Welcome dear reader! Tonight we have another short story; a tale to which we can all relate. That sneaking feeling that someone is watching, even though we're supposed to be alone. And that's how to best enjoy this one. So turn off the lights, and just before you start, perhaps check over both shoulders, just in case...
*In the name of full disclosure I must confess that this one is not an original, rather my take on a story told to me by a very good friend, and it is one of my favourites. Thanks Danny!
Ever had that feeling that you’re not alone?
There’s nobody there. Well, nobody but you, but it feels like there’s someone else - watching. It creeps up on you. It’s usually a sound that triggers it. You tell yourself ‘Oh, it’s just the house settling,’ or ‘it’s probably just the wind’. That’s what you tell yourself. You don’t believe it though. What you’re really thinking is ‘That didn’t sound right’. It builds from there.
The kind of night that makes you happy to have a roof over your head wailed outside. Incessant patter of wind-flung rain on the window had already set Katie on edge, more so because this was one of the evenings Chris worked nights, and she knew that as soon as his shift was over he would be heading to his own place rather than here. The distraction was too much; coursework could wait. The background noise and distraction of television would set her at ease. She hoped.
She’d been living here for two and a half months when she met Chris. The ink had barely dried on her contract with the landlady, and while the flat wasn’t expensive (if anything, it was a little too cheap), she couldn’t afford to pay for a place she wasn’t living in. That meant she’d have to stay here for another three months, then she could do what she really wanted: move in with Chris.
It wasn’t just that his place was bigger (which it was), but it was happier. That sounds strange, but this place was weird. There was a sadness to it. Like the place itself felt lonely, but at the same time, it didn’t want you there. It was hard to explain. Nights like the one outside didn’t help, God knew the place was creepy enough. Sometimes it felt that the flat wasn’t just wooden floors and cold bare walls. There were times when the place felt alive. There were times when it felt like she wasn’t alone here. Like she’d been joined by an invisible presence. Like now.
Of course there couldn’t be anyone here. Chris left, she locked him out. There was no way in other than the front door. It was just a feeling. Thankfully, it was never more than a feeling. She padded down the long hallway to the kitchen/living area, and past the bathroom.
That room is the creepiest.
She turned on the television. Nothing too serious, MTV would do. Her nerves couldn’t stand one of her favourite crime shows. Not tonight. She walked around the sofa into the kitchen. She particularly liked the open-plan arrangement of her place that allowed her to cook in the kitchen and watch the living room TV. What she didn’t like was the fact that there was too little furniture. That plus the bare wooden floors, made the place cold and impersonal and echoey. She made a cup of tea and went back to the sofa and watched some ‘famous’ guy she’d never heard of around his palatial home. After about fifteen minutes the night took a turn for the weird.
Halfway down her cup of tea, she got a strange sensation.
Someone is here. Watching.
The sounds of the TV echoed through the flat. She reached for the remote and turned the volume down, focussing on external sounds. The wind had died down to occasional gusts, the silence in between heightening the noises inside. If there was someone spying, they weren’t looking through the window, after all, this was the fourth floor. Which meant that if there really was somebody, they were here, in the flat.
Ignore it, it will go away.
The doors were locked. The windows closed. There’s nobody here. Only me. Only me and MTV. She turned the volume back up. And it worked. For about five minutes.
Turn around. Turn around. There’s nobody here. It’s fine. Turn around and you’ll see. You’ll see that you’re being stupid.
The dark hallway was difficult to see down normally, but she had left a small lamp on in the bedroom. It was not, however, the hallway which caught her attention. It was the kitchen. The cupboard door over the sink was open. Wide open. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled preceding the cold sweat which sent a tremor down the length of her backbone. She stared. If the music on television offered a little comfort in breaking the silence, the sight in the kitchen did just the opposite.
So what is it – a ghost? A ghost who hangs around in the kitchen and what? Makes tea? Get up. Close the cupboard, and chill out, you big baby.
She rose. “Hello?”
What’s that going to achieve? It’ll be worse if someone answers.
She was edging into the kitchen to investigate when she heard a noise. Barely audible above the television, but there all the same. Her skin crawled. The room seemed suddenly smaller. Darker.
What the hell is that?
A low humming. Her mobile phone. The source was the settee. She rushed towards it. She hoped it was Chris sneaking a call from work, perhaps his shift was quieter than he had anticipated. But the idea was dashed as soon as it entered her head. The vibrating had stopped. Too short for a call. A text message then. She snatched up the phone.
Low battery warning. Thanks a bunch.
