Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Gillian Scott
Lightning flashed and the sky lit up like a fourth of July celebration. I counted “One! Two! Three!” And then it came – the resounding clap of thunder. Bella my Scottish terrier whimpered and leapt up next to me on the sofa. A Squall lashed at the house as if in punishment for some wrongdoing it howled beneath the rafters like a living, breathing fiend. The lights in the den flickered off and on and an involuntary shiver went down my spine. I listened to the window shutters flap to and fro, banging against the outer wall seemingly in applause of Mother Nature’s petulance.
The beach house was located on Cape Cod Bay, surrounded by miles of beach and numerous ponds. It was a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle and much ado of everyday life and had been a summer home to my parents and my grandparents before them. The weather forecast had predicted a storm rolling in from the Atlantic, and by lunch time ominous clouds had begun to overcast the sky. Pulling my legs beneath me, I snuggled down in the soft throw blanket I kept over the back of the sofa for such dark and gloomy days. The rains (when they came) battered and pounded the coastline all afternoon and evening. The house creaked and shuddered in disapproval. The electricity flickered off and on one last time before finally giving out. My flashlight and cigarettes were next to me on the coffee table, and I reached across with jellylike hands pulling a ‘ciggy’ from the pack and lit up. Inhaling deeply, I watched the embers glow in the dark. The nicotine succeeded in working its usual ‘magic’ slowly calming the tension in my body. I had always been afraid of storms and being alone in the house was proving to be unnervingly creepy. The sound of thunder reminded me of childhood and scary ghost stories and I subconsciously drew the blanket tighter about me.
The only sound to be heard other than the fury of the wind and rain outside, was the unremitting tick of the grandfather clock in the hallway… tick, tick, tick. It had startled me more than once when it chimed the hour its loud, clanging bell causing me to almost jump out of my skin! I huddled under my blanket and listened to the anger of the storm and watched the eerie shadows that danced on the walls of the den. A tapping at the window made my heart momentarily stop and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! It turned out to be nothing more than a palm frond, half broken off from the tree planted three summers ago. Eventually my stomach growling with hunger and sounding like a noisy pot of bubbling stew, forced me from my hibernating position. With flashlight in hand, I made my way along the hallway to the kitchen.
The flashlight cast a luminous glow over the kitchen appliances, making everything appear a little spooky and somewhat threatening! Having arrived a few days earlier I had stocked up on provisions. Opening the refrigerator door I was happy to see an ample amount of various goodies that were fortunately still nice and cold. I quickly fixed a turkey sandwich, grabbed a coke and made a hasty retreat back along the hallway. It was a short while later that I heard the sound of the front door knocker… “Rat-a-tat-tat.” Listening intently my senses heightened by nervous tension from fear of storms, I sat up… The knocking came again. I was expecting no one. The house was three miles from town and my nearest neighbor, was an elderly woman who lived alone with her dog approximately a mile further down the beach. Notwithstanding of the fact that no one knew I was here, anyone venturing out in this crappy weather would have to be crazy! Uncurling my legs from my fetal position, I eased myself off the sofa and gingerly walked back into the hallway not wanting to alert this uninvited guest or guests that there was anyone home until I had decided if I would open the door. I switched off my flashlight and hid in the alcove off the hallway. From here I had a view of the glassed front door. I could see a shape – a silhouette illuminated by the half-moon. My gut feeling was to stay put and hope that the visitor would assume no one was home and leave. The knocking went on for a couple of minutes then suddenly stopped. Whoever it was, disappearing from view. I listened… complete silence except for the ceaseless ticking of the grandfather clock and the driving rain outside. I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath until the knocking stopped and I slowly exhaled… A lightning bolt illuminated the hallway, and I hurried back to the den. I was alarmed and scared. Who was this person? And more to the point, where were they now? Had they gone away? Or where they still lurking in the shadows somewhere outside? Picking up the phone, I checked for a dial tone… Nothing. The lines were still down and my cell phone had no reception. Needing to calm myself, I took several deep breaths. I was getting panicky. There had to be a rational reason why a stranger (or perhaps there was more than one) was out on the beach in the middle of nowhere during ‘such a’ horrendous storm and more to the point, was pounding on my door! It was probably just a traveler passing through that had somehow gotten lost. That couldn’t be right, I hadn’t seen head lights or heard a car engine! Perhaps the car had broken down further up the road? Oh, for God’s sake get a grip!! My mind went into overdrive. I peered through the window into the dark night. An empty void stared back.
