Charlie (Part Two)
by Dannielle Viera
The hallway ended in a lounge room filled with lots of hiding places for a mouse. Charlie bent down to search beneath the couches, while Ben lifted up the cushions. They poked the torch light into every nook and cranny, but there was no sign of the creature.
‘Where is he?’ Charlie muttered miserably.
Ben’s heart ached for the little boy. He walked over to give him a hug, but the boy bounded away from him and pointed at a door that Ben hadn’t noticed before. It was slightly ajar.
‘That’s the way to the kitchen! Maybe my mouse was hungry.’ Charlie dashed for the door and slipped through the gap.
‘Wait for me,’ Ben called.
As Ben stepped into blackness, he heard Charlie’s quivering voice. ‘Turn the light on – the switch is near the door.’
Ben used the torch to find the switch, and then flicked it on. He closed the door so that the kitchen light wouldn’t attract attention. Charlie was already crawling along the floor, his eyes raking the space beneath the fridge. ‘Point your torch under here, Ben.’ The mouse was not sniffing among the forlorn fluff and furry food.
Ben opened one cupboard door after another, peering inside each one. Pots and pans gawped back at him, but nothing else. He started to yawn. Charlie ran here and there, bright eyes restlessly skimming over benches and shelves.
Without warning, the light globe spluttered into darkness. A chill crept up Ben’s spine as shadowy sounds prowled into the kitchen. He flashed his torch beam around the room like a sword, trying to keep the inky intruders away. Then Charlie’s ashen face appeared in the glow. ‘Have you seen my mouse?’
Ben stared into the boy’s ice-blue eyes and shivered. ‘I’ve been helping you look … but I’m tired. I think I’ll go to bed now. You should, too. Maybe you’ll find your mouse in the morning.’ He hurriedly left the kitchen.
On the way back to his room, Ben felt a twinge of guilt for leaving the little boy alone in the gloom. He hesitated, wondering if he should go back to the kitchen. ‘Charlie lives here … I’m sure he’ll be okay,’ Ben tried to convince himself as he turned the doorknob and slunk into the moonlight.
The next morning, Ben plodded down the stairs to the front desk, where his parents were paying the owners for the room. The woman turned to Ben and said, ‘Did you enjoy your stay?’
He smiled weakly, sleepiness still jumbling the blocks of his mind. Then they slid into place. ‘Hey, did Charlie find his mouse?’
The woman gasped, and her husband clasped at his chest. ‘How do you know about our son?’ he spluttered.
‘I met him last night. I was helping him look for his mouse, but I got tired and went to bed.’
‘That’s impossible,’ the man croaked. ‘Charlie died ten years ago. He fell down the stairs one night when we were asleep.’