by Naila Aslam
Clara closed the door on her new home. She took a deep breath and felt herself relax. For as long as she could remember she had wanted to move to the country. She kept putting it off for years thinking it wasn’t the right time or she didn’t have the money but finally she decided to do it anyway. She had visited a few places but none had the quiet seclusion of her little hamlet. Nestled above a steep hill, in her little house, with its small open interior, she finally felt… at peace, at home. An alien concept she had never felt in the city.
Boxes littered the small living room, she cleared a path through them to the adjacent dining room. Here more boxes gathered but there was a clear path to the large patio doors. Through them she could see the wide open fields in the distance and a cluster of houses further down the hill. She had never seen so many trees, so much greenery before. It thrilled her. The idea of taking long walks in the ceaseless wildlife. She made her way round the corner to the kitchen and prepared a hot, steaming cup of tea. As she sipped it she stared out of the windows dreaming about her new life. She still worked in the city, and although the commute would be much longer, she was looking forward to coming home again. Home. She tasted the word, feeling its meaning for the first time.
She left everything as it was. There was always tomorrow for unpacking and cleaning. Today she promised all to herself. She took out her bath things from the box where she had packed them and ran hot water into the tub. She had a long relaxing bath and when she was done, she relished putting on her pyjamas and climbing into bed. It wasn’t even late but she fancied having a light read of her latest romantic novel and a long restful sleep.
A strange sound awoke Clara suddenly from her slumber. She looked around. Her novel was still on the bed in a mass of blankets. It was definitely night but she had no idea what time it was. She hadn’t unpacked her alarm clock and she couldn’t remember where she had left her phone. The noise came again, a strange scratching. She couldn’t place it. She told herself to relax. It was probably a normal sound, just unusual to her as it was her first night here.
Just as she thought it, the sound came again. It was distinct, like a rapping of knuckles. It sounded suspiciously like a knock, but on glass. Definitely on glass. The house was dark and filled with shadows. She crept out of bed and put her slippers on, feeling her way across the bedroom. Oh, why hadn’t she at least unpacked a lamp? She admonished herself for her carefree behaviour earlier. She switched on the bedroom light and it shone into the hallway. The noise came again. She imagined that it must be trees scraping the windows. That must be it! But then why was it so distinct? Why did it come and then go again, surely the trees would give a persistant sound? Or atleast the duration of the sound would change. Not like this, a kind of knock, sharp, distinct and then gone.
As she made her way down the stairs she noticed something else. Something was eluding her about the sound. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it but there was definitely something amiss. As she rounded the bottom of the stairs she tried to work out what it was. The bottom hallway was densely shadowed, the light from upstairs did not permeate here. She could barely see and cursed herself for not remembering where the light switches were. Her hands wandered over the nearby walls but she found nothing. She suddenly felt how alone she was, how isolated. She doubted if anyone nearby even knew she was here. It was the middle of the night and there was a strange knocking on the window. Every horror film she had ever seen started penetrating her mind, as they always seem to when you are at your most scared. The knocking came again. She imagined every manner of monster lurking outside her house, insisting on entrance. Carefully she walked into the living room, looking down, feeling her way amongst the boxes. As she looked up she made out a dark figure against the patio doors and suddenly she realised what was wrong, her mind had tried to warn her. The sound was definitely knocking and it was coming from inside.
Naila Aslam – totally novice writer. First submission anywhere.