Sunday, 23 June 2013

The thing under the blankets

The blankets resisted momentarily, then slipped back.  Long strands of something white stretched out between the blankets and the cocoon-like shape beneath them and then snapped, floating lazily in the air until they fell to the bed again.  Beneath the blankets was a mummified thing.
Jim let the blankets fall and leaned heavily on the cane.  He squeezed his lips shut, refusing to make a sound, and tried hard to slow his breathing, which, through his nose, sounded like a racehorse that had come in first.  He stepped backwards, and again, until he bumped up against the portrait, which put an arm around his waist.
Now he screamed, unable to keep it in any more and pulled away, slashing at the arm with the cane.  There was no strength in it and it fell limply back.  It was the deformed arm, the tentacular hand that had reached for him, and as he stared at it, the pinprick eyes in the swollen head moved jerkily from side to side, and the head began to turn as well.  Jim could see that whatever the thing was, it was pulling itself slowly out of the painting and into the room.
He made for the door and slammed it behind him.  He reached for the key, and then remembered that this door had no lock; the other door on the other side of the attic had the lock.  Looking around him he saw the hole that he’d come in by, and without hesitation he ran over to it, ducking down as the roof sloped down, and standing up again through the hole and pulling himself out on to the roof.  Without really thinking, he slid down the roof, half-hearing the clatter of more tiles coming loose and sliding down with him until he reached the eaves, and then his feet caught in the guttering and slowed his descent.  The guttering groaned, cast iron pulling against the stays that pinned it to the brickwork, but it held and he stopped moving.  He cast the cane over the side, and then followed it, clambering down the side of the house as he’d come up, using the broad window frames and sills, and the crumbling brickwork to provide hand- and foot-holds.  He jumped the last few feet, stumbled slightly, and picked the cane up again.  Then he ran out of the garden and across the street, where he paused for a moment and looked back.  Up on the roof something dark and writhing was silhouetted against the sky, and he whimpered as he ran back up into the village.
When he reached the first streetlamp he made himself stop and lean against it, getting his breath back and trying to make himself stop sobbing.  There were no tears, though his eyes felt dry and hot, and he looked back the way he’d come, dreading seeing the swollen, bloated man from the portrait lumbering up the road in pursuit.  But the road was empty, and at the end of the road the roof of the house was free from odd eruptions.  He watched it for ten minutes, and no-one appeared, and so he concluded that whatever had emerged from the portrait had stayed within the house.
Only then did he look down at the cane and wonder why he’d taken it with him.

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