This story is by mabvuto zulu and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
My alarm clock goes off at five AM. The alarm on my iPad also goes off. The snooze button doesn’t work for both of us (my wife and I). We usually doze off after the alarm. We agreed to set the alarm on the iPad and put it in the top closet so one of us would be forced to wake up to turn it off.
The first light of dawn creeps through the window. I check on my wife, Tamara, she is fast asleep. A bird chirps in some distance. Mosquitoes hum away. The noise of the crickets begins to drop.
My heart skips a bit as I notice a tall creature standing at the foot of the bed. I look at the hairy legs then thighs and I get a glimpse of long fingernails. I squeeze my eyes for better focus then notice that it is the fan that is turned off.
Something is weird. I did not recharge the iPad. Am on leave from work so I didn’t have reason to be up early. The closet is two and a half meters from the ground. I can only tiptoe to be able to get the iPad and switch off the alarm. I rise from our bed, raise my hand to the closet and feel, just slightly, the hairs of a cold hand. Something pricks on my fingers, like I touched the face of a man with a rough beard.
I let out an audible gasp of fear. My wife, snaps out of her sleepy head to find out what is happening. I explain and I see a flash of concern in her face that disappears soon as I mention the hairy fingers behind in the closet. It is replaced by worry as I tell her that I want to turn off the damn alarm on the iPad.
“What alarm Sizwe?”
“Can’t you hear it?”
Now that she is fully awake, I can’t hear the alarm either.
“But you heard the alarm from the clock” please say you did
“No” she responds
Am worried and scared. I know what I heard. It is impossible that Tamara didn’t hear anything.
Demented laughter bubbles up my throat. I suppress it. A chuckle escapes.
“Are you OK Sizwe?” Tamara’s voice is light. She sounds like she wants to laugh along. But there is something else behind that question. Veiled concern.
“ I’m OK. I think I just got used to these alarms going off at the same time every day. My mind is playing tricks on me. I do need this rest. Hell, I haven’t been on leave for five years.”
I almost believe my feeble attempt to explain my insanity. None of us buys this load of crap but it’s something to go by.
Tamara, is slightly taller than I. she doesn’t have to tiptoe to get to the closet. She checks the closet. Nothing there. Am convinced I touched something up there just as am sure I didn’t recharge my iPad.
We prepare our twins for school and Tamara drops them off as she goes for work.
Now that I am on leave, I can catch up on my long time hobbies. Hunting birds with my catapult and reading novels. I go to my study to pick up a book and check on the state of my catapult. There is a rich smell of leather from the books. Am bothered by something else. A presence in this room. I brush it aside and pick up one of my old paperbacks, grab my catapult and head to the bedroom.
I hear the horn of Tamara’s car around 4pm. She and the kids are back. She forgot the remote to the electric gate. I rush to the bedroom and sure enough, the remote to the electric gate is on her side of our double bed. I usually keep my remote in the car.
I pick up the remote and rush to our bathroom that is facing the gate. Before I press the remote, the gate opens. A cold electric shiver runs down my body. I feel like my muscles had turned into electric transmission cables. I look at the remote to confirm that my finger hasn’t touched the open button. Of course not. I shake my head with the hope that I would wake up from this dream. However I know this is no dream. It has all the signs and symptoms of reality.
I am terrified. I didn’t know how this is happening. Everything is terribly wrong. Everything. We have been leaving in this house for the past three years. Uneventful happy years.
Suddenly, am hearing alarm clocks that I did not set, I touched something in the closet and now the gate is opening on its own.
Tamara drives in with the kids. Soon as she turns off the engine, the gate closes. I watch wide eyed. What sort of thing opens and closes an electric gate?
The sun is orange and hiding behind the clouds as it sets. It has a malignant look to it. It gives me an eerie feeling.
“We have to talk” Tamara says as she settles in front of the TV.
