So in the last week I’ve moved out on my own. Hurray! Super exciting! Having your own space really is shiny special. However, living alone also comes with its own special set of anxieties, especially for someone with a runaway imagination like me. When I was a kid, every creaking floorboard was a vengeful spirit and every half opened wardrobe a gateway for alien abduction… And that’s never really left me. In the middle of the night, things seem more plausible than they do as a rational grown-up in broad daylight. Magic flows in the dark, and shadows hide horrors. So this is something I cooked up staring at my new kitchen window at two in the morning the other night. Because that’s how I process things – I write about them.
Two thirty three.
Amy stared at the angry green light of her alarm clock as she slowly came to the weary realisation that she wasn’t getting back to sleep. With a sigh, she sat up in bed, pushing her covers aside and surveyed the vague dark shapes that littered her bedroom. She still hadn’t really bothered unpacking, so her whole apartment was a warren of different sized cardboard boxes with her whole life rammed into them. It looked as jumbled and chaotic as it felt.
Three nights in her new flat and all three so far she’d woken up at two am sharp. Stretching out her aching arms, Amy hopped out of bed and pulled her dressing gown around her. She still hadn’t worked out how to put the heating on. The layout of the flat was still unfamiliar to her, but she decided to navigate in the dark anyway to try and force her brain into mapping it out, stalking out into the short hallway. Her familiar furniture loomed strange and threatening in the shadows, reminding her just how much her life had been warped and distorted by the last few weeks. Jason had completely ruined everything he’d come into contact with during the five years she’d put up with his crap for. When she’d finally walked in on him in bed with another woman, her world had shattered into fragments, each one a jagged, harsh truth she’d never wanted to face. She wasn’t sure if she could piece that old life back together any more. Although, if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she wanted to. A brand new one seemed much more refreshing, away from the taste of betrayal, salty and bitter. Away from the crying for hours at a time, until knives of pain needled relentlessly into her skull.
The silence that hung from the walls was deeper and more oppressive than the shadows could be. University had been loud, vibrant and exciting, living with six other girls in a cramped terraced house. Even when the arguments with Jason both drove them into sullen silences, there was still the sense of presence that hung in the air that the flat completely lacked. Amy stood for a few moments, soaking in the sense of unease that had accompanied her last three sleepless nights.
‘You’re a grown woman, for God’s sake’ she whispered. It felt like a transgression, like swearing in church or breaking a mirror. Shivering, she realised that the feeling that was churning in her stomach wasn’t an unease from feeling alone at all. It felt like being watched. She tried to quash the feeling by chastising herself harshly, deliberately breaking the hallowed silence of the night.
‘Amy,’ she hissed, ‘stop letting your imagination play tricks on you. It is all. In. Your. Head.’
Her bare feet slapped softly against the cheap laminate floor as she padded quietly along the hall. Even though she was pretty sure no-one could hear her unless she screamed her lungs raw, she was still paranoid about annoying her new neighbours, and all her day to day movements had been measured and dainty since she moved in. Not that it would last for long – she was definitely the clumsiest person she knew, and sooner or later she’d shatter something in the middle of the night and her neighbours would detest her forever. Maybe. Her mouth felt clammy and tasted sour, the memory of sleep gummed up in the corners, begging for the water to return it to normal. Stumbling, her body still unsure of its surroundings, she squeezed herself into the cramped kitchen. It was one of the few rooms that had been fully unpacked, which her dad would’ve no doubt used as an opportunity to make fun of her weight, just like he always had when she was a teenager. She felt a dull ache in her stomach. She hadn’t spoken to either of her parents since she was sixteen – seven years ago now. In the stillness of sleepless nights, she let her memories bubble to the surface from time to time, and let the arguments and violence echo around her. It reminded her of how far she’d come. Not even Jason could take that from her. A single plain white plate and polka-dot mug sat by the sink, sparkling in the moon, a show of perfectly normal, bland everyday existence. Grabbing a clean glass from the cupboard, Amy let the cold tap run gently, making a tinny rattle of water on metal as it fell into the sink as it cooled, and stared out of the window as she filled her drink. Outside, the world was still and waiting, bathed in a blend of inky deep shadows and harsh orange light that flickered like an angry buzz, desperate to chase the shadows away. Over the top of it all, the pale glow of the moonlight held court, adding its own hue to the frozen, empty stage of the night. She was nestled in a horseshoe shape of identical apartments, pushing in from either side and looming from above, and beyond those was the uniform row of uncaring terraced houses, each an uninspiring grey that was designed, Amy believed, to sap the creativity and aspiration out of the people who lived there. By day, kids kicked balls against them and hurled insults at passing strangers like hyenas defending their territory. She always felt her heart hammer in her chest as she approached them, wondering frantically why they never seemed to be at school. But now everything was still, and staring idly out into the world she tried so hard to shut out, was when she saw the thing.
