By Monisha Zaman
A cold finger gently stroked her cheek mere seconds before her eyes snapped open. Hoisting herself onto her pillows she rubbed her eyes and stared blankly into the dark room, trying to make out any shape or shadow, however she could see nothing but pitch blackness looming around her. Confused as to whether she was dreaming again or not, she scrunched up her eyes, trying to remember exactly what it was that woke her up at 3 in the morning—something moving against her cheek. It could have just been a moth, she said to herself, that wouldn’t be anything too bad, she was used to this by now as during the whole summer she always left the window open at night, and would wake up in the morning with mysterious marks and bruises on her shoulders and face that would resemble moth bites. That’s all it was, she said to herself firmly, “you need to go back to sleep now, you have a meeting at 9am tomorrow morning!”
However, no matter how logical her reasoning was, a small part of her knew what it really could have been, the horror that was always at the back of her mind, the horror that she tried her best to bury deep inside, to obscure with other thoughts. It couldn’t be, there’s no way it could be that, she convinced herself as she turned around in bed and pulled the duvet up to her neck.
As she tried to fall asleep, her nostrils flared as she noticed the faint metallic smell lingering in the air around her. A soft thud followed by the sound of a zip being opened came from the left corner of her room, a mere few meters from her bed. Eyes wide open again, she lay under the duvet, her heart banging painfully against her ribcage, blood pounding in her ears, hardly daring to believe it, the mantra it can’t be him it can’t be him coursed through her veins, how could it be him? How could he have escaped, how did he get in? She strained her ears to see if she could hear anything else, anything at all that could possibly rule out her worst nightmare, but alas that would be too good to be true for the train wreck of a life that she had led for the past few years. She was half tempted to turn her head around, to see exactly what that noise was behind her, yet half terrified that it was indeed her worst fear. Gently she reached for the handle of the kitchen knife that she had slept with every night for the past week underneath her pillow. I’m ready she thought, if it is him I am ready. With the kitchen knife grasped tightly in her hand she mentally prepared herself for a struggle, for the battle she was about to face like no other she had encountered whilst at the same time semi paralysed with a chilling fear that doused her like a bucket of ice water. On the count of three she would raise her knife to him and get herself out of the bed as quickly as she could, she wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to do with the knife, to stab him as deep as she could and then run or exactly what order, but nevertheless every fibre of her being was focused on the job that she had to do, her lifeline, her only shot.
Just as she was about to spring the knife from under her pillow, she could feel his warm breath, the pungent odour of tobacco against her face. Yanking the knife from under her pillow she hoisted herself onto the bed and jumped to the ground in one smooth motion. She then ran to the already open door, however she tripped over a pair of shoes and felt a shooting pain as her knees smacked against the hard wooden floor. The adrenaline that had guided her actions abruptly vaporised and left her with sheer terror that swallowed her entire body, immobilising her to the ground. Her eyes riveted over her shoulder and remained transfixed on the dark figure that was a mere foot away from her. His pale grey eyes gleamed malevolently and locked in an intense gaze on her face, a crooked smile leered on his unshaven face, the face that she saw in court last month, the face that haunted her in her worst nightmares; the face that was on the back of her mind every time she left the house.
As he stepped closer towards her, the metallic odour, the odour of blood instantly intensified; it emanated from his shoes, his trousers and from his heavily spattered jacket. When he finally stood still, towering over her, she noticed with a jolt that the blood on his trousers glistened in the hallway light- the blood was still wet and suddenly she was completely aware of the intense, debilitating pain that ebbed from her kneecaps.