The night before Halloween – I thought I’d post this piece – it has been published on Shortbread stories and is one of my very early shorts.
“Jim, I’ve had a text from Melanie she’s going to Skype us tonight. Try and be around about nine will you.”
“OK, great.” The door slammed and the sound of a man whistling happily as he headed for his garden shed gradually faded into the gentle warmth of the day.
Sue, sighed. She didn’t mind Jim spending so much time in the shed, truly she didn’t, but now Melanie was away at Uni it did get a bit – well – quiet around the house. She didn’t want to become an empty nest whinge but the sad little nut deep inside was a reality. Come on, cheer up you can see her and talk to her tonight. In the meantime you’ve got stuff to get on with. …
“Nice dinner love, shall I clear?”
“No, it’s OK Jim I can do it and then don’t forget Mel is Skyping, tell you what go and boot up the machine and see if the web cam needs adjusting.”
Sending her husband off to the study with a quick peck on the cheek Sue took a moment to reflect. They really were very lucky, they still got on well even after all these years, they had their gorgeous daughter and, fingers crossed, the retirement income was all taken care of. Clearing the dishes into the machine and wiping around the kitchen Sue hummed quietly and then made her way through to the little study with a teeny flutter of excitement in her tummy. She really, did miss Mel but how lovely that she was doing so well and making them proud.
Ching, ching. The computer chimed out and the tiny screen appeared in the corner of the screen. “Maximise Jim, open it up.”
“Okay, keep your hair on. Hello Mel, hi there.” There she was her fair hair tied back in a pony tail and a scruffy hoody pulled on over her shirt looking every inch the modern student. They both beamed at the computer, “Hi Mel. Hello honey.” Both speaking at once they heard an answering giggle.”
“Hi you guys, one at a time would be good.”
“Sorry, sorry, we’re over excited. This is Mum.”
“No kiddin, I thought it might be seeing as I can see you and hear you.”
“Oh alright clever clogs. I’m old. I’m a Silver Surfer be kind.”
“Just kiddin’ Mum, you know that. Anyway it’s great to see you, are you both OK.”
“We’re fine chick, are you? I can’t see you very clearly, it’s dark where are you?”
“I’m in the rec. Sophie had some mates in our room and it was like a zoo so I came down here. The Uni are energy saving so only half the lights come on at this time of night. Do you want me to go back to the room?”
“No, it’s fine don’t bother. Tell us what you’ve been up to.”
“Oh, study and stuff. I got a B in that last English Lit assignment, I was happy with that.”
“Jim, what’s that shadow in the corner, behind her.”
“Shadow, what shadow, I can’t see anything – where.”
“What did you say Mum, I couldn’t hear you.”
“Nothing Mel, nothing. Well done on the assignment.”
“There Jim just behind her, in the corner a shadow, I’m sure it moved just now, don’t you see?”
“I can’t see a shadow, stop fussing woman, you’ll scare her.”
“What it is Mum, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing love, it’s nothing, can you not turn any more lights on?”
“I don’t think so, look I’ll ring off and go back to my room and call you back.”
“No, don’t bother, it’s nothing.”
The dim screen was almost colourless, the grey light from a small window and the tiny glow of the desk lamp was nowhere near enough to illuminate the corners of rec. room. Sue leaned forward peering into the dimness, she was sure she had seen something. She shivered, an icicle of fear, a premonition trickled down her spine. She was suddenly very, very afraid.
“Mel, go back to your room. Pack up we’ll call you back.”
“What, Mum why are you being so weird, what’s up?”
The shadow grew, it formed it moved. Man.
“Mel, get out, Mel”
Too late he had her. One hand over her mouth, just under her terrified eyes and the other pining her to the chair. Too quick for her to scream, instant capture.
He leaned forward and leered into the screen. “Hello mummy, hello daddy.”
“Get off her, leave her alone, let her go. Jim do something, Jim help her.”
“I’m dialing 999. Get off her, leave her alone. Oh God don’t hurt her.”
“Sorry Mum, sorry Dad. Here we go.”
The flash of a blade in the darkness.