister blinked at him and then at each other.
“All about Africa and everything,” said the father with false
“I don’t understand,” said Peter.
“Your mother and I were just traveling through Africa with rod and
reel; Tom Swift and his Electric Lion,” said George Hadley.
“There’s no Africa in the nursery,” said Peter simply.
“Oh, come now, Peter. We know better.”
“I don’t remember any Africa,” said Peter to Wendy. “Do you?”
“Run see and come tell.”
“Wendy, come back here!” said George Hadley, but she was gone. The
house lights followed her like a flock of fireflies. Too late, he realized
he had forgotten to lock the nursery door after his last inspection.
“Wendy’ll look and come tell us,” said Peter.
“She doesn’t have to tell me. I’ve seen it.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken, Father.”
“I’m not, Peter. Come along now.”
But Wendy was back. “It’s not Africa,” she said breathlessly.
“We’ll see about this,” said George Hadley, and they all walked down
the hall together and opened the nursery door.
There was a green, lovely forest, a lovely river, a purple mountain,
high voices singing, and Rima, lovely and mysterious, lurking in the trees
with colorful flights of butterflies, like animated bouquets, lingering in
her long hair. The African veldtland was gone. The lions were gone. Only
Rima was here now, singing a song so beautiful that it brought tears to your
George Hadley looked in at the changed scene. “Go to bed,” he said to
They opened their mouths.
“You heard me,” he said.
They went off to the air closet, where a wind sucked them like brown
leaves up the flue to their slumber rooms.
George Hadley walked through the singing glade and picked up something
that lay in the comer near where the lions had been. He walked slowly back
to his wife.
“What is that?” she asked.
“An old wallet of mine,” he said.
He showed it to her. The smell of hot grass was on it and the smell of
a lion. There were drops of saliva on it, it bad been chewed, and there were
blood smears on both sides.
He closed the nursery door and locked it, tight.
In the middle of the night he was still awake and he knew his wife was
awake. “Do you think Wendy changed it?” she said at last, in the dark room.
“Made it from a veldt into a forest and put Rima there instead of
“I don’t know. But it’s staying locked until I find out.”
“How did your wallet get there?”
“I don’t know anything,” he said, “except that I’m beginning to be
sorry we bought that room for the children. If children are neurotic at all,
a room like that -“
“It’s supposed to help them work off their neuroses in a healthful
“I’m starting to wonder.” He stared at the ceiling.
“We’ve given the children everything they ever wanted. Is this our
“Who was it said, ‘Children are carpets, they should be stepped on
occasionally’? We’ve never lifted a hand. They’re insufferable – let’s admit
it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were offspring.
They’re spoiled and we’re spoiled.”
“They’ve been acting funny ever since you forbade them to take the
rocket to New York a few months ago.”
“They’re not old enough to do that alone, I explained.”
“Nevertheless, I’ve noticed they’ve been decidedly cool toward us
“I think I’ll have David McClean come tomorrow morning to have a look
“But it’s not Africa now, it’s Green Mansions country and Rima.”
“I have a feeling it’ll be Africa again before then.”
A moment later they heard the screams.
Two screams. Two people screaming from downstairs. And then a roar of
“Wendy and Peter aren’t in their rooms,” said his wife.
He lay in his bed with his beating heart. “No,” he said. “They’ve
broken into the nursery.”
“Those screams – they sound familiar.”
And although their beds tried very bard, the two adults couldn’t be
rocked to sleep for another hour. A smell of cats was in the night air.
“Father?” said Peter.
Peter looked at his shoes. He never looked at his father any more, nor
at his mother. “You aren’t going to lock up the nursery for good, are you?”
“That all depends.”
“On what?” snapped Peter.
“On you and your sister. If you intersperse this Africa with a little
variety – oh, Sweden perhaps, or Denmark or China -“
“I thought we were free to play as we wished.”
“You are, within reasonable bounds.”
“What’s wrong with Africa, Father?”
“Oh, so now you admit you have been conjuring up Africa, do you?”
