As the theme for this month was ‘Running Out of Time’, I set myself the task of writing my piece at 11.30pm, half an hour before the deadline, to literally feel like I’m running out of time.
I won’t edit, I won’t change it, I’m just going to write and see what happens.
It’s taken me two minutes to write this introduction. It’s now 11.32.
And … Go.
Ready or Not
“100, 99, 98, 97 …”
The cupboard under the stairs. It’s not a good choice, but I can’t get to any other room, he’s standing in the doorway. Upstairs would be foolish. What can I do? I can bang on the window but there’s not likely to be anyone walking past at this time of night. And he took my phone.
“86, 85, 84 …”
We used to play ‘Hide and Seek’ as kids. I never thought for a second we’d be playing still as adults. Let alone that it would have taken a dangerous turn like this. ‘Hide and Seek’ is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? My parents said I used to hide behind a curtain, using the logic of ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’. Maybe I should have done that this time. Maybe he would have been so taken aback by my childishness that he’d let me off.
“74, 73, 72 …”
This is the … fifth time, maybe? That we’ve played this game. I say “we”. It’s not a game “we’re” playing. It’s a game he’s playing. Games are supposed to be fun. Nobody is supposed to get hurt.
“69, 68, 67 …”
Jack and I grew up together. People used to say to our parents that they thought we’d get married, that kind of rubbish. And, lo and behold, we did. It’s been seven years now. I can’t believe it. The first three years went so fast, it was all happy and smiley, the usual honeymoon period you get at the start of a marriage. Then it … changed. I can’t put my finger on what it was that changed it. Maybe nothing. Maybe Jack was always like this. Maybe he’d been biding his time. I don’t know.
“57, 56, 55 …”
The cupboard under the stairs is dark. There’s an empty light fixture, missing the bulb that I keep meaning to replace. It’s my fault. I should have fixed it sooner. There’s not much else in here but, weirdly, lots of stuff. There’s not much of worth. Some tools, some bits and pieces – a broken toaster, Jack’s old tennis stuff – and the Christmas decorations. Nothing, really, but enough to make me curl up into the tiniest ball and wait.
“44, 43, 42 …”
I can hear him. He’s getting closer.
“39, 38, 37 …”
My heart is beating in my throat. I try and stay calm; he doesn’t like it when I’m nervous. I try and think of other things. My parents, both dead now. TV shows I like. Music I listen to in the car. When I used to take tap lessons as a kid. My thoughts are everywhere. It’s like a mismatch of randomly firing memories. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.
“25, 24, 23 …”
I should have gone into creative writing, the amount of excuses I’ve come up with over the years. Walking into doors, dropping stuff on my hands and feet, spilling hot water when making tea … The usual. Then the more hardcore stuff. A broken ankle from walking the dog we don’t have and tripping over the lead. A concussion from a minor car accident I wasn’t in. A small stab wound from stage fighting class when another student got a bit too overenthusiastic. It all sounds so ridiculous and made up. They’re obvious lies, aren’t they? Anybody who knew anything about me would tell you that I’ve never done stage fighting in my life, that I’m allergic to dogs and can’t drive. But hospital nurses don’t know any of it.
“12, 11, 10 …”
I can hear the footsteps now. He likes to slow down whenever he approaches my hiding place. Apparently, it “adds to the sense of drama” for him.
“8, 7, 6 …”
He’s outside the door. I can hear the handle rattling. I close my eyes. I wait.
“3, 2, 1 ..”
This is it.
“Hannah? Are you in there?”
“Ready or not, here I come!”