The Nightstalker

by Ray Cowie

Below an open first floor window, he could hear muffled snoring.

From inside and barely a few feet away, one restless body tossed whilst another one turned. But would he have the courage to enter?

It was yet another sultry evening and whilst the nearby metropolis simply burst into life, the suburbs all but slept.

This neighbourhood was quite unlike some of the domestic war zones in the city and the residents here were as trusting as they were naive.

All along the streets there were windows and skylights open. In the stifling, late summer heat and with no air-conditioning it was a necessity.

He'd been through many open windows and some were along this very same street. But he was always cautious.

He looked up and down the street but need not have worried. The sidewalks were empty and the only illumination came from the streetlights that flickered as they dissolved into the horizon.

From somewhere beyond the horizon an alarm bell and a howling siren as one, startled him and made him hesitate.

'Maybe', he thought, 'it would be a better idea to enter from the rear of the house.' And of course, he knew that it was.

So, without a sound he slipped around the side of the building and in the blinking of an eye he was over the gate and into a poorly lit backyard.

As he surveyed the rear elevation of the house with the efficient eye of a more than able trespasser, he could see several unlocked windows through which to gain easy entry into the property and he decided that the kitchen would the most suitable.

Like a breath of wind, he swept by the pale floral curtains and into the quiet residence.

Once inside, he could see that the door leading out of the kitchen was ajar but the adjacent dining room doors were closed, thus limiting his options but thereby determining his path.

The gloomy kitchen inspired no curiosity in him and even less enthusiasm. And so it was, by way of the single open door that he probed further into the hushed, sleepy house.

He found himself in a shadowy hallway.

To his left and to his right there were closed doors and straight ahead there was a staircase. At each end of the hallway, small chandeliers hung like ornamental stalactites.

His wary eyes were drawn to the faint amber glow that effortlessly bathed the landing carpet at the top of the stairs.

Dimmed lights were on as the family slept, children he guessed. But he sensed the lights were beckoning him.

As he reached the top of the staircase, his heart was beating so loudly against his chest that he thought that everyone must hear it. But of course, they didn't.

On all sides of the landing there were doors, three stood half open and two were shut tight. A punchy tang of citrus told him that one of the open doors was a pristine family bathroom and he braced himself as he approached a stream of light that was migrating from yet another open door.

Entering the room he could see that the curtains were semi drawn and a reassuring night-light was on. In the bed a man-child slept, soothed by a warm, downy blanket and his thumb.

As the intruder hovered by the bed, his amplified silhouette was cast across the wall above the headboard and he watched the undisturbed boy as he slept peacefully.

His mind was meandering.

A gentle breeze gatecrashed the scene and the lifeless curtains seemed to breathe, stirring him from his tardy daydream.

Somewhat relieved that the intrusive draught had been the only unwelcome visitor to the room, (other than himself of course!) the prowler turned to leave and as he did so, he softly brushed the youngsters brow.

Calmness and serenity lay all around.

Returning to the landing swiftly and quietly, he headed towards a diluted, yellow glow that was emanating from a nearby door.

The familiar sound of muffled snoring (although it was not so muffled now) could be heard coming from within. He rested outside the door for a moment and gathered his thoughts.

From inside the room, an insignificant shuffling sound, followed by a mumble and a whimper and a toss and a turn, all discouraged him from entering.

He lingered patiently outside until the sounds and the movements had ceased.

Then silently, he entered the room, another bedroom. Only this time there were two people inside. Two adults were sound asleep.

It appeared that the yellow light exuding from the room had in fact been coming from an impertinent, nosey streetlight. Its moody ambience was unobstructed by the flowing, silky-smooth voile that clothed the window.

An extravagant television screen dominated one corner of the room and he pored over it intimately for a while.

He savoured the fragrance of the extinguished rose scented candles that sat forlornly on the bedside stands.

Yet another chandelier hung in the heart of the room and the crystal beads that fell from it, sparkled in the shade and they fascinated him.

He edged closer to the king sized bed as the occupants slept on, blissfully ignorant of his presence.

They both perspired freely and yet still looked oh so peaceful.

The bedcovers had been enthusiastically hurled aside at some time during the humid evening and he watched intrigued, as their respective chests rose and fell in breathless harmony and their eyelids flickered with each husky breath.

And he watched.

In the bed, a muscular young man let out an indignant groan as he rolled over onto his broad back, while his shapely and attractive young wife, who seemed decidedly tranquil by comparison, lay motionless.

He moved closer and closer until his face was almost touching the young mans face.

Their heads lolled to one side and then back again in unison.

The young mans nose twitched.

Then suddenly and by mistake they touched and the young man, irritated by something unseen, instinctively opened his weary eyes.

A terrifying cry tore from the young mans throat and it reverberated throughout the house.

The dazed young wife sat bolt upright screaming and from down the hall, the infant screamed and cried in tandem.

Neighbouring houses and even those from yonder were lit up like urban expressways.

The young mans powerful arms flailed at the formless shadow that seemed to be enveloping him. The young wife fumbled for the swaying light cord, but in her frenzied hysteria she could not locate it. And the infant screamed and cried.

Everybody screamed and cried!

The confused young wife took an unintended thwack across her ear and the feverish young husband collected a poke in the eye for all his pains!

The squealing tot dashed into the panicked room to become involved in the ensuing maelstrom.

Pandemonium held sway.

A well-timed haymaker grazed the errant prowler as he tried to bob and weave, struggling to elude the would-be crushing blows that were being rained upon and roundabout him.

A flurry of hands and feet and elbows and knees!

Mayhem ruled.

At long last the frantic young wife managed to grasp the elusive light cord and she tugged it for all she was worth.

Suddenly the room was flooded with brilliant light and each and every eyeball ached as they were compelled into an explosion of brightness. And now confusion reigned.

Eyes sought him out but where was he?

Then, without warning he suddenly reappeared, but with one frightful swipe, it was over.

As suddenly as it had begun, it ended.

A family in chaos might at last breathe a sigh of relief.

Forming a huddle, the family wept en masse as a bruised and bewildered moth fluttered briskly out of the open window to safety.

Sleep well!


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