10 seconds to go…5…4…3…2…1…8:00. Every room in the orphanage lit up with the echoing 8:00 chime until the house fell silent. I lay on my bed slowly sinking into the silence until a great bang woke the house. Scratching, growling and panting noises grew louder and louder from the top of the hallway, from The Red Door; the door no one ever used. However even though it scared me, I was not surprised; every night we had to be in our rooms by 8:00 sharp for fear of running into the monster. The orphanage owner, Ms Kravon was a small, chubby woman. She constantly smelt of wet dog, which was weird because we were not allowed pets. She told us daily she was protecting us but every night I felt more trapped than ever. Girls had gone missing in the night. No one knew what the animal looked like; all we knew was that we would go to sleep with its roars ringing in our ears.
“Everybody up NOW!” howled Ms Kravon. Her sudden outburst woke me up instantly. With a sigh, I stumbled out of bed. Another day at the orphanage. I walked to the old wardrobe and picked out my everyday checked dress that only got washed once a fortnight. After getting changed I stumbled downstairs to the cramped dining room full of 15 of us girls all wearing the same grey checked dresses. I had been the first orphan to be dumped here, and so I was well respected by the girls at least.
“Hey Ruth, where’s Anna?” I asked as I sat down to a small portion of porridge.
The room was quiet, you could just about hear the clangs of spoons against bowls and Ruth sat still, holding her silver dove pendant necklace. Has Ruth been crying?
“Ruth! What’s wrong?” I repeated, getting more worried.
“Ms Kravon made her work later last night, she had so much work to do, she didn’t get back to her room by 8:00…she’s gone” Ruth replied breaking down into tears.
I felt like I had been shot in the stomach. I didn’t know what to say.
I cried, “I’m so sorry, this is completely my fault. I wanted to look after all of you, but I can’t even do that”.
From behind me, Ms Kravon barked, “Ruby, what are you moping about, get to your chores or I’ll throw you into The Crunch.” The Crunch was an isolated, cold box room with no windows and scratches from previous girls who had been there covered every inch of the wall.
Something inside me snapped, “NO, how dare you. You did this on purpose, you knew she wouldn’t make it back to her room” I argued back. Before I knew it, all eyes were on me like headlights scanning on the road; Ms Kravon had me by the wrist and was dragging me to The Crunch. I tried to fight but I gave up in the end as she viscously pulled me out of sight of the other orphans. Her hands were like a pair of handcuffs, I was stuck.
She threw me in to The Crunch. As I hit the ground, my knee skidded along to cobbled flooring causing a layer of skin to peel away.
“I look after you my girl; you’re like a daughter to me. You’re the one girl, who doesn’t have a lock on her room, isn’t that a privilege?” she shouted and with that she slammed the door shut.
Blood began to weep from my knee like water dripping from a tap, but I didn’t feel it. Too much was going through my head. Where is Anna? Is she dead? Was Anna given more chores on purpose? Where does Ms Kravon go at 8:00? She is never there to help us. I just sat there.
I jerked awake, must have fallen asleep. It was only a nightmare. I tried to go back to sleep but all I could think of was the nightmare about the monster, every corner I turned it was there, I couldn’t run from it, I couldn’t hide. Sitting on the moth eaten mattress, I realised I was actually scared of the monster; I’ve never been worried or frightened about anything before. What’s changed?
“Ruby, oi Ruby, are you okay?” whispered Ruth from outside the door.
“What are you doing here, Ruth? You know Ms Kravon will go ballistic if she catches you near The Crunch”, I whispered back.
“I know but I want to check you are okay”, she replied
“I’m surviving, you know me”, I said trying to hold in the tears.
“Listen, Ruby, I need to talk to you about Anna, I don’t think she’s dead, I can sense her but you’re the only one who can save her, your room is the only one unlocked, please”, Ruth begged.
