Jenny got into bed like her mother had told her to do and pulled the covers tight over her head. Daddy was angry again. He had the scary look in his eyes. The scary look he has when he hurts Mummy. Mummy was scared, but Jenny didn’t want to upset Daddy any more by disobeying, so she came upstairs and left Mummy to face Daddy alone.
Jenny waited for horrible sounds to start. Daddy shouting. Mummy pleading, screaming. The sounds of Daddy hurting Mummy.
But they didn’t. In fact, there was no sound at all. Everything was silent.
Jenny got out from under the covers and listened. She couldn’t even hear the cars going past in the street, or the neighbour’s dog barking or the birds singing. She rolled over in bed and went to get out when she saw something sitting on her windowsill.
Hello, Jenny, said the strange little bear.
Jenny stared at the bear for a moment before answering. His fur was all burnt to black, and one of his ears was missing. But it was his eyes that were most unusual. One glassy black eye and one glowing red eye that both studied her as she observed him.
“Hello… Who are you?”
The little bear jumped down from the window and hopped up onto the foot of the bed. Ambrosius Grey is the name. Would you like to play a game?
Jenny backed away from the burnt little bear. “What kind of game?” A game that will help you and your mummy. I like to call it, ‘The calm before the storm’.
“I want to help Mummy, but I don’t want to make Daddy more angry.” Daddy won’t be a problem once we have finished the game, I promise you. Shall we get started?
“How do we play?”
Ambrosius Grey jumped down from the bed and ran over to the wardrobe. He opened the doors and pulled out Jenny’s rucksack. First, we have to play ‘vacation time’, so you have to pack all the clothes and toys you want to take with you in this bag. Don’t forget your toothbrush and flannel… very important.
Jenny climbed down from her bed, took the rucksack from the little bear. She began putting her dolls and stuffed animals inside, whilst Ambrosius Grey went through her clothes, asking her which she would like to take with her.
After her bag was packed, the little bear led Jenny into her parents’ bedroom and pulled a suitcase out of their wardrobe. Now you have to choose what clothes Mummy might want to take on her vacation. Don’t forget her shoes… you know how she loves her shoes.
“They have to match with what she is wearing.” Choose carefully then. We can’t take everything.
The little bear collected her mother’s make up, and hair products, toothbrush, and some toothpaste and stuffed it all in the suitcase with the clothes. Let’s get the bags in the car then shall we?
“In the car? Won’t that make Daddy angry?” Don’t worry about Daddy…you’ll see.
Jenny watched as he dragged the suitcase to the stairs and then pushed it down. He ran down after it. Jenny listened out for her father but heard nothing but the soft footfalls of Ambrosius Grey as he bounded down the stairs. She picked up her rucksack and followed him down the stairs.
The little bear was dragging the suitcase into the kitchen when she arrived in the hallway. Grab the car keys off the table there.
She did as she was told and followed him into the kitchen.
In the center of the kitchen, her parents stood frozen. Her father stood with a wide stance, his fist outstretched towards her mother, his face twisted in an expression of hatred. Her mother cowered beneath him, hands up in a defensive stance, tears frozen to the sides of her face.
“Why are they stuck like this? I don’t like it. Their faces are scary.”
Ambrosius Grey dragged the suitcase by her father’s feet. I’ve stopped them. As long as they are like this, Daddy can’t hurt Mummy. Come on, let’s get these bags to the car. Then we can get on with the next part of the game.
“What’s the next part of the game?” The most fun part. You’ll see.
Ambrosius Grey pulled the suitcase through the back door, and Jenny followed him out into the back garden. They went through the gate that led to the front driveway.
Jenny unlocked the car, and between them, they put the bags onto the back seats. Leave the keys on the driver’s seat, Jenny.
She dropped the keys onto the seat, and then looked out into the street.
All the cars were stopped on the road, their drivers perfectly still inside. The paperboy was frozen on his bike in the driveway opposite them, folded newspaper in his hand. Jenny looked around. The birds were frozen in the air, ants, and woodlice on the ground. There wasn’t even any breeze. Nothing. Even the great oak tree that stood at the bottom of the garden stood motionless.
“You’ve stopped everything!” Indeed. I have stopped the world.
“How? Are you a god?”
The little bear cocked his head. Perhaps. There are certainly beings of a higher order than me, but my abilities are certainly unusual. I suppose you could say I’m a god of sorts, though I don’t aspire to any such title. I’m quite new to all this, you see.
“I don’t really understand.” That’s fine. I don’t expect you to. He pointed up into the sky. Look at that.
Jenny saw an ominous black sheet of cloud, hanging in the sky. Tendrils of electricity laid frozen against its darkness.
