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by scriever 

Posted: 14 June 2017
Word Count: 748
Summary: For the challenge - perception.

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When I wake it’s still dark outside. For some reason I don’t think I should move. So I stay still as a corpse under the blankets. What’s woken me? I listen so hard I feel my ears actually getting bigger, and swivelling like a big cat on a nature programme. There. Was that a shuffle? A soft, cautious movement of a foot? I’m wide awake now, with no chance of getting back to sleep.

I lie awake, ears straining, for about five hours. Nothing happens. Why isn’t it light outside? Has the world ended? Maybe that’s why it’s so quiet, as well as dark. A nuclear winter, just like dad told me about. Mum told him off, said it would never happen, but I could tell she didn’t really mean it. Why have I been spared? I’ll probably have to fight zombies for food.

What’s that? A breath. There’s someone breathing, in my room. There’s a monster, in the darkest part of the room by the door, staring towards my bed. I just know there is. Holding an axe, or a long, wickedly curved knife, its blade all rusty from the blood of all its sleeping victims. I have to see. Holding my breath, I turn myself as slowly as I can, without making a single sound, until I’m facing the door. I steel myself, then open a single eye. That big shadow by the door could easily hide a murderer. There’s nothing else for it, I’ll have to open the other eye. The shadow by the door is a shadow. I let my breath out slowly.

I relax, then tense again as my radar ears pick up another noise. A sort of scurrying, beneath the window. A mouse? But we’ve never had mice, thanks to Connie The Cat. Something else then. A huge spider. A tarantula. This is worse than the axe murderer. At least that would be a quick end, unless he wasn’t a very good at it. But having a tarantula crawl all over you, then bite you with its venomous fangs, to feel the cold creep of poison in your veins, as it inches towards your heart, that would be true torture. I know, I saw it on the National Geographic channel.

I’ll have to turn again, but as slowly as possible, in case it’s already sitting on the bedclothes. You don’t want to disturb a tarantula when it’s sitting on top of you. Anyone knows that. But what will I see? A tarantula’s big compared to other spiders, but it would be hard to see if it’s down by the skirting, or even – horror of horrors – under the bed. I think it’s on the duvet, sure I felt it. Maybe if I sort of jerk the covers, all at once, if it’s there it’ll be thrown off. Right on to my face. Better stay as still as I can.

Another five hours passes. No deadly spider bites, no knives plunging into me. Still dark outside though. How long does a nuclear winter last? How long should I say here? Until I get ravenously hungry I suppose. Or need the toilet. I need to pee. One moment I didn’t, now I just have to. How does that happen? Need to hold it in. The thought of my bare foot standing on a hairy spider is too much, even worse than the other option. It’s no good. I’ll have to get up. I need to put the light on, so I can make sure that the carpet’s tarantula free. Phew. No spiders. The path to the door’s clear.

Made it to the hall. My heart’s pounding. The lights are on downstairs. I hear voices. Burglars? Look out for the fifth step, the one that creaks. The door to the lounge is open a crack. I put my eye to it. I can see two people on the couch. ‘He’s a monster!’ My mother’s voice. They haven’t died in the nuclear winter either. I push the door open. ‘Who’s a monster?’ Two heads swivel towards me.
‘Can’t sleep, poppet?’ My mother holds out her arms and I climb on her lap for a cuddle. On the television is a fat man with an angry orange face, shouting. He has some sort of animal sleeping on his head, looks like a small cat, or a fat hamster.

‘Nobody for you to worry about,’ says mum. ‘Just the President of the United States, that’s all.’

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Comments by other Members

Bazz at 15:58 on 17 June 2017  Report this post
Hi ross, great build to this, almost feels like it could be a picture book. I love the competing fears, the sudden flights of fantasy that makes shapes out of shadow. you could maybe do a bit more with the trump part at the end, another monster that distorts with the light; give him a transition from capable leader to ranting child perhaps...?

TassieDevil at 18:19 on 17 June 2017  Report this post
Lovely building of tension, Ross with the short staccato sentences. Lots of phobias there plus childlike perceptions eg fighting zombies. The reality Moster at the end takes it to a new level of terror though. Well done.

Cliff Hanger at 17:23 on 23 June 2017  Report this post
Hi Ross

I like the way you tease out all the universal phobias we have and Bazz is right about the effective build up. You maybe could just lose the President statement at the end. It's clear who you're alluding to and there might be a different, punchier way to conclude it. I really enjoyed reading it.


BryanW at 10:57 on 24 June 2017  Report this post
You recreate that childish imagination of terror lurking in the bedroom very well. The kind of images of horror  that come into the child's mind, morphing from one to another and the internal conversation - I like the validation of the terantula's powers through referencing National Geographic, for example. The exaggeration of time and then when the idea of needing a wee happens - well, as we all know, you just can't get that thought out of your mind! Well- paced. I agree with Jane about the ending - the orange face is enough for the Trump reference - but it doesn't give explanation to the noises he hears. 

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