Tim yawned. He did not care that a customer had approached his till with the Sunday newspaper, the correct change clutched tightly in the elderly woman’s wrinkled fist, nor did he care that his manager’s beady eye was fixed on him. He absentmindedly scanned the barcode, flipped the paper in half and exchanged it for a few silver coins. The old lady ambled away from the counter and Tim’s manager marched towards him.
‘I’ve told you before about not ironing your shirt before work, Tim,’ Trudy said in her sharp, shrill voice. ‘And don’t yawn in front of the customers, it makes you look like you don’t want to be here.’
‘It’s 7am on a Sunday morning, I don’t want to be here.’ Replied Tim simply.
Trudy sighed, unable to find the energy to argue with her most stubborn employee, and sped off towards the bread aisle.
Probably going to find someone else to moan at, thought Tim. Warm saliva circulated the taste of last night’s beer around his mouth. He grimaced and greeted his next customer, responding with only a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as the middle-aged suit struggled to make jovial conversation. The day was going to be slow and painful, Tim was certain.
The top of Tim’s thigh began to vibrate. He glanced around and, no manager or customers in sight, lifted his vintage Nokia half-way out of his pocket. It was his daughter, Katherine. He made a mental note to call her on his break and released his phone.
Only eight more hours, Tim told himself. He detested the inconsiderately visible clock that faced the counters: keeping track of the time made it go even slower, it seemed. His third yawn caused tears to gather in the corners of his eyes. He shut his eyes and slowly dragged the palm of his hand down his face. When he opened his eyes, a young woman was standing in front of him, talking rapidly and loudly into her phone and thrusting a two pint bottle of milk and a scrunched up five pound note at him. He carried out the transaction silently aside from a forced ‘thank you’ as the chatty brunette shot him a smile and darted out of the automatic doors.
Eight hours trundled by until Tim was finally free to go home. He was sitting in the car, fumbling with a pouch of tobacco, when his phone rang. It was his Katherine again.
Shit, I forgot to call her back!
He answered the phone, letting the filter tip drop from between his dry lips.
‘Alright, love?” He asked gruffly.
‘Dad, listen to me. You can’t go home.’ His daughter sounded panicked.
‘What? Are you alright, Kat?’
‘Dad, just promise me you won’t go to your house. Something bad’s going to happen,’ She pleaded.
‘What do you mean, something bad? Don’t be silly Katherine, I’m fine.’ He was met with silence, and then a deep exhale.
‘Okay then, dad, just call me when you’re home okay?’
‘Will do, bye love.’
Tim would have been disturbed by his daughter’s phone call, once upon a time. But not anymore. Katherine phoned him at least once a month with a warning (or ‘vision’ as she liked to call them). Since she was fifteen, Katherine was convinced that she had some sort of psychic ability to see into the future, but her prophecies hardly ever came true and those that did were never more than coincidence. Tim shook it off, rolled and lit his cigarette, wound down the car window and drove out of his parking space, the thought of a cold, refreshing beer and comfortable sofa propelling him home.
He pulled up on the large, gravelled driveway fifteen minutes later and stepped out of the silver Porsche 911 Carrera. Upon entering the boastful house, Tim deactivated the alarm system and locked the door behind him. Stepping into the front room, the middle-aged shop worker knew something was different.
Tim was a very particular man and everything had to be perfectly in its place. But it wasn’t. The rug was not straight, the door leading to the kitchen was ajar, and a letter was on the floor. There was no way that Tim would have left the house in this state; just looking around made him feel uneasy. Then again, he had had several beers last night. Maybe he had woken up still slightly drunk and failed to realise the mess he had caused. He doubted it, but it was possible.
Unworried, Tim walked into the kitchen. Everything was perfectly in order, it seemed: The floor was immaculate, one clean tea towel hung from the cutlery drawer handle, the blinds were all three-quarters open and the breakfast bar was gleaming. He opened the dishwasher to find a clean mug and began making himself a cup of tea. As he poured water into the kettle, he realised that he had not been to the toilet since before he started work. Suddenly, his bladder felt ready to burst. He put the kettle on and rushed towards the stairs.
If Tim had not been in a rush, he would have noticed the faint footprints on the cream carpet. He would have heard shuffling. He would have noticed that the ornament of a woman playing violin was no longer on the window sill at the top of the staircase. Unzipping his fly as he dashed into the bathroom, he did not bother to lock the door before emptying is bladder with a satisfying release.
He could hear the kettle bubbling from the kitchen, and so he did not hear the shuffling from the bedroom next door. After he washed his hands, Tim gazed up into the mirror. He realised how tired and old he appeared. He was only forty-two and yet he looked at least fifty. His daughter joked that he should dye his hair because the grey was becoming more dominant that the light brown it once was. He wondered what his daughter would say if he turned up on her doorstep with all the grey entirely eclipsed. Maybe he would dye it blue to shock her. He smiled at the thought and turned off the bathroom light.
The kettle was roaring through the house, coming to a boil. Tim walked across the landing but stopped suddenly. He could faintly hear something else. Creaking. Shuffling. He turned quickly, but nothing was there. Mentally shaking himself, he arrived at the top step. The kettle clicked and stopped boiling. A floorboard creaked. Tim span around and froze. Someone was there. He squinted through the darkness, trying to make out the shadowed face.
‘You?!” Tim exclaimed in shock.
A heavy object struck Tim around the cheek. He whelped in surprise as he was knocked backwards by the force of the blow, toppling on the step before losing his balance completely, tumbling down the staircase.
As he lay at the bottom of the stairs, heavy footsteps descended upon him. His attacker stopped, took a deep breath, and brought the ornament down with great force onto Tim’s skull.
Tim’s phone vibrated in his pocket. It was Katherine, calling to see if her father had arrived home safely.
To be continued…