Writer’s Relief on Facebook is a fascinating resource for writers sometimes and occasionally they post a photo prompt for story ideas. A few months ago, they posted an image of an overgrown town and I wrote a stark piece of flash horror fiction then. A few days ago, they posted this scary looking fella.
I’ve decided to make a serial of this, so I hope you enjoy this first piece…
I was just eight years old when I first saw him. Floating on that cusp between wakefulness and sleep. I shared a room with my twin sister Lizzy then, though that year we finally got our own beds. I was certainly happy about that, she used to spread her arms and legs out like a starfish, and I wonder now whether her boyfriend has ever got a good night sleep while they’ve been at uni together. Maybe they have one of those really big beds, but I doubt it. Students can’t afford to buy them and landlords certainly won’t pay for something that luxurious.
Anyway, she was asleep that night. She looked serene in her sleep and I was annoyed because she’d woken me up by spreading out half an hour before. I’d been just drifting off again when I saw him: a black figure that I first mistook for the cascade of coats we had on the back of the door – aside of course from his head, that was bald and deathly white. He almost seemed to blend in with the coats but then I remembered that summer day was so hot that the bedroom door was open. It wasn’t the coats, it was the cloak or cape or whatever it was he was wearing. He stood in the doorway, turned to the side and facing our parents’ bedroom door, but he was looking at me. He must have known I was awake because he was looking at me. I tried not to look, I tried to look away, but somehow couldn’t. Then he took a step forward and was gone.
I needed a wee, but dare not leave the safety of the bed. It’s funny how children see their bed as a safe space as though a duvet has magical powers that’ll protect you from anything if you just keep yourself hidden beneath it. Anyway, instead I waited until morning and rushed into the bathroom just as mum was coming.
‘Oi Nigel Mansell, slow down!’ she hollered as I raced past and slammed the door behind me, ‘and hurry up because dad’s off to work in a minute’. Dad told me off later for slamming the door. He also asked me why I was pacing along the landing at “god knows what ridiculous hour”. I’d almost forgotten about the Cold Man (as I would soon dub him), until dad mentioned it. My heart leapt in my chest, but I kept calm and told dad I hadn’t got up in the night, and neither had Lizzy. He must have believed me because he didn’t give me that suspicious look he gives me when he knows I’ve got up in the middle of the night to eat some biscuits. Instead, he turned to mum and said we must have mice again, or worse, rats.
I remember that following day well because it was that morning that grandma on mum’s side said she had something important to tell us, that we were to go to Devon at the weekend. Mum grumbled because dad had been working really hard and needed a rest, but grandma said she wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. Grandma was like that, never complaining about anything, she always looked on the bright side. I suppose you had to when you lived in London through The Blitz. Grandma made mum mum promise we’d all come down the next night – Friday instead of Saturday – and spend the weekend there.
We found out the following day that grandma had terminal cancer.