Until the other night, this name meant nothing to me. I'd been sitting watching television when, out of the blue, my two-year-old daughter just started to yell the name over and over. "Peter Pie!" she cried with obvious agitation. "Peter Pie, Peter Pie, Peter Pie!"
At first, I shrugged it off. There is no Peter in Molly's nursery. No Peter in her small circle of friends. But children are weird. They say things for no reason. Maybe Peter Pie was a name she'd given to one of her toys. Or maybe it was something else.
The voice came out of the darkness, in the dead of night. I jumped up and went to check on Molly. She was asleep. I tried to sleep myself, but something wasn't right. I could feel it as I lay there in the gloom. There was somebody here. I clicked the bedside lamp and Molly was standing by my bed, staring at me. "Peter Pie!"
For the rest of the night, I lay in bed trying to think who this Peter Pie might be. I thought of a story I'd heard a while back, about the family who lived in this house before us. They had a child, a gaunt, sickly-looking boy who hardly ever went outside. Then one day the boy disappeared completely. Shortly after this, the family moved out.
Was his name Peter? It might have been.
This recollection, in turn, reminded me of a strange thing that happened when we first moved in. I'd been sitting in the garden, reading the newspaper, when a small head peered up from behind the back wall. It was a boy, with hair so blond as to be almost white. I remember thinking how strange that was, for someone with such dark eyes.
The boy stayed there looking at me until I grew uncomfortable and moved inside.
Thye next morning, exhausted and upset, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all. I sat Molly in her chair, looked her in the eye and asked her flat out who this Peter Pie was. She responded with a thin smile and a single phrase: "Peter Pie". I asked her if Peter had ever hurt her, if he had frightened her.
"Peter Pie", she said again, and then she screamed.
I'm not sure what happened next. I thought I saw something from the corner of my eye, a shadow, moving beneath the sofa. "Peter Pie!" Molly cried with urgency that bordered on frenzy. At this point, I was sick with terror, unable to breathe. My daughter screamed again and pointed at the sofa. "Peeee-taaaa!"
I walked over to the sofa, knelt down and thrust my hand underneath. There was something there, something soft and a little slimy. I pulled it out and, with a sharp cry, threw it across the room. It was mottled with mould and smelled like death. It was week-old pizza, with pepperoni. The cat quickly followed.
"Ah", Molly said, smiling again and scuttling across the room to the offending slab. "Peter Pie!"