The bedroom illuminates with a flash of lightning as Carey silently sleeps. Dan is still wide awake, struggling to drop off as he watches and listens to the grunts and groans of the weather outside. He turns his head to look at his wife who is happily dribbling onto her pillow, Dan smiles: ‘who couldn’t love that’. Another flash followed swiftly by a booming clatter of fighting titans, the clouds are angry tonight. Dan sits up on the edge of the bed and rubs his head, ‘maybe if I walk around for a bit I’ll feel more tired’ he thought to himself. He slowly tip-toes out of the bedroom making sure to avoid the creaky floorboards which if provoked would wake his sleeping beauty. He makes his way downstairs to the kitchen, standing in the doorway momentarily while fondling the wall trying to find the light switch in the dark. *Click*, the kitchen light flashes into life, effortlessly synchronizing with a lightning bolt and thunder-clap. Dan walks into the room past the picture which is still silently propped up on the chair…waiting. He walks over to the sink to pour himself a drink, the tap rumbles into life as the pipes strain to produce water. He turns around to lean on the worktop, clocking the picture which he still expected some sort of movement from. The rain pummel’s the kitchen windows as the starring competition continues, Dan cautiously makes his way towards it. Something doesn’t feel right about this picture and its making all of his hairs stand on end, but what? As he gets closer he realises his unnerving feeling was justified. Something was actually wrong and it wasn’t just his pessimistic nature, the image has altered again. Dan bends over to examine the picture more closely…the doorway is empty, the woman has gone! He rubs his eyes in disbelief, they must be messing with him. Refocussing on the photo however proves ineffective, the lady in the doorway was no longer there. Dan picks the picture frame up and holds it at eye level, ‘she must be here somewhere, it might be the way the light was hitting it’. Another flash of lightning illuminates the window behind Dan, back dropped by the furious rain…however, the flash did not just fully penetrate the panes of glass unobstructed, but rather outlined a silhouetted figure standing outside looking in. A hooded figure is watching him examine the photo from outside, the same hooded figure which should be decorating the open door of the thatched roof cottage in the sepia tinted picture. The clouds produce another illuminating blast of light shortly after the last, the figure outside in the rain was no longer there. The empty window frame glints in the rapid light display with only the heavy downpour in view. Dan who had wandered dazedly around the kitchen found himself stood at the back door not fully remembering how he got there, he was too fixated on the image to concentrate on walking. Opening the back door, he was immediately confronted by the pouring rain, wetting everything which dared to get in its way. Dan decided a few minutes ago that this strange unsettling image needed to be out of the house. The garden is deadly quiet apart from the sound of the hard relentless hammering of the water droplets on the ground. He waits for a gap in the downpour before trying his luck and running towards the garbage bin, hoping not to get wet. However, he eventually realised that this torrent was here to stay and showed no sign of relenting, he was going to get wet. Dan sprints to the trash and throws the picture next to the dustbin as the water spitting from the black moonlit clouds only gets heavier. He sharply slams the backdoor as he rushes back inside, soaked from his short stint in the garden. He stands still for a while listening to the drips of water roll off his body onto the hard kitchen flooring. He can’t seem to shake the feeling imprinted on him by that picture, why didn’t he just leave it were it was in the attic? After regretting his decision thoroughly, he slopes across the kitchen to the light switch. Dan glances behind to scan the room he is leaving, checking for…something, he doesn’t know what though. What is this feeling he has? Its making him feel slightly sick, ‘maybe I’m just over tired’ he thinks to himself as he flicks the switch plunging him once again into darkness. His sight takes a while to adjust to the moonlit surroundings as he slowly makes his way to the bottom of the stairs in the gloom. His eyes don’t adjust quickly enough to notice the figure floating into the middle of the kitchen, stopping purposefully to watch Dan fumble his way up the stairs. Dan reaches the top and makes a quick detour to the bathroom before heading back to the bedroom. He stands over the toilet still trying to shake this strange feeling which is overwhelming him. Dan flushes and exits the bathroom, turning the light off as he leaves fully expecting to be plunged into darkness again, but to his surprise he wasn’t. The kitchen light was on downstairs which was gently illuminating the landing he was stood on, he was sure he switched that off…in fact he was positive. Maybe Carey went down for a drink, he soundlessly looks into their bedroom to see Carey still fast asleep, dribbling contently. Dan cautiously walks over to the banister looking over to observe the beams of artificial light streaming out of the kitchen. He needs to go down and investigate even though every cell in his body is urging him not to, but he has to. Every step he takes down the stairs he has to fight, every fibre of his being is pulling him in the opposite direction. Dan tentatively takes what feels like a step a minute, making sure to assess the situation between every pace forward. As he gets close to the entrance of the kitchen he begins to look for a weapon, it could be a burglar, “Dan you idiot! It could be someone breaking into your house! You have nothing to defend yourself with, you could have not locked the back door and someone could have just walked in!” he said in an angry whisper to himself. Why didn’t he wake Carey up? Why didn’t he let her know what he was doing, she could have called the police if anything happened. Too late now, he was too close to the kitchen, ‘must stay calm, must be composed’. Dan takes one final deep breath before entering the lit kitchen, his body in slow motion but his mind in fast forward. He stands in the doorway scanning the area for anything which shouldn’t be there; he is so focused on finding something in that room that he doesn’t notice the gliding blackened hooded lady in the living room, the