I won’t babble on nervously – I am going to keep doing this as it’s making me write. However, any comments and thoughts will be much appreciated.
And here is part four – beware, this part is a little tense. Well, at least I hope it is!
Jack must have slept because it was a tapping sound that woke him. Ominous shadows loomed over him in the darkness as he reached quickly for the lamp switch. Light flooded the room instantly distinguishing the shadows and vanquishing any fears that had begun to creep up around him. Now, only the sound of his heart beating in his ears could be heard; he had obviously dreamed the tapping. Until…there is was again: tap, tap, tap. Jack turned his ear toward the sound; it was coming from his window. Slowly, he moved up from the bed and felt the chill of the night air race up his pyjama bottoms. The curtains lay still against the window oblivious to the sound that was coming from behind them. Jack crossed the room in one swift movement and ripped the curtains apart. The glass was untouched and the windows were locked. The noise wasn’t coming from the window; it was coming from behind it. The tapping was outside. Jack cupped his head to the glass and squinted against the light to see if there was anything moving in the garden. It was no use. All that stared back at him was his own confused reflection. He crossed the room again and switched off the lamp. Still the persistent tapping continued. Nothing was deterring whatever was out there. Jack sat on his bed for a moment trying to pin point the sound. He strained his ears and closed his eyes. It wasn’t the wind pushing against branches and it wasn’t an animal trapped among the plants – no this was something different. Panic started to set in. Now more aware and more awake, he moved slowly back towards the open curtains. With is heart thundering in his chest, his fear slowed down his actions as he steadily raised his hands to the glass and cupped his face against the window once again. His eyes adjusting to the dark, Jack could finally see not what was out there, but who?
It was hard to spot at first. The garden shed stood alone in the blackness with nothing near it and certainly nothing tapping against it. Moving his eyes over the grass, Michael searched for any sudden movements from a night animal, but there was nothing. The grass was still as if it had ceased breathing, like it too was trying to determine where the noise was coming from. The tapping continued. Jack’s eyes moved towards the gate at the bottom of the garden, but it wasn’t swinging open. He almost wished it was as that would have solved the mystery. No, the gate was locked shut. Jack started to move on with his search when something caught his attention. The gate wasn’t moving, but something on the gate was. A long thin object was being hit against the top of it and was making a rhythmic tapping sound. But, what was holding onto the object? He continued to stare and his brain made out the shape of a stick or long branch that was being whacked against the top of the wooden gate. He followed the length of it, but it disappeared into the tree that stood tall behind the gate. Well that explained it, thought Jack, his heart starting to slow down a little. It was an over-hanging branch knocking against the wood of the gate. As he was about to turn away from the window and return to the warmth of his bed, Jack stopped. It’s too loud he thought. It has too much rhythm to it. Jack turned back to the window. As he did so, he thought he saw movement up in the tree just a little above the gate. Suddenly, he saw it. A human foot. It was attached to a long human leg that was dangling down and swinging freely in the air. Jack gulped and swallowed a scream.
He shoved himself away from the glass and fell backwards over his school bag and landed on the floor with a bump. Some kids were trying to break into the house; he had to tell his dad. A plummeting feeling hit him in the stomach. What could his dad do? Was he too ill now? Had the disease weakened him already despite him not having any treatment yet? The young boy fought to hold back the tears; he hated the thought that his father would eventually grow weaker than him – a fourteen year old boy. Carl could no longer protect the family, not in his current state. The thoughts angered Jack and he pushed his fear aside. Who knew about his Dad? Had his Mum told her friends who had then passed it onto Jack’s friends? Who was trying to take advantage of their dire situation? His blood began to boil. He wasn’t going to allow some dodgy kids from the estate break into his house. No, this was going to be Jack’s fight; he was going to look after the family now; he was going to be the man who would protect his house. Nobody was going to break in tonight.
The tapping had stopped. It was a few moments before Jack realised this. He remained on the floor in silence, but started to pull himself up using the window sill. The leg was still there, still swinging. Jack knew that it was time to go outside.
With his legs like jelly, Jack forced himself to stand. Little steps he told himself. Stand up. Move away from the window. Leave the bedroom. Sneak downstairs. Open the door to go outside. Just little steps were all that were needed. And yet, Jack was barely standing. Fear had started to take hold again and the blood that was boiling in his ears only moments earlier was now simmering down in his stomach, somewhere beyond his reach. What had he been thinking? He wasn’t brave. He had to think. Jack knew that his father kept a cricket bat under his bed and he knew he had to get it. There was no way he could creep into his parent’s room without waking one of them – the creaky floor boards would give him away for sure. There was only one thing left to do. He was going to play his ‘child card’. He had considered ‘adulting’ for the briefest of moments, but now it was time to admit that he just was not ready to take on the role of his father just yet – he was just a scared kid. Fear had gripped him and there was only one person in the whole world who could take that fear away from him.
“MUM!” he shouted.
Literally a second passed and she was in the room. Sadie had even got her dressing gown on and was pulling it around her body as she forcibly pushed her son’s bedroom door open.
“What? What’s the matter?” she demanded.
“Outside, Mum. There’s someone outside.” Jack said in a voice that was suddenly a whisper.
Sadie hesitated for the briefest of seconds and Jack could tell she was contemplating waking his father. However, she too realised that protecting the family was no longer his domain and she had to step up and face whatever threat was out there. Jack’s admiration for his mother doubled in an instant. If she was scared, she never showed it. If her legs were like jelly, they stood firm underneath her, which was much more than he could say about his own legs that had basically just turned to mush. He noticed his Incredible Hulk slippers mocking him over by his wardrobe. By this time, his mother was at the window staring out into the dark garden. Jack could see her squinting and it was clear that she couldn’t see anything. Not one to be deterred, she marched downstairs and Jack could hear her take the house keys out of the drawer in the kitchen and unlock the back door. Suddenly, a bright light washed over the entire garden as his mother walked onto the lawn. She glanced up at her son in the window and he gestured towards the garden gate. Again, without faltering, she walked over to it, pulled it and made certain it was locked. She walked around the garden shed, but it was clear that the garden was deserted. Jack could feel his heart beat start to slow in his chest as he heard his mother close the door downstairs. He heard the keys turn, the latch being dropped and her returning up the stairs. When she re-entered Jack’s room, he expected a telling off, but she only smiled.
“There’s no one out there, dear. It’s too bloody cold for anyone to be out there,” she said, shivering.
“I thought I saw a leg dangling from the tree behind the gate,” Jack said.
Sadie could see that her only son was petrified; not only by this, but by the whole evening he had just endured.
“Listen,” she said. “I am just going to go and check on your Dad, then I will get the cover from spare room and I will sleep on your floor tonight. I’ll be right next to you. How does that sound?”
Jack nodded. It sounded perfect.
She turned and briefly left his bedroom. Jack’s found that his legs could stand again and he made a move to return to his bed. However, the window caught his eye again because there was a break in his curtains where they hadn’t been drawn properly. Before he knew it, he was glancing outside again just to, you know, make sure that the garden was empty. And it was. Nothing stirred on the lawn, nothing was by the shed and, more importantly, nothing was dangling its leg over the garden gate. Maybe Jack had been dreaming it after all. Perhaps the stress of the evening had just taken its toll on his emotions. But, if that were to be the case, then why could he see a long, thick stick standing alone up against the garden gate?