If you were to walk into my room, you would be greeted by the strong smell of mixed perfumes, hairspray and nail polish. The combined smells would fly up your nostrils and they wouldn’t seem out of place at all. My room was your typical teenage room, without the mess. My books were lined up like soldiers on their shelves and on the bedside table stood a lamp. It no longer worked but the embroidered unicorns, sewn by my grandmother’s careful fingers, willed me to keep it.
The cork board above the headboard of my double bed was crammed full with photographs of my childhood, of parties, of this past summer, of friends and concert tickets of my favourite bands. If you were to lie on your back you would see that my ceiling was covered with posters of men, men in bands, men in movies, men on TV, men in magazines, men in cologne advertisements, just men – all handsome of face and most lacking an item of clothing.
My dressing table was full of neatly organised beauty products and jewellery stands where different bracelets, necklaces and earrings dangled down sophisticatedly like the leaves of a willow tree. An ornament of a rearing white stallion, standing tall, and my hairdryer lay on the bedside table beside the lamp, along with my iPod and pile of CDs I had forgotten to put away.
As I entered the room that night, tapping the light on as I normally would, I slipped my jumper off over my head and dumped it down onto the bed. I went over to the bookshelf, skimming across their spines with my hand like you would caress a lover. I picked a good looking hardback, one of my favourite murder mysteries and threw it onto my pillow. I flumped down beside my jumper, pushing it off onto the carpet with one hand and pulling out the band in my hair with the other.
I kicked off my shoes, took my phone from my jeans pocket and laid it on the bedside table to charge; then I leaned over the bed, stretching out with my arms, and closed the curtains. Trying to ignore the strange sensation in my neck that had been nibbling at me all day I opened the book and began to read.
The sound of the back door slamming shut broke my concentration from the words on the page. My head snapped up and all my muscles froze. I don’t remember the moon rising, or the sky becoming a black sheet of fabric dotted with thousands of glinting eyes.
“Mum,” I whispered, jumping out of bed and bounding out the door, leaving it open and not bothering to turn the light off. I ran down the hall to the landing rail, I leaned over and waited for a light to come on.
The tingling in my neck started again, something was wrong, “Mum?” I called out, “Mum? Is that you?”
There was no answer.
I frowned. Had I imagined it? No, no I couldn’t have. The back door definitely slammed. So, I hovered at the banister, and I waited for any kind of sound.
“Hello?” I called out, softer this time, my muscles tensing then relaxing; causing me to tremble, “Is there someone there?”
There was still no answer.
I tried to mentally shake myself, there was nobody there. Maybe I had imagined it? Or maybe I was just going crazy?
“Hello?” I said again, this time it was barely a whisper.
I know I locked the back door before I went to bed. I know I did. So only somebody with a key could have gotten in, if anyone had gotten in at all. I needed to check the back door. I stared out into the blackness below; I walked over to the light switch and flicked it.
I tried again, flicked the light switch twice.
Shivers ran up my arms, I swallowed and, despite the darkness, started to descend the stairs into the blackened hallway below. I clutched the rail so tightly that even in the lack of light, I could see my knuckles turn white. I couldn’t bring myself to call out again.
The roof of my mouth became extremely dry and I found it hard to peel my tongue from it. With each slow step that took me further down into the emptiness my heart pounded louder. My breath was shaky and quavered more, echoing loud in my ears.
I reached the bottom step. The change of flooring, from the soft carpet of the stairs to the hard laminate of the hallway, made me jump slightly; I adjusted my weight as not to make any noise. I crept through the pitch black house, feeling my way along using the walls with the wood of the skirting board. My skin crawled with goose bumps, it took all the restraint I had to not run away out of the front door and out into the night.
I was shaking, my heart thumped in my throat so strong it almost knocked me over. The tingling in my neck burnt; it ran ferociously across my skin like wild fire, I finally came to the back door. I gulped down the vomit that threatened to rise up from my throat, ignored the cold sweat sitting on my skin like morning dew and reached out with my hand.
I wanted to laugh. I went over to the light switch and sure enough the kitchen light came on, blinding me in brightness; the hallway light bulb must be broken. I grinned to myself, almost cackling at my own stupidity, the tingling had gone. I had imagined it, all that for nothing.
I made my way back upstairs, turning lights on as I went. When I got to the hallway light, I hesitated, my hand hovering over the switch. I clicked it, and light flooded into the empty space. I shivered, but then quickly shook it off, scolding myself for being so ridiculous. There was nobody here except me.
I padded up the stairs, eager to get my nose stuck back in my book. I didn’t remember closing my door so I almost ran into it with anticipation, I quickly turned the handle and switched the light on. I bounded over to my bed and lifted my book, picking up where I left off.
Words turned into sentences, sentences turned into pages, and pages turned into chapters. Then I heard something odd and unexpected; the handle of my bedroom door slowly turning, the lock grinding against the wood, and the door swinging open with a long, low creak.
My heart was in my mouth, pounding away ferociously and threatening to jump out. My blood ran colder than stone. My mind raced through the possibilities, no longer able to convince myself there was another option.
There was someone there.
Someone was watching me. I could feel the blister of their stare boring through me.
My muscles stiffened, I couldn’t bring myself to move. I froze as if I was paralyzed. I couldn’t bring myself to take my eyes from the blurring words dotted across the open page before me. My heart hammered in my rib-cage, I swallowed. And I swallowed again. My whole body shook with terror, my lips trembled.
