It’s dark and you’re alone. The house is quiet as you prepare for bed, only water running as you brush your teeth.
You turn off the bathroom light and wander through to your bedroom.
Through the window, a street lamp glows. You shut the door, pull the curtains closed and turn off the light. Darkness permits you to wind down for sleep.
Your mobile phone illuminates you as you scroll through Facebook and Twitter. Holding it before you, one-handed, little finger supporting the bottom and thumb moving over the screen.
You blink in your tiredness, yawning as you see yet another update on a child whose parents are snap-happy.
Twenty days til little Owen has his first birthday. You wonder if any of the 30 people who liked the status actually care or if they’re as bored as you are of the fourth update of the day.
You blink again, eyes refocusing hazily on the small, bright screen. Your eyes drift up and left, away from the screen for a moment. And back again.
The time is eleven thirty. You should probably sleep, but your thumb moves up and down almost automatically.
Time to call it a night. You reach down for your charger lead and plug in your phone. Alarm set for work tomorrow, you slide the device onto your nightstand and turn over.
The room is still dimly lit by the glowing screen. Fidget, toss, turn. Sleep comes but you can never tell when.
You wake up. At first, you think you must need a wee. Then you notice the tickling sensation. Circles, drawn delicately on the side of your bare foot.
Tired, your mind takes time to consider the feeling.
You move your feet, kicking the sheets away from your feet. The tickling stops. And starts again.
Slow, soft circles.
You sit up quickly. The circling stops. The room is dark and yours is the only presence. Sleep washes over you again.
What were you dreaming? It’s gone and you’re awake again. Still nighttime, still pitch black.
You remember the noise that woke you up.
You lift your head from the pillow, blinking in the shadowed room.
Your wardrobe emits a timid tapping sound. Wood on wood? Fingernail on wood?
You sit up fully, reaching to unplug your phone. The screen illuminates and offers a slight torch. Nothing to see.
You slip out from under your bedsheets and walk to the source of tapping.
The wardrobe is still but the tapping continues. Mind still half-asleep, you vaguely realise that this is unusual.
Your hand reaches for the door. You hold the phone up, aiming the soft light at the solid piece of furniture.
Swiftly, you pull open the door. Nothing inside. Nothing moving. Nothing causing a sound.
But the tapping has stopped.
Relieved yet unsure as to why, you turn around and get back into bed.
Before you have even closed your eyes, you hear it again.
You ignore it.
You shut your eyes and allow your body to relax again. But not your mind.
Tap tap tap tap.
It grows quicker, more rapid, almost now a solid bang. Fist on wood.
No, it must be from outside.
But you know it’s from the wardrobe.
You sit up quickly. What’s that? That shadow at the end of your bed.
It was nothing. A trick of the light.
Your breathing, erratic, is the only sound.
You stay sitting. Minutes pass by, as you start to consider laying back down. Going to sleep. Ignoring whatever sounds you have been hearing.
And you shudder. Why do you shudder? What was that?
You feel it again. On the nape of your neck.
A blow of wind.
Tears fill the corners of your eyes. You can’t move. You can’t look behind you because…
There it is again. A slow, purposeful blow of air focussed on the bare skin of your neck.
You snap your head to the left but nothing is there. You stare at the wall.
Footsteps patter on the floor. Away from you. Towards your bedroom door. And they stop.
You shuffle backwards, your spine pressed against the cool wall. Your mind is playing tricks on you. Noise from outside, a breeze from the window… You rationalise and breathe deeply.
You’re awake now, really awake, and you need a wee. You start to muster courage, before reminding yourself that you’re alone. There’s nothing to be scared of.
Your feet are on the floor, you push yourself up and walk out of the room into the bathroom.
You turn on the light, which calms you. The flush of the toilet fills the house with sound and you turn on the tap to wash your hand.
Your head shoots up. Your face stares back, reflected in the mirror. But you saw something. You’re sure of it.
Something caught your eye in the mirror. But it’s just you.
Afraid of nothing, it seems.
You turn off the tap, drying your hands on the towel.
Your eyes go wide. It sounded like a door slamming. Slowly, you step out of the bathroom. You see your bedroom door is shut.
How? A gust of wind?
But there’s no breeze – no draught.
Footsteps. Running this time. On the stairs. Loud at first and then quieter. Going down.
You stand at the top of the stairs and look down. Nothing there.
Panicking, you sweep towards your bedroom, closing the door behind you and diving onto your bed.
And you sigh, relieved. And then you realise that the door had been open.
You pick up your phone and consider texting someone. But who would be awake at… 3am?
You type into Facebook, ‘So creeped out right now, keep hearing things and I’m home alone!’
Hopefully someone is awake, someone will comment and you’ll feel less alone.
This time, running up the stairs. Unmistakable footsteps. Into the bathroom. The door slams shut.
The sound of water rushing out of taps, hitting ceramic and eventually water gushing into water.
Your first thought is to call the police. Someone has broken in.
Dialling 999, you lift the phone to your face.
And then you feel it again. That soft blow on your neck. The phone drops out of your hand. You snap your head around but nothing is there.
You pick up your phone and it’s switched off. The power button does nothing.
Breathing heavily, you drop your phone on your bed. Back against the wall, you pick up a heavy book from your bookcase and walk towards the door.
You open it. Step out onto the landing. Walk quietly to the bathroom and open the door. The sink and bath are filling up with water. But it’s empty.
You turn off the taps and perch on the toilet, looking out of the door. Waiting.
You stand up. Decide you’ll go downstairs and watch TV until morning. You’ll never sleep now.
You go to the sink and take out the plug.
Reflection in the mirror.
And another. Behind you.
Back to the mirror. Nothing there.
You run now, down the stairs and into the living room. Turn on a light and switch on the TV, watching from the sofa.
Paranoid. Scared. Alone.
No more sounds. Nothing else happens.
You don’t know when, but you fall back to sleep. Slumped on the sofa.
When you wake up, it’s still dark. Your eyes blink open slowly.
The TV is off. The light is off.
You want to cry, scream, shout.
And you try.
But you can’t.
Something is stopping you. A hand over your mouth, invisible but there. Pressing down. Forcing silence upon you.
Your eyes flit from side to side, landing on the blank television screen. And there you see it.
Yourself, sitting on the sofa, and a woman with her hand over your mouth.
You snap your eyes away and look directly in front of you.
She smiles back.