“I wouldn’t want the nursery locked up,” said Peter coldly. “Ever.”
“Matter of fact, we’re thinking of turning the whole house off for
about a month. Live sort of a carefree one-for-all existence.”
“That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of
letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and
give myself a bath?”
“It would be fun for a change, don’t you think?”
“No, it would be horrid. I didn’t like it when you took out the picture
painter last month.”
“That’s because I wanted you to learn to paint all by yourself, son.”
“I don’t want to do anything but look and listen and smell; what else
is there to do?”
“All right, go play in Africa.”
“Will you shut off the house sometime soon?”
“We’re considering it.”
“I don’t think you’d better consider it any more, Father.”
“I won’t have any threats from my son!”
“Very well.” And Peter strolled off to the nursery.
“Am I on time?” said David McClean.
“Breakfast?” asked George Hadley.
“Thanks, had some. What’s the trouble?”
“David, you’re a psychologist.”
“I should hope so.”
“Well, then, have a look at our nursery. You saw it a year ago when you
dropped by; did you notice anything peculiar about it then?”
“Can’t say I did; the usual violences, a tendency toward a slight
paranoia here or there, usual in children because they feel persecuted by
parents constantly, but, oh, really nothing.”
They walked down the ball. “I locked the nursery up,” explained the
father, “and the children broke back into it during the night. I let them
stay so they could form the patterns for you to see.”
There was a terrible screaming from the nursery.
“There it is,” said George Hadley. “See what you make of it.”
They walked in on the children without rapping.
The screams had faded. The lions were feeding.
“Run outside a moment, children,” said George Hadley. “No, don’t change
the mental combination. Leave the walls as they are. Get!”
With the children gone, the two men stood studying the lions clustered
at a distance, eating with great relish whatever it was they had caught.
“I wish I knew what it was,” said George Hadley. “Sometimes I can
almost see. Do you think if I brought high-powered binoculars here and -“
David McClean laughed dryly. “Hardly.” He turned to study all four
walls. “How long has this been going on?”
“A little over a month.”
“It certainly doesn’t feel good.”
“I want facts, not feelings.”
“My dear George, a psychologist never saw a fact in his life. He only
hears about feelings; vague things. This doesn’t feel good, I tell you.
Trust my hunches and my instincts. I have a nose for something bad. This is
very bad. My advice to you is to have the whole damn room torn down and your
children brought to me every day during the next year for treatment.”
“Is it that bad?”
“I’m afraid so. One of the original uses of these nurseries was so that
we could study the patterns left on the walls by the child’s mind, study at
our leisure, and help the child. In this case, however, the room has become
a channel toward-destructive thoughts, instead of a release away from them.”
“Didn’t you sense this before?”
“I sensed only that you bad spoiled your children more than most. And
now you’re letting them down in some way. What way?”
“I wouldn’t let them go to New York.”
“I’ve taken a few machines from the house and threatened them, a month
ago, with closing up the nursery unless they did their homework. I did close
it for a few days to show I meant business.”
“Does that mean anything?”
“Everything. Where before they had a Santa Claus now they have a
Scrooge. Children prefer Santas. You’ve let this room and this house replace
you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother
and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents. And
now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred here.
You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to
change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature
comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your
kitchen. You wouldn’t know bow to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything
off. Start new. It’ll take time. But we’ll make good children out of bad in
a year, wait and see.”
“But won’t the shock be too much for the children, shutting the room up
abruptly, for good?”
“I don’t want them going any deeper into this, that’s all.”
The lions were finished with their red feast.
The lions were standing on the edge of the clearing watching the two
“Now I’m feeling persecuted,” said McClean. “Let’s get out of here. I
never have cared for these damned rooms. Make me nervous.”
“The lions look real, don’t they?” said George Hadley. I don’t suppose
there’s any way -“
“- that they could become real?”
“Not that I know.”
“Some flaw in the machinery, a tampering or something?”
They went to the door.
“I don’t imagine the room will like being turned off,” said the father.
“Nothing ever likes to die – even a room.”
“I wonder if it hates me for wanting to switch it off?”
