"Wake up daddy."
I smile and stretch without opening my eyes and listen to the soft little giggle at the foot of my bed that has come to fill my every morning with utter bliss. It’s been five years now… five years since the doctor said that horrible word that left an empty pit in my stomach “infertile” Five years since my wife and I gave up trying for the one thing we both wanted more than anything else in the world and five years since we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful little miracle known as Caroline, who’s currently stood at the end of my bed giggling and squealing with delight as I pull the bedsheets up over my face and begin our morning ritual.
"Daddy’s not here right now" I say through the thin white sheet clinging to my head. She lets out another tiny squeal and pulls herself up onto the bed. "Oh no!" she gasps, barely able to contain her laughter, her soft little feet shifting uneasily on the mattress as she clambers her way up towards my head. She finally pulls the sheet back and makes the most delighted noise as I open my eyes to look up at her perfect, smiling face. "You found me!" I shout as I jolt upright and scoop her up into my arms, showering her in soft kisses while the sound of her laughter fills the house. Some times I still can’t believe how lucky I am.
Later at breakfast, she sits happily munching on a piece of toast and I smile at my wife Luisa, wondering what we ever did to deserve such a wonderful little ray of sunshine in our lives. I down the last of my black coffee and kiss my wife before crouching down beside my daughter and giving her a hug goodbye. “Daddy has to go to work now, but you be good for mummy, okay?” Caroline nods enthusiastically, trying to smile whilst desperately holding on to the last soggy piece of toast between her teeth.
Work goes by like it always does, boring and uneventful, and as I make my way back home and pull into the driveway I see my little girl sitting on the grass in the front garden, staring far off at the trees in the distance, seemingly lost in her own thoughts. “It’s getting late honey. Time to come inside” I call to her as I reach the doorway. She shakes her head as if trying to loose something in there and then turns to me with that reassuring smile on her face that always makes my heart melt. “Daddy!” She calls out and runs to me with her arms extended, clamping onto my leg as she reaches the doorway. I laugh and stumble into the house with her still attached, carrying her into the living room where Luisa sits on the couch, staring out the window with the same dazed expression that had covered my daughters face a few moments ago.
I take a cursory glance out of the window as I lift Caroline up into my arms, yet find nothing unusual of interest… just the same old treeline shrouded in darkness. Still my wife sits there in silence, not even acknowledging my presence until the little one lets out a loud yawn and begins to drift off to sleep on my shoulder. “Oh hello darling, I didn’t even hear you come in” She shakes her head and gives me a warm smile. “Everything ok?” I ask as the unmistakable sound of a tiny snore begins to fill my left ear. “It’s fine my love, I was just miles away…” she says wearily as she pushes herself up off the couch and moves into the kitchen to get herself a glass of water. I call to her in something just above a whisper “I’ll be right back, I’m just putting Caroline to bed.” she answers me with a faint “mhm”
With Caroline sleeping soundly upstairs, the night drifts on pleasantly as Luisa and I snuggle up on the couch with a bottle of wine and a movie. I go to bed feeling wonderfully warm all over and drift off soundly to sleep. I wake up to a room draped in darkness and my wife snoring contently next to me. The alarm clock on my bedside table flashes 3:43am and I let out a low grown, wondering why my body has woken me at such an ungodly hour before I suddenly become aware of a feint creaking coming from the other side of the room. My bedroom door has inched opened and a little figure draped in shadow stands there in the hallway looking at me.
"Go back to bed honey" I mumble as I roll onto my side and pull the quilt covers around me. I gently fall back to sleep as the feint sound of soft little feet padding across the hallway emanates from outside my bedroom door.
"Wake up daddy"
I smile as the warm glow of the sun bathes my face and neck. I pull the bedsheets up over me once more and smile as I let out a tired groan. “Daddy’s not here right now.” I listen intently for the telling little giggles and squeals but nothing comes for a few moments, then I hear those soft little feet moving towards the head of my bed and I open my eyes to the feint image of my little one hovering mere inches away from my face on the other side of the thing white bedsheet. She let’s out a little whisper. “That’s okay… neither is Caroline.”
I pull the sheet down from my head and standing there in front of me is a creature virtually indistinguishable from my daughter. It’s wearing her face and using her voice but when I look deep into its eyes I see something wicked and hateful looking back at me with a wide, hungry grin.
I sit there in silence for a few moments unsure what do, when suddenly I hear my bedroom door creak open and watch my wife enter the room. She stands in the doorway in silence and I feel my blood run cold as I notice the same wicked look in her eyes as the one in the creature wearing my daughter.
"Oh good, you’re up" the evil thing slowly licks its lips as it speaks with my wife’s voice. I can see a tall figure drenched in shadow, standing behind her in the hallway.
The little ones hands tighten around my arm and I can feel something sharp piercing my skin as my head goes fuzzy and the room begins to spin.