Welcome! Today’s post is an excerpt from my debut novel The Death of Laszlo Breyer, set for Halloween release for your Amazon Kindle device/app!
(This post was updated April 2021. The book is out now! Link after the excerpt!)
Alcoholic ex-detective Jack Talbot is accused of stealing the remains of his dead wife’s killer, but when new killings start, he has to find out who is passing themselves off as lycanthrope psychopath Laszlo Breyer, before the copycat exacts his bloody revenge and kills those closest to Jack.
In this excerpt, David saw something unusual on his CCTV cameras and their dog, Freddy, is missing. He is preparing himself to go outside and look.
David tramped downstairs re-tightening the belt on his dressing gown. In the kitchen he rifled through his drawer, ignored the ball of string and screwdrivers and WD-40 and assortment of light bulbs and grabbed the torch. Outside, the wind whipped up again. He looked down at the torch, unsure of the last time he’d used it and flicked it on, off, then on again. Gripping the cold barrel, he stood by the back door.
From upstairs came a click and warm, welcoming light cascaded from the landing.
‘What’s going on?’
David’s grip released on the torch and fastened again just in time to stop it falling to the floor. He breathed deeply, ‘He’s gone... again.’
David sighed, ‘He’s gone again. Your beloved Freddy.’
‘Well go out and find him.’
‘What do you think I’m doing?’ he snapped. ‘Go back to bed.’
He heard muttering as the light went off and then the only sound in the house was again the sound of that biting wind.
David stared longingly upstairs in the direction of his warm bed, then turned back to the door. He did the maths. It would take ten seconds, maybe fifteen, to get outside, round the corner and to the back of the property. Once there, he would check the rope which tied Freddy. If it was chewed through (again) it was nothing serious, just another escape attempt. He could come back inside, go back to the nice, warm bed upstairs, and start looking for him tomorrow. Thirty seconds. Max.
And if it wasn’t an escape attempt?
He frowned. Deep down he sensed that this was different from the other times that Freddy had escaped; that the scene on the monitor was somehow wrong. He couldn’t swear to it, but he thought he’d seen a shadow on screen as he entered the study. He drew another deep breath, turned the key in the door, and opened it.
Once outside, the bitter wind snatched at his dressing gown as he strode to the rear of the house. Five seconds. The silver torch beam twinkled on the snowy ground a few feet ahead of him. As he rounded the corner the harsh security light flooded his tired eyes. Ten seconds. He shielded them, before turning his attention to the kennel and rope. He kneeled to inspect the rope when, above the wind, came a sound from the trees. He span, half falling against the house, and trained the torchlight into the dense greenness of the conifers.
The wind died to a whisper. In the distance a car door slammed shut and he thought about calling out to the neighbour for help. But what would he say? That his dog was missing?
He stood now and gingerly stepped towards the trees, bobbing and leaning to get a view through the branches, his heart racing.
Then he heard it.
A low growl.
The pounding heartbeat rose in his ears again as the torch settled on a pair of glowing eyes.
‘Fred. Stop fucking about,’ he shouted, unable to control the quiver in his voice.
As he stepped back he noticed footprints leading into the trees. Too big for Freddy’s? His mind was at the point of contemplating the patch where whatever it was stopped walking into the trees and started to be dragged
Please not Freddy
when, between the gusts of wind, the growl rose.
David dropped the torch. He turned and sprinted for the door. Behind him, he heard the trees part. His shadow shrank in the fallen torchlight only to be swallowed by something huge. He stumbled around the corner and leapt at the kitchen door expecting to feel the cold grip of death at any moment…
The Death of Laszlo Breyer is available now on Amazon in ebook and paperback. If you’d like more info on new releases, or almost daily posts on horror and the unexplained, head to my Facebook page...
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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...
Here's a short story to keep you going while I write my new book! Enjoy!
Loud applause erupted from the studio audience of the Wheel of Fortune. Her family would have no doubt complained that the volume was too loud, just as they would have complained that the room was too warm. She liked it warm. Maybe they would have been right. Maybe it was too loud. But Gladys wasn’t listening.
Her eyes had strayed as they so often did to the wall behind the television where the photograph had hung for the past fourteen years. It was, had been, her favourite photograph, at one time. That was a long time ago, shortly after it had been taken. Now she hated it.
It had been taken at her 40th Wedding Anniversary celebration. At her and Ron’s favourite restaurant. The Cow and Crab. A steak and seafood place out in the sticks that they’d stumbled upon on a scenic drive back from the coast. She and Ron were pride of place in the centre of the photograph, with the fireplace a warm and welcoming backdrop. She and Ron were seated, with Tony, Stephen and Janice standing behind them – their three kids in order of age (it also looked good because Stephen was the tallest). And beside them stood their two grandchildren, Timothy at one side, and Jackie at the other. Sarah (Jackie’s mother) had shouted smile!, and smile they had. It was an evening that Gladys would always remember fondly. But the photo? The photo she hated.