We have been married for eight years. And every time she has started a conversation with ‘we have to talk’, I do not win that one. A wave of despair flushes through me as i anticipate my impending predicament.
“Shoot” I say. I pretend to be calm
“I will go straight to the point babe. I think you need to see someone. A psychiatrist. You have been hearing things, touching unseen beings and your sleep has been disturbing”.
“What’s wrong with my sleep?” I ask
“You talk in your sleep. The things you say frighten me. I have not said much about that because I thought it was just dreams. But now with these noises you are hearing, am worried.”
I could bring up the story about the gate. The strange feeling I got in the study room. But it will only reinforce her case. My wife thinks am losing my head and there is no other explanation. We agree to go see the psychiatrist first thing tomorrow morning. Dusk morphs into night. We go to bed.
I have a dream about our wedding day. Tamara and I are in church. You may kiss the bride, the priest instructs with a smile. Something is wrong with that smile. It is plastic. It doesn’t reach his eyes. His eyes are wide, white and pupil-less. Her lips, smooth like velvet, taste like wine as we kiss. The music from the piano plays in the background. Smiling, Tamara faces the congregation. Her smile is replaced by a countenance of horror. She looks at me, I look at the people. They have all become skeletons. There are small stones on the polished floor. Tamara opens her mouth to scream…
I wake up to a long shrill note that is piercing the quiet Lusaka morning. It was like the sound of a caged animal. Like a goat, yes, a goat that knows it’s being taken to its slaughter.
I jump out of bed. Adrenalin rush almost pushing my heart out of my chest . I grab the catapult and as I rush toward the door I slide and fall. I investigate to see what caused me to fall; it is small stones. Like those in church. ‘Bullets’ for my weapon. I pick up a handful as I open the door.
Tamara is held by this…thing by her throat. It is tall and has a hairy body. It looks like a very ugly monkey with major congenital malformations. The ears are on both sides of its cheeks. There is a slit on the lower part of its face that could be its mouth. An evil, eye is on its forehead. I can’t see a nose, but I swear I can hear it breath. I feel my bones turn to ice. My limbs, like cheese.
I put a stone in the catapult. I tremble uncontrollably. My shots are wide. A loud metallic bark escapes the mouth of this monster. It’s laughing. This creature has a sense of humor. Tamara is gasping for breath. Her face a mask of madness and terror. My last shot. I fire and get him/it squarely in the forehead. I see the fine hole left by the penetration of the stone. I think it looks like an empty eye socket. The monster opens its ugly mouth to let out a guttural roar. I feel the air vibrate around me. It lets go of Tamara and collapses to the ground. Tamara is grasping her throat as I kneel besides her. I look into her eyes and see such profound horror. I see something else; relief peeping behind the mask of terror.
The thing lets outs its last breath as it turns its head to the side. On the occipital part of its head is a nose.
Shaaron Hanna says
Other than a misspelling that was understandable (the word “am” for the contraction “I’m”) and the word “catapult” for the American word “slingshot” it was not a difficult read at all, but it certainly had a surreal feel to it. This reminded me of a Stephen King that he may have written in the beginning of his career, wherein a nightmare becomes reality. A strange ending line, but nice to know where the breathing sound came from, HAHA On a scale of 1 – 10, for me, it would be around a 5. Thanks for the story.
Christy Brown says
Attempting to figure out whether this was reality, a dream, or some sort of mental illness kept me reading. There were a number of punctuation errors that were a bit distracting (missing periods, commas, etc.). Overall, a fun story to read. Thank you for sharing.
Georgina Ballantine says
I love the creepy tone of this story and the suspense of not knowing what was real. The dream sequence in the church really resonated with me too.
As others have commented, there are a number of punctuation and other grammatical errors that would benefit from a good edit. I’d like less detail on iPads and alarms and more on Sizwe and Tamara’s emotional reactions.
Thanks for sharing, and good luck!
Susan Finlay says
Good story, with good foreshadowing. You kept the tension throughout. Nicely done!