The phone was a couple of years old and the battery had become increasingly unreliable, discharging well within twenty-four hours. It was forever on charge. She needed a new one. When she moved out of here, the extra money would go towards a new phone. At the moment it wasn’t that important, this place still had a landline. Chris had donated his mum’s old wall-mounted handset. ‘Old’ being the operative word. It had one of those curly extendable cords! At least it didn’t have a rotary dial.
At least it works. Stupid mobile.
Her train of thought was quickly and suddenly derailed. A click behind her. She froze, her heartbeat thudding in her ears. A pair of eyes was burning into her back.
Screw this. Call Chris.
She grabbed the mobile. Called. He answered quickly. At first he was unhappy that she’d called him at work, but his tone softened when he heard her voice. Maybe she sounded scared.
“What do you mean, ‘stuff’?” He asked.
“The cupboard in the kitchen opened itself.”
He chuckled “The cupboard in the kitchen that opens itself all of the time?”
Go ahead, laugh. “It felt like someone was watching me.”
“Baby, have you been out, since I left?”
“No. I had a snooze, did some coursework, then watched telly because I couldn’t concentrate.”
“And you locked the door behind me?”
She realised the point he was making and walked the short distance to the door. She grabbed the handle and paused before giving it a tug.
“Yeah. It’s still locked.”
“So the only way in is through the windows. The fourth floor windows.”
She was angry. Not at Chris. At herself for allowing herself to be so easily spooked. “Will you stay on the phone while I check the windows?”
He chuckled again, an annoying, smug little chuckle, but he agreed to stay on the phone and keep her company while she checked. The ones in the living room and kitchen were definitely closed on such a cold night, and the bedroom window was fastened shut from when she had been working in there. Which meant that there was only one window left to check.
She opened the door, and immediately felt a draught. The shower curtain was drawn around the bath and fluttered lightly. The window behind it was long and frosted, with a narrow section at the top which opened a matter of inches. There was no way in hell that anybody could climb through. Was there?
“The bathroom window’s open.”
“Close it then.”
She did. Thank God Chris had stayed on the phone with her. She felt better. She thanked him, went back to the living room and ended the call. She carried on watching TV and had been quite comfortable doing so. For about twenty minutes.
Then the same disquiet fell upon her.
She span around. Was it possible to have relieved the feeling and then have it return without reason? She turned back to the TV. She tried to focus. But the feeling wouldn’t leave her. Cold eyes burning into her. Like someone was in the flat, and didn’t want her here. Like she was imposing, and they wanted to be alone.
She tried to ignore it, hoping that it would somehow get better. But it got worse. She waited as long as she could for it to go, just watching the telly. Then, in the reflection of the TV there was a shadow. Dark. Tall. Right behind her.
She jumped to her feet and turned. There was nobody there, but something was wrong. She had to call Chris.
The phone rang.
Why isn’t he answering? What if he doesn’t answer?
A third ring.
Maybe he’s finished early.
Maybe he’s already driving home?
She whispered, “There’s someone here.”
“What?” He was taking this call seriously. “It’s impossible.”
Kate was now close to the bedroom. “I know, that’s why I’m going to check.” Kate said, still speaking in a whisper.
Chris was surprised. “Wow, check you out!”
She placed her hand on the door and got ready to gently push it open. “Well I can’t be scared all the time. Will you stay on the phone while I check though?”
She checked the phone battery. 1%.
Silence. Then, “Did I get you?” He giggled.
“You idiot! Stay on the phone.”
He cut off mid-sentence.
“Oy! Dickhead! Not funny now... Chris!” She looked at the phone.
The battery was dead. Decision time. Go ahead and check anyway or go back and call Chris from the landline? She kept her hand on the door. “Fuck it.”
She gave the door a gentle nudge. It swung gently open. A noise. Her heart almost stopped. Shrill bell ringing through the silence. The landline. She ran down the hallway and reached around the corner for the phone.
“I told you my battery was going.” She snapped. “Anyway, the room’s empty.”
“Told you it was nothing.”
“It feels like there’s someone here, Chris.”
“You’ve just told me there’s nobody there. Plus we’ve already confirmed. It’s not possible.”
“I know, but it doesn’t feel right.”
There was a slight pause. “Listen, I’m nearly done here. I can come round...”
“No you’re alright.”
“You’re creeping me out now, I don’t mind.” He laughed, but it wasn’t a real laugh. He was freaked out almost as much as she was.
She twirled the phone cord tightly around a finger. “No it’s fine. You’re right. There’s nobody here. I’m probably gonna watch telly for another couple of minutes and go to bed.”
He paused again. “Are you sure?”
