The nights I spent in front of the fireplace, pondering the sounds from the street, were unnerving, to say the least. The warmth of the fire could not stop the shiver running down my spine as the sound echoed down the stone street. Akin to a creak of a door opened so slowly, the sound erupted from what sounded humanoid, shaking me to my core. Every night it grew closer and closer until the pained groan was outside my very door.
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I would stare with wide, fearful eyes at my door. The sound penetrated it better than any blade, filling my ears with its agony. Even the room felt darker, the fire seemed to die almost to its last embers before the creature would pass completely. As the sound faded, warmth returned, but peace did not. I would find myself stuck in a trance, pondering the sound more, unable to stop myself. It was only when my body begged for sleep, or the fire popped loudly, that I would wake up.
I never armed myself, as I didn’t see the need.
Sounds do not cut the flesh. There were no marks upon my door when I checked in the morning, no evidence to prove what I was hearing was even real. Be it my wild imagination or exhaustion induced delirium that conjured the illusion, I cannot say. Yet, I could not excuse it as some plague of the mind. In my cowardly heart, I knew that the sound was real, that creature making the sound was real.
After another terrifying night, I returned to my work the next day. A metalwork factory near the harbour, however, my work involved paper and ink. I typed out in monotony a sequence of records for the company, a glorified secretary more than a manager, although I was often called upon to solve problems in the factory itself. It was the respect of the workers that seemed to calm me by the end of the day.
Having worked with them all before on the factory floor, I knew them well and they knew me. I saw in their eyes the concern of friends, although I knew they would not admit it to save me the pride. Instead, they showed it through not so subtle questioning and invites to the pub. Drinking did not have the same effect on me as it did on them and as such, I always refused, choosing to stay home and lock my doors before night fell.
That is what gave me comfort.
A column of deadbolts securing the only entrance to my home. I lived on a quiet street, many houses packed against each other. I thought that if the day did come where the creature that wandered the streets decided to invade a home, that mine would withstand its attempts of forced entry. That it would stalk down the street, setting its sinister sights on some other home. That I would be spared the cruelty in its heart, that I would escape its terror, somehow, for good.
Yet, my deadbolts were never tested.
Every night it came and passed, but despite the predictable routine, I never felt secure. I always felt that it would eventually break through the door, in a horrific display of power, that I would be spotted, defenceless. I could imagine the shadowy figure of some colossal monster charging me from the doorway, that I would not have time to even scream.
Thoughts such as these never seemed to leave me. Incessant corruption spread itself throughout my mind, of death and suffering. Yet, despite the thoughts never ceasing, my crumbling mind began to ponder not only the sound but the appearance of the creature. Was it in fact human? Perhaps it was a dog, abused and damaged? Did it harbour any dark intentions, as I so believed?
Although my fears never dwindled, my curiosity surely grew. It was curiosity that made me so vulnerable. A morbid interest in what was beyond the shadows of the night, what hunted in the darkness rather than slept. It was curiosity that drove me to move from the warmth of my fireplace, sitting near the window beside my door. Through a gap in the curtains, I watched the street lights flicker to life, the last horses and carriages rove on by.
I saw the stars and the moon radiate in the night sky and found myself calmed by their sight. It had been so long since I had seen anything of the night having chosen to stare only at the back of my door or dancing flames below my mantle. My peace was short, as clouds moved to block the sky from sight. Light poured through the clouds only enough for me to make out the silhouettes of the buildings, it was now only the streetlights that revealed the secrets of the shadows.
With each passing minute, my anxiety grew, unsettled by the silence as lights within homes flickered out, until all buildings were dark. For a moment, I felt like retreating to the fire, or better, to the bed where I would force myself into a drug-induced slumber before I heard the nightly call.
As the thought began to gain purchase, it immediately ceased as I heard the faint creaking of the creature. Its moan echoed, but I did not see a single light flicker from any window. I did not see any reaction to the growing disturbance. I watched an unchanging street, staring down the pavement in the direction the sound was going. From my position, my left ear was to the wall and my eyes fixed on the dirty glass.
It felt like it was approaching me from behind, the wall seeming thinner and thinner by the second. A second sound became apparent, the footsteps of the beast. Despite my growing fear, I was once more transfixed by the call, unable to move or think clearly.
I could hear the footsteps on the other side of the wall, only inches from me. My spirit drained as the figure came into view. A slumped silhouette at first, but the clouds cleared to reveal it in its full horrific glory.
Human, in some respects, but a monster in others. The body was bent, broken as if mangled like a clay doll in a child’s hands. It became apparent that the creaking noise it created was one of pain, noise escaping what had to be a tortured throat. Despite the disgust, the empathy, there was no pity in my heart.
