They come home drunk, but giggly. The key scratches the door lock a few times.
The Babysitter takes a deep breath and breathes out slowly, then opens the door for them.
She picks out the ‘Hellos’ and ‘Great time’ from the barrage of garbled language coming towards her.
Kids have been fine – no problems – all in bed asleep, no – no complaints from the neighbours, everyone behaved.
The woman, baby blonde hair done up in a small beehive style is dressed all in gold. Her long, slim dress shimmers like the gold doily you used to get in posh chocolate boxes, her long gold gloves are peeled off and placed on the sideboard along with the gold satin wrap and her sparkling gold dance shoes she was wearing are carefully placed underneath it.
The woman wanders off to the kitchen in a daze, still wearing her gold dress, to make a ‘fry up’ for the man.
The man crosses the room and sits right next to the Babysitter, a strong aroma of stale cigarettes, stale lager and whiskey chasers wafts over her like a toxic cloud.
It bleeds from him like an oil slick.
He’s got his best dark blue suit on, complete with matching waistcoat, blue silk shirt and a blue paisley patterned silk tie complete with gold tie pin.
His gold 13 ruby fob watch chain dangles from the little pocket on the waistcoat.
He takes out the fob watch, checks the time and puts it back in the little pocket.
Several recently un-pawned gold rings adorn his fists.
Always gold rings, always fists.
He carries his wealth around with him wherever he goes.
Black leather laced shoes still shiny from being heavily polished
(It’s important to pay attention to every little detail – it may save your life).
He turns to the Babysitter, with his humourlessly smiling face.
His eyes suddenly black and soulless. A cold evil reaches towards her.
Now she knows there’s going to be trouble and she braces herself.
He casually draws an already unsheathed craft knife out of his pristine suit pocket.
Not damaging the fabric at all, a well-practised move.
He grips her left wrist, sliding the blade up and down her arm.
She sits very still, because she knows if she flinches or tries to move away, she is done for.
He starts to tell to her, in a rather bored fashion, about POW’s in Japan who had been tortured by being flayed alive.
He says he could peel off all of her skin, with this knife, but she’d still be alive – for a time.
He instructs her calmly of the delicate work involved in skinning a person, pointing with the sharp tip, as to where the first incisions should be made on her skin.
(Across the wrists – but not deep enough to hit an artery)
How the skin is then gradually peeled back and - if carefully done, can come off in one piece, like a skin suit.
The blade then moves up her arm across the shoulder to her cheek, then to her nose. Where he nicks the turned up bit, but not enough to make it bleed - just to scrap the skin ever so slightly
He carries on explaining how the face is the most difficult bit -but manageable with a deftness of hand and a very sharp instrument.
‘I will leave your lovely long hair attached of course.’ he says, running his fingers through her long locks. The sound of his voice like the snake from Jungle Book – terrifyingly quiet, mesmerising but without pity.
‘So then I can use it to hang you up by your ponytail and cover your de-skinned body in salt’ he whispers, still smiling.
He becomes an Aztec priest and tells her how he could break open her ribcage, take out the living heart and show it to her whilst she still breathed, then squash it like an overripe peach in his hands whilst she watched, helpless.
All the time the staring eyes are black, heartless and unimaginably cruel.
The mouth smirks and he leans in towards her like a well-dressed creature from the Pit, poised to pull her soul from her body.
He looks straight through her eyes into her brain, trying to find the fear, the panic, the terror.
But she has played this game many times before, so she waits quietly for the toss of the coin in his head.
Tails he wins, heads she loses.
He moves the flowing hair away from her face and hisses in her ear ‘So… What do you think about that?’
He is hoping she will break down, cry, shake violently, maybe even beg so he can enjoy the horror. He leans right into her face searching for a crack in the armour.
The Babysitter turns to him, convinced this is the end, last breath about to be cut short by a pair of strong hands to the throat, or a blade to the jugular should she say the wrong thing or scream.
She summon up all of her fighting spirit, stares straight into the eyes of hell, suddenly smiles and says:
‘Dad – that’s the worse bedtime story I have ever heard!’
Not expecting such a reply, he blinks, then roars laughing, the blackness disappears from his eyes.
The open blade is sheathed and put away as he carries on laughing, telling her how funny she is.
Mum comes in with bacon and egg on toast, asks what the laughing’s about.
The Babysitter finds that she is also laughing loudly from relief as the atmosphere returns to calm.
And she gets to live - today.
© Kate McClelland 2016