Footsteps. Slow, steady footsteps, up the stairs.
I've lived in this house for 14 years, I know how many steps there are in the stairway so I know there are 13 steps left before whatever is making this noise gets to the top of the stairs.
12 steps now.
I'm lying awake in bed, my covers up to my chin, eyes transfixed on the door to my room, waiting, hoping I'm dreaming, hoping it doesn't hear me.
I can feel every muscle in my body tensing up, my knuckles white from holding the duvet as hard as I can.
Every footstep is slightly louder than the last. My room is the attic of the house, with stairs leading straight up to the door. If someone walks up those steps, it is to get into this room. Into my room.
There's no one else in the house tonight, it's just me. Usually my brother sleeps in the room downstairs but he's in Germany, I know he is, there's no one else in the room.
I remember feeling nervous when my brother said he was going away for a week. I hadn't stayed in the house that long by myself before. He could tell, he said it would be fine, that I can take care of myself. So maybe this is just nerves, maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.
But what if it isn't? Oh God, what if it isn't? What if it's been waiting for my brother to leave and now it's come to take me away?
Is it speeding up? It's getting confident. It knows I'm alone. It knows it can come and get me. It knows there's nobody around to come help me.
5, 4, 3 steps.
Oh God, oh God, no, please, please, God no.
2, 1 steps.
A slam against the door. It rattles on its hinges. The door is violently and repeatedly slammed against, bending, seconds from falling away. I pull the cover over my head and hug my chest. I can't think. My brain is drowning in panic.
The door has come off its hinges, I can hear it slamming against the door.
I can hear its breathing. Wet, slimy, wheezing, heavy breathing.
I can hear it move into the room. I can hear an unnatural retching. It's the most revolting sound I've ever heard. It makes me want to rip my own skin off.
I clutch my chest tighter, anxious not to make a sound. I've reverted to the mind of a child. If I stay under the cover, it can't find me. If I stay under the cover, it can't hurt me.
It moves towards my bed and I can smell it. The smell of burnt flesh, burnt hair.
The breathing is louder. I can feel its breath coming through the little gaps in the cover above my head. It's hot and humid. My muscles are locked into place by panic. I can't breath. I can't squeeze my eyes shut any harder.
That retching again but now it's accompanied by a deep, guttural grunt. Its voice sounds damaged. It sounds like its voicebox is exposed, like I'm hearing the sounds it's making directly from its throat.
I can feel something running along the top of the cover. A finger maybe. Or a snout. I can't tell. I just want it to leave. I desperately want it to leave. I want my brother back.
After that the noise begins to fade away.
The smell begins to dissipate.
I hear nothing.
My muscles remain tense and locked. I don't know for how long. A minute? An hour?
I slowly begin to loosen up. I still don't get out from under my covers. I resolve to not leave my bed until the sun's out and streaming through my window. Laying there, motionless, eyes closed, I fall back asleep.
The next time I wake up, it's midday. It's light out. I poke my head out from the covers.
My door is back in its frame.
I stay in bed another hour before I work up the courage of getting out of my bed and when I do, I feel a sense of unease that follows me for the rest of the day.
My brother isn't back for another two days. I desperately wish the monster doesn't make another visit tonight.