I briefly pondered if perhaps I should have answered the door. It was then the sound of breaking glass penetrated the silence. Oh my God! Momentarily rooted to where I stood I could hear a muffled sound coming from the kitchen. An inherent instinct for survival propelled me into action. Looking for a place to hide, I crept as quietly as I could to the far side of the room. I found a small space between the antique credenza and mahogany sideboard which would conceal me unless the intruder came completely into the room. Scrunching myself between the two, I pressed back against the wall and prayed for obscurity! What sounded like footsteps followed by an unusual dragging sound echoed from the hallway. I didn’t peek out from my hiding place. My heart pounding, my hands cold and clammy, I waited with bated breath! A warm sensation from my lower regions betrayed my vulnerability and tears stung my eyes. Hopefully, they won’t notice the puddle on the floor! The footsteps stopped in the doorway. I held my breath. The heavy footfall and the strange dragging sound (like something being pulled across the floor) continued into the room! The shape was standing no more than a couple of feet from me – so close that I could actually hear its intake of breath. I squeezed my eyes shut hoping that if I couldn’t see them, they wouldn’t see me. A sharp crack of lightning set the sky ablaze and was quickly followed by the deafening roar of thunder. I opened my eyes and there before me stood the most terrifying THING I had ever seen!… I heard a shrill, piercing scream before my world was cloaked in darkness. The cry had come from me!
Totally traumatized, I had apparently blacked out. I awoke to find the grotesque creature watching me with an intent like gaze. Beady eyes, traversed the length of my body as I lay wedged between the credenza and sideboard. My first thought was to look for an escape. There was none. I was trapped in my hideaway, with no way out. Words could not describe my fear. My ability to function became completely suspended. Visions of this freakish ogre ripping me apart limb by limb or perhaps devouring me whole, crept into my brain and ran amok. Momentarily mesmerized by its piercing stare, I felt almost trancelike, somewhere between sleeping and waking. I watched it move towards me before I erupted with a penetrating shriek. In a flash, its claw like appendages reached out and grasped my quivering body. As I lost consciousness, I could only imagine that this was a scene straight from a horror movie.
I rolled over in my comfortable queen sized bed and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Sunlight filtered into the room and I squinted at its dazzling brilliance. Bella licked my face nuzzling into me. The heavy rains from the previous evening had passed, a few remaining drops trickled down the window pane. I lay beneath the covers feeling incredibly lazy. Why not! I had nothing to do and nothing planned. A bemused smile crossed my face, WOW! What a night! at least Bella and I had weathered the storm. My bedcovers were tangled, tossed and turned from my restless sleep. Running my hands through my hair, I vaguely recalled some strange ridiculous dream! There must have been something wrong with the turkey, I reasoned. I didn’t normally suffer from such outlandish nightmares. I snuggled with Bella for a few minutes longer before throwing back the covers. My left foot felt tender as I stood up and put my weight on it. Looking down, I noticed a couple of deep scratch marks running from just below my ankle to my toes. How on earth did that happen? I mumbled to myself as I hobbled to the bathroom. Applying some antibiotic cream to my wounds, I concentrated on my usual morning bathroom ritual before slipping into my bathrobe and cautiously limping downstairs. Entering the kitchen doorway, I stopped dead in my tracks. Oh, my God! The room lay in total disarray and broken glass covered the floor! I was too afraid to enter the den…