The Stalker. Short Story.

My weekend was pretty good. My sister came across briefly, brought with her the giant dog. I had to sleep in the same room as him, he won’t sleep here if he’s alone, he gets upset and he knows how to open doors, so he’ll just open them all and roam the house.

So I’m getting ready for bed and all of a sudden there’s a giant dog, on my bed. Nope. Nope. Nope. I was told he was too fat to jump that high.

LIES.

So I get him down and get into bed. Whumpf. There’s a dog where there was no dog before. Except he seems to have encountered the jumping difficulty this time, so rather than getting onto the bed, he instead has half his body on the bed and the other half standing. And he stayed like that for about half an hour. Every time I moved my hand away from his head/back he nudged it. I was reading so I didn’t mind too much, I felt pretty guilty when I made him get down, but it wasn’t like he was sleeping on the floor, he had a duvet to sleep on and everything! He settled down once I rolled over to go asleep, he seemed to understand that it was time to sleep, so he got comfortable. Luckily I didn’t wake up with big-ass dog crushing my chest. Though he did pretty much follow me wherever I went while he was still here.

Beyond that I haven’t really done much this weekend. I’ve started reading the Wheel of Time series, which is pretty enjoyable although I had to force myself to read about a fifth of the way through the first book before I could get into it. I found the names very, very confusing at first.

On with the show!

———————————————————————————————————————–

He was walking when he first heard it, that damn shuffle scrape. He had been working late to finish up his project, it was due in the morning and someone had fucked up massively, deleting a weeks’ worth of data. He had gotten it back, though it took him longer than he expected. He had never been in the business section at night and now he knew why everyone advised people to stay away after the workers went home, the streets were completely empty apart from him. He thought he saw someone a few minutes before, but they were too far away to make out properly. Whoever it was they had been walking quickly and he decided he should do the same. He was passing one of the many intersecting streets when he heard it, it was a strange noise, something shuffling, maybe someone dragging something, he paused and looked around himself, searching for the source, it sounded close, but he saw nothing. He shook his head slightly and decided he should keep going. He had another twenty minute walk ahead of himself. It was probably just some lazy janitor, dragging a bag of rubbish behind themselves as they went to the bins. He started to walk again, then pulled out his phone to check the time. There was some food in the fridge, but he wanted something hot, that didn’t need him to cook it. It was just coming up to midnight. The Chinese place would be closed, goddamn, why did it have to be Wednesday? The only night the Chinese closed so early. Damn. Oh well. He could have a cereal before going to bed, it’d be quick and easy and then tomorrow night he’d treat himself to take away.  It was cold and getting colder, he sped up a little, trying to warm himself. He’d have a shower when he got home, just a quick one to take the chill from his bones.

He heard the noise again, the shuffle drag, but he didn’t notice, too wrapped up in his thoughts of a hot shower and some food. He felt better when people started to appear, it was reassuring. There weren’t many at first, only one or two but after a few more blocks there were crowds. They weren’t very thick, but they were still there. He passed by the old shop, abandoned now, but it was always a reassuring marker, it meant he was only a few moments from home.

The apartment was warm at least, there had been a few problems with the heating the last week or so, something that was being looked at, but it didn’t appear as though it would be resolved quickly. He was just thankful that they were going into summer, soon the heating wouldn’t be necessary. He suspected that the boiler needed to be replaced and that management were just too cheap to pay for it all. He was just thankful they couldn’t up the fee. He would be moving out in a year or so anyway, once his contract was up, the placement was only temporary, eleven months then he’d be going back to his old job. He was looking forward to it, but the change had been nice, refreshing. He had more free time here too, there were surprisingly less obligations, it gave him time to relax. He dumped his bag to the side of the door, then started stripping as he moved deeper into the apartment. He’d shower first, then have food. He gathered everything he needed and went to the small bathroom, it wasn’t the greatest bathroom in the world, nor the most stylish, but it got the job done. It was slightly cramped, but it wasn’t too bad, it would be worse if there was two people in the apartment, there wouldn’t be enough space for everyone’s toiletries. He showered quickly, turning the heat of the water up, enjoying it. He felt much better afterwards, more content. He dried himself quickly and dressed in pyjamas. The kitchen was small too, but there was plenty of room for him. He looked through the contents of the fridge, looking for leftovers that he could just throw in the microwave, but there was nothing. He had planned on making a nice dinner, to celebrate the completion of the project, but that wouldn’t be happening now. He sighed then looked through the cupboards, trying to find a cereal. He ate quickly and once done, he rinsed his bowl in the sink before putting it in the dishwasher. As he closed it over, he heard a soft scraping noise, it sounded like something was being dragged across the carpet in the hall. He shook his head, lazy neighbours. Then he went into the bathroom again.

