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Grandmother Knows Best

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Anya finally finished loading the last of the moving boxes into her new home. It was a respectable house, a bit small but compared to her apartment in Slovenia that was shared by her family, it was just the right size for her new independence. Once she received her citizenship from the US Federal Department of Immigration Services, she would then really feel at home.

She began to unpack her belongings, limited as they were. She had a moment of melancholy when she looked at a photograph of her family. Her mother and father could not understand her desperate flee from her homeland. As all of the children of the Konec’s, she was expected to embrace the culture, lifestyle, and family closeness. Not Anya, she knew she was different and not just because of her preoccupation with their Slavic mythology and folk stories of horror, though that was something she was expected to outgrow. Instead, she ran away hoping to flee the stories told by her grandmother and supernatural terrors that stalk you in your nightmares. The United States seemed like a very far reach, finally she would feel safe.

Most children grew up with stories of the bogeyman in his various manifestations as he was known to all children around the world. Her own siblings heard the same stories from grandmother and aside from an occasional run to mother and father’s room in the middle of the night, they didn't obsess like Anya did. Grandmother would check their beds before shutting off the lights, keeping them tightly tucked under their sheets, even on the warmest nights. But grandmother’s stories seemed so real to Anya. Bavbav, grandmother called him, was not an empty threat to make children behave but a real viable evil that crossed the veil of the living to take what he desired most. He was a shapeless denizen that needed human flesh. No, pulling herself back from the past she was running from, Anya was determined not relive those stories, she forced back the terror trying to crawl up her spine and got back to her mission.

After spending the remainder of her day cleaning, unpacking and shaking off the fears of her past, she made herself a modest supper and prepared for a restful night. It seemed odd to her that the bedroom was not this dark when she was here with the real estate agent. As a matter of fact, it seemed much brighter all the while she was unpacking. Determined to not let her imagination get the best of her, she brought in all the lamps she owned and turned them all on in the tiny room. Not even the streets of New York City burned as bright as the small space of her new bedroom.

Feeling better with the room washed in artificial light, she proceeded to prepare her bed with the brand new sheets and comforter set she purchased that morning. Pastel colors beamed back at her from the twin sized mattress and she looked on her work with dismay. She had methodically tucked the bottom of the bed and the corners as tight as they did back in the homeland. Her grandmother’s voice haunted her as she viewed the taut covers that would surely force her feet into an unnatural and uncomfortable position. It looked just like her bed at home.

With a sigh, Anya decided to take a hot shower and wash away the past. She hoped with floral scents of her soap and the scalding temperature of the water, the fears of her childhood would release their claim on her mind. She wiped the fog from her bathroom mirror to be surprised at the tiredness of her face, dark circles invaded her lower eyelids and her frown seemed locked into place. She walked back into the brilliant bedroom determined to take her soul back from the beckoning of her childish fears. The first things to go were the extra lamps that were not necessary in this room and as the darkness once more absorbed her pastel covers, she pulled each corner of the bedding apart and left the bottom of the sheet untucked. Feeling more in control of her own life now, she climbed into bed swallowing the acid that was rising in her throat.

She was determined to get a good night’s sleep and turned off the last remaining guardian of the consuming dark. She closed her eyes and started to think of what she would do with her new life. As the clock ticked on through the growing hours of night, she found herself fitfully turning to find a comfortable position. Thoughts of icy spectral hands reaching to claim her feet began to cloud her mind. She could almost hear her grandmother’s voice when she would tuck the sheets in at home. “Mustn’t let Bavbav see your feet or he will drag you to his pitiless domain.” Anya found that she had unknowingly pulled her body into a fetal position to keep her feet close to her body.

Frustrated that she moved thousands of miles away to only be plagued by the same fears as her childhood, Anya let out a loud growl as she pulled all the covers off her and threw them to the far corner of her room. Determined to not perpetuate the fears she thought she escaped, she laid perfectly straight on her mattress with her toes practically touching her foot-board. She turned her lamp off once more and let the impenetrable darkness fall down upon her. Then, what seemed a lifetime later, a sound reached her ears. It was almost a sigh and a slight chuckle. As her heart started to race, she tried desperately to convince herself she made that sound with her new confidence and courage. However, when the chuckle came once more a bit louder but from the foot of her bed, her courage disappeared in a flash of terror.

She reached for her one and only lamp to chase away the sound. When the meager light of the single bulb cast eerie shadows around her room, she slowly sat up willing herself to look on the other side of her foot-board in an attempt to prove to herself she had nothing to fear. Her movements were agonizingly slow as beads of sweat trickled down her back. She was finally there, just to stretch forward and peer over. She was sure if something really were there, it would have already heard her heart pounding as it threatened to explode from the fear. Slowly she leaned over but before her eyes could focus on the floor, another sigh and now an ominous laugh reached her strained ears, but this time from behind her.

Anya didn’t remember when she stopped screaming, how she got all the way back to her headboard or worse, how she managed to knock her one and only guardian of the night over as she heard the inescapable sound of the light bulb shattering in a hundred pieces. The room suddenly felt so cold, an icy breath seemed to blow on her exposed feet. Anya felt that if she could just muster up enough will power to get off the bed and run for another part of her house that she would survive the night and find another way to conquer her fears. But her body was paralyzed with fear and she could not will her limbs to move. Again the sinister laugh came, this time far more real and less other worldly than before and it was accompanied by eerie words floating from an unseen mouth. “Anya, I have waited so long for this moment.” It called her by name? Another evil sigh escaped the darkness, “I see you have welcomed me to your nightmare and I can finally reach your feet.” Was that how it would take her? Once more the dreaded laugh and the icy breath now touching her skin, “How could your grandmother keep you from me for so long?”

After days of calls received by the local police department, the uniformed officer made his way to Anya Konec’s new home. Her parents pleading him to go as they were sure something tragic had happened when they had not heard from their daughter. The officer was not convinced, a young woman finally on her own so far from home wasn’t just ignoring her phone. She was probably out with new friends living the life of an independent person. When his polite knocking led to no answer, he started circling the house and shouting out to anyone who could hear him. Determined to not have wasted his time, he peered desperately into the locked windows and something odd caught his attention in the slit of the curtains to the bedroom. He called the office and got permission to break in the door, based on his suspicions. As he entered the bedroom a closer scan showed sheets piled in a corner, a lamp broken on the floor, tears in the fitted sheet, scratch marks from fingernails on the inside of the foot board that continued on the floor, under the bed and then abruptly ended. It looked as though someone desperately tried to not be dragged away, but to where. He regretted the call he must make to Slovenia, to the anxious parents who were hoping for better news.

Months later Anya’s mother and father received her belongings carefully packed in the moving boxes they originally left in. The police continued to be baffled at the lack of evidence to Anya’s disappearance and the fact that her body was never discovered, but her grandmother knew. When the policeman described the condition of the bedroom of the home that was to be Anya’s sanctuary, grandmother knew...grandmother knows best...

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