Jayde inwardly cursed herself for her rebellious streak. According to Doctors a torn ACL in her knee should have rendered her practically immobile and, when she was on her legs, she was to walk with caution. Did she listen? Of course not, naively thinking that no injury could stop her. It was going well – for a while at least – until her pony sized puppy had got over excited at the sight of a wild rabbit and given chase. Now she was entrapped on a recliner with an ice pack on her rolled ankle and knee to help the swelling go down and bruising come out. Her partner Charlie, ever sympathetic, was glued to the his computer game killing aliens that were yet again trying to destroy earth. She stared at the blank screen in front of her, willing a story to pop into her head. Normally her creativity didn’t need encouragement at all but lately she seemed listless, easily agitated and constantly on edge. Something bad was going to happen, she just couldn’t figure out what.
The news of a murder had shocked the flat complex she lived in. A man, barely out of his teenage years, found stabbed in an stairway. It didn’t seem like a pre meditated act but nothing had been stolen making it all the more worrying. A stranger, possibly a next door neighbour, had taken a life and simply walked away. The once noisy hallways were now so silent you could hear a pin drop, with strangers avoiding passing each other. Even Mrs Dinglebury upstairs was avoided, her monthly shopping expeditions with the next door neighbour had stopped and she was 85! Jayde laughed out loud causing both Bearnabus B. Grillz (the dog) and Charlie to look at her, the same confused expressions on their face which only made her laugh harder.
“What’s got you in such a good mood?” Charlie asked, Jaydes face dropped at yet another criticism. She was starting to get irritated with his constant digs
“Just laughing at people, their strange”
“Says the girl laughing at herself”
“Whatever” Jayde replied curtly, the sound of her phone alarm diffusing the situation before yet another argument ensued. It seemed that was all they would do lately. “Pill time”
Charlie begrudgingly got up and grabbed the medication. Jayde took it greedily and made herself comfortable in the recliner. She had just 10 minutes before the pain subsided and she could sleep. She wasn’t going to waste a single minute.
A deep sleep later…
Jayde woke up groggy. The room that was so familiar before she fell asleep looked so different in the darkness. Where was Charlie? Why was everything off? She couldn’t have been asleep for that long surely. Reaching for her phone she winced as pain travelled from her ankle to her knee. The ice pack was now simply mush, the condensation making her clothing damp.
“Charlie, the powers out? Is it a power cut or just us?” She called out but received no reply. Frustrated, she tried to turn her phone on – no power. “Great” she shouted, throwing her phone on the sofa. She called louder “Charlie” … nothing. Bearnabus hadn’t come bounding in either, perhaps he’d got bored so took the dog out. Jayde sulked, he could’ve woke her.
Her breath seemed so loud in the quiet so she held it whilst listening intently for any movement. There was none coming from inside the flat, but was that a muffled argument she could hear coming from upstairs?
“…Hello…hello…I need help, anybody” she called out, knowing it wouldn’t make any difference. Promising to kill Charlie when he returned, Jayde continued to listen to the conversation upstairs, making out just a few words for what seemed like hours until she drifted into a bored sleep. The knocking of the door woke her and it took a few seconds to realise that it was coming from upstairs and not her door. The argument stopped and she heard the deeper voice, presumably the male, make shh-ing sounds. She giggled, like they wouldn’t know they were indoors with all the racket they’d been making. The knocking on the door got louder, more persistent until Jayde was sure he was going to take the door off of its hinges. A loud bang, followed by screaming made Jayde jump. He’d gotten inside the house? How?
Fear froze her in her seat, her sore legs now seeming replaced by lead. She couldn’t do anything but listen as her neighbours began screaming at whoever had come through the door. The noise intensified as the stranger shouted at them to be quiet, his booming voice heard clear as day even through the thick floor. Her pulse quickening, Jayde listened as chaos ensued, her neighbour still screaming until a loud smashing sound resulted in unnerving silence. Had he killed her? Jayde put her hand across her mouth to silence a scream she had building inside her, the freezing fear had subsided now and adrenaline surged through her bloodstream. She needed to get help.
