He woke up in a cold sweat, a scream caught in his throat. Sitting up in bed clutching the duvet to his chin he shivered, not from cold as the night was warm, extremely warm for the witching hour on an English summers night, it was fear that made him shake, fear of the dream that had awoken him and fear of the creature that spoke from the dark.
For weeks the disembodied voice had plagued his nights, always hiding in the shadows, accusing, threatening, and fear-mongering, tonight would probably be no different. He could hope as he did every night that this time it wouldn’t come, that this time, this night would be free of words spoken by the coldest voice that he had ever heard.
“Are you awake little boy?” It spoke, the sound oozing from the shadows like a freezing fog.
“I. What. What do you want? What are you?” he stammered trying to sound authoritative and unafraid but only succeeding in squeaking and whining.
“I am what lives in the night, I am that which lurks under your bed, I am the noise from within your cupboard, I am your worst nightmare and I am the one that will end you.”
“Just do it! Why torment me?” Brave words spoken in the whisper of a child did not have the effect that was desired but the fear was too great within his heart for him to be able to speak with more conviction. He wished that the voice didn’t scare him, he wished that the night didn’t make him feel like the little boy he once was, scared of the dark and the imagined monsters living in the shadows. He did not yearn for the comfort of his mother for he knew that that would be a vain hope, she did not like the man that he had grown to be and would surely leave him to his fate. His only salvation lived within himself or his death, he did not want to die but didn’t know how to save himself either, he couldn’t ask for help it was too great a risk, a padded room did not appeal and the blood of those he turned to coating his hands was more than he could bare, he could not risk his friends or the life of his lover, this was his burden to carry. He had no idea as to why the entity had chosen him but chose him it had.
“Now where would the fun in that be my child?” the voice like ice cracking under extreme pressure dragged him out of his thoughts and back into the reality of the nightmare that he couldn’t wake from.
“You will die by my hand but you will not know when or where. Will it be soon? Will it be in the distant future? I know not, I have yet to decide. Right now I am enjoying your fear.” Laughter echoed around the bedroom, fading as the creature left.
He sat in his bed not daring to move in case the fading laughter was a trick to fool him into its trap. Clutching his knees to his chest under the duvet is where he stayed until the light of dawn entered the room slowly revealing the furniture for what it was rather than the monstrous shapes the shadows of night had turned it into.
Peering over the edge of his bed clothes, feeling foolish under the light of day, admonishing himself for being such a coward. He stretched, rubbing the cramp from his legs. Getting up and heading into the bathroom to splash cold water on his face in an attempt to dispel the tiredness his sleepless night had left him with, he stared at his reflection, his pale blue eyes dark with worry, his dirty blond hair, all mussed up from the little sleep he had got, stuck up all over the place, he brushed it out and pulled it back into a short pony tail, when it was not tied back and in such disarray, it hung a short way past his shoulders. He caught sight of the reflection of his right arm in the mirror, the scratches still red and raw around his wrist and forearm. The scratches a reminder that his nightmares were real, that the voice in the dark belonged to something, something that he had to flee and flee he would. Today.
He threw what clothes that were in his immediate vicinity into one small holdall and quickly scribbled a note to his partner, the hardest note that he had ever had to write. He wrote that he needed some space, that it was him and that there was no one else, he wanted to be left alone in order to find himself, he said that he didn’t want to be followed and that he loved him but he wasn’t in love anymore. He hoped that the note would discourage him from looking for him and he also hoped that his leaving would draw the creature after him so that the man he loved would remain safe.
He left the note on the coffee table in the house that he had lived in for the happiest years of his life and quickly stepped through the front door. The bright sunlight that met him was a stark contrast to the rain that poured in his heart. Standing on the threshold he took one last look back at his home wishing that things could be different but knowing that they couldn’t.
He closed the door, wiped the tears from his face and walked away.
The young man wandered down the high street of Southampton completely oblivious to the fact that he was being watched. The watcher thought that the man might be in his thirties but couldn't be sure, he found it difficult to judge a person’s age these days as they were all young to him.
He had been intensely watching this particular young man for some months now, he had known of his existence for a few years but the time had not been right until now for him to take a closer interest and he found him very interesting. At six foot, well built, slim and not overly muscled but toned he filled his suit to perfection and was a pleasure to look at, with his slightly too long just got out of bed brown hair that was in constant disarray and blue eyes, the watcher believed that many people would find him attractive, he certainly did.
This day the watcher had followed his subject to his consultation meeting at another local company requiring photos for their websites, portfolios and brochures, that he had attended that morning, the last of the week and it had finished early at 11.00 am. He knew that the man was a freelance photographer and that he earned a reasonable wage, he wasn’t rich but at the same time he didn’t have to worry either with a good portfolio and regular clients.
He was good at what he did and knew that the young man did not know that he was being followed, he would never know unless the watcher wanted him to. He continued to follow him as he went in to a bakery on the high street where he watched him purchase two coffees and bacon sandwiches to go. The man was not going to consume his purchases himself he was going to give them to the first homeless people he met on his journey back to his hotel, he had performed this act of kindness every day of his stay in the city.
Compassion, a quality that they looked for in those that they wanted.
The watcher left him now, he needed to prepare for the next stage and they both had to prepare to return home.