Somebody was there.
Somebody was in my house.
Somebody was stood there, watching me.
A strange numbing sensation seeped into my skin, like a thousand bees were swarming around me and continued to sting me repeatedly. I needed to get out; my skin felt like it was peeling off. I sat very still and waited, listening out for any sign of movement from the doorway.
I looked up.
My heart stopped for a split second. There was nobody there. But, as expected, the door was wide open.
I felt the blood drain from my face. In a flash of panic my hand shot out and I grabbed my phone. Breathing hard through my nose and trying to keep the tears inside me, I dialed Benjamin’s number; while doing all this I refused to let myself take my eyes from the empty doorway.
The phone rang. And rang.
I bit down on my lip so hard I tasted the iron tang of blood. I continued to stare out into the hallway and the phone continued to ring. I didn’t know what I would do if Benjamin didn’t pick up. My pulse beat hard in my veins, I could feel beads of sweat trickling down my back and I tried with all my strength not to shake, but I couldn’t stop.
That’s when the landing light turned off and then a second later it came back on again. I let out a whimper. It happened again, flicking off then on. Off then on. Off then on. Tormenting me.
I gulped down a shrill scream. I shuddered so much now I could hardly keep a decent grip on my phone. I kept my eyes trained on the flickering landing light.
Pick up. Pick up. Pick up. Pick up. Pick up.
“Hey Izzy, is everything all right?”
I suppressed a sob of relief at the sound of my brother’s voice, but I couldn’t hold the tears back anymore, “Oh Ben! Ben I’m so scared!”
“It’s okay. I know you don’t like sleeping in the house alone, but you will –”
“Ben there’s someone in the house,” I whispered quickly, my words barely audible but Benjamin heard them. “There’s someone in the house Ben.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m in my bedroom, the door is open,” I hissed, wiping a tear from my cheek. “The landing light is turning on and off,” I said, my mouth dry and my voice cracking.
“Get out. Get out now, Ivy. Now,” Benjamin’s voice was stern and sincere, “Listen to me, take your phone and get out. I don’t care what you’re wearing, what you’re doing. Just,” He stammered, “Get out. Do you hear?”
“Yes,” I nodded, getting up from the bed, “Ben?”
There is a long pause, “They have you trapped, go through the window.”
I tiptoed round to the other side of the bed and unlatched the window, as the sound of the latch clicking filled my ears, the room fell into complete darkness. I span and cried, “What do you want with me?!”
An unseen force pushed me back into the wall, sending a gush of air flying out of my lungs. I slammed against the window frame and crumpled to the ground. My ribs were pulsating, my breath was catching, and my right hand still held my phone tightly. I was suddenly pulled to my feet, dark talons tightening around my throat as I was lifted into the air, I let out a high-pitched shriek to no avail as only a whisper escaped my lungs. I lashed out in all directions, hitting no one, hitting nothing.
Nothing but the shadows.
Tears were pouring from my eyes now and I screeched, “Let go of me! Let go!” Panting and desperate I squirmed and sent my limbs flying in every direction in attempt to hit my attacker.
I couldn’t. I was blind. I carried on and, even though I was being shaken viciously, I still kept my hands and feet flailing out. I swung my left arm round in one smooth motion and came into contact with something hard. The impact caused my hand to crumple but for me to be dropped to the ground with a thud. My already bruised ribs throbbed as the force of hitting the floor pushed up through my body.
Driven by fear and determination, I immediately scrambled on my hands and knees across the room and through the open door. I got to my feet and ran down the staircase, taking them two and three at a time. I reached the bottom stair, something pulled me back by my hair. I called out in agony, and was spun around.
The grip on my hair tightened and pulled me further backward, my knees buckled and I collapsed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Before I had time to re-gather my thoughts something big and heavy held me down and prevented me from escape. I tried to twist round but the pushing down on my front was too much, it was if it were stood on me, like I was just another piece of the laminate flooring.
I breathed in an uncontrolled sob, and closing my eyes the tears began to fall. I gasped, “Who are you?” Then, the weeping came, “Want do you want with me?!” I wailed again.
There was no answer, just clicking and hissing that resembled that of a cockroach.
Then, motivated by adrenaline, I grabbed what appeared to be the ankle of my assailant with all my power and I pulled. The unknown force on me was instantly released, whatever it was must have fallen over.
I rushed to my feet, it took me three strides to get to the front door and only another second for me to be slamming it behind me.
I sprinted down the garden path and leapt over the gate. I carried on to the road and down the street, I didn’t stop. I ran and I ran. I didn’t look back to see if I was being chased, I just threw myself forwards to get as much distance between me and it as possible.
The door I knocked on was mahogany, my phone still in my hand and my breath still heavy.
A woman with long, blonde hair and big, blue eyes answered, she stood in the doorway in her dressing down and slippers. “Oh my-! Ivy? Are you okay?”
I threw my arms around Mrs Cutler and sobbed. I couldn’t get the words out.
I felt Mrs Cutler slowly enfolded me in her embrace and heard her call out, “David! David!”
I sobbed and I sobbed. Everything seemed very far away from me, like I was in a dream.
David ran down the stairs, in a pair of blue tartan pyjama bottoms and a silver chain around his neck. His torso was bare and his muscles rippled with each of his movements. “Oh my God… Ivy what happened?”
I released myself from Mrs Cutler and ran into David’s arms; he squeezed me tight and buried his face into my hair. I was safe.