A Night with a fright

Posted: September 3, 2010 in #fridayflash, Short stories

Emily set the book aside, finally ready to sleep. She lay her head on the pillow and reached across to turn out the lamp. The creak on the stairs made her freeze, eyes wide. Her whole body was stiff, rigid like stone.

There was silence.

Moving only her eyes, she looked down at the end of the bed. The cat was asleep, eliminating him from being the culprit. Shit.

She heard something brush against the side of the wall, a man made fibre maybe, a polyester type swish against the plastered wall. The stairs creeked again, a small groan of tired, aged floor boards, masked slightly with the newly laid thick woollen carpet. She listened carefully, motionless with fear, her eyes wide like ping pong balls. She gradually brought her hand to her mouth, being careful not to make a sound. Her three fingers covered her pursed lips, breathing slowly and her thumb and forefinger gently pressed her nose together, as if she was just about to take a dive off the highest board in the local swimming pool.

She froze as the bedroom door slowly opened, as if someone had pressed the slow motion button on her life’s remote.

The door squeaked very smoothly but noticeable to someone who was now so tuned in to her surroundings. As if someone had a tight hold of a dog toy and was ever so gently releasing it from their grip, the squeak was slow, prolonged and low pitched.

She felt the cat stir and stretch at her feet. In her mind she tried to tell him, beg him to stay still, not move a muscle, but of course this had little effect. She could feel him stretch and sit up slightly, obviously aware too that they were not alone like most nights.

She’d only lived in the house 6 months and apart from the first week of living alone and in her own home, she had slept soundly and enjoyed her own dwelling and what it has to offer. The thoughts running through her mind were racing, as if her whole life was on rewind and the thoughts of her future could soon be shattered. Who or what was this in her home she’d so lovingly decorated and stamped with her own identity.

There was a wooden baseball bat under her bed, but the noise it would make to reach down and grab at it, was too much to bear. Her heartbeat was thumping in her ear drums and her eyes were wide and glazed, daring not to even blink.

The light flickered on and there was silence. Emily was rigid with fear and confusion.
“Arthur?” a voice said.

There was silence.
Emily had no choice but to turn round and confront this being and her adrenalin was now readily pumping through her veins, like electricity to a generator.

She flew back the covers, quicker than an athlete runner leaping from their starting position. Within seconds she had snatched the baseball bat from under the bed, her face a mix of emotions, facing the door and her predator.

There in the doorway, stood a frail old lady in a pale night dress and slippers. Had Emily been half asleep she could have sworn she was a ghost. But she looked as dazed and confused as Emily.
“You’re not Arthur!” she said with a puzzled look and quivering chin.
“No,” Emily said unable to put any further words to the sentence.
“Where’s Arthur?” the lady questioned looking around the bedroom in despair, moving her head like a wise old owl sitting on its perch.
Emily shrugged, still speechless.
“This is mine and Arthur’s house,” the woman continued, still not taking any further steps into the room, but her hand placed on the door frame as if this was holding her upright.
“How did you get in?” Emily said lowering the bat to her side and allowing it to hang from one hand.
“My key!” the lady said puzzled, holding one hand up to her face in dismay, “The same key I’ve always used!”

* * *

Emily’s relief and anxiety began to simmer as soon as she heard the knock at the front door. She opened it, leaving the old lady sitting in the armchair at the other side of the living room, glaring despondently at the television.

“Hi, you must be Emily,” the middle aged lady in a blue nursing uniform said with a nervous smile. “I’m so sorry about all of this.”
“Its ok,” Emily relieved someone else was here to take the burden, “My dad did say I should’ve changed the locks when I moved in, but I didn’t think it was necessary.”
“She’s gone missing once before, but she’s never wandered this far. And who would of thought, she’d of remembered her old address. Her Alzheimer’s is so bad nowadays she doesn’t even remember her own children’s name’s. They’ll be so glad she’s safe again. We’ve all been dreadfully worried.”
She walked past Emily to the front room and saw Edith sitting in the armchair.
“Edith,” she called, “Edith love, are you ok? We’ve all been terribly worried at the home. How did you manage this?” putting one hand on her knee and the other on Edith’s hand.
“Who are you?” Edith said looking her up and down, “and can you please tell this young lady she is in my house uninvited. She must have eaten my roly-poly pudding too. I made it last night for Arthur.” She lent forward and whispered in the nurses’ ear, “I bet she used instant custard too, my Arthur loved my homemade custard. Youngsters today are too lazy to make it themselves.”
The nurse smiled, “Come on Edith, let’s get you back to the care home love. They haven’t got roly-poly but I think I can rustle up some tracle sponge.”
Edith starred at her and like a poor lost sheep got to her feet and followed the nurse who had now linked arms with her. “Do you have custard?” she quizzed.
“Yes Edith, all the custard you desire”.

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Comments
  1. J Dane Tyler says:

    WOW, quite a scare! You delivered the tension perfectly and kept it taut throughout the entire story, even into the reveal! Great job!

  2. Marisa Birns says:

    Yes, this started off quite frighteningly. Then I thought the elderly lady was a ghost, which was just as scary.

    Glad it turned out well for all. Though I probably would be afraid to go back to sleep after that!

  3. adampb says:

    Good twist on the horror/ghost spectacle. I was getting all tense but eased up as you brought it to a good conclusion. Poor old dear.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  4. Not the kind of piece I should be reading here in a dark room… Quite effective, sir…

  5. Maria Kelly says:

    Very creeped out by this, but nice touch at the end. Poor Edith! 🙂

  6. Tony Noland says:

    Creepy and sad, all the more so because wandering is all too real of a phenomenon.

  7. Very nice tension build up. Really not the reveal I saw coming!

  8. Warden says:

    Well done, a nice mix of tension.

  9. Blackbirdsong says:

    Scary and also sadly realistic. Alzheimer’s patients often wander like this, so it could happen.

  10. This was so cute and sad and kind of scary! Wow you got a lot of emotion out of me!

  11. peggy says:

    Sad tale. I can’t even imagine Edith’s confusion.

    For a woman living alone and getting so afraid, she should have worried about not changing the locks sooner.

  12. Vandamir says:

    Nicely done! The build up of tension was excellent and the pay off was gentle and sad. My grandfather had Alzheimers so I know first hand what this devastating disease can do to people.

  13. Quite a sad tale. Great tension at the beginning before revealing the poor woman with Alzheimer’s. Good story!

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