She’d tried to get rid of the damned thing, after Ron died. She took it down and put it in the shoebox that she kept all her special memories in. The shoebox beneath the bed. It seemed a sin to put this awful object in there with the cinema and concert tickets she’d kept from special occasions, but at the time she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away. That afternoon, when the photo was gone, she had been able to focus on Wheel of Fortune. And all of the shows that came after it. Her eyes no longer drawn to that cursed picture lurking in the background serving as a constant reminder of…
That night, she’d gone to bed and slept well for the first time in God knew how long. The following morning, she peered beneath the bed just to check the shoebox was still there. And it was. British Racing Green with a thick tan elastic band, corners a little tattered. For the first time in years she went to the kitchen and prepared breakfast with a smile on her face. But the smile disappeared when she sat in the living room to eat. On the wall, behind the television, like it had never been away, was the photo.
At that time only three of the seven people in the picture had died. Ron most recently, of his heart condition. Before him Stephen, victim of a motorcycle accident. The first to go had been young Jackie. Only seven years old. Kidnapped and missing for four weeks. Gladys had been the first in the family to know she was dead. Earlier that week, before the police visited Tony and Sarah with the awful news, Gladys had found that God forsaken photograph not on the wall, but on the floor. Frame intact, string in one pristine piece. She looked up at the nail where the picture had been hanging, and it was fast in the wall. She’d never been the superstitious type, but that morning when she found the photograph on the floor, she knew. Balls to bones as Ron would say, she just knew.
It had, of course, fallen again in the week of Stephen’s motorcycle accident. And again in the week Ron was rushed to hospital. That was the first time she’d taken it down. After Ron had died. She never told the family. They’d make fun of her. After the first reappearance of the photo, she locked it in the cupboard where Ron kept his whiskey, only for it to be back upon the wall the next morning. She even took it into town. She removed the photograph and gave the frame to a charity shop collecting for cancer research. And when she got back home she cried as she put a match to the smiling faces in the aluminium kitchen sink. She watched as the flames consumed them one at a time. She sat in a chair and sobbed as the acrid blue smoke hung in the air. She’d cried until the smoke cleared, and when it had, she hoisted herself up and staggered into the living room. As she slumped into her chair, the chair she was sitting in now, she screamed. She screamed at the seven faces smiling at her from the wall behind the television.
Now, as she sat staring at the photograph in the warmth of her living room, another burst of applause exploding from the studio audience, she cried. That picture had fallen three more times since Ron had passed. Once each for Tony, Timothy, and Janice. Now there was nobody to complain that the volume was too loud. It was just Gladys and the picture.
There was no one to complain that the room was too warm. But was it? Gladys pulled the thin cardigan up over her shoulders and tight around her chest. She rolled the sleeves down over her forearms where the goosepimples had formed. The sound from the television seemed to fade as once more her eyes were drawn behind, to the wall – to the photograph.
Now her eyes went from the blurred soft lines to hard focus. Onto those seven smiling faces, six of whom were now gone. Onto the frame that she’d left behind in the charity shop years before. She looked at the faces and they smiled back at her. Suddenly she realised that for the first time in years she didn’t feel the old bitter animosity towards that picture. She didn’t feel the fear. As she stared now, the old feelings of warmth and happiness came back. The happy memories. The love of those in the picture.
The picture. And as the warmth crept back into the room, she stared at the picture. She stared at the picture: then it fell.
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So, I asked the beautiful people on my Facebook page to select a writing prompt for me to write a short story from. They duly replied (you can find the prompts on the above link, and I should say this one's for Karolina, Sally, and David. If you don't like it, gee, I'm sorry, I guess), and so, I present you...
I’d known this day was coming for a long time. God knows I’d prepared for it, and now it had finally arrived. Prepared for it emotionally, I mean. Before I even opened my eyes I knew what was going on. And I knew why it was going on. The last thing I could remember was the party.
It had been a good one, for the most part. Sad, poignant (like all Last Parties were), but the music was pumping, the drinks were in rich supply, and even though it was his party, Remy was in great form. Only 26 years old, turning 27, but drinking like a Viking and joking around like he always did. His wife, Chrissy, sure she was emotional. I mean, she’s the guy’s wife, and his Last Party. The reasons for her sadness were pretty much the same for everyone.
