Are you on the edge of your seat? I’d hate to give anything away, but the reason you’ve woken up at this hour, in a cold sweat at 3am, is because I just broke a window downstairs. You were dreaming about John, your boss, again. You were in Spain on the Riviera, with skulls and blossoms and giant children cavorting on coloured sand. One of those dreams. Subconsciously, you were hoping that the dream would turn sexual, but it didn’t, and you woke, and now I am waiting downstairs.
I’d hate to give anything away but you’re going to get up and just stand there in the dark, straining to hear further sounds. You’ll bite your nails and wonder if the sound was rats in the attic or maybe a party next door. You’ll look out the window and see a dark lawn. You’ll smell your own sweat, your odorous fear. You’ll clutch the front of your nightie and breathe deep and slow.
Then it will come again, the music of glass, off-key in the depths of the house. Glass. Trodden underfoot.
At that moment, every bad thing you ever did will run through your mind. You’ll want to say sorry to the darkness. You’ll wish you could climb inside your own fading dream and run along the beach with the skulls and flowers.
You won’t have time for that. I’d hate to give anything away, but I’m waiting downstairs and I’m going to open your kitchen drawers, looking for a knife. A big one. Sharp.
You were dreaming of love and romance. I’ve been dreaming of something else. Skulls, yes, but worms too, and rotten things half-hidden in the ground. I like to call them mementos.
Listen, I know where you sleep and I know that you know I’m here.
That’s what excites me the most, your knowing.
I’m waiting downstairs and I am going to kill you.
I am always waiting downstairs.
You’re going to get up and walk onto the landing. Your feet will feel cold on the rug. A floorboard squeaks like a wooden cliché. You’ll stand there at the top of the stairs, not quite sure if that’s the hat stand down there or the outline of someone. Someone crooked and horned and graveyard still.
You might even whimper, then. Well, you might. I never said I knew everything.
Leave that to the ones upstairs.
I do know you’re on the edge of your seat and I’d hate to give anything away. I’m waiting downstairs and I’ve followed you, marked you, and why ruin the surprise? I’m going to show you things you never thought possible. I’m going to show you how we do things down here. I’m going to open my hands and show you your eyes.
Then I’m going to cut the cords that hold them in and make you my souvenir.
You might even feel special. Just briefly. They say I have a certain way about me.
You’ll get up and tiptoe to the edge of the landing and stand there looking down the darkened stairs. I’ll know you’re up there and I’ll be down here waiting, just around the corner of the hall, the kitchen knife in hand. The one you use to chop steak. You’ll remember how smoothly it slices through meat and put a hand around your throat, your skin feeling as sheer as silk.
The floorboards creak. You’ll swear you can hear me breathing. That’s when you’ll put your foot on the step, knowing you’re following every no-no from every horror movie you ever saw, but helpless all the same. Fascinated. Drawn.
You know I am down here waiting.
That’s when I’ll step out from the bedroom behind you and tear into your skull. You’ll hear your gasp and see your blood and brains patter on the rug, a soft, final downpour. You’ll have just enough time to turn and see me – the man you thought was your boss – as the teeth come down again. And again. And again. And again.
Oh the masks we wear.
Then it will be over. You’ll stand there, no longer in your body, watching me crouch over you, lapping at the shreds of your soul. You’ll look at me with the same old hurt, the same old disapproval.
What? I’ll say. I lied.
Are you on the edge of your seat? I’d hate to give anything away, but the reason you’ve woken up at this hour, in a cold sweat at 3am, is because I just broke a window downstairs…
WRITTEN BY JAMES BENNETT
ILLUSTRATED BY PRIZEMAN
James Bennett is a British writer of dark fantasy, horror and the occasional contemporary fable.