It was the footsteps she couldn’t bear. Every night, she heard them, coming closer in the darkness. She counted each step as they climbed the staircase, held her breath as they paused outside her room, then counted again as they climbed the stairs to the next floor, growing fainter and fainter.
That was all. No other sounds. Yet somehow she knew they were the sound of something dark and malevolent, something that sought to destroy her.
She had never heard them by day before. Last night she’d lain awake for hours, unable to sleep, dark fears running through her mind. She’d woken late, dressed herself with fumbling fingers, swallowed nothing but weak tea for breakfast. She’d taken herself back to her room to find the handkerchiefs she was hemming, ready to sit in silence in the over furnished parlour, keeping her eyes on her work and her fingers busy.
As she picked up her needle-case, she dropped her thimble, and fell to her knees to retrieve it from under the bed. As she knelt there, she heard the footsteps again, their steady pace counting out each step. She began to tremble, and buried her face in the bedclothes. She listened for the pause on the landing – longer than ever before.
And then the door slowly opened.
This is a microfiction for Jane Dougherty. She’s offering the title and this image by Adriano Cecioni as a starting point.