Introduction: today’s writing prompt is another single word, but one that didn’t instantly lend itself to a story the way that ghost did: curtain. Nothing like making it easy for yourself, eh? Although I did once watch a film about a haunted shower curtain. I’ve never seen Schindler’s List, but I have seen that. Perhaps that tells you something about me. Anyway, once I got going this came quite easily, just don’t take that as a sign of quality, enjoy.
Something lives behind the curtains in my room.
Not all the time. Every morning my Mum comes in and fling them open, and there is nothing there, but come the night it will be back. I’ll hear it snuffling around as the curtains twitch before it lets out the most horrible grunts, the smell of rot and death coming with them. I’m never brave enough to go and pull them back, to discover exactly what lives in the gap between the curtains and the window.
The first time it happened, I let out a scream, yelling and shrieking until my Mum came charging into the room, eyes wide at my panic. I couldn’t even tell her, only proving capable of pointing in the direction of the window, gibbering out my panic. Something about my fear got to her, and she tiptoed across the room before ripping them open and revealing, well, nothing. There was nothing there. Not when she was around at least.
‘What’s wrong, my love? Did a bird fly in? It’s gone, you’re safe.’
That was no bird. No bird lets out the belches and grumbles that the beast does. It sounds ancient and evil. I’m not sure how I know, but I suspect it was here before us and will continue long after too. How do you explain that to another person, though? You don’t. You curl up under your blankets and hide your head in the hope that it will go away. This torture is designed for you, and you alone.
The first time I heard the beast I was seven, and by the time I’d turned fourteen, it was a part of my life. I was never reassured by its presence, but I’d learnt to block it out, to ignore the noises and the smell. Then, one night after a long day, I started talking to it. I told it about the bullies at school and the arguments Mum and Dad were having. It would sit quietly, listening to my complaints before letting out massive grunts of satisfaction. I noticed it was getting bigger, that the curtains bulged out in a way that they hadn’t before, but it no longer bothered me. It had become my confidant.
This morning, I left home for university, and I’m almost scared to have lost the friend I have created. The beast that lives behind my curtains is evil, but at a time when no-one cared, it listened, and I’m not sure what I will be without it. What will happen to it? Shall the next person to sleep in that room wake up to its noises, will they be brave enough to pull back the curtain? To learn what I could not.
I wonder all this as I climb into bed, rolling over in my new university dorm and staring at the lightweight curtain, so different from the heavy fabric at home. Then, I hear it, the snuffling and the grunting followed by a belch and the smell of rotting meat and death. I smile, not with happiness, but with acceptance. It turns out the beast never lived behind my curtain at all. It lives inside of me.