And I’m covered in sweat.
Whose bed am I in? Everything’s bleached to a pale blue in the moonlight, but my eyes are adjusting. Ugly floral wallpaper and fringed light shades.
The door’s still pushed to. Nothing’s there.
Of course nothing’s there.
I throw the duvet off my legs, let them breathe. I can’t stop staring at the door. The dream, I need to forget it, but it won’t let me. The door was pushed to, just like it is now, but it got through the gap without opening it.
Almost a man, but it wasn’t. I saw its face.
Ollie’s so cocooned in the duvet I can’t see his head. And he’s snoring. It’s loud and irritating, a ‘click-click-click-click-click’, like there’s a flap of plastic lodged in his mouth, thrumming against his teeth as he breathes.
Maybe Ollie’s a mistake.
Sarah would freak if she knew he was here, but I guess that’s the one and only perk of babysitting—she’ll never know.
I pull the duvet back over my legs, drag my eyes from the door and squeeze them shut.
There’s no sound at all except Ollie’s snoring. Even the seagulls that were squawking while I was trying to get Sophia to sleep are quiet now.
Why am I awake?
Ugh, that’s why. Sophia’s up.
If I stay quiet maybe she’ll go back to sleep.
I huff and roll out of bed, drag my feet across on the rug and shrug on Sarah’s dressing gown.
‘Sophia sleeps until 6am’—yeah right. She would have said anything to get me to babysit, while her and Luke have a romantic night away. So what if they don’t get any time alone anymore? How’s that my problem?
I knot up the belt on the gown and squint through the darkness of the hall. Sophia’s doors ajar, just how I left it, a slim pink glow seeping out from her unicorn nightlight.
I stumble into the light.
“Sophia, it’s Aunty Nat.” I push my palm on her door, open it slowly, preparing for a few hours of hell.
Then it slams shut on my hand.
I scream with pain and bang on the glossy door. “Sophia, let me in!”
Then it dawns on me how ridiculous my request is. She’s only 13 months old.
And she’s in a cot bed.
One of her toys must’ve fallen over, blocked the door. She’s got a big old fashioned rocking horse. It must be that.
I grab the door knob and twist. Won’t open. I push against the door. Nothing. The rocking horse is too heavy.
There’s a noise coming from inside the room, something that doesn’t sound like Sophia.
I press my ear to the door, hold my breath.
‘Click, click, click, click, click.’ The sound is loud and sudden, right on the other side of the door.
I push myself away, stumble onto the landing. My ear’s stinging where it peeled from the glossy paint.
“Man,” Sophia says.
The face from the dream.
I try to stop it but it’s there behind my eyes.
Just a dream. It was just a dream.
And this is just the rocking horse. The stupid, posh rocking horse, blocking the door.
I grab the door knob, try turning it but my fingers are too sweaty.
I step forward and bang on the door, over and over.
Between the bangs I hear Sophia’s little voice repeating the word I don’t want to understand.
I take a run up and barge my shoulder into the door. It won’t open.
Ollie. Ollie can help me.
I look back at Sarah’s bedroom. He’s still asleep.
He’ll be able to get in.
I just need to wake him.
I open my mouth to scream his name, but it clogs in my throat. I swallow and try again, his name, louder, but I choke on the words. My voice is trapped. Trapped inside me. I grit my teeth and scream again, with every part of my burning body, except my voice. Screaming for help. Screaming anything. But I’m not making a sound.
Clench my fists, nails breaking the skin as they dig in my palms.
My head’s exploding, worse than any headache. My jaws cramping and my ears are on fire.
But no sound.
My throats closing up. I’m being strangled. Barely breathing. Fingers around my neck. I throw my hands up, prise the fingers away, but there’s no-one there. I’m choking. I dry gulp and scream harder.
Still screaming. Still no sound.
My feet tense, toes curling, nails biting the laminate floor. My head’s alight. Every part of me is burning, exploding, screaming.
Except my voice.
I push away from Sophia’s door. Stagger along the hall.
Sarah room’s so far away. Too far away. My legs are shaking but I run. My feet slide and screech on the fake wood floor, my hands ricochet me off the walls.
Sarah’s room. Hurl myself up on the bed, shake Ollie.
He doesn’t move.
“Ollie,” I mouth soundlessly. I’m shaking him but he’s not moving right. He’s stiff.
Then the clicking.
Not snoring, not at all.
It’s not Ollie.
I snatch my hand away as it moves.
It’s sitting up.
The duvet’s falling from its face.
Land on the floor by the bed. Warmth spreads around my legs. My head flings back, mouth wide open in a scream. A scream that I can’t get out. My jaw’s breaking but I stretch it wider, trying to scream. I need to scream.
Then a noise. Finally, my throat makes a noise. A pop. Blood down the dressing gown.
I scream again, gargling air and blood.
‘Click, click, click, click, click’. I’m screaming but all I’m doing is clicking.
Someone. It moves again, leaning towards me, watching. A black monster in the moonlight.
I push back, slide through my pee, away from it.
It doesn’t move.
I’m in the doorway. I’m through. I need to run. Get up and run.
But I can’t feel my legs.
I flop onto my stomach. Lose sight of Someone. I claw my nails in the ridges of the laminate. Pull myself along. Further into the darkness. Nails peeling, bending back. Reach for a banister post.
Imagine the bed empty behind me.
Grab the post and heave myself up the hall. Another post, one by one. Taking forever. Another post. Arms popping from sockets. Drag myself along.
Almost at the top of the stairs.
Just a little further.
Then I’m submerged in pink light.
© 2016 Rebecca Delphine
Rebecca Delphine is a Young Adult author from Thanet.