Dragging herself from the sofa, Jayde grabbed the house phone and dialled 999 only to be presented with silence on the other end. Repeatedly slamming on the receiver got the same result each time – silence. The lines were down. Pulling herself to her feet, Jayde tried to take a step but the pain in her knee bought her back down to the ground with a thump. She couldn’t call out, he might hear her, but maybe she could get some help from a passerby. Biting her lip so hard she could taste blood, she pushed herself onto her feet again and stood still to stabilise herself. What was that scrapping sound?
“Tie her up!” the voice demanded. Relief flooded through her as she realised her neighbours were still alive. He hadn’t killed them – not yet. This relief was short-lived as she realised that, if he wasn’t killing them, then he was going to play with them first like a stalker catching its prey. She didn’t have long before they would face the worst kind of death. She tentatively stepped forward and gasped as the pain shot through her again. This was going to be a slow walk for help but it was better than no attempt at all.
By the time Jayde had reached the door, the screams and shouts had died down but the sound of gagged tears filled the flat. Beads of sweat travelled down Jaydes back as the physical exertion of walking in pain had exhausted her, she felt like she had gone for a 5K run rather than a 10 step one. Her vision was starting to blur – she didn’t do well when warm but, with steely determination, she unlocked the door and stepped outside. A scream filled the air and it took her a while to realise it was coming from her. Closing her mouth, Jayde tried to count the bodies that lay before her but there were just too many. Neighbours Charlie and Jayde had spent evenings chatting over a glass of wine with, strangers that had nodded in the hall and people she didn’t know lay before her either dead or dying.
The door slammed on the floor above her, her scream clearly being heard by him. She had to hide and now. She lay down beside the neighbour next door and, resisting the urge to throw up, spread some of their blood on her. She needed to blend in so he didn’t notice she was alive. As the door to the stair well opened, she held her breath and forced herself not to blink. He walked straight passed her and Jayde tried her hardest not to look at him directly – she wouldn’t know what to do if she caught his eye. Instead, she focused on his thick black boots with a dark stain on the front. Was that blood? Her eyes started to fill with water as bile rose in her throat. The blood was fresh and probably belonged to one or more of these people. To Charlie. Panic gripped her as she realised that Charlie could be amongst these bodies, if he was, the last thing she said to him was nonchalant. Sure they’d been going through a hard time and god knows he drove her absolutely crazy but he didn’t deserve this. No one did.
He was coming back, having checked the rest of the hallway for movement and not finding any. As black dots swarmed Jaydes vision and the heart beat pulsing in her head slowed to a dangerous level, she slowly released her breath. Feeling sorry for the neighbours still upstairs who now would have to face a killer made angry by the interruption, she set off towards the stairway door with a new found determination. He was crazed and needed to be stopped. As she struggled with the stairs she noted the pain had eased slightly, perhaps because of the adrenaline coursing through her. She had no plan of how to face him or what she was going to do but she wasn’t going to get any help any time soon and her concious wouldn’t let her leave the building knowing innocent people were being hurt upstairs, even if it meant she probably wouldn’t survive.
Approaching the flat, Jayde slowed down enough to think of a plan. The flat, she assumed had the same floor plan as hers so she knew she had a small walkway before he would be able to see her. She had to be quiet though as the floors were often creaky and, if he knew she was there, the game was over. The sickly sweet smell of fresh blood hit her nostrils instantly and her knot in the pit of her stomach grew bigger -maybe she was too late. There were no sounds coming from the open plan front room/kitchen. Using the wall as support, Jayde edged towards the entrance until her shoulder touched the door frame. Looking into the room her worst fears were confirmed. They were dead, their bodies almost unrecognisable beneath the blood and wounds both gunshot and knife. They hadn’t stood a chance. Footsteps at the end of the room told her he was pacing by the window, the shock of what he had done finally hitting him. The cocking of a gun told her what would happen next and, although she knew she should stop him, she didn’t want to. After what he had done, he deserved to die. She closed her eyes, tears strolling down her face as she heard the final gunshot. It was over.
Walking into the front room she saw him, lying there. Her Charlie. How had she not seen the signs? Checked his medication? This never would have happened if she had kept George under control. If she’d gone to the experts the first time Charlie had come to her and explained he thought he’d killed someone but didn’t remember. She should have got him help instead of helping him flee the country. As far as she was concerned Charlie was another victim of a crazed mass murderer and, as she kissed his forehead, she told herself that’s what she would tell the police.