As I cranked up my 1988 Compaq SLT/286 laptop to write a piece for this week’s writing theme, “It was a dark and stormy night…” I gave a wide, lazy yawn. “Really! A dark and stormy night? How original!” I’m 39 years old. I’ve seen enough B-Grade horror movies to know that the only time anything happens to some horny teenagers is during a dark and stormy night – as if their hormones are only supercharged during such climatic weather occurrences. Watching Jason Voorhees pick off teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake for the umpteenth time wasn’t doing much for my mood either, but it was way better than having to listen to Bella cruelly drone on and on about her pending nuptials, as if James leaving me two months ago wasn’t pain enough.
Getting up to make myself a cup of soothing Earl Grey, my routine when writing, I was reminded whilst filling the kettle that I really needed to get the kitchen tap fixed; the constant drip-drip-ddrrriiippp was driving me crazy. My life was arduous to say the least, without still having to deal with Chinese water torture on top of it. I also needed to get myself a brand new Apple Mac when I got the refund on the honeymoon flight tickets. I didn’t care how hard James had hunted to find that vintage laptop; it had to go! I was keeping the Louboutins though. My ancient feline companion, Gerry (short for Geriatric) purred in agreement as if reading my thoughts.
Teenage screams bounced off the walls as Friday the 13th continued to play to nobody in particular while I washed my hands repeatedly under ice-cold water; rubbing, no, scrubbing between my fingers, under my nails, rinsing and repeating the process until the kettle finally whistled. I’d never had any kind of obsessive compulsion before, but ever since James left me standing in a church full of witnesses, I needed to wash my hands. Damn him! And damn her! That hourglass shaped redhead with the emerald green eyes. Jessica I think he said her name was. Or was it Janice? Or Juliet? No! It was Julietta – “like the car, just spelt differently”. I supposed it was apt considering the first place he’d decided to have sex with her was in the backseat of a car – the very Lincoln Continental that had taken me to the church that fateful afternoon.
At last the laptop had booted up, and I opened the internal word-processor to type my tale of stereotypical mayhem when I heard thunder in the distance. Odd for this time of the year, but still a welcome sign of much needed rain. The wind also started to howl round the corners. Clearly the Universe was trying to get me in the mood. Clicking on the keyboard, I began my story: It was a dark and stormy night…
Another clap of thunder hit, and the antique telephone rang at the same time. Sighing, I rose to pick it up.
“Hello,” I said, trying not to sound exasperated, given the lateness of the hour, “Kim speaking.” The connection was crackly, no doubt a result of the looming storm. “Hello, I can’t hear you, the line is bad. Hello? Hellooo?” Click. Silence. Shrugging my shoulders and giving Gerry an ear-scratching before I returned to the couch, the phone jangled again. “Hello, Kim speaking. I hope you can hear me now,“ I said less-than-friendly.
“You shouldn’t be watching horror movies on dark, stormy nights, MISS Winters.” The voice on the other side was raspy, breathless and mechanical, almost like someone was using a device to alter their speech, or like Jason’s underneath his hockey mask just before he slashed another oversexed adolescent.
“Who is this?” I asked, failing abysmally to hide the terror in my voice. “Answer me, damnit!” Click. Silence again.
The phone chimed a third time, and as I picked up with “Listen here, you creep…” lighting struck and the house was plunged into velvet darkness, save for the few green words on my aged laptop’s screen: It was a dark and stormy night.
Blood pumping through my veins, heartbeat audible in my ears, I picked up the phone receiver and listened; the alien voice was gone, but I could hear the wind in the background. The caller was obviously mobile. Could he be close? I needed to call for help, but I didn’t want to hang up. The landline was my only way of knowing where, to some extent, the caller was. I reached for my handbag, worse than a witch’s wardrobe at the best of times and located my cellphone. The battery was dead. Sugar! Ever since James had chosen her above me, I tore myself apart wondering what I could have done differently. Losing the sailor’s mouth seemed like a good start, although in this situation, four letter words would be more appropriate.
Glass shattered, but with the inclement weather, and disorientating darkness, I couldn’t be sure where. My adrenalin was in overdrive, my fight response stronger than my flight one, but granted, I didn’t know who I was up against.
Thankfully the Glock I’d inherited from my dad was in its trusty hiding place. I opened the bread box as quietly as I could, locating the cold weapon, “I’ve got a gun, and I’m not scared to use it!” I shouted, hoping that my mock-bravado would do something to give my assailant second thoughts.
“Did you honestly think I wouldn’t bring a weapon of my own?” I heard a familiar voice call out. I spun round in the eerie blackness, stepping on Gerry’s tail. He screeched and disappeared with a hiss. “Miss Winters, come out, come out wherever you are…”
If I could just get to the basement cellar, I could lock the door from the inside and climb through the window and get help. I had to, or I quite possibly would end up dead. And I didn’t want to die on the eve of a new decade.
Trying not to breathe heavily for fear of being caught, I crawled towards the cellar door. Yanking it open, I rushed inside, but the lock jammed as I turned the key. “Oh, Miss Winters…Kimmy…I just want to play…”
“Leave me alone,” I screamed, “I will shoot you if I must!”
My nostrils filled with the smell of mildew as I took the rickety wooden steps with trepidation. One gave way and I tumbled to the bottom, hitting my head on the concrete floor. “So this is how I die, I thought to myself, “in a dark basement, a lonely unpublished wannabe author with unworn Louboutins.” I blacked out, swallowed by the cold darkness.
The next time I saw the light, I was being strapped to a stretcher by Basil and Adrian, two paramedics I worked with.
“Trust Kimberley Winters to make an entrance that would wreck her own surprise party and bash her head in,” laughed my best friend and colleague, Susan. “Do you have any idea how much planning went into getting everyone down here? Good think I swapped out your gun, or you’d have shot our dear old amateur drama student (and Pastor), Harold. Well, it’s past midnight, so Happy Birthday, Hun. We’ll have you blow out your candles at the hospital.”
And that is how my forties started, not a word of a lie – with a concussion and the fanfare of ambulance sirens and flashing red lights.