The Beginning of Second Grade
Robbey laced his shoes at 7am for his first day of second grade. He remembered how the bunny loops crossed one another while his chubby fingers pulled the laces snug. With a bit of empowerment and pride for not having to ask mommy for help, he walked into the kitchen with a bright smile across his face. Mommy had buttered pancakes stacked on top of each other, syrup drizzling from each side that soaked the bananas lining the side of the plate. Thankfully, he had gotten over his fear of his food touching and he gladly scarfed down the meal before leaving for school.
For a second grader, Robbey was a skilled line leader. His teachers had always applauded him for his ability to walk in a straight line and not get distracted by the many squirrels on the path. Robbey had to stop himself from wondering how many acorns the squirrels stored in the winter or what their homes looked like in the trees, but that was all fine due to the praise he received from his teachers.
Although, Robbey had recently noticed his attention drifting to the pale gray house on the corner of the street next to Mrs. Sapphire. Two months ago, the house had a family of six move into it. Robbey had noticed that one of the family members came out to grab their newspaper every morning as he walked by. This figure resembled a light post, tall and slender. Robbey was never able to get a good look, but he had noted this person had piercing bright yellow eyes. He hadn’t seen someone with eyes like that before, but he knew that people used colored contacts for Halloween costumes and concluded that as the source of inspiration. However, this family member sent chills down his spine and the eyes lurked in the deep corners of his nightmares. He had told his mommy about these nightmares, but a parent can only do so much to relieve a child from a haunting image. He only hopes that one night, he can make it through without the eyes coming to pay him a visit.
Robbey’s daddy died when he was three years old. A fire had swept through their last home, and he had been trapped inside after getting Robbey and his mommy out. Robbey watched it all happen. The glowing flames that engulfed his living room where their Christmas tree and presents were and his bedroom filled with his favorite dinosaur decorations still burn crisply in his mind. He couldn’t remember the sounds, though. He forgot what it sounded like to hear his mommy screaming and the crackling of the house as it crushed his daddy. All he had were images, and whether or not that made the pain less, Robbey wasn’t sure.
Robbey and his mommy had to move somewhere new. She had said it would do them good to leave their area and restart together. Robbey was four by the time they moved to Darkcrest and he didn’t understand what it meant to “restart.” He was confused for most of his early childhood; he would wander around the new house aimlessly in search of something to make him feel more at home.
Robbey had met Mrs. Sapphire on a Sunday morning while on a walk with his mommy. Mrs. Sapphire stepped off of her front porch, coffee mug in hand, and waved enthusiastically for the two to stop. She was a skinny woman, her skin seemed to stick to her bones, engraving a sharp jawline and features to her face. She wasn’t young, Robbey knew that, but she had a youthful glow and her personality was spunky. Her hair was cut short into a gray pixie and she wore dangling purple earrings in a shape that Robbey would describe as an upside-down ice cream cone. Robbey felt a sense of home from Mrs. Sapphire. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew he felt safe when she approached him and his mommy. She told them that she had lived in the Darkcrest for 30 years and has a handful of grandchildren that visit her from time to time. She invited Robbey over to meet her grandchildren, and for the following years, Robbey would become a regular visitor at Mrs. Sapphire’s home and befriended all but one of her grandchildren; Suzie would constantly steal his crayons and he was not fond of that.
Robbey had a memorable first day of second grade. His teacher, Ms. Norris, chose him to pass out homework, help a student find the nurse’s room after taking a big tumble, and asked him to resume his role of after-school line leading. He was very proud.
Robbey grabbed his backpack and walked out of his classroom to the front sidewalk of the school. He was lead by one of the teacher’s aides and were heading in the direction of Mrs. Sapphire’s house. The sun was high in the sky, as it was around 3pm, and the flowers danced in the breeze as Robbey walked. Squirrels chased one another up and down the trees and many kids were stopping to gaze at the wonders of nature. Robbey was not distracted, however. He kept a steady lead, and trotted promptly towards Mrs. Sapphire’s house.
As usual, Mrs. Sapphire stood outside of her home, waiting for the children to pass by. She stretched out her arm to frantically wave “hello” and Robbey instinctively responded with his short, chopping waves. “Way to go, Robbey!” Mrs. Sapphire hollered from her porch step, and a smile crept across Robbey’s face. He thrived on being the center of attention.