“What’s that?” Our game is called ‘The calm before the storm’. That is the storm.
“It looks scary.” It is truly a terrible storm. A powerful storm. But you’ll be safe, I promise.
Ambrosius Grey set off back towards the house, Jenny close behind him.
They went through the back door and into the kitchen. Jenny stared at the unpleasant scene in the center of the room as the little bear clambered into the toy box by the back door and sifted through the toys. He pulled out a skipping rope and a jar of marbles, and dropped them onto the floor by the toybox, then jumped down. Now for the fun part. The little bear trotted over to her father’s legs. I’d like some help if you please.
Jenny cautiously made her way over to her father, watching his face the whole time. He won’t be able to move until I allow it.
Jenny exhaled. “Okay. What do you need?” We’re going to make Daddy hit the fridge. I need you to pull his right foot towards you, as hard as you can.
“Will it hurt his hand?” I’d imagine so.
Jenny giggled and took hold of her father’s ankle. Ready?
Jenny pulled her father’s leg as Ambrosius Grey pushed the other. Her father gradually slid around on the spot until his fist was almost touching the corner of the fridge. Oh, the corner… that’s going to hurt.
“Won’t he get even more angry?” Yes. Not that it will do him much good. Now we need to move Mummy out of the way. Closer to the back door.
Once again, they both took a leg each, and they dragged Jenny’s mother in her cowering stance, over towards the back door, out of her father’s range. The little bear picked up the skipping rope and began unwinding it. Now we’re going to tie Daddy’s leg to the oven.
Jenny laughed again. They tied the rope tightly around her father’s ankle and the handle of the oven door. Ambrosius Grey then scattered the marbles on the floor around her father’s feet. Just in case.
“Now what?” Well, that’s up to you. The game is almost over now, but it has been more than just a game. You really are going away for a while. So, your choices are as follows: I can run you through the final part of the game, and we can finish it, or you can play here for a while. Go to some places that you might miss while you are away. Anything you wish. You have all the time in the world.
“I’d like to ride my tricycle out on the street. I’m not really allowed to go on my own, but you’ll be with me, right?” Of course. Let’s go.
They left the strange setup in the kitchen and headed out into the street with Jenny’s tricycle. Ambrosius Grey sat in the basket on the handlebars as Jenny peddled up and down the street. The motionless, almost silent street beneath the almighty storm in the sky above them. Jenny was content with going back and forth, singing songs, and telling the little bear in the basket about her friends at school, and different people from around the neighbourhood.
After almost three hours, Jenny rode her tricycle back into the driveway.
“I’m ready to finish the game now.” You’re sure?
“Okay, so the car doors are open ready, the gate is open. When you start the world again, I stand here at the back door and call Mummy, then we run to the car and I tell her to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, right?” Correct. Let me know when you are ready.
Jenny rubbed her hands on her trousers and looked into Ambrosius Grey’s strange eyes.
The little bear nodded.
Instantly, Jenny’s father screamed out in pain.
“Mummy! This way!”
Bewildered, her mother stumbled out of the back door after Jenny, as her father came crashing down on the kitchen floor.
“Mummy, come on… quickly!”
They ran to the car and Jenny climbed into her child-seat and strapped herself in.
“Let’s go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, Mummy. We’ll be safe there.”
Her mother frowned at Jenny as she noticed the bags on the back seat, and the keys on her seat, but said nothing. She sat down and started the car.
“YOU GET BACK HERE NOW!” screamed Jenny’s father as he hurtled through the back door after them.
“Mummy, Daddy’s coming!”
Her mother fumbled with the gears and stalled the car.
Ambrosius Grey stood by the gate and nodded at Jenny as she watched from the car window.
A deafening clap of thunder shook the ground as a bolt of lightning hit the great oak tree at the bottom of the garden.
Jenny’s father fell to the ground stunned. He stared up at the oak tree as its branches and leaves burned, his ears ringing from the blast.
Her mother started the car again and pulled out of the driveway.
Jenny watched as her father cowered on the ground as the burning oak tree started to fall towards the house.
As they drove down the street away from the house, Jenny turned to look out of the back window. She could just make out a little glowing red eye on a small figure by the driveway entrance. She waved.
Ambrosius Grey waved back, then disappeared.
Rich Rurshell is a short story writer from Suffolk, England. Horror, Sci-fi, and Fantasy stories make up a majority of his work. Most recently “Life Choices” appeared in Stormy Island Publishing’s Salty Tales, and “Subject Galilee” appeared in World War Four by Zombie Pirate Publishing. When not writing stories, Rich is a musician and writes music instead.