The People Who Wear Black
Sometimes things are naughty. They do things they’re not supposed to. They appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Things aren’t supposed to appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Once I saw my dolly do it. She flew around my room. It was night time. Of course it was. We sleep in the daytime. Daddy says it’s better that way because daytime is too bright. I had my candle lit. So I could see her. Flying around my room. I wanted to light another candle so I could see her better but Daddy says we must only have one candle lit in a room. We don’t have any electric lights in the house. Daddy says they’re too bright. Sometimes I think Daddy is scared of seeing something. I wonder what it is that he is scared of seeing. Dolly flew around my room then she disappeared. Daddy found her in his bed.
‘What’s your dolly doing in my bed?’ he said.
‘She got there by magic,’ I said.
‘Tsk,’ he said, which is what he says when he is grumpy about something.
‘I saw her fly around my room,’ I said, ‘then she disappeared.’
‘Tsk,’ Daddy said, ‘things don’t fly around all by themselves or disappear or reappear. There are laws against it.’
‘But laws don’t stop people doing bad things do they?’ I said. I know that because Daddy told me it when I asked him what happened to Uncle Tom. ‘So laws against things flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing won’t stop things from flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing,’ I said.
‘Tsk,’ said Daddy.
‘Will Dolly go to prison?’ I said.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Daddy said. Then he told me about The People Who Wear Black. ‘They wear black so you can’t see them,’ he said. ‘They wear black shoes and black trousers and black jumpers and black gloves and black balaclavas. And they creep around quietly in the dark. And they pick things up so it looks like the things are moving all by themselves and they cover things up with black cloths so it looks like the things have disappeared then they uncover them again so it looks like they have reappeared. It’s The People Who Wear Black that make it look like magic happens. It doesn’t really.’
‘What about when magic happens when it’s light?’ I said, ‘Nothing that looks like magic ever happens in the light,’ Daddy said.
‘How do you know?‘ I said.
‘Tsk’, he said.
‘I’m not sure I believe in The People Who Wear Black,’ I said, ‘I think magic does happen! And I think you keep me in the dark so I don’t see magic happening because I think you don’t like magic!’
‘Tsk!’ he said then he went into his room then came back out again with an electric torch and gave it to me. I didn’t know he had a torch.
‘Next time you think some magic is happening,’ he said, ‘switch this on and see what you see.’
‘Alright then, ‘I said, ‘I will.’ Then I went to bed.
The next night, my dolly started flying around my room again. She wasn’t as graceful as before but she was definitely flying. She flew over the bed and over the toy-box and over the candle. I switched on the torch. There was a man dressed in black standing in front of me. He was holding Dolly in one of his black-glove covered hands, moving her about above his black-balaclava covered head. He was about the same height as Daddy. I screamed because he looked frightening then I pushed him and he stumbled backwards and tripped over and fell on the floor. When he fell he said ‘Tsk’ like Daddy does. I was glad he fell over because he was horrible. Then he stood up and ran out of the room. I picked up Dolly then I shouted:
‘I saw one! I saw one!’ Then Daddy came in and he held me as I cried and he seemed really happy.
Mike Russell has published two anthologies of short stories: Nothing Is Strange and Strange Medicine.