Tales & Wails: Footsteps in the Dark
Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Entry 3: What's more terrifying than a night at home alone?
Footsteps in the Dark
On a moonless night in the countryside, the darkness is so complete it almost has form.
I wake to a scream outside my window – a shrill staccato burst that leaves a blanket of silence in its wake. Sleepily, I blink against the viscous blackness of my bedroom and stumble for the lamp on my bedside table. But as I flick the switch, I realize why the silence is so heavy against my eardrums: the power is out.
Immediately, my heart leaps. There’s something primal about the fear that arises in me, an instinctual feeling of helplessness from having no choice but to wait, vulnerable, until the sun peaks mercifully above the horizon once more.
But I’m being stupid, I know that. I tell myself to lie back down, to close my eyes, and forget about the darkness pressing in. But then I hear it again – another scream. Closer this time. My pulse quickens and sweat prickles on my palms, even though I know now, for sure, that the screams are coming from our local nuisance fox.
Still, the eerie sound of screaming sets me on edge. I lie very still, trying and failing to control my breathing. The house creaks, and before I know it I’m scrambling for my phone. There is a moment of relief as the cold blue light of the screen casts a small circle around me. But it is brief. I glance at my bedroom door, partially open. I am sure I closed it before I went to bed. Who had opened it?
I stare into the black abyss of the hallway, picture the stairs at the other end. I imagine the creature from The Ring crawling towards me slowly, her dark hair hanging in front of her face. In my mind’s eye, the creature looks up. We make eye contact. And at that moment, my phone screen times out and I’m plunged into darkness once again.
Shit! I’m certain that the creature will reach me in the milliseconds it takes me to illuminate my screen. I brace myself, heart hammering, but I’m still alone.
There’s nothing in the house. I’m trying to reassure myself, but I pull up my phone’s flashlight app for a more permanent source of light. I attempt three deep breaths, but they come out so shaky I almost laugh.
And then I hear it. Footsteps. On the stairs. I count them, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. And then whoever is out there – whatever is out there – is on the landing. I hear a sharp slap of something hitting the wall, once, twice, three times. I don’t dare move.
Outside, the fox screams again. My heart threatens to explode. My whole body is covered in cold sweat. I hear three slaps against the wall again, so close to the door. And, something else – heavy breathing. Oh my god.
I steel myself and look towards the doorway again, just in time to see the thing charge, and now it’s my turn to scream. I scurry backwards, feet tangled in the sheets. My phone falls and lands flashlight side down on the carpet.
The thing is upon me. I can’t see it. But as I press against the headboard, I hear three slaps against it and feel a cold wetness on my cheek.
Wait. It’s a familiar cold wetness. It is my dog’s nose, and the slaps are her wagging tail as she searches for me in the dark. I clutch her to me, giggling with relief into her soft fur. In my panic, I’d forgotten all about her.
I reach for my phone, but don’t turn the flashlight off. I hunker down in bed, feeling safer with my dog by my side, but I keep my ears trained for any sounds that my mind could conjure into other terrifying threats.
About the story
I am the world's biggest scaredy-cat. I am still regularly terrified by thoughts of horror movies I watched 15 years ago before I knew I couldn't handle them. My imagination is both a blessing and a curse. But Halloween is such a fun time of year, and I enjoy writing challenges, so I knew I wanted to participate in Tales & Wails. I just needed to give it my own twist!
Tales & Wails is an online writing and cosplay competition is a chilling combination of spine-tingling stories and costumes co-hosted by the Slush Pile Monster Writing Group and Fantasticarium.
All lovers of the macabre, gothic, and spooky stories are encouraged to participate. Whether you’re a writer, cosplayer, or just want to get into the Halloween spirit, join us!
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