“Paranoia is thick around here today,” said David McClean. “You can
follow it like a spoor. Hello.” He bent and picked up a bloody scarf. “This
“No.” George Hadley’s face was rigid. “It belongs to Lydia.”
They went to the fuse box together and threw the switch that killed the
The two children were in hysterics. They screamed and pranced and threw
things. They yelled and sobbed and swore and jumped at the furniture.
“You can’t do that to the nursery, you can’t!”
The children flung themselves onto a couch, weeping.
“George,” said Lydia Hadley, “turn on the nursery, just for a few
moments. You can’t be so abrupt.”
“You can’t be so cruel…”
“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of
here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it
sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for
too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”
And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the
stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers
and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine be could put his hand
The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical
cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting
to function at the tap of a button.
“Don’t let them do it!” wailed Peter at the ceiling, as if he was
talking to the house, the nursery. “Don’t let Father kill everything.” He
turned to his father. “Oh, I hate you!”
“Insults won’t get you anywhere.”
“I wish you were dead!”
“We were, for a long while. Now we’re going to really start living.
Instead of being handled and massaged, we’re going to live.”
Wendy was still crying and Peter joined her again. “Just a moment, just
one moment, just another moment of nursery,” they wailed.
“Oh, George,” said the wife, “it can’t hurt.”
“All right – all right, if they’ll just shut up. One minute, mind you,
and then off forever.”
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” sang the children, smiling with wet faces.
“And then we’re going on a vacation. David McClean is coming back in
half an hour to help us move out and get to the airport. I’m going to dress.
You turn the nursery on for a minute, Lydia, just a minute, mind you.”
And the three of them went babbling off while he let himself be
vacuumed upstairs through the air flue and set about dressing himself. A
minute later Lydia appeared.
“I’ll be glad when we get away,” she sighed.
“Did you leave them in the nursery?”
“I wanted to dress too. Oh, that horrid Africa. What can they see in
“Well, in five minutes we’ll be on our way to Iowa. Lord, how did we
ever get in this house? What prompted us to buy a nightmare?”
“Pride, money, foolishness.”
“I think we’d better get downstairs before those kids get engrossed
with those damned beasts again.”
Just then they heard the children calling, “Daddy, Mommy, come quick –
They went downstairs in the air flue and ran down the hall. The
children were nowhere in sight. “Wendy? Peter!”
They ran into the nursery. The veldtland was empty save for the lions
waiting, looking at them. “Peter, Wendy?”
The door slammed.
George Hadley and his wife whirled and ran back to the door.
“Open the door!” cried George Hadley, trying the knob. “Why, they’ve
locked it from the outside! Peter!” He beat at the door. “Open up!”
He heard Peter’s voice outside, against the door.
“Don’t let them switch off the nursery and the house,” he was saying.
Mr. and Mrs. George Hadley beat at the door. “Now, don’t be ridiculous,
children. It’s time to go. Mr. McClean’ll be here in a minute and…”
And then they heard the sounds.
The lions on three sides of them, in the yellow veldt grass, padding
through the dry straw, rumbling and roaring in their throats.
Mr. Hadley looked at his wife and they turned and looked back at the
beasts edging slowly forward crouching, tails stiff.
Mr. and Mrs. Hadley screamed.
And suddenly they realized why those other screams bad sounded
“Well, here I am,” said David McClean in the nursery doorway, “Oh,
hello.” He stared at the two children seated in the center of the open glade
eating a little picnic lunch. Beyond them was the water hole and the yellow
veldtland; above was the hot sun. He began to perspire. “Where are your
father and mother?”
The children looked up and smiled. “Oh, they’ll be here directly.”
“Good, we must get going.” At a distance Mr. McClean saw the lions
fighting and clawing and then quieting down to feed in silence under the
He squinted at the lions with his hand tip to his eyes.
Now the lions were done feeding. They moved to the water hole to drink.
A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean’s hot face. Many shadows flickered.
The vultures were dropping down the blazing sky.
“A cup of tea?” asked Wendy in the silence.
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