The Intruder



The rained poured down, hammering on the windows, trying to gain entrance to my house, having already soaked me during the run from my car to the front door.  Once inside I took off my long black coat, hung it up on the ornamental fake-metal coat stand that stood beside my front door, and turned to look out.  The rain became much more pleasant once I had escaped its clutches, and from annoyance at being soaked my thoughts now turned to happiness that I would not need to water anything in the garden for a week or two.

For fear that my mother would somehow find out that I had kept wet clothes on, giving myself a chance to catch not merely a cold but some severe form of influenza that was previously unknown and almost certainly fatal, I climbed the stairs and went into my bedroom.  I lived alone in a small terraced house, situated in what I regarded as a quite picturesque area of an otherwise slightly run-down city.  It was convenient for everything I wanted to do, and I had friends living directly opposite, whom I could visit whenever I felt like a five-minute chat.  Altogether the situation suited me very well, and I would honestly say that I was happy.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, undressing in a lazy and entirely uncommitted manner, I looked out at the street beyond.  A woman went past, half-walking and half-running, pushing a pram, itself completely enclosed in plastic.  An old man ran past, and then suddenly turned and seemed to shout something, ran back a short distance, leant down, and picked up a small brown dog, whose legs continued to run despite its detachment from the ground.  He disappeared along the road and into a front door, to be met by his wife, probably complaining at him having got so wet.

I heard a whirring noise from my study.  My computer, from which the noise came, was often left on when I went out, as the printing of documents took ages and I preferred not to have to sit through it.  The day was raining, I thought, which would give me a perfect opportunity to sit down and write something.  Not so.  A sunny day, filled with promise of excitement, was easy to divert into writing, but for some reason, unfathomable to me, a day which offered no alternative was not one in which I would ever be inspired.  Perhaps my muse wanted commitment, and would not help me unless I abandoned something else to be with her.

Sure enough, my computer monitor displayed small white dots hurtling towards the edge of the screen, creating an effect of a starscape flying past.  I had pulled the door almost-shut when I had left, as I often did, so I pushed it out of the way and took a step inside.  Something struck me as strange there and then, but I did not know what it was at the time.  Grabbing the mouse, which I suspect had been 'borrowed' from work some months before, I shut down the machine and switched it off.  The printer gave a little sound of movement, as it did whenever I switched the computer on or off, so I knelt down to switch it off, also.  It was then that I realised that what I had felt was someone's eyes upon me.  Remaining in the same basic pose, I turned my head very slightly, so that I was looking over towards the books on the large bookshelf, and concentrated on the edges of my vision.  The calm of my decision to look was shattered by the existence of something to look at, and my heart leapt.  I leapt to my feet and jumped back away from the door, and saw nothing there.  I was sure that there had something - someone - there.  My breathing was erratic and uncontrollable, and I walked, holding tightly onto the banister most of the way, downstairs, suddenly desperately in need of a large whisky.

One drink became three drinks and eventually I began to relax again.  As I was not feeling entirely happy, I decided to go over to my friends' house and have a cup of tea, and possibly tell them of my weird imaginings.  One of them, a literary kind of person, suggested that I should explore these feelings more, and use them creatively.  I strongly suspected that if I had been run over by a bus and was in hospital with every bone in my body broken, the first thing he would have said upon visiting me would have been "How are you?  I hope you're taking notes."  I am being unfair, of course, but paranoia is not something that people seem particularly capable of sympathising with, which is odd considering how many people seem to at least say that they suffer from it.

Anyway, the chat turned onto other topics, such as the film that we all saw the night before, or a mutual friend's little foibles, or lofty philosophical discussions that go nowhere, but seem to be awfully constructive while they are getting there.  Two cups of tea later, I had more-or-less forgotten my panic attack, and felt quite happy about going back home again, and cooking myself a meal, partially to sober up, as the whisky had gone horribly to my head, giving me that out-of-focus feel to my thoughts, but not actually causing the world to start spinning, or any of the traditional forms of drunkenness.

Returning to my own house, I entered and cooked a small meal.  As usual I ate it while listening to the radio, sitting by myself at my small and slightly-wobbly dining table, and looked out of the window, where the rain had by this time eased off to a drizzle.  Once I had eaten my two 100% beef beef burgers, which tasted almost exactly the same as the budget ones, and not half as good as the ones my mother used to make from minced steak, I put the plate, cutlery and glass back into the kitchen and decided, again as I often did, to leave the washing up until another time, or another day.

I sat down for a few minutes to read a book, but found it difficult to concentrate.  Something was bothering me about the upstairs room; something of the paranoia I had felt before.  Just as the hero in a horror film, I found myself walking upstairs to check.  There were four rooms in the upstairs of my house: a bathroom, the spare bedroom, my bedroom, and the study.  The first three rooms had doors which, when open, stood flat against the wall, and had no hidden corners or large cupboards in which anything could hide.  The study, on the other hand, had a door which could not open fully, and which left a space in which something could easily remain hidden.  You are being childish and stupid, I said to myself, quietly.  Why do you need to go in there and check behind the door?  That was what you did when you were six, and still believed in the monsters under the bed, too.