Firstly, and this one I shouldn’t really have to explain, it’s his Last Party. Emphasis on the word Last. They’re always emotionally charged. Come on, it’s the final meeting with everyone you know and love. If somebody invites you to an LP, you go. You go, and you take as much food and drink as you can carry, and if there’s any left over (and this is a fucking huge if), the guest of honour gets to keep that shit for however long he’s got. The Second Reason Chrissy was upset about her husband’s LP is why everyone gets upset at their significant other’s LP. It’s selfish, but my inkling is it’s the main reason; it’s a glimpse into your own future. Your own very near future.
Chrissy’s birthmark was the same as Remy’s. In the same place as everyone else’s (obviously). On both of their wrists was the number 27. That was the thing with the birthmarks. Everybody could pick someone with a number close to their own. Unless you’re too high or too low. That’s one of the reasons I’d always been single, but that’s another story. Chrissy was a few months younger than Remy, and by the time her LP came around, it was anybody’s guess if he’d still be around, at least the kid would be born, and who knew, maybe he’d be luckier. Just because his folks were both 27s, didn’t mean he’d be a 27. If he was lower they’d be too dead to reap any benefit from it.
If you’re like a 40 or a 50 or even an 80, basically a number high enough to benefit from it, you have a kid and that poor little scrap of life comes out in single figures, you get to retire, well, for five years. Four before, one after. (Or one before and four after, if that’s all the maths allows.) All on the government’s bill. Your old job waiting for your return.
And the birthmarks were the reason I always wore long sleeves. The birthmarks didn’t develop until you were two years old (unless you were a 1), so there was no official record of anyone’s number. It was illegal to request the information too, like at a job interview. It could be used to discriminate. Unless you were a cop or a soldier or something like that, the government never knew. So yeah, my folks always told me to cover up, and they were serious as shit when they did. So I covered up. And stayed single. Girls always wanted to know your number. Christ it was worse than the discussion of how many women you’d slept with. No, I’m not a virgin, before you ask. Yes, prostitutes. No, I don’t feel bad.
So when the day finally arrived, I had been expecting it. I peeled my eyes open, the strange taste of my last drink at Remy’s Last Party still in my mouth, and saw the birthmark. But it wasn’t the unusual thing. An infinity sign birthmark is an unusual thing, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t see all of it. Because of the shackles. Cold, heavy iron shackles. I mean, seriously? I’m going to live for ever but I’m not the Hulk.
“And which assface spiked my fucking tequila sunrise?”
Yes, I drink tequila sunrise as my beverage of choice. Little judgemental, aren’t we?
I could see one of them. He looked about Remy’s age, but skinny, and white, dressed like Iggy Pop if you ever saw him wearing clothes. I addressed the room, though, because I heard another voice, deep lots of bass. Probably a black dude. Oh, I’m racist now? Do you think it belongs to a little old Chinese lady? No, so let’s move the fuck along. When the third voice answers, I get a surprise.
It’s just when I’m dealing with this minor surprise (yes, I’m aware that women can do nefarious shit, I just wasn’t sure it included drugging people and shackling them to old wooden doors) that I see it. On Iggy Pop’s wrist. His birthmark is like my birthmark. Now it’s not too much of a stretch for even my groggy mind to imagine what the others birthmarks look like.
“You got it,” Iggy says, presenting his wrist, “we’re like you.”
“I have never drugged anyone and shackled them to a shitty old splintering door in a cold and frankly unwelcoming warehouse.” I answer, because even though I’m groggy still, and my head feels like it’s got three potatoes rattling around where my brain used to be, being next to impossible to kill brings out the cocky in most people.
The black guy appears from around the back of me at the head end, “Sorry bout that, we’re kinda new at this.”
He talks like Samuel L. Jackson, but he looks like somebody stuck Scottie Pippen’s head on Usain Bolt’s body, oh and I fucking told you he was black. Then the girl appears and she looks so much like that speedster chick off that TV show Heroes that I swear to God, it might be her.
“Can you take these off? They’re pretty uncomfortable.” My head’s clearing now and I manage to raise one of the shackles.
“Answer this question first, then we’ll talk,” she says.
And I know what’s coming before Iggy Pop opens his skinny mouth and I know, I know I’m supposed to be all Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and refuse the fucking call, but I’m tired of fucking prostitutes and I can already imagine watching society making the same fucking mistakes over and over and me not forming any real relationships and any I do stumble into end with me having to watch people I actually give a fuck about die so when he says, “We’re getting a group together. It’s serious shit. Serious enough to get you killed,” I look him square in the eyes and smile.
Iggy stares back at me expressionless, “You look like you’re gonna say yes, and you don’t know what it is yet.”
That’s true. “Well, I trust you guys know who I am. So I don’t think you’re gonna ask me to kill somebody.”
They just look at each other.
“Are you going to ask me to kill somebody?”
The Chick answers, “No, we’re not. But when you find out about them, you might want to.”
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.