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Sam and Leah had tried everything they could think of, but their daughter Cassie was still so afraid of the dark that she wouldn’t sleep without a light.

They had tried leaving the door open so that the landing light would spill into her room, but an hour later they found her curled up on the landing floor with her blanket, fast asleep.

They had tried using a nightlight, but she cried and screamed, and said it wasn’t bright enough. When they refused to do anything about it and left her in the dimness, she piled up her toys so that she could climb up to the light switch. Of course it all came crashing down beneath her, but she managed to put the light on first so, despite the bumps and bruises, she was happy.

One night, while Leah was out, Sam reached the end of his tether. He took the bulbs out of the lamps in Cassie’s room, while she screamed and begged him not to, then shut the door behind him as he left.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said dismissively. He took the bulb from the landing light too, just to be safe – after all, it wasn’t good to have a kid sleeping on the floor.

The crying and screaming carried on for a while, but Sam had had enough. He turned up the television. It was what they told you to do on all those nanny programmes, after all. They only screamed and cried because it was getting them attention. As soon as Cassie realised that they weren’t going to give in any more, she would give up.

Sure enough, she got quieter, and then the crying and the screaming dried up altogether.

By the time Leah got home, Sam was feeling quite proud of himself. He’d cured Cassie of her irrational fear, and secured peace and quiet for himself and his wife. He told her what had happened, but Leah didn’t look quite as happy as he’d expected. She started up the stairs, still wearing her coat, using the light from her phone to see.

“I’m just going to check on her,” she said.

A couple of minutes later, the screaming began. It took Sam a moment to realise that it wasn’t Cassie’s voice but Leah’s, and when he did he ran up, taking the stairs three at a time.

Leah’s phone lay on the floor of Cassie’s room, its screen casting a pale glow across the terrible scene. Leah was on her knees, screaming like a banshee over a bundle that was surely too small to be Cassie. There was something sticky on the carpet underneath Sam’s feet.

On the wall, a message was written in blood.

“THERE IS EVERYTHING TO BE AFRAID OF”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Delayed but not postponed this week – that’s an improvement! Also, it’s still Friday somewhere in the world, so that’s OK, right? Right! In case anybody was wondering, “When Granny Ran Out Of Coal” has turned out to be longer than the stories I usually publish here, so I’m trying to finish it and then I’ll decide what to do with it.)

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