A few minutes earlier the lights flickered then failed. All she had to illuminate the room was the stub of a candle which was getting dimmer by the minute. How long would it last? Minutes? Perhaps. An hour? Probably not.
A knock, rat-a-tat, from somewhere in the gloom. She gasped. She drew her knees up below her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs, cowering in a ball in the corner of the room.
The remains of the logs in the fire glowed orange. It was cold, very cold, but there was no way she could venture outside to fetch a new supply. Soon the glow would fade away. All that would remain would be a blackened pile of hot ash. And darkness.
The scraping on the glass became more frequent. More frantic. She could hear the beat of her heart. It was pounding, far too fast - it felt as if it was about to burst.
Rat-a-tat from behind her. She began to whimper uncontrollably. Tears of fear ran down her cheeks.
She tried to make herself breathe deeply. She decided she had to pull herself together. There had to an explanation.
The window. It was locked. Whatever was scraping on the glass was outside. She was inside. She was safe. She told herself over and over again, she was safe, she was safe.
She loosened the grip on her legs and slowly let her body unwind. Then a screeching on the glass sent her shivering back into the corner. Be brave she told herself. Nothing could harm her. Nothing.
The candle flickered then died. All that remained to light her way were the red embers glowing in the fireplace. She raised herself up, and then slowly dragged herself along the wall. A chill breeze brushed her face. Where did it come from? Surely the window was closed. She gripped the edge of a curtain with her shaking hand, and moved her face close to the window. She drew the drape aside just an inch or two, and peered outside through half closed eyes. A swirling mist wafted a few feet above the ground. A full moon in a cloudless indigo sky shone down on the eerie scene below. Nothing scraped the glass. Everything around was motionless.
A fluttering bat crashed against the glass. She flung herself backwards sending a table flying onto its side and scattering glasses, pictures and flowers all around the room. Rat-a-tat from behind her, scraping and scratching from in front of her. She was beside herself with fear.
In an instant the lights came on. She screwed up her eyes. The brightness hurt.
She thought she heard a voice. Listen. She was sure she heard a voice. Then a knocking. A knocking and a calling voice. A voice she thought she recognised. Was it her husband? Hush, listen, shhh. Yes, it was him. She rushed down the stairs and pulled open the door, just as far as the safety chain would allow.
Her husband stood shivering on the step. He’d returned early from a business trip and had mislaid his keys. He’d been trying to attract her attention for ages, knocking on the door and using a fallen branch to reach the window in the hope she’d hear him.
With quaking hands she fumbled with the chain for what seemed like an eternity. She flung open the door and collapsed into his arms. The past hour had been like a bad dream, a nightmare, and now it was over.
Suddenly there was a crash from upstairs.