My little sister, Lena, was sound asleep. I could hear her breathing softly, her nose making tiny whistles as she rolled to her side, gathering her arms and legs into her chest. Her hands were curled into fists as she gripped the blankets possessively. Her long, dark chestnut hair tangled around her face but it didn’t matter. Even in the dark, I knew she was smiling in her sleep.
I threw the thick quilt off of my body in a hurry and stumbled out of bed. My left foot was caught in the sheets, causing me to do a graceless, clumsy twirl. Beads of sweat trickled down the back of my legs and my hair was sticking to the side of my face, damp. I shivered, though it wasn’t cold.
It was after midnight and the hot air from our room spilled out at my heels. In the corner of my eye, the light shifted as a shadow moved towards me. I ran down the darkened hallway and dove into the bathroom, flipping the lights on and shutting the door. With my palms pressed firmly against the wood of the door between us, I shook.
“You can’t come in,” I whispered. “You can’t get me.”
When I knew it was gone, I splashed water on my face. I cupped my hands together and drank from my palms, swallowing the water that tasted of eggs, of rust. I peed, eyes locked on the door and gripping the end of a plunger as if I might use it as a weapon. When I was finished, I abandoned the bathroom in a hurry, leaving light to flood the hall. In the same manner of the bathroom, I closed the door and pressed myself against it, listening to the sound of footsteps pass. They stopped before the bathroom and doubled back.
“It’s them, isn’t it?” Lena’s wide eyes shone in the darkness. She was soaked in sweat, shivering and feverish. The thin spaghetti straps of her nightgown were twisted from her restless tossing.
“Don’t worry, Lena. They can’t touch us.”
I placed the hamper in front of the door and felt in the dark for the mickey night light, casting the room in a warm, yellow glow. I crawled into bed, pulling the blankets up over us. It was sweltering in the room but if they should find a way in, we could cloak ourselves with the comforter.
“Don’t be. We’re safe,” I said, gathering her close and peeling wet strands of hair from her face. “If they try, they’ll be sorry.”
“How?” She rolled over and peered up at me, hands clutching the front of my shirt. I gave her a small, reassuring smile.
“We’ll use our magic,” I said quietly, tucking a loose strand behind her ear.
“We have magic?” Lena’s eyes grew as she said the word.
“Oh yes. We’ve had it since we were born and we’re powerful.”
“Where did we get it?”
“The faeries,” I stated, pointing to the darkest point of the ceiling. “Do you see those small dots of light?” Lena nodded. “Those are the faery folk as they leave and enter this plane of existence. They’ve been watching over us, lending their magic. They are noble creatures and they do not fear the dark.”
“I wish I could use magic,” Lena whispers, lip quivering. I guided her hand towards the darkest part of the ceiling. “I wish I wasn’t afraid of the dark.”
I huged Lena close, our hands outstretched to the faery folk in a welcoming gesture. “It’s okay to be afraid, little sister. As long as you face your fears.” I kissed her forehead and sat up on the bed, held out my hands for her, and shut my eyes.
“On this bed, we shall be safe. No monster can disturb this space. With my life, I swear it’s true. Here, no harm will come to you.”
Lena joined me in our chant to our guardians, the faery folk, and took my hands, eyes closed. Her hands were small in mine but they didn’t tremble.
We didn’t tremble.