Though it was long past midnight, Christine lay awake having only succeeded in calming herself down somewhat since her lapse of sanity hours earlier. The boy couldn’t possibly have been there, yet his gaze had seemed so real, that it had felt as if he was looking right at her deepest fears. She felt silly even thinking about it: but there was still a remnant of the horror she had felt earlier, that had her listening for the smallest sign that he was back, lingering somewhere just beyond the closed door.
Every sound in the otherwise quiet house seemed to have taken on a life of its own. The wind blowing gently outside the house had transformed from a soothing voice in the night into a building storm, warning her of more to come. The rustling of plastic that had brought little fear when Danny had been sleeping next to her, now seemed to scream out as if something was clawing at it, trying to fight its way through to the other side as the shadows under the bedroom door crept closer.
She felt an urge to laugh at her irrational thought stream, but she didn’t, realizing that she was afraid the sound of her voice would shatter the fragile silence that surrounded her and transform into the manic laughter of approaching dangers. She shook her head, willing the thoughts to stop and sleep to take over, but she was caught in the firm grasp of consciousness.
She lay awake for another while, tossing and turning while keeping a close eye on the door as if the handle would suddenly turn ever so slightly. A feeling of hunger was beginning to creep up on her, and though that was a feeling she’d usually ignore and go back to sleep, but she wouldn’t allow herself to indulge in such carelessness while it wasn’t just her own well-being on the line.
Reluctant to leave the warmth and safety of her bed, she sat up, listening for a few seconds to reassure herself, however hollow that reassurance might be, that she wouldn’t run into unpleasant surprises outside the door.
Angry with herself, she manned up and pushed herself out of bed, the cold clinging round her as she made her way toward the door. It was on old house, she reminded herself, the cold and the draught was only what could be expected from a place like that with plenty of little holes and gaps for cold air to creep through. She would be locked away in an asylum if she ever voiced the thought that ghosts caused the cold they experienced.
She pulled the door open and walked down the hallway, careful not to look toward where she thought she’d seen the boy. Instead she headed down the stairs, promising herself to call Danny in the morning to tell him to have someone look at the boiler in case that was the cause of the sudden change in temperature, and even if she wouldn’t admit it, find a little comfort in talking to him.
Smiling a little by the thought of her husband, who would be home late the next evening, she headed into the kitchen, but she had only taken a few steps into the room before she stopped abruptly, having come to face, once again, the boy she’d almost convinced herself was a figment of imagination.
He stood, barely three feet away, toying the tip of one of Christine’s kitchen knives, while watching her with wonder. She shook her head slowly, wanting to step back but found herself unable to move, her limbs heavy with fear.
She looked at the knife, unsure what to do, but at once the boy’s attention also shifted to the tool in his hand, as if he had only just noticed it when she had. He moved his fingers along the blade, without as much as breaking his skin as he examined it, before he cast a questioning glance at Christine.
“What’ve you got there?” She asked, her voice breaking as she spoke. There was no way the small child’s presence could be explaining, yet as she stood there, watching him, there was no doubt in her mind that he was real.
She took a step closer to him and reached for the knife, her hands trembling, but he was as frightened by her movement as she was by him. He jumped back, the knife now pointed toward her if not to pose a threat, then at least to ward her off.
“I’m sorry.” She said, struggling to maintain a calm exterior though she was trembling with fear on the inside. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
He eyed her with suspicion, seeming almost as scared as her, though the way he looked at her made her feel sad more than anything. Once again his attention shifted, and at once Christine was aware of a presence behind her, this time not in the shape of a shadow but the feeling of an intense gaze, burning its way into her neck.
She turned around, slowly this time, but like before there was nothing but the empty house to be seen. The clanking of metal against the tiled kitchen floor made her gasp, her voice echoing through the house as she spun, to find the knife lying on the floor where the boy had just stood.
She grabbed the doorframe, in an attempt to steady herself as her legs no longer seemed willing or able to carry her. She remained in that spot for several minutes, trying to make sense out of what had happened, but try as she might, no explanation she could come up with seemed sufficient.
After steadying herself, she made her way toward the spot on the floor where the knife had remained unmoving for the past few minutes, knowing that if the knife was in fact right there on the floor, someone would have had to have moved it there and the boy would’ve been real. She kneeled on the floor, reaching for the knife but before her fingers even touched it, she drew her hand back. If the knife was really there and the boy was real, what would she do then? Or even worse, if the knife wasn’t real, was she losing her mind?
She got up from the floor and turned to leave the kitchen, her hunger long forgotten, but as she reached the hallway, she cast a last glance at the kitchen floor, only to find nothing but bare tiles.
By the time the early sunlight made its way through the curtains by the bedroom window, Christine still hadn’t managed to go back to sleep. She had lain awake, fearing that if she went to sleep, something would get to her under the cover of darkness, or she would wake up with no memory of herself, having lost all she was to the claws of insanity, but as morning arrived her fears seemed to fade as if it had all been a frighteningly vivid dream.
She watched as the numbers on her alarm clock shifted and it finally turned 6am, Danny would be about to get up and get ready to go to court by now, so her calling him wouldn’t cause him any unnecessary worries.
With that in mind she picked up her phone. Hoping to come up with some reason for calling before he picked up the phone, having been unable to think of something in the hours she had lain awake, waiting for it to be appropriate to call him.
“Taylor?” He asked sleepily. She had obviously caught him still asleep, if he hadn’t checked the caller ID, to see that she was the one calling him.
“Hey.” She said, “Did I wake you?”
“Yeah, but it’s fine I should be getting up soon anyway.” His voice was rough from sleep as he spoke. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. “ She said, hoping he wouldn’t catch her on what could only be considered a lie. “I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I figured I’d give you a call, hear how the trial is going.”
“The trial is moving along fine, though for an expert witness I haven’t played much of a part.” He said. “Are you sure everything is fine? It’s not like you to call just for a chat.”
“I missed you.” She said, smiling by herself. “It must’ve been hormones.”
“Funny.” Danny simply said. “I’m hoping to catch a flight this evening, but I wont be home until late.”
“Are you telling me not to wait up?” She asked, laughing with him. She stayed in bed, enjoying the comfort of talking to Danny until it was time to get up and get ready for work.