As Robbey passed Mrs. Sapphire, her neighbor’s pale grey home came into view. Chills ran down Robbey’s arms and legs; a feeling of sheer panic leapt into his throat that formed a knot large enough to make swallowing a chore. While his body was still in motion, he kept his eyes glued to the front door. He was waiting and hoping with every ounce that no one would step outside. Waiting and hoping that the bright yellow eyes wouldn’t peak from the windows, that they would stay locked away forever. Robbey’s tension was noticed by the teacher’s aide, who came to his side, and while gently placing her hand on his shoulder, guided him along the sidewalk to the street of his house.
The eyes didn’t leave Robbey after the walk home. While he slept, the haunting yellow eyes crept into his dream. They chased him in every corner of his mind-- teasing and preying on him until he shrunk into a ball. They clouded his sense of time and space to where he wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or if the eyes were lurking underneath his bed or inside of his closet. He broke into a cold sweat, and desperately tried to pry his eyes open to relieve the insanity. He was stuck in his bed, paralyzed by the intense glare the eyes had on him.
But, this all came to a halt when Robbey started to hear screams from outside of his window.
He couldn’t recognize if he was still dreaming, but the constraints holding him to his bed released as he rushed to see the commotion outside. The only streetlamp lit was next to his driveway; the rest of the road was submerged in a sea of black. It wasn’t until Robbey squinted his eyes to see the small head bobbing down the cemented way, arms flailing from each side, desperately waving to get attention. The light reflected off of the person’s silver, short hair, and Robbey knew instantly that it was Mrs. Sapphire.
Dread, fear, and panic surged through his veins, but he was frozen. Nowhere to go besides to watch.
“I NEED HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME!” Mrs. Sapphire rang through the empty, sleeping street. Her purple cone earrings rattled as she spun her head from side to side, hoping to find a place to run next. Robbey watched as she turned back to the direction she came from and came face-to-face with a six-headed creature barreling down the road on twelve legs. This creature was spider-like, six legs on each side while the heads poked in every direction. Robbey didn’t understand where the creature came from or what it was. He only imagined this creature as a frightening bug his mommy used to scream for his daddy to squish. Every eye on the beast was staring down Mrs. Sapphire; she had nowhere to go and nowhere to run and she knew it.
Her screams shrieked through the air as the creature stopped ten feet from her. Robbey was still frozen in fear and could feel his pulse beating in every inch of his tiny body. The creature didn’t step towards Mrs. Sapphire, but she was frozen like an ice cube.
The worst part of this story came for Robbey in the following seconds. The eyes on each face of the creature swelled to a watermelon size and began to streak yellow, blinding light towards Mrs. Sapphire. The light baked in her face, searing her eyes, nose, and skin. There was no blood, just the light that penetrated her physical being into her soul. There was no noise, at least Robbey couldn’t hear; all that was there was the bright image of the yellow eyes and Mrs. Sapphire’s frozen body.
Ten seconds later, Mrs. Sapphire’s head swole to a balloon and floated off of her body into the night sky. The yellow light absorbed the inside of her head, resembling a floating lantern Robbey’s family used at his daddy’s funeral. Robbey couldn’t move.
The creature’s eyes still burned an intense light and started to turn back in the direction it came from. But, without warning, it abruptly stopped in its tracks, and Robbey’s heartbeat began to quicken. The creature turned towards Robbey’s house and the heads shifted to his bedroom window. The yellow beading lights engulfed Robbey’s bedroom; every item was basked in the sizzling brightness. Robbey had nowhere to hide. That’s when he knew he was next.
Sara Cahill is a senior English major with a concentration in Literature Studies and a minor in writing. Throughout her college career, she’s dabbled in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and recently, sci-fi writing. While at the University of St. Francis, she has been a part of the student led newsletter, The Encounter, a contributor and designer of St. Francis’s first eco-poetry digital collection, Bernie’s Paw Prints, and a founding editor of Archway Review. Her featured piece, “The Beginning of Second Grade,” was presented at the 2021 St. Francis Writer’s Conference where it won Best Creative Presentation.