Amy wasn’t sure how she’d even missed it in the first place. It was a hunched, humanoid looking shape, shimmering a dull grey that perhaps she’d mistaken for the contours on a bin bag, highlighted by the chaos of light and shadow. Now she’d properly noticed it, though, it was obviously not a trick of shadow and sleep deprived eyes, it was definitely something that hadn’t been there when she got home from work, squatting in the centre of the car park all pointed limbs and statuesque stillness. It was as still as the brickwork that surrounded it, but something about the way it held itself emanated otherness. The water topped the rim of the glass, pouring over Amy’s hand and jolting her with an unexpected cold stab. She twitched only slightly, but it was enough for her to loose her grip on the wet glass, which fell with an almighty clatter into the metal kitchen sink. It didn’t break, but the sound reverberated through the perfect stillness like a gunshot in a movie.
Outside, a ripple of angry twitches ran across the creature’s back, and inside Amy was paralysed with fear. It seemed like all the air had been sucked out of the room, the silence becoming a vacuum as deep as the void of space. The creature outside began, with a slow deliberateness, to stretch itself to its full height. Amy watched, her heart tight and painful in her chest, as long arms and legs unfolded, impossibly lithe and thin. She almost thought they must be too weak to support any weight at all, but something about them looked hard and strong – and dangerous. As it unfolded, it became more and more horrifying, standing easily two feet higher that the blue transit van that sat in the car park. Its back was still turned to her, but everything about it screamed danger and Amy could feel a silent scream croaking and dying in her throat. Finally fully unfurled so alien and abhorrent into the everyday normality of the car park, the thing stood still again, like the music had cut out in a game of musical statues. Except the muscles under the pale grey skin twitched away, making the creature seem like it was crackled with electricity. The skin, taught and stretched, reminded Amy of the marble statues from Ancient Greece that she’d seen during a school trip to the British Museum years before. She remembered finding the statue’s featureless staring eyes deeply unsettling, and the memory definitely wasn’t helping make the thing outside her window any less terrifying.
Finally, a whimper escaped her mouth. It seemed like such a small thing that fluttered out into the air panicked and fragile that she was hardly sure if it had happened at all. There was no way the creature outside could’ve heard such a soft noise, she told herself frantically. She was wrong. The monstrous entity cocked its smooth, featureless head as if honing in on the sound Amy had made with ears that simply didn’t exist. In the place a human being would have ears was nothing – simply more uniform marble like skin which glistened as though wet in the various half lights that lit the square. In an uncharacteristic shift in speed, it spun ethereally and effortlessly to face her and finally Amy came face to face with the horror that stood separated from her by a flimsy two sheets of glass. Funny, double glazing had seemed so secure when she moved in. Peering in at her was two rows of six uncaring, dispassionate eyes, each a horrifying black so intense and so deep it made her chest ache. She had no way of knowing where their gaze was trained, but something about the way it had frozen screamed that it was fixated utterly on her. In the middle of the parallel lines of eyes was a large, sharply hooked beak which was the same uniform whitish grey as the rest of the monstrosity’s naked, featureless form.
Amy screamed then, any idea of causing upset in her neighbours utterly fractured. Outside the thing opened its beak, revealing concentric circles of hundreds of tiny viciously sharp looking teeth, and let out a scream in return. The sound was piercing, worse than a thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards. It was the sound, she thought, of hopelessness, and it felt as though her skull buzzed and flexed as the pitch reached crescendo, her vision blurring with it. Around the square, no lights came on. She was utterly alone in the universe.
