Huffing at my reluctance, he climbed the wobbly ladder, pushed open the hatch and disappeared inside the loft..
For a long time.
“Stop it!” I squealed. Panic swamped me as I stared at the black hole. Then a strangled, alien voice wafted out of the eerie darkness.
“We are the Giant Loft Spiders and we will eat your brain…”
My irrational fear rendered me immobile. If I had known how to faint, I would have. If I could have induced immediate vomiting and unconsciousness, I would have done. However, my brother’s prank just resulted in immediate paralysis, so when he spotted our sacks of presents and hurled them both down at me with a shout of “CATCH!” I didn’t, and they flew over the banister and down the stairs, smashing and crashing all the way.
Unfortunately, Mrs Tibbs was half way up the stairs just as the sacks began their descent and she fled into the living room – and straight up the Christmas tree, rocket fashion.
The Very Old Baubles were shaken from their boughs, some tinsel, caught half over one of Mrs Tibbs’ shoulders and round a leg caused nothing but yowling alarm and speeded her ascent, until suddenly there was a tremendous bang and all the lights went out.
“We…are..coming to get…you!” hissed my brother in the darkness, one foot searching in the darkness for the top of the ladder.
Rationality now just a memory I ran straight in to the ladder nearly knocking myself out and my brother off the top. We flapped about, me crying and he loving every minute of my terror and the fact that it was dark and we had a ladder.
“What was that bang?” I asked through my weedy sobs.
My brother was just about to answer when we saw the flash of headlights through the glass front door. We peered over the banister as, momentarily, the sacks of presents were illuminated: split open, their guts strewn down the stairs, across the hall floor, some resting by the front door.
Mum and Dad were home.
“…must have gone to bed…” my mother was saying as my father, ahead of her, opened the front door and stepped inside.
I remember the crack of his head against the open door as his foot caught the large-wheeled toy car that would have been my brothers delight on Christmas Day, as it threw him backwards. I remember, vaguely, the scream my mother let out as my father’s flailing fist caught her smack in the face and the muffled thud as she fell over him, he now a crumpled, swearing lump on the hall floor.
I sat stock-still at the top of the stairs.
For once, my brother was quiet too.
Despite her injuries, our mother worriedly called our names.
“We’re alright!” my brother answered in a strange and unfamiliar voice.
“Jesus Bloody Hell!” my father was shouting.
“What the bloody hell has been going on here and why are all the bloody lights out and what the bloody hell is all this in the bloody hall, bloody hell?” he continued, ending with “Jesus! My bloody ankle!”
Our neighbour was very good that night.
He took our dad to casualty where they plastered his broken ankle, whilst me and my brother stayed at home with our mother as she reinstated the electricity.
“We’ll need a ladder to reach the fuse box,” she said without emotion.
“I’ll get it!” exclaimed my brother. I let him. With the aid of a torch, I began to pick up the presents.
So Santa really didn’t exist? I still couldn’t get my head round that one.
If she noticed, our mother didn’t say anything when my brother went upstairs to get the ladders. In a flick the house was once again bathed with light illuminating our mother’s injuries clearly. We looked at her, horrified, and she looked at us like a snake would look at a mouse before eating it alive…To be continued…