Originally published in Write On - Issue #51
Grayce huddled in the dark of her bedroom. The slithering sound came again, something scraping, knocking.
Somewhere in the house, something moved. It could be Dad downstairs, home early, doing … what? Moonlight sloped across the bed at a low angle, the moon transfixed in the sky. No, he’d still be out working, leaving her alone with … whatever bumbled about downstairs.
She curled into a ball. The sounds grew louder, and darkness swamped the room. She pulled the duvet over her head and put her hands over her ears. Quiet. Peeling one hand away, she listened. The house stood silent. She took her other hand away, frightened to breathe in case it cracked the stillness. Easing the covers off, the sound of the duvet crumpling sharp as broken glass, she slipped her feet to the floor. The floorboard creaked a drawn-out note. Grayce froze.
The kitchen light bled in under the door; she always left it on so her father could find his way home. Her father, who went to work in the dark, to a job he’d never explained to her. It suited him though. He had enemies.
Grayce jumped, banging her shoulder.
She pressed her back against the door.
There was a knife in the kitchen, a good, sharp meat knife, but perhaps the thing cavorted in the kitchen, or drooled outside the door. But if not, if it were in her father’s room, the way to the knife lay open. She slid up the latch. The kitchen arrayed below her, empty. Glancing both ways, she identified the landing as clear. She flew down the stairs and yanked open the knife drawer. With trembling fingers, she grabbed the meat knife and almost dropped it. Its weight was reassuring.
THUMP. SLIP. SLITHER.
She spun around, waving her knife.
The front door inched out of its frame.
“Grayce?” In two steps he was across the floor and wresting the knife from her hand.
“What are you doing?” he snapped.
“Dad!” Relief flooded her and she threw herself at him.
He froze, then hugged her back. “What’s all this, Graycie-Grayce?” he said.
She clutched him tighter. “There were noises!” she wailed.
“Ssh, sorry for yelling. When I saw you with the knife I … Why are you scared of some noises?”
“You said bad people might come for us.”
“What happened in the past is buried so deep they’ll never find it. We’re safe. I’ll go see what the culprit is.”
She waited while he pulled off his gloves, sitting her down in a chair and disappearing into the lounge.
“Your culprit is the water pipes,” he assured. “They creak when it’s cold.”
Grayce let him muss up her hair.
“You go back to bed.”
Taking his hand, they walked upstairs to her room.
“It’s all right,” he whispered, kissing her forehead. He sat on the bed till she dozed. Then she heard him add, “The only monster here is me.”
Winner of The Mystery Competition WINNER Year 9-10 organised by WRITE ON – The School for Young Writers