Briony snapped her mouth shut, biting her tongue and cheek at the same time. She threw her book at the shadow figure looming over her and scrambled off the bed. Her foot tangled in the blanket and she tumbled. Landing sprawled across the floor, pain shot in her chest, arms and stomach. Struggling upwards, she crawled passed her bed then got up.
Not looking back, she rushed to the door, flung it open and raced into the bathroom. Ramming home the bolt lock, she turned on the light and climbed into the still damp bath tub. Her breathing heaved loudly in her ears and she pressed her hands over them. Curling up, she rocked back and forth like an upset child.
Wetness soaked into her pyjamas bottoms and Briony began to feel uncomfortable. She raised her head off her knees and listened. She couldn’t hear anything other than the normal house sounds. The fridge was humming, the pipes gurgling and outside a car was going by. She leant over the edge and looked at the door. Stiffly, she got up and out of the tub. Curling her damp feet on the mat, she reached for a towel.
A soft tapping froze her hands.
Briony’s eyes shot to the door. The handle was slowly moving downwards.
A scream fired in her throat, but she quickly grabbed the towel and stuffed it into her mouth. Peering over, she saw the handle stop then flick back up. The noise vibrated and she felt it through the floor. Swallowing, she tasted rough cloth in her mouth.
Was that a footstep?
She listened harder, but couldn’t hear anything else. Then the handle began rattling. Briony screamed and dived back into the tub as someone tried violently to open the door. Throwing the towel over her head, she curled up and tried to quieten her sobbing.
The handled stopped and what sounded like shuffling moved down the hallway. Wiping her face with a shaking hand, Briony looked up. The bathroom light glared down at her and the ceiling was pooled with light. Sitting up, she fisted the towel then carefully climbed out of the tub.
She stood for a few moments watching the door handle, before she reached out to touch it. The metal was icy cold. She unlocked and opened the door, taking a deep breath and expecting the worse. There was nothing in the hallway. Looking both ways, she quickly ran back into her bedroom and hit the main light.
Closing the door and leaning against it, she looked around and saw everything looked normal. Going to the bedside table, she snatched up her mobile and rung the police.
‘What’s you emergency?’ an eager female voice asked.
‘I think there’s someone in my house,’ Briony breathed into the phone.
‘A burglary? What’s your address, please?’
‘I don’t know…I’m not even sure it’s…’
Briony’s eyes flickered to the bedroom door as she give her addressed and listen to the woman’s instructions. The soft sounds of fingers tapping on plastic trickled through the house.
‘I’m going to try and get out,’ Briony hissed into the phone, cutting across the woman’s words.
‘Do you think you can?’ the calming voice replied back.
‘Maybe. I think it’s, he, is in the attic.’
‘Is there a neighbour you can go too?’
‘Probably,’ Briony answered, putting on a dressing grown and slippers.
‘Can you stay on the phone?’
Shuffling to the door, Briony opened it and looked out. Slipping through the gap, she walked downstairs and to the front door. She took the spare key from its hiding place behind a small picture and went to unlock the door.
Wood creaking sounded loudly in her ears.
Briony’s breath caught and though she tried desperately not to look, her eyes glanced over her shoulder.
At the top of the stairs a large black figure was standing watching her.
She could make out the outline of the legs, body, arms and head, but no further details. The figure seemed to be made up of shadows which swirled around. Sluggishly, the figure lifted a foot and placed it down the first step.
‘The police are coming!’ Briony screamed.
She scrambled to fit the key in the lock and turn it. She yanked open the door, darted out and slammed it closed again. Locking the door, she saw through the fuzzy glass the shadow man stepping down the last step. Not waiting to see if it tried to get out, Briony jogged down the path and out on to the street.
A drizzle of rain brushed her face and she moved her hair back. Hugging herself, she wondered who’s door to knock on then remember her mobile in her pocket. Digging it out, she saw the call had been disconnected. Her finger hooved over the redial button, but then she heard sirens in the distance.
Letting out a big sigh, she tried to tuck herself into the hedge so she was half hidden. The streetlight next to her glowed down, effecting her sight as she tried to look back at the house. Upstairs, in bedroom she thought the curtain moved slightly. She pressed her lips together, but didn’t see anything else.
A police car swerved up and parked half on the curb. The siren was cut, but the flashing lights were left on. Doors hurriedly open, a man and a woman officers got out. They looked like twins in their crisp blue uniforms, complete with hats and short dark hair cuts. They quickly moved towards the gate as one.
Briony stepped from the hedge, ‘I got out and locked him inside. He came at me, but I’m okay,’ she gushed. ‘He can’t get out. Here’s the key,’
The police woman grabbed her as she stumbled. Briony wrapped her hands around the officer’s thin arms and thought she’d never be able to let go.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll get him,’ the policeman said, taking the key and heading towards the house.
Briony watched him go, the streetlight illumining the fear in her eyes.
‘Everything’s going to be all right now.’
She turned to the soothing voice of the female officer and took in the hard thin looking face.
‘I’m not sure what’s be going on, but all day I’ve been followed. I kept seeing things and I thought I was going crazy, but I think I was being stalked,’ Briony explained.
‘Do you have any idea who it could be?’
‘No,’ she said with a shake of her head.
‘An ex? A friend you had a falling out with? An admirer? Someone you meet online?’ The policewoman questioned.
Briony pulled a face, ‘no. There’s no one.’
They both turned at the sound of the door knocker banging slightly. The male officer was back and alone. He came over and they both looked puzzled at him.
‘There doesn’t seem to be anyone inside,’ he stated.
‘No! There was someone! A man, a black man!’ Briony shouted.
She tore away from the police and darted inside. She ran through all the rooms and the back garden, but even after turning on all the lights and looking in all the hiding spots possible, Briony found no one.
Returning to her front door, breathless and shaking, she leant against the frame and watched the two officers studying her.
‘Did you check the attic?’ she sniffed, ‘I thought I heard him going in there before whilst I was hiding in the bathtub.’
‘No, I didn’t, where is it?’ the policeman asked.
Briony turned and led him to the attic’s trap door.
‘You open the door and the ladder comes down. You can pull it up once you’re in there too,’ she explained.
Stepping back, she watched the officer open the door, climb the ladder and go in with his torch. She heard him calling out then moving around and shifted a few things. The beam of his light swept the attic portal. He called out again before reappearing, ‘there’s no one here.’
‘Could he have got out any other way?’ the policewoman asked.
‘No. Everything was locked,’ Briony pointed out.
‘Very true. All right, lets double check then take a look outside,’ the male officer suggested as he came out of the attic.
Briony trailed the police around her house, helping them to look everywhere a person could fit themselves. They asked her questions, but she couldn’t give them enough details. Finally, they left to do a search outside and recommend she find somewhere else to stay for the night.
Closing the door behind them, Briony went upstairs, fighting down the urge to get her mental health checked out.
She closed the door to her bedroom and began sorting herself. Repeating to that she wasn’t insane, she changed and packed an overnight bag. Leaving a few lights on, she left and got into her car. Slotting the keys in, she looked up and saw the police car at the end of the street.
Deciding to drive to her parents’ Briony started the engine. Her eyes flicked to living room window as she pulled off.
There was a tall black figure standing in front of the closed curtains, hands pressed to the glass, watching her with glowing red eyes.
To Be Continued…