Suddenly, I awake. Eyes wide open and body shaking in fear; all thoughts of sleep swept from my mind. A cold sweat has broken out on my brow, chilled by the cool breeze coming in gently through the window – the window I had locked just before going to bed. The soft, wispy gauze of the curtains slowly undulating in the gentle breeze. Slowly, my pulse declines from a demented, drug-affected drummer’s solo back to something approaching a reasonable resemblance of an octogenarian after he has run a marathon.
…Scritch, …scratch, …tap, …scritch, …scratch, …tap… against the window. My pulse leaps back up to the demented drummer’s riff. What was it? What had awakened me? What was making these unworldly sounds? The sweat breaks out on my forehead again as I see a skinny, scrawny, weather-beaten hand at my window; just visible in a sudden shaft of moonlight. Stark, primitive, pure, raw fear and dread wash over my entire body as my imagination immediately goes into overdrive. What is it? What is it? What is it?
Relief washes over me as I suddenly realise the hand is a cracked and dried branch from the tree outside blowing against my bedroom window. The adrenaline slows it’s inexorable course through my body, and I start to feel sleep insidiously stealing over my tired body again.
Suddenly, my eyes spring wide open again. The window is still open. The window has been opened! I knew for sure that I had closed and locked it before retiring for the night. I just knew I had. It was an instinct – a habit – that I had followed for the last thirteen years of my life. Ever since old Ma. McGinty’s house next door had been bronen into. The intruder had come in through a window, raped her, even though she was well into her 80’s, then slashed her throat so viciously and callously, the head was only held onto her body by a small flap of skin at the back. She had died almost instantly, and from that night on, I made a ritual of checking all the door and windows. Checking to see that they were closed and locked! How on earth had it been opened? Although it was a warm night, I had still shut and locked the window.
Laying completely still, thinkin, dread once again floods over me. I know I had locked the window before going to bed. At this precise moment, nature makes its inexcorable call felt on my body, and I have to pee. Childhood dreams and memories of nightmares flood over me and threaten to drown me in their asinine presence… Teeth and claws, nails and razors, fangs and beady glowing eyes. Mouths – slimy, like cess-pools. Breath – hot, evil and, somehow, dirty.Sharp blades and claws, squirting blood, and the rancid smell of cooked offal. All of these are under my bed, and all these smells assault my senses. I know I am not dreaming this. These fears, these thoughts and smells are real. There is a presence in the room with me.