He awoke to the sound of scratching. It was coming from his window, outside, the view blocked by the thick wooden blinds and the cover of night. Only a pale ray of moonlight filtering through the slats of the blinds illuminated the pitch black room. The scratching turned into an insistent screech, as if long fingernails were running across the glass.

Bolting upright, he switched on his bedside lamp and sat very still as the screeching petered out and was replaced by heavy footfalls on the front porch. Sucking in a breath, he gulped before very reluctantly emerging from the safe confines of his bed and chancing a peek outside the window. He lifted the blinds away from the surface of the glass with a trembling finger and inspected the darkness outside. The courtyard was quiet, the manicured lawn undisturbed. The sensor lights were on, however, having been tripped by whoever had been outside.

Wake in Fright - Bedside Lamp

He stepped away from the window and to his bedroom door, locked from the inside as usual. Unbolting it and opening it just a crack, he stood for almost three minutes there in excruciating anticipation, heart racing, before emerging into the quiet hallway. He immediately went for the main kitchen light just a few steps down the corridor, which turned on not only the light in that room but the lights for the dining room as well.

Feeling calmer now that there were more sources of illumination in the house, he went to the storage closet in the foyer across from the dining room and pulled out a worn baseball bat, one which he hadn’t used in years. It had been sitting, quiet forgotten, underneath several sports jerseys and a folio of his high-school report cards.

Coming to the front door, suddenly feeling courageous now that he had the bat in his hands, he unlatched and unlocked it, stepping boldly into the cold night, again tripping the sensor light.

“Who’s out there?” He demanded, peering into the black shapes which now formed his front lawn and the tree-lined suburban street beyond. All was quiet save for the chirruping insect songs and rustling of trees in the gentle breeze. Walking a little ways onto the garden path, with its colourful array of ceramic gnomes decorating its winding trail, he stopped in the middle and shook his bad threateningly.

“Come on out. You want a piece of me, asshole? Piss off!” He yelled out. “I’ll call the police. Don’t screw with me. I’m not the guy you want to mess with, so just get lost!”

Only silence greeted him, and, satisfied that he had made his point to the drunk moron who he assumed had stumbled onto his property, he turned and walked back into the house, locking it behind him. Huffing out a relieved breath, he chuckled and deposited the bat back where it came from, nestled amongst memorabilia from his teenage years. He was still chuckling when he came back to his room, locked his bedroom door and settled back inside the still-warm confines of his soft bed and nest of thick covers.

Yawning, he rolled over to switch off the bedroom light. Sitting in the corner, hiding in the shadow cast by the bedside table, was a grotesque figure, vaguely female in appearance, with thick matted hair and a lanky body covered in sores. Her yellow, drooping eyes featured cat-like black pupils, but they were not as horrifying as her mouth, which was pulled back into a fanged, leering grin. The bloody and hideous mouth was so wide that it stretched all the way to where her ears would have been had they not been completely missing.

He could not speak as she seemed to grin wider before reaching out with one large, long-nailed hand to switch off the light.

R.H. Stevens

R.H. Stevens is the founder of Instilled and the author of the Z-Verse series. She is a full-time graphic designer and illustrator and enjoys travelling and spending time with friends from around the world.

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