The sudden fear in Sally’s eyes reflected in those of her brother.
Something you should know about David #1: He read faces just like most of us read books. He had never been able to hear, nor indeed understand what hearing actually means to most of us (try explaining things like music to somebody who has never and will never hear it and you will understand what I mean). Instead, David was used to picking up on the slightest flicker of an eyebrow or twitch of the nose to help him make sense of the world around.
Now David recognised fear and it was an emotion which he was not used to seeing in his sister’s eyes. Irritation - certainly, anger – sometimes and, yes, let’s face it, occasionally just sheer malice when she was trying to get her brother into trouble. But never fear. In fact, it was something he had only seen on her face once before (that day - both of them hid behind the curtains – they watched from the window - mum locked the boot of the car, walked round to the side, got in, drove away). No, seeing Sally afraid at all was enough for a hot coal of dread to burst into flame in his own stomach.
[What?] He signed at her, his face showing the concern he felt. Sally shook her head, placing a finger to her lips and motioning for him to stay quiet and still while she craned her neck forward to listen carefully.
[What?] His fingers moved again and when he still received no response, David tugged at her pyjama sleeve until Sally turned to look at him, irritation rather than fear now playing across her brow.
[what? mum dad?] His fingers were a blur and David saw the understanding in his sister eyes, even though she shrugged angrily at him and pretended not to. He pulled at her sleeve again and with a massive effort forced the sounds from his throat: “maaabdaaab? “
Her face softened slightly for just an instant. Then an angry look spread over her face again and she shook her head roughly from side to side and pointed towards the floor. He understood: No, something’s wrong. There’s something downstairs. Be quiet!
Sally climbed slowly down from her bed and took the purple dressing gown which hung on the end of the bedstead. She shrugged it on and with a sideways glance at David, motioned for her brother to be quiet again.
Then, careful to avoid all of the places on the floor where she knew that the old floorboards under the green carpet creaked, Sally tiptoed towards the door.
David fell into step beside her only to have the front of his dressing gown grabbed almost immediately and to find himself pushed roughly behind his older sister. She raised the flat of her hand to him: Stay here! and frowned, still not one hundred percent sure that whatever was going on was not somehow his fault.
Seeing this suspicion on her face, David pouted madly, but fully aware of his place in the power structure that existed at number 22, Dunstable Lane (and also knowing that he was already dicing with danger by having entered the forbidden realm without an invitation or permission), he reluctantly stayed put.
Sally reached the door and opening it a crack, she slowly peeked round.
There was nothing out there; just the dark, dusty old landing.
She pulled the door open a little wider.
Dark shadows. Nothing.
Briefly looking back at her brother, she frowned: if this is a trick... then turning again, she pulled the door wide open. Still nothing.
Taking a deep breath, Sally tiptoed carefully along the passage towards her parents’ room.
She wanted to shout out for them but she didn’t for two reasons:
1. She was scared at the angry reaction she would receive at waking her parents in the middle of the night just because her good-for-nothing younger brother had had a bad dream.
2. There was something else. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on but out here in the dark, but she began to understand why David had looked so afraid.
When she reached her parents’ room, the door was still open. Peering through the darkness inside, she suddenly found it hard to swallow as the realisation that David hadn’t been fibbing sunk in. The bed was an empty shadow! She flicked the light switch. It didn’t work.
Beginning to panic now, Sally turned and quickly returned along the hallway to her bedroom.
There she found David still waiting. He looked up at his sister. She began to open her mouth but froze halfway.
Suddenly a number of things seemed to happen at once:
1. David saw his sister’s whole body tense and she spun around again towards the door.
2. Something heavy landed on the landing, its vibrations travelling through the boards beneath the carpet.
3. Two shadowy figures appeared, jumping towards the bedroom.
4. Sally fell back into her brother, knocking him over.
5. David went down hard, the wind knocked out of him, his sister’s heavy weight blocking his view of the doorway.
And there he lay helpless, unable to move and waited for whatever had invaded their house to enter the room.