Falling backwards, the spell of abject terror that had held her so fixed broken, Amy fled the kitchen, turning on each and every light she could find as she tripped and tumbled around her littered possessions, none of which anything that she could use to fight a lithe, loathsome horror that stood twice her height. As she flailed blindly in boxes for something useful, one of the long wicked butcher’s knives perhaps, there was a pounding knock at her front door that echoed in harmony with the hammering of her adrenaline soaked heart. She stopped moving, as if the disturbance of the air her arms made could be picked up on the other side of the door. More knocks made the little chain that kept it secure rattle as if it was made from paper. Then everything fell quiet, the pressure of uncertainty building in the hallway like the heat of a roaring fire. After a few seconds of the air building to an almost unbearable level of threatening possibility, a voice drifted through the cracks around the wood. Her stomach lurched as impossibly familiar patterns of speech crept their way like seeking tendrils into her ears.
“Aaaaaaaaamyyyyyyyyyyy…” rasped Jason’s voice through the door, taunting. It couldn’t possibly be him, she knew. He had no idea where she even lived now, and he definitely didn’t care about catching up with her either. She knew in her bones that the voice was that of the creature that stalked her.
“Amy babe,” the voice crooned to her, a sound so familiar that her body responded to it in a variety of involuntary ways, “I’ve been missing you… I need you to let me in sweetie…”
Her voice shook, “You’re not him… He’s not here. I don’t need him any more.”
“Of course it’s me,” he laughed, “who else would it be? Come on Aims, you’re being fucking mental as per usual.”
“What are you..?” she quivered, a tear rolling down her cheek.
“Amy… Aaaaaaaammmmyyyy…” It was mocking her, using Jason’s voice to confuse her. She had to fight it. Jason wasn’t anything she wanted. She couldn’t open the door to him.
“I don’t need you any more. There’s nothing here for you!” She tried to keep the shake from her voice. Tried to will an ounce of confidence to fight the thing that tried to twist her thoughts.
“Then why was he the very first thing I plucked from your mind?” the Jason voice teased from behind the door. “I don’t just sound like him you know. I can look like him too. I can be the perfect him that you always hoped he would grow into. No more skinny whores or careless drunken fists…”
Amy thought she was going to be sick as memories of black eyes and split lips swam back up into her mind’s eye. “He never meant to… It was an accident.”
The thing on the other side cackled with a laugh that wasn’t quite Jason. It shimmered with a high pitched otherness that spoke of endless horrors.
“Let me in, Amy. I can be everything you ever needed from him…” it purred.
“I don’t want anything from you.”
The voice shifted then, growing deeper, developing a broader accent that Jason’s crisp educated drawl.
“Amy, you ungrateful little bitch, let me in right this second or I swear you’ll regret it” the voice of her father echoed through the years back to her, unseen but malevolent as it had always been.
Amy’s head swam, over a decade of guilt and fear coming surging back along her veins, old terror mixing and congealing with new to create a fizzy mix of blind panic pulsing through her.
“You’re not him you can’t be him he doesn’t know” she babbled.
“Time for pissing around’s done now,” his deep voice was quiet but as always every word was impossible to miss. Her ears still made sure they heard everything to avoid the consequences that came from poor obedience. “Let me in and we’ll forget all about it. You need looking after Amy, look at you. You’re a disgrace, young girl like you living on your own. It’s not proper.”
“I don’t need you. I DON’T NEED YOU EVER AGAIN” Amy shrieked, her voice cracking as she allowed an entire life of hatred fill it and force her words forward with the anger of bullets. Years of being told by her father, by Jason, by so many people how to be a quiet woman who does what she’s told. It all bubbled to the surface as the heat the memories made her blood boil. Charging down the hallway, her fear now evaporated into incandescent bitter rage, as her father’s voice called “You’ll always need me. A little girl always needs her daddy!”
She placed her hand on the chain that locked the world out and separated her new sanctuary from the aggression and judgement of society. Her blind rage was building to eruption, until a sudden voice cried out in her head. Amy looked at her hand, ready to fling the door open so that she could drive the full force of her fury into her father’s chest. Only it wasn’t her father outside, egging her on. She was being manipulated by an unknowable monster whose desires she couldn’t possibly begin to fathom. She allowed the white hot fire drain slowly from her body, feeling her heart still racing as the aggression soured.
“I will not let you in…” she whispered into the wood.
Outside, a shriek of frustration cut so sharply and keenly through the night that it felt as though the very universe would be torn asunder.
The end! Feedback is always appreciated.
Thanks for reading. If you did, I mean.