Ok that’s not really a spoiler, since I’m now writing about the most terrifying night of my life. My therapist told me to start a journal, she says it’ll help me keep perspective after what happened. She’ll never read it, but she reckons just getting things out of my head and onto paper is a great coping mechanism.
So I’ll kick off this journal with me hiding behind the shower curtain (cliché, I know, bear with). I was at Lori’s place, in her bathroom, and I wasn’t alone in the house.
Footsteps creaked down the hallway. Only it wasn’t Lori — I knew that for a fact because the last time I’d seen her she’d been lying on the bedroom floor with a bloody great kitchen knife sticking out of her neck.
Since we’d been disturbed right in the middle of enjoying ourselves I was naked, vulnerable. The footsteps crept closer, the stranger was taking his time, relishing his hunt.
I watch all the horror films. Slashers, video nasties, so I know what you’re thinking. Hiding in the bath? First place he’ll look! Maybe, but trust me, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, bollock naked with no weapons, you’d do the same.
Timbers groaned, his breaths came deep and hoarse, I shrank back against the tiles with the music from Psycho stuck in my head.
I thought back to the newspaper on Lori’s coffee table – specifically, the headline that’d knocked the Falklands off the front page, locally at least. Masked Serial Killer stalks Halifax. It was only last year Sutcliffe was sent down and now everyone was talking about this, with the papers blaming everything from video nasties to Nintendo.
It made for great news.
Not so great on the receiving end, and I’d no intention of ending up dead.
Next door had buggered off to the Costa Brava, nearest civilisation was The Slaughtered Lamb, the pub down the lane, so it was just me and him. I slowly pushed my head round the plastic curtain. From here I could see the empty landing, stairs leading down to freedom. I guess the video nasties got it wrong, the shower wasn’t the first place he looked.
A crash echoed round the house. He was in the spare room, looking for me; it was the chance I needed.
I crept along the landing, sweeping up my jeans. Down the stairs, another smash masking my steps as I grabbed the rest of the clothes that I’d discarded on our way up to the bedroom earlier.
Wood splintered as he continued to take his rage out on the furniture.
I ran to the front door. Locked. I looked around but couldn’t spot the key. More banging upstairs, screaming now too. Into the kitchen, I dropped my clothes to the floor, pulled my jeans on. As I did I glanced at the novelty Garfield phone, its curly wire tail trailing down the wall. Sadly I knew the line was dead, it was the first thing I’d checked (I told you, I watch a lot of scary movies).
I could still smell the pre-pub Bolognese Lori had cooked earlier. Plates and cutlery stacked next to the sink, couple of Babycham bottles; banal reminders of normality, the house didn’t care there was a serial killer on the loose.
I pulled my T-shirt over my head and just like that, I didn’t feel quite so vulnerable. Which was good, because the footsteps were coming again.
I looked at the back door, the garden beyond. The garden was safety. Where the hell are Lori’s keys?
I patted my jeans, felt my own car keys. I’d left the Capri down the pub – a ten minute drunken stagger but at least it gave me something to aim for.
Noises were amplified in the darkness, the stairs protesting under someone much bigger and scarier than me.
I poked my head round the kitchen door in time to see a filthy boot descend, followed by workman’s trousers, dark overalls. I looked at my trainers on the mat, too late, nowhere to go, I slid off the floor onto the worktop, squashing up behind the door.
The sounds dragged closer, agonisingly slowly, finally he stood in the doorway, a nightmare shadow stretched across the tiles, long legs and wide body bending up the cupboards. I held my breath.
He didn’t. I could hear him rasping on the other side of the door, an inch of plywood separating us. A blade appeared round the door, a faint red smear streaked the wood. The knife that’d killed Lori. What an idiot I was, ignoring the first rule of scary movies – grab a weapon. The knife block stood at the other end of the kitchen, well out of reach.
He lurched into the kitchen. I pulled my knees right up under my chin, looking at the back of his head, lank mullet, huge shoulders, huge knife. He took another step forward, sniffing the air, feral. The blade flashed centimetres from my toes.
I was screwed; any second now he’d turn to see me cowering behind the door. I made a snap decision, one that saved my life.
I straightened my leg, foot out in one fluid motion, heel outstretched. Perfection; I got him right at the base of his big granite skull, that pit where your spine goes up into your brain. He flew at the door, arms out, unfortunately for him it was glazed, his hands disappeared with a smash. He staggered, swayed, I jumped down and aimed a kick into his belly, he slumped with a growl, legs thrashing. I backed away, feeling for the doorway, my slim advantage evaporating.
I ran blindly into the dining room, where thin curtains billowed across a carpet littered with broken glass. Classic horror film entry point. I winced at the jagged edges round the frame, but it’d have to do.
I dived through, slicing myself a few times but at least I was out, free, in the sticky summer night.
The grass was damp with morning dew. I looked over at the woods I knew so well; normally I’d be able to lose someone in there but not in the dark, and especially not without my shoes.
A crash of glass on tiles pulled my eyes to the back door. No shape, thin trickles of blood on the doorframe were all that remained. I sprinted round the side of the house, down the lane, heading for safety.
My feet slapped worn cobbles as I ran across the front of the house. As I approached the front door an alarm triggered in my mind, something amiss; too late I registered the black space where the door should have been.
He launched from the open doorway.
Shining teeth, a furious snarl, we collided, crashing to the ground, rolling into the damp weeds.
Getting to my car was no longer an option, hiding or running no longer an option; I needed to finish this. I swung my right arm up, his nose exploded against my elbow. I tried to throw up my left arm but for some reason it refused to move.
He pulled his hands to his face, blood streaming between his fingers, mingling with the blood from his torn wrists, dripping onto my chest. I tried to move but he pushed his weight down. I strained, again my left arm refused to move. I turned my head, cried in pain. The kitchen knife was embedded in my shoulder.
He grinned, teeth glowing in the moonlight as he panted like an animal. Fat fingers encircled my throat, I struggled but he was too big, too powerful.
His teeth stopped glowing, my vision dimmed, the world gained a fuzzy border, creeping inwards until all I could see was that grin. I had just seconds left.
I reached across my chest, gripped the handle of the kitchen knife still embedded in my shoulder. He either didn’t notice or care. In one movement I slid the knife out, pulled it down to my stomach, thrust upwards. I twisted, the effect was instantaneous. He roared, rolling away, clutching between his legs as if that would reattach things. I climbed on top, bringing the knife in hard against his neck.
I knelt on top of him, catching my breath as he spluttered, losing his. I yanked the knife out of his neck and watched his life pump out in little rivers between the ancient cobbles.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply for what seemed like ages, feeling the air filling my lungs right up, savouring life. When I opened my eyes the sky seemed a little brighter, darkness had lost, trees were full of song, the air was thick with that warm damp smell of a summer dawn.
I looked down at the lifeless body beneath me, didn’t recognise the guy from round here.
Which is really odd, because I’d been watching Lori’s house from the woods most of the day. Just like all the others; nice and remote, easily cut phone lines, no neighbours to hear the screams.
I pulled off my Thatcher mask, let it drop it to the cobbles. This must have been the boyfriend I’d overheard Lori talking about in the pub, probably works shifts or something, he’d returned in the middle of the night before I could finish with his girlfriend.
As I collected my shoes and wiped the place down I decided this was good – I’d taken on this brute, this monster, and I’d triumphed. If I can do that, I can do anything!
Thanks therapist, you were right; writing it down really is helping me get perspective.
In fact, I might branch out to a whole family when my arm’s better.
Copyright 2020 Danny Marshall