Clare had one green eye and one blue eye. Through her blue eye she saw the world like anyone else, through the green eye she saw things no one else could. Like the monsters in her room.
It was her father who taught her this trick, because she wouldn’t sleep alone at night. His eyes were the same as hers: one green, one blue.
“So they creep up on you do they, Princess?”
Clare nodded her piteous head.
“I see,” said her father. “In that case, shall I show you a trick to catch them out?”
Clare only stared back at him. No one else she’d ever known had eyes of different colours. He had said before that it made them both different, special.
“The green eye is a magic eye,” he told her now, in a hushed, conspiratorial voice. “Close the other and look only through that one and you can see the monsters when they hide or disguise themselves.”
Shutting her right eye, Clare looked around the room with the other. She saw no monsters. They must have gone away for now.
Still with one eye closed, Clare looked up at her father. “Then what?”
“Then...” Her father glanced around the room, plucking a Halloween witch mask from the top of the closet. He leant forward holding the mask over his face. “You have to scare them away!” He poked his tongue through the narrow slit of the witch’s mouth.
Clare laughed, then looked at her father seriously again. “But I can’t frighten monsters.”
Her father smiled. “Of course you can. You just have to learn to be dreadful. More awful and dreadful than they are.”
Clare sat up abruptly, so that her face almost touched her father’s. Then she pulled and twisted her features into a grimace, making ghostly noises as she did.
Pretending to be shocked, her father drew back. “That’s it! You don’t need me anymore, eh?”
“No!” she laughed.
“Sweet dreams, Princess.”
In the dark, Clare practised looking with only her left eye, smiling to herself all the while. The monsters were gone. They didn’t like to be seen.
Soon after this the accident happened. One day Clare’s father did not come home after work. He’d crashed his car. Clare watched her mother weep. In the weeks that followed she began collecting Halloween masks. Drawing on all her anger and sadness, she sent the monsters fleeing when they came.
A year went by. The trick passed down by her father never failed. Then one day, a man came to dinner.
“Clare, this is Frank. Say hello.”
Clare eyed the tall, chubby stranger who stood next to her mother. At once she did not like the look of him. Over the dining table he smiled benevolently at her, then said worriedly, “What’s she doing?”
Clare’s mother was standing over by the cooker with her back to them. “What’s that?”
“She keeps winking at me.”
Clare’s mother, whose eyes were brown, turned a scolding look on the girl. “Stop whatever it is you’re doing and come and help me lay the table,” she said.
With one last tart glance at Frank, Clare got up and crossed the room to her mother.
“Sometimes they come in disguise. You don’t know until they’ve got you.”
Her mother passed down the cutlery. “What are you talking about? Frank, would you like a drink?”
Clare tugged on her mother’s dress. “You can’t see them. You don’t have the magic eye.”
From across the room, Frank laughed. When Clare gave him a barbed look he frowned, worried.
“Where do they get it from?” Clare’s mother put a plate of steak and chips in front of Frank, smiling at him. He smiled back, but over dinner he would glance nervously at Clare.
When the meal was over, Frank lit a cigarette and Clare told him spitefully, “My father used to sit there!”
Frank of course moved in. When he arrived, Clare leapt out from the top of the stairs in a black cloak and goblin mask.
“OH!” Frank dropped the box he was carrying and clutched his chest. Behind the goblin face, Clare was grinning.
One night, when winds howled outside and rattled the windows, Clare heard Frank in the hallway outside her room. She listened as his feet crossed the floor to her door. When his silhouette appeared in the space of the half open door, Clare stared at it, opening and closing her left eye. Frank’s shape-shifted as she did. One second he was tall and broad, next he was hunched and disfigured. Clare reached for the mask she kept beside the bed and sat up, howling. Frank went away.
After this, Clare knew it was time she drove the Frank monster away for good. In her efforts, she was relentless. When he climbed into his car in the morning, a phantom leapt up from the back seat. When he came home from work, a werewolf waited beneath the table in the dark kitchen, to snatch at his feet before he turned on the light. She appeared from behind curtains, a Frankenstein, or fell out of closets draped in a sheet. One day Clare’s mother watched in horror as the girl slithered snake-like across the kitchen floor behind Frank, her tongue flicking in and out, her eyes fixed intently on the man. Frank, catching the look on the women’s face, turned around but saw nothing. Then he gave a yelp as Clare sank her teeth into his ankle. Afterwards, Frank sat in an armchair, swigging brandy. His eyes gazed blankly into space. A cigarette burned between his fingers. Clare’s mother sat with him at a loss, shaking her head. Later, Clare heard them both discussing her.
Clare was annoyed to see Frank at breakfast the next morning. He hid from her gaze behind a newspaper. He could not stand it when she winked her eye. She decided then that she’d still not invoked sufficient terror. She’d been dreadful. Now she had to be awful. At last the day came for something truly special. It was October. Leaves drifted and swirled in the streets. Frank began to look tired and pale. He took time off work. Whenever he saw Clare, he became tense and agitated.
Clare came home from school to find Frank sitting where her father used to sit in front of the TV. As she approached him, he leaned subtly away, hunching up. She stood and smiled at him, her hands behind her back. Her white-blond hair fell around her face, framing her odd, uneven features.
“What do you want?” said Frank, warily. “What is it?”
“I found something on the way home,” she said, sweetly. “I brought it back for you.”
Frank almost smiled. He relaxed a little. “You did?”
And Clare flung into his lap the dead cat she had picked up from the side of the curb. Shrieking, Frank leapt to his feet, throwing the rotting thing down to the rug. He stared at it where it lay, then turned to Clare in disbelief.
“What is wrong with you?” he balled. “You need help, girl!”
Clare laughed and ran from the room. Upstairs, she found her mother’s make-up bag and powdered her face in front of the mirror until it was a ghostly white. Then she drew around her eyes and mouth with lipstick.
Creeping downstairs again, she popped her head around the living room door. She could see through to the kitchen, where Frank stood at the sink washing his hands. She looked at him, opening and closing her right eye. When she looked with both her eyes, it was Frank standing at the sink, when she looked with only her magic eye a hunched and furry thing stood there, a thing with bat wings and a tail.
“I can see the real you,” Clare said quietly to herself. She went to the front door and slipped out. In the garage at the side of the house, she found a torch. It was already dark by the time she was crouched out of sight beneath the kitchen window. Above, on the other side of the glass, she could hear Frank rattling plates in the sink. Choosing this as her moment, she turned on the torch and leapt up with the beam pointed into her face. When Frank saw her appear out of the darkness, leering wickedly, he screamed. Then he seemed to stiffen. His face contorted with agony. Clutching his chest, he fell out of sight with a crash of crockery.
At six o’clock her mother came home and found him. Clare had been waiting in the garage. She’d wiped off all the make-up with a greasy rag. When the ambulance and police were gone, she went inside to find her mother sitting on the stairs.
“Where’ve you been!” her mother cried, clutching her.
“At a friend’s,” said Clare. “Why? What’s happened? Where’s Frank?”
But her mother only hugged her tighter.
It was eight months later when Tony came to dinner. He looked at Clare over the dining table. When Clare winked at him, he winked back. When she kept on doing it, he said, over his shoulder, “What’s the matter with her?”
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