My eyes narrowed to examine the shambling creature further. It must have felt my stare, as it turned to face my front door. I could no longer feel my heart at that moment as I caught a glimpse of the man’s face, for it was a man. I could make out the shape of its contorted face, but nothing else. Without a creak of its terrible voice, it examined my door in the most menacing silence.
In my gut, anger began to form. I feared this creature, I was disgusted by it, but I believed that I could fight it if the need arose. The desire to fight it grew, like a dark evil within me, but I could not help but feed it with more fear, like coal into a furnace. Yet, it did not attempt to enter, it didn’t even touch the door.
That’s when it leaned towards the window.
It surprised me at first, but then I saw why when its face was illuminated by a ray of moonlight breaking through the clouds; the eyes of the strange creature were on the sides of its head! It was never staring at the door, but rather straight at me through the gap in the curtains. Its yellowish orb examined me with a fishlike expression while I replied in turn with a gaping expression of my own. It started at me as if I were an answer to all its questions.
It reached towards me, pushing against the glass. It didn’t seem to comprehend what it was looking at, not understanding that the glass needed to be struck for it to reach me. I watched, unable to react until the glass began to crack. It placed both its hands against the glass, pushing with all its mutant might.
“Why me?” I asked it softly, then screamed right after.
The creature didn’t respond, but its eyes were staring with absolute focus. I found myself moving as more tendrils began to spread across the glass. I spun on the spot, searching the room for something to help me fight the creature, as any weapon would be better than having to touch the creature with my bare hands. I kept picking up obscure objects, such as ink vials, papers, even a cumbersome chair which I struggled to lift off the ground, let alone swing at the monster.
Eventually, I settled on planning my escape instead. If I could not find a proper weapon or find it in myself to fight with my hands, I would escape and find someone who would fight on my behalf.
The window shattered, glass pouring onto the floor. The creatures pained groans were louder than ever, as glass tore at its pale flesh. Despite its wounds, it continued to climb through the window, sustaining more injuries in the process. It didn’t falter, only screamed louder and louder. Its pained screams filled me as they filled the room.
I shook on the spot before rushing to the door. I began undoing the deadbolts, but I was only halfway through before the creature fell onto the floor inside. I didn’t continue unlocking the door, choosing to flee upstairs to my bedroom. Once there, I closed the door just in time to see its face appear at the stairs.
I had no locks to save me in my room, so I simply braced my body against the door in the hopes that it would be enough to turn away the mindless monster and its murderous might. I felt the pressure against the door, I could hear its odd breathing and grunts as it pushed in small bursts. Gradually its effort grew, along with my exhaustion.
I felt alone, delirious and scared. It was different when it was outside, but now my anger was only replaced with cowardice. I begged it to begone, pleaded for peace, bargained with all I had, but it showed no interest. It didn’t speak a single word, only acted on instinct and aggression, which worryingly worked in its favour.
With my options fast running out, I saw only one.
I had a single, open window in my bedroom. A window that welcomed cool night air to soothe me on hot nights, but now offered me an easy escape from evil. With adrenaline fuelling my being and irrational thought guiding me, I turned to face the window. I moved from the door, dashing and then diving with little grace through the aperture.
The street did not greet me in my descent, as I expected it to. A passing carriage in the dead of night, as luck would have it, caught me. Although my fall was less than painless, I was glad that it wasn’t worse. I bid the cloaked driver continue his journey, for I was being pursued by a mad man, to which he whipped the reigns and the horses hasted.
Pathetically, I crawled from the top of the carriage onto the bench alongside the driver, who looked at me fearfully, asking many questions, as did the passengers in the carriage. While I answered them to the best of my ability, I was far too distracted to speak coherently, looking back at my street and home. There was no figure in sight, so I requested the driver halt at the end of the street.
I climbed down from the carriage, as did the driver, and a portly man my age climbed out of the carriage. Together, we were braver and approached my home, our voices became whispers before falling silent completely.
My home was searched, but there was nothing. Evidence of intrusion was clear, bloodstains too, but no crumpled creep and his contorted face. We were alone. I didn’t want to stay alone, but the driver had his passenger to attend to, so instead, I joined them, only leaving the carriage as we approached the police station.
I filed a report.
I fixed the window, boarding it up and ensuring no further break-ins.
I didn’t hear the creaking call of the creature again.
Yet, having never seen him leave my home, I wonder, fearfully, if he didn’t find somewhere in my home to hide. I wonder if he has such power, to stow himself away in the smallest corner, under or within any object, away from sight. If that be the case, then I have trapped myself in a prison of my own making, while I suffer in a prison of pure, mental terror.
May Death find me in my sleep and save me further suffering.