Today is World Book Day and, as “Hellhound” is not quite ready for your reading pleasure (it won’t be too much longer, I promise!), I thought I’d share a lovely little bit of flash fiction with you.
Happy World Book Day!
The scraping meets my ears every night. Scratching sounds awaken me from my sleep. My room is drenched in darkness, and I have to wait for my eyes to adjust before I can see shapes of things that should be familiar.
What’s that? I ask myself, knowing damned well that it’s just a jacket hanging over the back of chair. But, at night, I feel like it could be something different, something sinister. A shadowy beast. A hideous monster. The grim reaper come to take me away. I close my eyes again; tighter this time.
I never used to be like this. My fear of the dark didn’t start until they came.
They come every night. Without fail.
And now they won’t leave.
I’ve never seen them, but I know they’re there. In my mind’s eye, I can picture them. Small, sprite-like creatures. Imps. Mouths full of tiny rows of sharp, deadly teeth. Spindly arms ending in clawed hands. Grey, clammy, corpse-like skin. Black, dead eyes. A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary about sharks and their black eyes have inhabited my dreams ever since. I imagine that the imps have eyes like that. Cold, calculating eyes. Murderous eyes. Eyes so dark and deep that you’d drown in them if you’d dare to stare for too long. But, the eyes aren’t the worst part; those imps can jump and fly – I just know it. If they ever catch me looking at them, I know they’ll eat me alive. So, I’ve never looked. I’ve been too scared to risk it.
Tonight, I have to see the things that have been haunting me. I’m pretending to be brave. Part of me thinks this was all in my head, so opening my eyes and looking in the direction of my bookshelf will reveal nothing. So, that means there’s no reason to be afraid.
But then there’s that other part of me. The part that knows they’re there. The part that knows they’re watching and waiting for me to open my eyes. The part that knows that they’re going to devour me if I do.
So, there lies my problem. Opening my eyes could mean certain death, but keeping them closed will mean never-ending uncertainty. Am I losing my mind? Or is this real? Can I live with not knowing?
Weighing up the options, it should be an easy decision to make, shouldn’t it? Self preservation should win. My eyes should remain firmly shut until the sun pokes through the curtains. In the morning, it will just be a normal bookshelf, full of normal books.
But the morning is so far away.
But, temptation has me in its grip and it won’t let go. It holds onto me with the same determination that they have when it comes to tormenting me each night.
I have to see my tormentors.
I have to know.
I open my eyes.
It takes a moment for the night to recede and for my room to make sense. Once again, I see my jacket on the back of the chair. My desk waits for me by the window. The wardrobe sits next to it, the gap between its doors ominously dark and foreboding. If the imps live on my bookshelf, then I don’t want to know what lives in the wardrobe. And, don’t get me started on what’s going on under the bed.
But, so far, so good.
Slowly, I turn to the bookshelf and hold my gaze there, daring myself not to look away. It is just a bookshelf.
I wait and I wait, but nothing changes. My bookshelf remains a bookshelf. One very much lacking in imps.
Embarrassment falls over me. I have been rather silly, haven’t I? There are no such things as imps and I’ve gone and got myself all worked up over nothing. But, that leaves one question unanswered…
Why did I wake up?
Why do I wake up every single night?
Frustration replaces the embarrassment; I still do not know what’s going on. Not for certain. And, now I have to know for certain or I will never sleep again. One foot finds its way out from underneath the blankets. Carefully, I lower it, and its companion, down to the floor. The carpet is soft, but the night is cold. So cold that I don’t want to leave the warmth and apparent safety of my bed.
But, I can’t not know. Not anymore.
I stand up.
Goosebumps cover my flesh. I don’t know how many are there because of the temperature and how many have turned up because of the fear that’s now taking me over. Paralysed, I stand in the centre of the room and study the bookshelf. Its normality encourages me to take a step closer and my fear ebbs enough to let me. Then there’s another step. And another. Now I’m almost close enough to touch it.
The bookshelf is still devoid of imps.
I allow myself one final look before turning away. My warm bed calls me. As I take a step towards it, something hard and heavy hits me on the back of the head before landing on the floor with muffled thud. I yelp and jump, scared to turn around. Instead, I look at the object that is now by my feet. It’s a book.
I swallow. Hard.
My heartbeat quickens.
Why did I have to know?
Something small jumps onto my back; its tiny hands get tangled in my hair. Something jumps on my shoulder. Another thing jumps on my head.
I close my eyes and hope it’s not too late. After all, I still haven’t seen them.