The wind died down and the TV fell silent. The flat was eerily quiet. Then…
She screamed. Her hands were sweating on the handset. Her mouth was dryer than a Sunday morning hangover. She turned slowly. The cupboard door over the sink was wide open.
“Can you finish work now?”
“Yeah, the boss has just left. What was that?!”
“I can’t stay here another minute.”
“What’s happened? You’re scaring me.”
“Nothing, I just have to get out of here. I can be at your place in twenty minutes.”
“I’ll come and get you...” Chris sounded as scared as she felt now.
“No!” She shouted, “I’m leaving, I’ll meet you there.”
“All right, all right.” He paused. “Calm. Breathe. Listen. I want you to do me a favour.”
“I want to know you’re out of the flat safe before I end the call. So I want you to leave the receiver on the counter, and check the front door, bathroom, bedroom – you’ll see that there’s nobody there – shout as you’re doing it, and then leave. When I know you’re out safe, I’ll hang up.”
She quickly processed. It would prove there was no one here but her. And she could sleep well knowing there is nothing to be afraid of when she had to come back tomorrow.
It’s not that bad an idea.
She placed the receiver on the counter and marched over to the front door.
“Locked in!” She shouted over to the phone. She walked back into the living room and passed the kitchen. She spoke into the receiver as she passed.
“Kitchen and living room clear!”
She flicked the light on as she turned into the long hallway.
She went into the bedroom and checked quickly, but thoroughly.
She stomped back down the hallway, this time stopping to look into the bathroom. This was the last place anyone could possibly be hiding, if there was someone else here. The shower curtain was drawn around the bath.
Did I do that? I wouldn’t have left it like that after shutting the window.
She edged closer.
“Checking the bathroom...” She shouted, more to reassure herself than Chris. She grabbed hold of the curtain and held her breath. She paused a moment, then whipped the curtain back.
She marched back to the phone and grabbed it, “The whole place is clear.”
The relief in his voice was palpable when he said, “Good. I’ll be home in fifteen minutes. Remember, I’ll end the call. Just put the receiver back down and shout what you’re doing as you leave.”
“I will. Love you.”
She placed the receiver down again. “Putting my boots on!” She then called out as she threw on her coat and scarf and then announced she was leaving. It was better to go now with a good feeling and come back tomorrow. She grabbed the TV remote. Her thumb hovered for a second over the standby button. She presses this, the place is silent.
Turn it off, and run.
She opened the flat door and pressed the button to call the lift, for the first time grateful that it was so close to her flat. She paused for thought before hitting the metal outer doors of the lift. After a few seconds there was a ding! as the lift arrived. She reached back and quickly shouted “Lift’s here!” Before closing and locking the flat door.
As the doors closed behind her she banged twice on the inside of the lift. Maybe Chris would hear it, after all, the walls were paper thin. And besides, the neighbours were probably already awake after the noise she’d made checking the flat.
The old lift rattled its way down four storeys, light flickering not quite enough to distract from the stinging whiff of urine. The lift slowed as it reached the bottom. Kate couldn’t shake the idea of the doors opening and revealing a face, waiting in the dark. The lift shuddered as it reached the ground floor. The door slowly drew back. She stepped against the back wall of the lift. The door opened to pitch darkness. She edged into the lobby. She passed the light switch on the way to the door and flicked it on for comfort.
Stepping into the windy night, she braced herself against the stiff autumn chill. Golden leaves tumbled from windswept trees and scratched on the floor around her. The route to Chris’s place was thankfully all well-lit main roads, but the further she walked the faster she walked, until she was running down Chris’s street.
Fifty yards or so away, where Chris’s house stood, she could make out a figure. A man. He saw her and made his way down the street towards her. He got closer. It was Chris. It was clear he was more afraid than she was. His face was ashen. She ran the short distance to her boyfriend.
“Chris, what’s wrong? You look awful.”
His face washed over in confusion. Then fear.
He looked at her. “I heard you. I heard you checking all the rooms. I heard you putting your boots and coat on. And I heard you wait for the lift. Then you got in the lift... no, you locked the door then got in the lift. I heard you lock the door. I heard you lock the door, then get in the lift, and I heard you banging on the doors, from inside the lift.” He stopped. His face again confused then terrified.
“You’re scaring me Chris. I don’t understand.”
He composed himself, grabbed her by the shoulders and looked straight into her eyes.
“When you were in the lift, someone put the phone down.”
Thanks for reading! Hope you liked it! Remember to like/share on your favourite social thingy. Stay tuned for an announcement about the blog idea that's got me so excited for 2017!!
In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.