He went to bed straight afterwards and lay in the dark, trying to sleep. Normally he fell asleep quickly, but not tonight, tonight he tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. When he did finally manage to sleep it was broken, he would wake up for a few moments, turn, then nod off again. Each time convinced he had remained awake the entire time. In what seemed like no time at all his alarm started to blare, he turned it off and forced himself out of bed. He considered staying  where he was a little longer, but that would make his morning routine rushed. He stumbled through his room and into the bathroom, hoping a shower would wake himself up a bit. It didn’t help. He ate breakfast quickly enough, going for cereal again, then he left the apartment, just as the door closed he remembered his bag. Shit. He opened the door, fiddling with the lock, the key didn’t seem to want to go in. Finally he had access, he stepped in and grabbed his bag, then left, again.

The trip to work went by fast enough, the distance didn’t seem so long in the day time, with people all around. The crowds were loud, the traffic rumbled by, but still, underneath it all, was that noise.

His day went exactly to plan, which he hadn’t expected after the rough start. The presentation had gone very well and everything on the project was perfect, he may not have been able to celebrate last night, but tonight he’d make a nice dinner rather than get take away. It was suggested they go out for drinks at the weekend, something he was amenable to, it would be good to go out with his colleagues, they had seemed cold to him, maybe that would change. He thought he heard a strange noise while in the bathroom at work, but he dismissed it, just the tiredness flaring up again, it couldn’t be what he thought it was.

He left work a little early, after all, he deserved it, and walked home in the daylight, with plenty of people around. It was reassuring, he didn’t know why, but he felt better when he wasn’t alone. He got home and changed out of his work clothes, then he started to cook. Steak, with fried onions and mushrooms, along with some beer battered chips. They were oven chips, but they sounded interesting, at least they had in the shop. Soon the entire apartment smelled of the food and he was hungry. He ate his food slowly, enjoying it. When he was done he cleaned everything away, he hadn’t bothered with clearing while he cooked, he felt better when the place was neat. Once it was done, he went to his small bookshelf and picked one out, it had been a long time since had enough free time to read.

It was late when he put the book down, he would have kept reading, but the he was distracted, the pipes had begun to shake and clank, he couldn’t concentrate. He marked his place then put the book away. He’d go to bed, he was up early in the morning after all. He went into the bathroom and started to brush his teeth. He never heard the noise in the hallway.

The door clicked open softly, then gently closed. That shuffle scrape moved slowly across the carpet, towards the bedroom.

He was sleeping heavily, the stress of the project was gone and after the long day, he was out as soon as he lay down. He didn’t hear the noise, nor did he feel the light tugging on the blanket as it dragged itself on top of him. He tried to turn over, but he couldn’t move. Something was weighing him down. He opened his eyes sleepily, not sure where he was. It was there. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. It grinned at him, then spoke, it’s voice raspy and dry, “thought you’d gotten away did you? There is nothing you can do to escape me.”

He couldn’t move, could barely breathe. He shut his eyes tight, trying to block it all out. It would be a long, long night. He felt it caress him, scaly skin gently moved down his cheek. Its breath on his face, hot, damp and fetid.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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