by Ann McGovern

Martha hired a driver to take her to a small cottage in the country,

where she would stay while her city apartment was being painted. The

cottage stood alone, high on a cliff.

It was a bleak and lonely place and Martha was glad she would only be

there a few days. She told the driver when to return for her and watched

him drive away, feeling suddenly alone and frightened.

Though it was summer, the cottage felt cold and damp, and Martha lit a

fire in the fireplace. Then she looked around at the room. The few

pieces of furniture were shabby, but the wall, covered with stained and

peeling green wallpaper was even shabbier.

Martha stared at the wall. Something seemed horribly wrong with it. Then

she gasped. She could see right through it. There stood a murky forest,

and weaving among the trees were figures--dancing, creeping and waving

their arms.

The scene disappeared as quickly as it had come. Martha tried to tell

herself that what she had seen was only shadows from the fire. But when

she looked at the wall again, she saw that the wallpaper had peeled even

more, leaving great, gaping holes.

That night Martha could not sleep. The wind blew strong and the flames

danced eerily in the fireplace.

There they were again! Those creatures--through the wall--closer now,

creeping, moving their arms, beckoning to her. Martha watched in horror

as they formed a circle and began a slow dance. The wind blew harder and

it seemed to Martha that she heard a crying and a wailing: "We will meet

very soon, Martha. We are coming for you."

Martha fell asleep at last, dreaming of creatures creeping and wailing

in the moonlight of a murky forest. The next morning, Martha saw that

great strips of the wallpaper hung down in tatters.

Martha stayed outside all day, but when darkness fell, she came in and

lit a fire in the room that seemed even colder than it had been before.

As the flames crept higher, the wall seemed to come alive with moving,

creeping figures, crying: "We will meet very soon, Martha. We are coming

for you."

Martha got into bed, closed her eyes tight and covered her ears. But

still she saw the creatures creeping closer and closer. Still she heard

their chants--louder and louder.

Martha huddles under the covers. She had never been so cold. She tried

not to think of the wall with its moving, chanting creatures. Instead

she forced herself to think of her cozy apartment in the city, freshly

painted and cheerful.

Martha stole a quick look at the wall. The wallpaper was now in shreds.

The creatures were still there--so close she could see their gray faces,

with their glinty eyes, twisted mouths and crooked teeth.

A crackling sound made Martha jump. Had a log snapped in the fire?

No--an arm--a creature's arm--was coming through the wall! "Please--oh

please--let morning come," she moaned.

The night seemed endless and the wails and chants never ceased. Once she

thought she felt something go tap, tap on her shoulder.

At last it was morning. Soon the car came and Martha was driven back to

the city.

In front of her building, she paid the driver and ran up the stairs to

her apartment. She opened the door and stood frozen to the spot.

There they were! The creatures! Dozens of them--creeping, moving toward

her, waving their arms. Just before she fainted dead away, Martha saw

them reach up and rip masks away from their faces.

There stood her friends, laughing as they chanted: "We have come for

you, Martha. We have come for your birthday. Surprise!"

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