room he had his back to. Dan enters the kitchen as the hunched silhouetted woman stands in the shadows behind him, watching him make his way to the middle of the room. Dan purposefully walks over to the knife rack, scraping one out of its holder trying to make as little noise as possible. He feels more confident now he can defend himself…until he heard the noise that is. This sound paralysed him, a noise which he would usually dismiss so easily had him now frozen to the spot; breathing, and it wasn’t his. Someone is in this house with him, in this room with him! What does he do now? He wanted to be brave and spin around swiping the blade he was holding from left to right, threatening whoever was in his house to either ‘get out or get cut’…but he couldn’t, his body just wouldn’t move; the sound wasn’t one which he recognised as human, and it was rapidly draining all of the confidence from his being. The gravelly heavy breathing is getting closer from behind, not accompanied with footsteps. The noise gripped his spine, wrapping around it tight like a boa constrictor getting tighter and tighter. He doesn’t want to look as to what was making the horrific sound, all the hairs on his body are pricked with fear as it gets nearer, and nearer, until…he could feel a cold breath on the back of his neck. The smell of this creature was vile, it was violating Dan’s nostrils as his nape was slowly frozen with the cold dank breathing. As if directed to do so, a flash of lightening added to this terrifying situation he found himself in. Dan knew he had no other option now but to turn around and confront whatever was behind him; he forces his neck to slowly twist his head, leading his chin towards his right shoulder. He stifles a whimper as he rotates “wh…who…who is it?” The fear in his eyes fully apparent, he isn’t hiding it well. Dan clocks onto the hunched figure out of the corner of his eye, breathing excitedly and loudly onto his body. He looks into her eyes as she looks deep into his. ‘The woman in the picture!’ were his last thoughts on this earth. Dan swings his right arm holding the knife in the monster’s direction just before she engulfed him fully in blackness, leaving only a quiet shrill behind in the kitchen. He only managed to glimpse her red piercing eyes which turned him to stone, and smell her putrid odour before being taken. Quietness again, the sound of the rain is echoing through the room like nothing had happened. The weapon Dan held now left alone slowly rocking on the tiled kitchen floor. Carey is yet to realise that her husband is gone; she is left alone in the house asleep, Dan is nowhere to be seen…and will never be seen alive again.
The house from outside appears menacing, like it knows what had just happened inside. The once homely looking property now transformed into the demon’s accessory. It happily props up the framed image next to the dustbin which is illuminated with every bright lighting flash, glistening with the rain as it trickles down its front. The picture looks revitalised, it has taken on a new lease of life; the hooded woman is now back in her preferred position in her doorway, staring into the woods as cold and as soulless as before, her house is still being tickled by the rope laden tree to its left…but in one of the windows a new figure is imprinted, one which wasn’t there before. This figure, which is partly distorted by a raindrop clinging to the pictures glass looks pained, trying to escape to no avail. The figure is hopelessly grabbing for something on the floor, a dropped weapon perhaps? As the rain drips down the image, the clear outline of Dan becomes apparently clear. She has hunted her pray and is now proudly displaying her prize in her window, like a trophy. Dan looks petrified in his frozen state in the sepia tinted photo, knowing his mistake now he can only hope that his wife doesn’t succumb to the same fate.
Carey, all alone in her bed shuffles around half asleep getting into a more comfortable position, only briefly halting her dribbling before falling straight back to sleep. She has no idea of the horrors that wait for her, Dan knows her fate but he cannot do anything to stop it now. He knows he left her in a desolate house all alone and unprotected, he knows she will awake and realise something is wrong, that her husband isn’t there. Dan is utterly helpless as he watches on from his prison. Still, Carey shouldn’t worry too much, she won’t be around until the morning to see that her husband is missing anyway…Carey is being watched right now, as she sleeps. Therein lies a bigger problem that Dan realised only too late; his mistake wasn’t taking the photo down from the attic, but rather not investigating the mysterious moving box in the corner of the loft. What exactly did move that box in the attic? Unfortunately for Carey, it was the owner of the devilish picture, the one who brought its cloaked accomplice to their property in the first place, the one who delivered them to their meals. This creature now silently observes Carey, watching as her chest slowly inflates and deflates rhythmically. The evil stands over her, getting closer with every breathing cycle, not making a sound. It has no discernible features, only a shadowy outline proves its existence. Slowly making its way to within inches of Carey’s face, it stops…an arm like limb reaching out to stroke its prey. Carey flinched as if being poked with ice, her face screwing up as she pulls the covers tighter around her neck. It starts to produce a husky deep, unclean breath which gives Carey cause for concern, even in her dream state she hears this as a threat. She sits bolt upright and scans the room from right to left seeing nothing for the majority of her observations. Until she clocks the shadow, the dark desolate, cold shadow to her left. Frozen in fear she hopes it will go away, that she is still dreaming. The demon takes one more heavy breath before leaning in (not quickly) to take its victim. Carey had time to move, she had time to run out of the house screaming for help if she wanted, but she didn’t, she couldn’t. The hold this creature had over her was unparalleled. Carey tried to scream, make a noise of some sorts, anything before…too late, she was gone. The house is now completely alone, hoping that the creature doesn’t take it also, acting as an unlikely accomplice to this grisly night. Both the hunched woman in the photo and the indescribable evil shadow creature have now eaten, their wretched souls nourished…for now. On to the next attic they go.