This is a story I wrote for a competition. When I was writing it I didn’t expect it to take this direction, but then the characters probably didn’t either.
What was that? Probably nothing, just me feeling spooked at being alone in the house. I was used to the bright lights of London, noise and movement at every turn, not being miles from anywhere with the nearest neighbour two miles away. A neighbour is someone who lives next door for goodness sake.
I wouldn’t have agreed to move but Adam had painted a picture of idyllic country life, rolling fields, fresh air, picturesque, friendly pubs and short drives to the beach on Sundays. Not quite the same hypothesis when I was sitting alone with no mobile signal or Internet access in a freezing room in the middle of January.
Damn him. OK it wasn’t his fault that he had been called back to London for a few days to sort out some work problems. He had assumed he would be able to run his IT business anywhere and it had seemed a good idea at the time.
It was only 9.30 in the evening, early by my standards but peering through the curtains all I could see was blackness, not even a glimmer of a street light or car headlights. Although I never thought I would say it, I’d give anything to hear the sound of an
all-night party keeping me awake until the early hours. The TV was repeat of repeats; I’d read all my books and without Wi-Fi I couldn’t even pass the time on social media.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a shadow passing underneath the window.
‘It’s just a nocturnal animal out looking for something to eat,’ I told myself as I hastily closed the curtains. Making myself a hot chocolate I tossed up between having an early night or being bored by the TV.
Even going into the kitchen put my nerves on edge and I realised every light in the house was blazing away. It gave me some comfort but was it actually advertising the fact that the premises were inhabited?
The knock on the door had me jumping out of my skin.
My hand was shaking so much I could hardly put on the safety chain, and in the end I just called out ‘Hello, Who’s there?’
Mistake. Now they knew someone was home and a woman at that. Why hadn’t I just kept quiet and let them think no one was in? Silence. My terror made my voice come out louder and angrier than I expected.
‘State your business, or I’m phoning the police.’
Still no response. Going back to the window I peered through a crack in the curtains but the front door was too dark to see anything. I’d have to get Adam to put in a security light when he got back. Why was I thinking about mundane household things when I might be dead in my bed by the time he got home?
Picking up the poker from the old-fashioned fireplace I took a deep breath, managed to get the chain on the door and opened it a crack, making sure my weapon was in sight.
No-one there. What should I do now? Take the chain off and confront them? Perhaps that’s what they were waiting for. As I was standing there dithering the knock came again. The scream I emitted changed into an hysterical laugh as I realised the “knock” was a fox rummaging through my dustbin. After a quick glare at me for disturbing his feast he took off into the darkness.
I needed to get a life and stop being so neurotic. Closing and double locking the door I decided perhaps it was time I learnt the country ways. Early to bed, early to rise and all that.
Tomorrow I would go for a long walk into the nearest village, get to know my neighbours and become integrated into country life. There were bound to be activities organised by the local WI in the village hall, and knowing there was someone I could phone who wasn’t hundreds of miles away would help me feel less alone.
Time for bed, even if it was only just gone ten o’clock. I went round the house checking all the windows were locked and realised I actually felt scared about going upstairs. Making as much noise as possible I stomped up the steps, checked all the rooms then feeling satisfied went down to get some water. That’s when I noticed the back door was open. Had I forgotten to close it? Was there someone in the house?
I was still holding the poker but grabbed the large kitchen cleaver to add to my armoury. The sudden noise of someone moving in the lounge caught my attention. For a few seconds I dithered then came to my senses, slammed and locked the back door and crept towards the gloom of the front room. There was someone in there, bending over the sideboard. I tried to flick the light switch but nothing happened, the room stayed in darkness.
The intruder half turned as I rushed towards him, and more by luck than judgement I connected and drove the knife into his torso. A gargled scream left his throat as he collapsed to the floor while I rushed to find a torch, and grabbing my mobile frantically phoned for the police. By some miracle the connection had been restored and I was able to give my address and describe what had happened as I pleaded for help.
The prowler hadn’t moved when less than ten minutes later two officers appeared and took control. I saw one shake his head at the other, even as he called for an ambulance.
‘So that’s my story your Honour. I wasn’t to know Adam had got worried when he couldn’t get me on the phone and had decided to come home early. He couldn’t use his key because of the chain on the door so had decided to check out the back way rather than disturb me. I never meant to kill him. Why didn’t he just call my name so I knew it was him?’
© Voinks April 2017