Closing his book and switching off the bedside lamp, Brian Knowles shuffles down under the duvet. He turns and gently kisses his sleeping wife.
“I love you, Sonia,” he whispers, resting his head on the pillow.
He’s on the verge of sleep when his wife suddenly sits up. She lets out a frightened gasp and he reacts quickly, knocking his book off the bedside table as he fumbles to switch on the lamp.
“Sonia? What’s the matter?” he asks, gently rubbing her shoulder, careful not to cause alarm.
His wife just sits there staring at the curtains, her eyes unblinking.
She’s probably still asleep, Brian thinks.
He places his other hand on her shoulder and is about to gently lay her down when she speaks.
“You know that feeling when you wake up and think, ‘thank goodness it was only a dream’?”
“Err, well, kind of,” he says, knowing that she’s about to go off on another of her crazy stories.
“Well, this particular dream isn’t like any I’ve had before,” she starts telling him, pushing herself back up against the headboard.
“Oh, let’s see, you were alone in a log cabin surrounded by darkness…”
“How do you know?” she asks, turning to him. Her eyes are wide, searching his for answers.
He laughs. “You are crazy sometimes, you know?”
“Listen,” she says, playfully hitting him on the shoulder. “We’re up in the Highlands of Scotland, staying in a log cabin at the side of a loch. I can’t remember the name of the loch but it’s totally secluded. We don’t even have a car so I have no idea how we got there.”
“I know,” Brian says, spreading his arms wide and waving them up and down, “maybe we sprouted wings and flew.” Brian laughs at his addition to the story.
“Right, that’s it. I’m not telling you now.” Sonia folds her arms across her breasts and exhales through her nose. She pouts like a spoilt child, a smile sneaking into her expression.
“Aw, come on. I’m only messing.”
“Okay, but no more laughing. You promise?”
“I promise,” Brian answers.
“So, we’d just finished watching TV and you get up to turn it off. I turn off the lamps and we head into the bedroom… ”
“Ooh, I like the sound of this,” he says, giving Sonia his full attention.
“Sorry mister, there’s none of that in this one. Where was I up to? Oh yeah, so we head into the bedroom and there’s a noise outside, but not a noise that you normally hear, like an owl or something. This sound is different – like a slapping noise.”
“A bit of bondage, interesting.”
“You really do have a one-track mind, Mr Knowles. No, not bondage. The sound is more like… well… steel against skin, like something metal being hit against a hand,” she says, staring at the curtains.
“Hey, are you OK? What’s wrong?” he asks.
Sonia’s expression has changed. Her brow furrows and it seems like her whole body tightens.
“Well, you decide to get out of bed to check what the noise is. You go to the window and throw open the curtains. You can’t really see very much because of the blackness outside and the lamplight inside so you lean closer to the window, cupping your hands around your face.”
She stops again and he notices a tear in her eye.
“Hey, don’t get upset, it’s only a dream.”
She turns to him and looks into his eyes. “I know, but it was just… just too real.”
“Oh, come on. Don’t be daft. You can tell me what happens.”
“No, I can’t tell you. It’s horrible.”
“It’s not real, Sonia. It’s just a dream and don’t people say that bad dreams normally mean the opposite. Go on, spill the beans. Tell me what happens,” he says, squeezing her hand.
“OK. So you’re staring through the window, shielding the light to get a better look, when we hear the sound again. You move your head slightly and mumble something like ‘I think I can see someone’ but then you turn around really fast and shout ‘BOO!’ You’re laughing and I’m telling you you’re out of order for scaring me and calling you names when suddenly the window implodes and this huge man hits you on the back of the head with an axe. There’s blood everywhere and… I’m screaming… and…”
“Hey, hey, calm down. It’s only a dream,” he says, sitting up and comforting her.
They sit embraced on the bed, his arms around her. The room is silent and the energy saving bulb in the bedside lamp is doing its best to brighten it up and lighten the mood.
A strange sound from outside the bedroom window alerts them both. Not a usual nocturnal noise but something different.
Brian gets up from the bed and walks towards the window.
“No, Brian. Don’t open the curtains. Please,” Sonia says.
Brian laughs, but inside his nerves are biting. “Oh, it’ll be nothing. I think your dream is playing tricks on us.”
He gets to the window and opens the curtains, straining to look into the blackness. He leans closer, cupping his hands around his eyes to get a better look.
“I… I think… I… can see… someone.”
“Stop messing about. It’s not funny,” she says, pulling the quilt up around her, holding it tight under her chin.
Suddenly he spins around, ‘BOO!’ Brian laughs and looks at his wife just as the window implodes. His eyes go wide as an axe is embedded in the back of his head. Blood splashes onto the curtains and down the wall as his body goes limp. There’s a squelching sound as the axe is pulled out of his head and he crumples to the floor. The huge man outside the window shouts into the night and starts climbing into the room.
Sonia just sits there and screams and screams and screams…
She wakes up with a start, sweating and panting for breath.
“Brian,” she mumbles and pats the bed next to her. It’s empty. She sits up and throws off the duvet. Her watch on the bedside table says 7:40 am.
Outside the bedroom the sound of a running shower drifts along the short hallway of the cabin. Sonia gets out of bed, opens the bedroom door and walks towards the bathroom, the dream dissipating into the far corners of her mind.
“Briiiaaannnn, do you fancy some company in there?” she says, opening the bathroom door and walking in.
The room is full of steam and Sonia’s skin tingles as she removes her bedclothes. Naked, she walks towards the shower and gently draws the curtain back. She freezes at the sight before her. The shower head has been snapped off the chrome pipe coming out of the wall and Brian has been impaled onto it. Blood is splashed over the tiles and water is gushing out of the ragged pipe protruding from his mouth.
Sonia screams and stumbles backwards, banging into something. She turns and stares up into the steam. A glint of silver flashes through the steam as an axe is brought down towards her face. Sonia screams again as the weapon closes in.
“NO… NO… NO!”
“Honey, honey. Wake up, you’re dreaming again,” Brian says, gently pushing at Sonia’s shoulder.
She shudders, taking in deep breaths and opens her eyes, a film of sweat covers her face. She sits up and looks at Brian.
“You won’t believe the dream I’ve just had,” she says.
“Oh, don’t tell me. I’ll bet it starts with us being in a log cabin surrounded by complete darkness…”
“How do you know?”
Brian gets up from the bed and walks over to the window, pulling open the curtains.
“Because we are, honey. We’re on holiday, remember?” he says. He turns to her, smiling.
Sonia smiles back. “Yes, I remember,” she says, her heart returning to its normal pace.
Behind Brian the bedroom window implodes, sending shards of glass flying across the room. The look of shock on his face changes to a blank stare as an axe is embedded into the back of his head.
Sonia’s terrified scream echoes into the cold night air, lost in the mist that has descended onto the cabin.
Bio: David Barber was born and bred in Manchester, England, but now lives in Crieff, Scotland with his wife and their two daughters. He has been published in numerous online magazines, including Thriller, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Near to the Knuckle, The New Flesh and Blink Ink. He is currently working on a few projects, including a novel, and he’s the editor of Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos
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