When I opened my eyes, there was a man in the corner of the room, watching me.
I tried to scream, but my voice failed me. I scrambled back into the wall, pulling the blankets around me as a protective shield.
“W-what do you-” My voice trembled. He put a finger to his lips, then slowly shook his head. He made no attempt to move. He simply stood in the corner of the room, watching me.
My phone was on the bedside table. My eyes flickered to it. I might be able to grab it in time, but there was no guarantee I could call the police before he closed the distance between us.
He remained still, like a statue frozen in time. In the darkness I was unable to tell his features. He was tall and slim, but apart from that he was just a shadow.
Dark thoughts fleeted through my mind. There was only one reason a man would be standing in a woman’s bedroom late at night. His eyes ran over me, his gaze piercing me. I was his prey and there was nothing I could do about it.
There was a sound in the other room. We both turned towards it at the same time. His eyes shot wide open in fear, and my heart began to pound even more furiously than before. My five-year-old son Bobby was asleep in his room. The intruder thought I was alone; now he knew I wasn’t, and that made the situation a whole lot more dangerous.
“I-it’s the cat.” My voice broke. I couldn’t let him know Bobby was there. Whatever he did to me, I had to keep him away from Bobby. That was all that mattered.
“Is there someone else in the house?” the man asked in a hushed voice, both angry and afraid. I shook my head furiously.
“It’s just me and the cat. I swear.”
He didn’t believe me.
There was another bang, closer this time. The man’s eyes darted to the door. Bobby often had nightmares and came to my room when he was too scared to go back to sleep by himself. I needed to do something, and quick.
I leaped for the phone. The man was upon me in an instant, scrambling over the blankets and knocking the phone out of my hand. He squeezed my wrists together, pain shooting through my forearms, and slammed them against the wall.
“That’s not gonna help you now.” His eyes flitted between me and the door. “It’s already here.”
My phone was beneath the window, just a few metres away.
“W-what’s here?” I asked, hoping I could keep him distracted long enough to break free and grab it.
“Is there anyone else in the house?” he asked again. I shook my head. I would protect Bobby if it meant my own life. A door handle jiggled, then opened with a creak. It was Bobby’s room, it had to be. No other doors in the house had a creak like his. It let me know when he was sleepwalking. I let out an internal sigh of relief; he’d gone back to his room. It would be okay.
“The wind,” I explained. “I like to leave the windows open because it gets hot in here at night. Old house, you know how it is.”
He didn’t believe me, and I couldn’t blame him. But it was enough to distract him. I brought my knee up, hard, sending him tumbling to the floor in pain. I grabbed my phone and threw open the window. Huh. That was odd. The part about leaving the windows open wasn’t a lie. I left it open before I went to sleep to let a breeze in. The man must have closed it. But why?
I jumped outside, hoping the man would follow me. I just needed to get him away from Bobby. He fell for it and was after me within moments. He was faster than I expected, much faster, and I tasted dirt before I reached the fence.
He turned me over and I looked over at the house. I could see Bobby’s room. The curtain was billowing through the window. My eyes widened, and a choked gasp escaped my throat.
Something was in his room. Something that wasn’t human. It hunched over, its long fingers running over the walls while its elongated head sniffed for something.
The man put his hand over my mouth and shook his head again. He grabbed underneath my armpits and dragged me behind the nearby tree. He pushed me against it, held a finger to his lips and spoke to me with his eyes. Shut the fuck up. Don’t make a sound.
My heart raced. Bobby. Bobby was still asleep. I had to get to him.
“Who is in the house?” the man asked one more time, his voice barely above a whisper.
“M-my son, Bobby.” It was all I could get out. Panic was setting in and it was becoming difficult to think straight. The man peered around the tree and then back at me.
“Five,” I said, my hands shaking. The man stuck his head around the tree, watching. I waited, trying to control the trembling throughout my body. I could hear nothing, see nothing. The wind blew through my nightgown, sending another round of shivers through me.
“They don’t have very good hearing,” the man said finally. “Or sight. They rely mostly on touch.”
He pointed to Bobby’s window.
“That thing in there.”
I wanted nothing more than to break free of the man. To run into Bobby’s room and get my baby out of there. But I couldn’t. I was frozen.
“W-what is it?” I forced the words out, trying not to let the fear I felt inside show. He shook his head.
There was a screech. I covered my ears, trying to block it out. It was as though it was piercing my very soul. While the man was distracted with his own pain, I took the opportunity to run. I ran straight for Bobby’s window, thinking of nothing else but getting him out of there.
The thing was standing over his bed, its fingers descending like Nosferatu claiming his prey. Bobby was huddled under his bedsheets, shaking. I grabbed a rock and threw it, hitting the creature square in the head. It shrieked again, running over the bed and straight for the window. I threw another rock to keep its attention on me, and as soon as it hit the window, I ran too. It chased me on all fours, tearing through the grass with its long claws.
The confused man didn’t have a chance to yell. It was on him in seconds, rending his flesh and breaking his bones. I ran for Bobby’s room while it was busy with him, closing the window on the man’s dying chokes. Bobby was under the blanket, shivering.
“Hey, hey baby.” I tried to soothe him, my own voice shaking. I lifted the blanket, and he looked up at me, tears streaming down his face. Outside was silent.
“T-there was a monster.” His lip wibbled. I pulled him into a hug.
“It was just another nightmare, sweetie.” The creature was by the window again, its bloody fingers scraping at the glass. “Just a nightmare. It’s not real. It can’t hurt you.”
I picked him up and moved towards the door, slowly. It couldn’t hear or see very well. As long as we were quiet and made no sudden movements, we could escape.
“Hey buddy,” I whispered, shielding him from the window and pressing his ears as close to me as possible. “We’re gonna play a little game, okay?”
He nodded, sniffling.
“We’re gonna go up to the attic, okay? We’re gonna play hide and seek. You’re good at hiding, right?”
He nodded again.
“Good. Now you need to be very quiet. You can’t make any noise during hide or seek, otherwise we’ll get found, and it’s game over. Can you do that for me?”
“That’s my little guy.”
We made our way upstairs as I heard Bobby’s window open. I pulled on the attic ladder and sent him up first. I followed, pulling the stairs up one by one so as not to make a noise. The creature searched the house high and low, but it never found the drawstring to the attic. Bobby played hide and seek like a champion and slept in his hiding spot until police sirens woke us the next morning.
The man’s death was chalked up to a feral dog. They never did find out who he was, which was perhaps the biggest mystery of all. When they asked me why my phone was outside, I told them we escaped to the attic when I heard an intruder in the house. It was only half a lie. They’d never believe what I really saw.
The thing is still out there. I don’t sleep with the windows open, not anymore. Every now and then I find Bobby sleeping in the attic, however. When I ask him what he’s doing up there, he says he’s playing hide and seek.
“The nightmare man. But he can’t see or hear very well, so he never finds me up here. I always win.”