The house is safe from the monster. For now anyway. The monster paces outside. I can hear the footsteps as it moves around the house, patrolling as if waiting for a chance to break in – a chance to get me.
I am frozen in the chair I was sat in when I first heard it arrive.
It has visited before you see, and so this time I am ready. But no less scared. I have sealed the house, made sure that it is impossible for anything to get in, just as impossible as it is for anything to get out. It’s winter and the nights draw in early now. More time for the monster to start prowling and make its attack. It feeds off the darkness. I am trapped, but I am safe.
I tell myself this over and over.
I am safe. The monster is outside, and I am inside. It will be okay. But still, the monster keeps prowling. I cannot – dare not – think of it as anything other than it.
I don’t know how long I have been there, curled up in the chair. I don’t have a watch, have silenced the TV, and everything is out of reach. It only seems to have got darker. I dare not move to put the light on, so I sit in the darkness, just listening.
For the first time, I resent not having any neighbours, of not having anyone within hearing distance. I resent the isolation.
The monster still prowls. I can hear it – the steps – thump, thump, round the house.
I think of all those kids’ stories, all those monsters, and I know that they never end well.
It is coming for me. I’m sure of that.
The monster is getting bigger now. I can see the shadows outside the window, hear the steps – louder, louder. It stops for a moment. I imagine it peering in the window, seeing me here. But no – that’s not possible. I’ve closed the curtains and I’m glad that I did that earlier in the evening, before it got dark, and I found myself pinned to this chair with fear. At least, the monster cannot see in. I can only hear it, but that is bad enough.
The seconds and minutes are moving so slowly, it seems as if no time is passing. When will I be rescued from this thing that is waiting to get me – to kill me? It’s biding its time and I wish that it wouldn’t.
It’ll be morning soon, I tell myself, but it doesn’t help much. The darkness seems to have stretched on for far too long and I cannot imagine that it will ever be light again.
The morning seems too far away – out of reach. I don’t think that the monster will wait that long.
It is desperate to get to me, and brick walls and locked windows and doors can only hold so long. There is only so long that I can hold it off. And I am trying. I really am. But I don’t think that I can be stronger any longer.
In the silence, I can hear my heart thudding. It’s beating faster and faster, and soon, it’s all I can concentrate on. Will it jump out of my chest?
The darkness is like treacle, with no glimmer of hope. I cannot feel my body anymore – I am numb and I start to wonder if I even exist anymore. I am fading away, tracked only by this monster that is waiting… following me… I am falling, like a sinking pebble and I don’t know how to save myself.
A voice calls out, ‘hello?’
Brightness floods through the house again.
The clipping of heels grows closer and a figure appears. ‘Why are you sitting in darkness? Have you had a good evening?’ The light flickers on above my head, and I blink. Everything seems warm now.
The coldness has gone.
I strain my ears. The footsteps outside too have gone. The monster has vanished.
I stretch out and pause before saying anything. ‘Oh yes. Thank you. How late is it?’
And just like that, the monster, and my own doubts and fears have vanished. I am no longer alone and the monster has gone, scared away by the light.
After all, there are no bigger monsters than the monsters in our heads.