Five seconds later I was standing, heart palpitating, on the landing, staring wide-eyed and unblinking at the emptiness of the visible portion of the study.  I had walked into the room, and I had, with almost no trace of fear, turned round to look behind the door.  He had turned his head and grinned at me, showing a mouthful of blackened teeth, framed by a stubble-covered leathery-skinned jaw.  His eyes had been wide, just as mine were, and his shoulder-length blond hair looked as if it had not been washed or brushed in months.  There was no sound in that moment; just the wide Cheshire-cat style grin.  Even once I had leapt from the room I couldn't think.  I wanted to scream, or to run, or to kick the door hard in the hope that the mere touch of it would destroy him.  I felt like collapsing and bursting into tears.  I didn't even know what it was that scared me so much about it; most people would have confronted him immediately, or attacked him, or run away, or called the police, or a thousand other sensible things, and there I was, standing leant over the banisters, wondering whether I was going to throw up or not from the paralysing fear which I felt.

From the gentle and unperturbed ticking of the ornamental clock on the stairs, I knew that it was three and a half minutes before I gathered myself enough to do anything, and what I did then was run down the stairs, not even stopping to grab my coat to shield me against the weather outside, and ran out into the street.  Without pausing to consider the fact that I had often balked from the possibility, I ran flat-out towards the stream and leapt over it.  At any other time I would have been elated at succeeding in this incredible feat, but I did not stop to consider it in my race to my friends' door.  When I got there, I leant on the bell, and left the little chimes bashing away at each other, until the woman who lived there answered the door.  She saw my distress immediately, and without a word took my hand and led me inside.  I was given a cup of tea, and an arm remained around my shoulders, for something like half an hour before I stopped shivering and could talk to her.

I explained the situation, and what I thought, and how I thought it was the same person as before.  She believed me this time, at least that there was someone in the house, and asked if I wanted her to call the police.  It was only then that my fears began to play upon my mind fully and unfettered by reality.  No, I replied, for if the man had by that time gone, the police would believe I was wasting their time.  It would be better by far to investigate to see if the man was still there.  She seemed unconvinced, but she relented after another brief appeal, and agreed to go with me, as long as the large biker-type in the house was also taken along, although this did involve a delay of another ten minutes while the said-biker got up and got dressed, somewhat confused by the strange request being made of him.

Back at my house, my friends searched the house, high and low, and even checked the loft to see that no one was within.  Upon finding nothing, the pronounced that the man had gone, but I could see in their eyes that they no longer believed me.  Either they assumed that I had drunk too much, or they thought I was playing some stupid practical joke to see how they would react.  I almost broke down into tears again as I repeated my fervent belief that the man had been there, and I described him to them in detail.  My attempts to convince them sounded lame, even to me, and I would probably not have believed myself either.  As compensation for their troubles, I offered the two of them cups of tea, and they agreed.  We remained in my living room for over an hour before they finally decided that they wanted to go home.  The terror of my previous encounter returned as they approached the door, and I begged them to stay.  They told me that I was being silly, and that if I needed them I could always come over or phone them, and then they left me, alone in my suddenly huge and terror-filled house.

I cried, once I was alone again.  I knew, somehow, that he was still there.  Still standing behind the door, grinning.  Every time I closed my eyes I saw the grin.  I couldn't cope.  It was as simple as that.  My friends had checked the house thoroughly, and no one could have been there when they searched, so either I was mad, he was somehow supernatural - which I refused to believe - or he was somehow able to get in again.  How did I even know he was there?  I didn't know.  I just knew.

For four hours I sat there, wondering what I was going to do, and during that time I never even began to think coherently.  At the end of it I had made a resolution to go upstairs and confront him, somehow, but had no plan once I got there.  In the end I entered the study, refusing to look round, and turned on my computer, and began to write.

I hear nothing now save the quiet humming of the computer's fan and the tiny clicks of the keys as I type, and see nothing moving save the little black line on the screen, but I feel something.  The hairs on the back of my neck are prickling, and the skin there is giving the same sensation as when a razor blade is passed slowly over the skin a couple of millimetres above it.  I know that he is behind me, and I know that he is reading this.  I can sense his grin as he moves, at a snail's pace, towards me.  How does he walk?  I cannot visualise his walk at all.  He seems to glide.  Ah, his head is just above and behind mine, now.  I feel his breath on the back of my neck.  His hands appear at the corners of my eyes as he moved his hands towards my neck.  He gently places them around my neck, almost erotic in his sensitivity.  I quiver with both the thrill and the ecstasy of what is about to happen.