“What are talking about, no I won’t, I can’t…I can’t, every time I think of that monster my stomach doubles up in fright and I feel like the walls around me are screaming”, I replied.
“Fine, looks like I wasted my time here”, Ruth whispered before getting up to leave.
Stepping away from The Crunch, Ruth added, “I think I know who the monster is.”
“Who?” I asked eagerly.
Ruth replied, “It’s obvious Ruby, it’s…”
Suddenly, the clock chimed. Oh no its 8:00.
I shouted, “Ruth, get out of here!”
Once again the orphanage was alive with the chorus of clock chimes and the rusty sound of doors locking.
“It’s too late, I’m sorry Ruby”, Ruth cried.
“No, no don’t give up please don’t give up”, I screamed. I franticly began to push the heavy, steel door. It opened a fraction but a padlock and chain blocked Ruth from coming in. I stuck my hand and grabbed Ruth’s hand as if I could squeeze her through the crack between the doors. The whole orphanage shook with fear as the monster came out of The Red Door at 8:00 sharp.
I heard it roar violently, leaping closer, crashing into walls on the way, scurrying to get a hold of its prey.
Hushing me quiet, Ruth stuttered, “Listen to me Ruby, promise me this, you will have to confront The Red Door one day, that’s the only way we can be free, promise me.” In that second I held her hands so tightly I didn’t want to let go but I felt the monster’s presence, I heard its growls. I let go and covered my ears. My nose filled up with a wet dog odor. I didn’t see it but Ruth shooted off down the corridor screaming as if she had been sucked up a vacuum. I sat in the middle of the room rocking myself.
“No, no, no, no”, I said myself in denial but nothing could make me forget Ruth’s deafening screams. I’m so scared, I was all alone. I crawled up on to the mattress and tried to get some sleep.
“Ruby, up now!” bellowed Ms Kravon. Squinting up all I could see was the silhouette of Ms Kravon. She lifted me off the mattress and held me up against the wall.
“What happened to Ruth was your entire fault; she would never have come down here if it wasn’t for you. You think you’re the only one trapped in this hell hole, you clueless kids have no idea of the real world, I’m trapped here too, now just go get ready for chores.” Ms Kravon sternly said. Before leaving I saw a flash of Ruth’s dove pendant necklace around Ms Kravons neck. How did she get that? I saw Ruth wearing it last night. It doesn’t make sense.
Feeling shocked and confused, I walked to my room. As I reached my door, I turned round and saw The Red Door at the opposite end of the corridor. Without thinking I walked steadily towards the door, the floor boards moaned softly as I held my hand out to turn the door knob. As I touched the door knob, a chilling wave rippled through my body and I stopped, realising what I was about to do and ran to my room slamming the door shut, defending myself from the red door.
During my chores, I noticed everybody was watching me with cold stares as if it would bring Ruth and Anna back. I stood up to get rid of the numbing pain in my leg when I was purposely shoved down into my bucket of water as a girl walked past.
“Nicole, why the hell did you do that?” I shouted.
“You know why!” she replied giving me a disgusting look.
“There’s nothing I could have done I tried my best”, I screamed before running off.
Little Lily ran after me huffing “Ruby wait, wait! I know you’re scared but sometimes in life we need to get past this in order to go on. We are orphans no one can truly know how much pain we have been in but that’s why we have to stick together and keep moving forward.”
Looking in to her eyes I whispered, “Thank you, you’re a brave little girl you know”. Hugging her I strolled into my room.
I sat there waiting. Seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours. I abruptly stood up at 7:58. I walked out my room slowly shutting my old door, which had locked away so many days of my childhood. I stood there at the opposite end of the hall facing the dreaded door. I began to slowly walk towards it as if I was walking down the aisle-this was meant to be. 30 seconds left. I looked at the door, I noticed was actually quite beautiful, it’s just a shame such beauty held such darkness but now I will set it free…10 seconds to go…5…4…3…2…1 …8:00…I opened the door…freedom.