There is nothing more terrifying than waking up at home in the dark and sensing someone, or something, nearby. Dark alleys, dark car parks, dark woods can scare you, chill you to the bone, but part of that fear is a desire to run… to run home… run in… slam the door. When the terror strikes in your home, in your own bed… then there’s nowhere to run to, nowhere safe.
I woke that night and knew someone was in the room. The house is on a quiet road, the main bedroom at the rear and facing a field backed by woodland. It was always quiet at night, but this was different. The quiet had a velvet feel, smothering me. I lay as still as I could trying to keep my breathing smooth and deep even as my heart pounded in my chest. I lay there ears straining for the slightest sound, body tingling as if it too was trying to feel any vibration, any hint of the intruder. I’m a grown man but I can tell you I was absolutely petrified. I could feel the presence in the room, feel it holding still, feel it watching me. I was facing the window, though no light made it through the thick curtains, my back to the door. I became more and more certain that the intruder was behind me, near the door.
I must have lain there for minutes straining for any sound, eyes cracked open trying to pierce the dark to see a shadow or any hint of movement. Finally I squeezed together enough courage to move. My hand shot out to find the bedside lamp’s cord, fumbled it, found the switch and turned it on. I followed the motion through with my body, half rolling half falling off the bed and landing on the floor by the window.
As I rolled off the bed I heard the bedroom door slam open, banging into the chest of draws behind it, bouncing back off. By the time I was facing the door, blinking at the brightness from the lamp, the door had almost closed – hiding any view of the landing. I could hear though. I heard footsteps rushing down the stairs followed by the creak of the back door. I quickly turned to the window, yanked back the curtains, but it was pitch black outside. Thick winter clouds had rolled in earlier in the day and were now blocking any star or moonlight. Even if I hadn’t destroyed my night sight by turning on the lamp I wouldn’t have seen anything.
For that matter I wasn’t sure there was anything to see. I’d heard the back door go, but surely the night would be as dark for anyone else. Without a torch or light of some sort how far could they get? Had they even left? Were they alone?
I felt nearly as scared as before, but in a different way. The paralysis had gone now, something primal was rising… a deep anger. Not banishing the fear but complimenting it. I scanned the room quickly for something, anything to use as a weapon. Grabbed the fist sized lump of granite with a clock on that an Aunt had given me years before. The weight of it in my hand felt good, gave me a warm feeling seeping through my body that helped chase out some of the fear. Like I said – primal. Underneath a couple of thousand years of civilisation the instincts of our ancestors still burn. Terror in the night? Grab a rock, a stick, anything you can use as a weapon.