Clara lived alone. She had never married, and at 39 had begun to give up hope of finding a romantic prince charming. Solitude did not unnerve her and she was glad for the privacy and calm as soon as she returned from heaving supermarkets or thronging shops. She managed a steady job, not a career, but she was always welcomed at work for her bright nature and merry state.
On a chilly Thursday evening, Clara arrived home at sundown, ate a light supper before retiring to the sofa. She switched on the news. Further political drama in the
East, more economic hardships, and the devastating murder of a
woman: killer still unfound. Clara wondered why she gave the news any such
attention since all it brought was grief and sadness. A blurred CCTV image of
the main suspect in the murder case flashed up on the screen. He wasn’t what
you’d call a normal murderer, if there is such a thing. He wore a dark, long
over coat, had an uncovered pale face, and a tall black top hat. He looked much
like an undertaker.
The body was found a few miles from Clara’s home town but nevertheless she took extra precaution in making certain her doors were properly locked and secure, before switching the last downstairs lights off, and climbing the staircase to bed. She undressed and put on her night dress just as she heard her garden gate squeak. ‘I must get some oil on that’ she thought, and stood in front of her mirror to remove her make-up.
Just as she threw away the soiled cotton wool, a door slammed downstairs. A rush of adrenaline filled her from within and festered not long until it became fear. The hairs on the back of her neck rose up, she could feel another human’s presence. Knowing she would not sleep otherwise, she retreated back down the stairs and did a quick sweep of the lower floor. A window was open, nothing more. The elements were the source of her fear. The hairs settled again and Clara returned to that relaxed state before sleep takes wing.
Back upstairs, in the gloom. A floorboard squeaked. Perhaps it was just her imagination and sense of hearing heightened by the news. Her heart pumped faster but common sense told her there couldn’t possibly be anyone else in the house. She had checked herself. She entered the bathroom and shut and locked the door right behind her, as if anyone following her would not be able to enter after her. As if she was scraping her own shadow off her back.
She still had the unsettling feeling she was being watched. She let the blinds down, shutting out the night, punched the shower curtain before drawing it back to confirm no one was in the room with her. Somewhat reassured by this, Clara took up her tooth brush, squeezed the toothpaste tube and spent a minute and a half brushing.
Her eyes began to droop and tiredness swept over her so quickly she did not notice the hairs on her back being resurrected. Every bone in her body could sense there was something to be uneasy about. She bent over the sink to rinse her mouth. Snapped back up and there he was. Behind her, in the mirror. Smiling.
No noise, no pain. This man killed for the sake of it. He doffed his hat at the cold body, toothbrush still in hand, and fled the scene.