by Ruth Ogilive-Brown
I awake to a crash. I must have dozed off on the sofa. The room is in darkness, apart from orange embers in the log burner, and a band of white light across the coffee table from the lamppost outside; it illuminates Clarence and three jagged bits of blue crockery. ‘I suppose you want some tasty morsel now, even though you’ve just broken my favourite mug?’ Clarence purrs his agreement, licks his lips.
I drag myself from the sofa, stretching and yawning. A car’s headlights sweep around the walls, bathing the framed pictures in light for a second before fading. There’s a low hum and the turn and crunch of wheels before the engine shudders to a stop. I go to the window. Outside my house, there’s a man in a car. He’s parked on the opposite side underneath the street lamp. A chill tingles through me. It can’t be him. I try to study the shape of his head, the angle of his nose, but it’s just too dark.
My mobile jumps to life on the coffee table – ringing and vibrating, my sister’s name flashing. Clarence arches his back and I grab the phone just before he pounces on it.
‘Did you see the news?’ she asks, her voice breathy.
‘No – what news? What do you mean?’
‘He’s out Cathy. He escaped from prison last night.’
My stomach lurches. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes.
‘Are you still there?’ she says, her voice more high pitched than usual. ‘Listen - get out Cathy. Get out of that house. Get out now. Come round here. Just in case.’
I race upstairs to my bedroom and pull on my trainers, fumbling with the laces, my fingers numb. A car door slams. I creep to the side of the window. He’s out of the car, moving towards the garden gate.
The shrill ‘brrring brrring’ of the telephone in the downstairs hallway pierces through the hush like an alarm bell. I get halfway down the stairs and stop. My breath is coming in quick gasps. I can see the front door from here. I hear his boots on the gravel, and then he’s there, his body making dark shapes against the mottled glass oblong in the top half of the door. He raps hard. It’s an assertive, angry kind of knock. He shouts my name and I try to decide if it’s his voice. I’m not sure. But when he rattles the door handle, I know. It has to be him.
I sneak down the stairs, my legs heavy. I’ll escape out the back door. The phone stops ringing as I pass it, but the letter box creaks open. ‘Cathy, Cathy,’ he shouts, his mouth framed in the brass rectangle, a hint of aftershave and cigarettes wafting into the hallway.
I run past the front door, along the hallway and into the kitchen. My hands tremble as I grope for the key in the kitchen drawer. Come on. Come on. Where are you? I find it, slot it in the lock and open the door.
He’s there already, standing in the doorway, shrouded by the blackness of the night like a giant bird of prey. ‘Cathy,’ he starts. Adrenaline courses through me. There’s a buzzing in my ears like a thousand wasps and my whole body shakes. I pick up the iron pot from the work top, and as he moves towards me into the dark kitchen I lunge at him, whacking the side of his head, making him stumble. He knocks his head on the edge of the counter and falls to the floor with a sickening thud. I stand there in shock for a few seconds, then I let the pot slip from my clammy hands, let it clatter to the floor.
I stagger to the nearest kitchen chair, sink into it before my legs give way. Something else starts to buzz – my mobile. I pull it from my jeans pocket. ‘Cathy, it’s D.I. Thomson here. We’ve been trying to call you. We’ve sent a detective round,’ he says. ‘Just to make sure you’re ok.’
‘A detective?’ My voice is a tiny squeak.
‘Yes – if you’re not in, he’ll check your doors and windows to make sure the house is safe.’
I jump up and flick the light switch. The long florescent strip hums and flickers then floods the kitchen with brilliant light. I rub my eyes, stare at the man on the floor. He stares back at me, unseeing. It isn’t him. It isn’t my stalker.
‘Hello Cathy,’ says a dark shape in the doorway.
My name is Ruth Ogilvie Brown. I live in Dundee and work as a university administrator. When I’m not being a wage slave, I love walking in the countryside, reading and writing. I’ve recently taken part in a six week online creative writing course with Curtis Brown. This is the first time I’ve submitted my work anywhere.