Hello, dear reader! I've taken time out of writing the new book to bring you a short story. Enjoy!
In the dim hallway, just feet from the sanctity of his bedroom, he stared at the flickering candle. And while he didn’t want to, he knew that he should blow it out. You heard terrible stories of candles not extinguished causing fires.
Burning to death. Yes, that would be the only thing worse than the darkness. The darkness. That inky blackness in which his nightmares wandered. He’d had the same nightmare three nights in a row. The shuffling outside his bedroom door – in this very hallway – the creeping blackness. But he couldn’t leave it. What about the fire? The only thing worse than the dark. He drew a deep haltering breath, and blew...
Standing in the hallway, he watched as the tendrils of smoke rose from the smouldering glow of the freshly extinguished wick. His eyes darted to the flame dancing atop the candle at the far end of the narrow hallway: it bobbed, threatening to plunge him into total darkness.
Well, not quite total, he thought – he still held a candle himself. The fragile halo of light would protect him, at least until he was locked safely in his room.
As he ambled along the uneven passage, towards that gentle sphere of light at the far end, the floor creaked. And aside from him footsteps, the silence was complete. He’d take comfort from an outside breeze, or a patter of rain against the window. But tonight, as in his nightmares, the elements offered nothing. He toyed with the notion of extinguishing the candle that sat outside his room, but instead turned towards his bedroom door.
He reached into a pocket and gripped the cool metal of his key. He slid it into the lock, strangly comforted by the weight of it, and listened to the tumblers as they rattled into place. He pushed the door and it squeaked on its hinges, slowly swinging open.
He turned and eyed the dancing flame of the candle behind him. He blew this out and the hall would be consumed by blackness.
Well, not completely, he thought, tightly gripping the candle in his hand. He drew another deep breath and…
He jumped as his own breath broke the silence. He dashed into the bedroom, removing the key from the door as he went. He daren’t move too quickly, the flickering flame of the final candle wobbling a warning in his hands. The hinges squeaked as he shoved the bedroom door shut, closing out the deathly black of the hall. He quickly followed with the key, again listening to the click of the tumblers.
The door was locked. Safe at last. But he would not blow out his candle. Not yet. And maybe not at all. It was in the darkness of his nightmares that it came, and when it did, a swift certain death followed with it.
He placed the candle onto the bedside table and slipped between the cold sheets. He wouldn’t sleep: Not straight away. Like every other night he would wait. He would wait and listen.
There was something different about tonight. It wasn’t the shadows; their presence was felt every night. It wasn’t the cold, for the house was rarely touched by warmth. It was the silence. Normally, there was something: dry autumnal leaves scratching at the windows; drops of rain gently tapping their staccato beat. Tonight, neither made a sound. In fact, it was so quiet that he could hear the gentle sizzle from the burning wick. Just like his dream.
Suddenly, he whipped his head around to the door. To the place where he heard a sound. Not the door itself, but beyond. In the hallway.
Was it not the same creak his own feet had made?
He waited. The next moment was surely the key turning in the lock. Turned by an invisible hand. Clicking the tumblers. Then, the squealing of hinges. The door opening to endless blackness. And from the blackness. The swift shadow of death.
He stared at the door. At the flaking paint around the lock. At the key, still housed within. At least that had not moved. He was still locked in. Still safe. Safe and alone!
He stared at the door. Waiting to hear the sound of footsteps from beyond. But he didn’t.
He threw his head back and barked out a relieved laugh. He didn’t hear footsteps. He didn’t hear creaking. No, as he sat, his heartbeat thudding in his ears, as he stared at the door, the protective candlelight jigging in his peripheral vision, what he heard was much, much worse.
Then, in the pitch blackness, came the rattling of tumblers...
And the squealing of hinges...
And then he heard no more...
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.