J awoke with a start – his skin was clammy and he could feel his hair stuck to his neck and forehead. He blinked in the dark bedroom and tried to orientate himself – what time was it? The blue glow of his alarm clock told him that it was near to 3 am. He knew he was in his room, it felt familiar and his bunk bed creaked as he moved but, he knew something had woken him, and the ‘something’ felt bad.
He lay absolutely still, trying to ‘feel ‘ the darkness without moving. He listened so hard he wondered if the sheer effort of concentration might make his ears tilt to catch sound – but there was nothing out of the ordinary. The house was still, the rest of his family probably sound asleep and the dog, despite being on point as a guard dog during the day, was probably snoring downstairs in the kitchen. Whatever had jolted J awake made no such impression on his family. Unable to shake a feeling of menace, J tried retracing his steps using his subconscious. In trying to make himself remember what he’d been dreaming, the feeling of dread pressed in on him once more.
J found himself on the street – the familiar route he took to and from school – yet it was wrong somehow. It was night time and the moon bathed the trees and gardens with an eerie silver glow. The wind moved the branches and clouds scudded along at quite a pace, while the first autumn leaves made scuttling noises as they were lifted and swirled on pavements and drives. J moved towards home, unsure why he was out so late. He cast his eyes to either side looking for danger.
Suddenly his heart leapt in his chest when something lurched out of the shadows. It was a cat! Keeping low to the ground and emitting a yowl, it flashed past him to disappear just as quickly into the shadows of a nearby hedge. What had startled the cat J wondered? His own heart was still hammering when he saw a frail hunched figure near the garden wall.
J could make out that it was a child, the body was too slender to be a man, but it was hard to discern the features. J drew closer, whilst keeping to the shadows of the hedge.
[To be continued …]