It was the sense of smell which came back to me first. The air was damp, mouldy, the kind of smell which seemed unclean to breathe in. I held my breath a couple of times, hoping for the smell to pass, but it did not.
My vision slowly came back, along with my hearing, and the pins and needles which had ran through my limbs like static gradually faded. I was sat on the floor of somewhere wet and dark, my arms clasped above my head with metal bands. My head reeled, trying to remember what happened.
I was at a nightclub in London’s Soho district, celebrating a promotion. John and Lou had decided to head home, but I had decided to stay a little long, reveling in the celebratory atmosphere. My head thumped and swam, broken images of the night trying to be made whole again.
I met a girl, didn’t I? Madison, I think. Beautiful, strange. Her English was badly broken, but I could get the gist of what she meant when she dragged me towards her and pressed her soft lips against mine. There was a taste. I can’t remember what it was now, but it didn’t stop me from letting my lips linger against hers.
Something shuffled in the darkness. My heart pounded, ears straining to hear anything else. There was another noise from above, footsteps creaking on floorboards. A key in a lock followed, a dim light coming into view as the door groaned open.
I could make out the shape of stairs on the other side of the room. The footsteps descended them, shoes clacking against the bare stone. The figure gradually came into view, their shadow reaching the bottom of the stairs then coming towards me.
I drew back against the cold wall as they reached into their pocket. ‘Please,’ I said. ‘Please don’t hurt me.’
They rattled whatever it was in their hand. A match was struck, and a pale face came into view, one all too recognisable.
She pressed a finger to her lips and smiled. ‘Shush, quiet now.’ Her voice was different, no longer the broken English she had spoken to me in the club. Her beauty had not faded, but a veil of terror seemed to be draped over her features. Her dark eyes bore into me with such intensity that I had to look away.
‘No, no,’ she said, cupping my head towards her face once more. ‘Don’t look away. Let me see you.’
She pressed her fingers to my face, her skin icy cold, and traced strange lines across my forehead and cheeks. Her hand fell from my face to my throat, her hand lightly gripping it. ‘So strong,’ she said. ‘You were a good choice.’
I noticed that two of her fingers were pressed against my artery as she said it. I shook my head, but it did little to affect her or her grip. ‘Please,’ I said once more. ‘Just let me go.’
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘But Monique must be fed.’
With those words, whatever had been shuffling in the darkness moved again. As much as I feared to look, my eyes turned towards the noise, trying to pick out a shape among the darkness.
The light of the match barely touched her features, but I could see the reflection of the flame in wild maniacal eyes. A wide mouth appeared underneath, the sound of a tongue clicking coming with it.
I whimpered, pushing myself away from whatever the hell that thing was, but my arms were firmly bound.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ Madison said, in a hushed voice which would have been soothing in any other encounter. ‘She can feel your pulse, best not to quicken it.’ She turned back to Monique, those maniacal eyes not leaving my neck. ‘You can tell she’s getting excited when she does that. Clicks her tongue, I mean.’
Madison leaned in towards her, the flame spilling more detail onto her features. Her eyes were drastically bloodshot, blackened veins running through her porcelain flesh. Madison ran a gentle hand down her face.
‘I found her like this, poor thing,’ Madison said solemnly. ‘Some dumb fuck had their way with her, and didn’t fully turn her.’ She tutted. ‘Now look at her. Such beauty mingled with such a mess. She’d never survive on her own.’
If Monique had been listening to the conversation, she showed no signs of it. Her eyes were glazed over with a fevered excitement, her tongue clicking faster as her eyes widened more.
Madison spoke in that strange broken English I had heard earlier, gaining Monique’s attention. I shivered as the cold damp rose up my body, fear chasing it along my spine. Madison turned back to me and smiled.
‘Apologies, it’s rude to leave you out of the conversation, but it’s the only way to get her attention sometimes.’ She came towards me, placing her cheek next to mine. I shuddered. ‘I’m going to leave now. You will need to be very careful. I’m trying to teach her restraint, you see? She’s eager, much too eager. She needs to learn to hide herself better.’ With that she placed an ice cold kiss on my cheek and stood.
‘No, don’t leave me here!’ I yelled as Madison melted back into a shadow and ascended the stairs. ‘Don’t go!’ The door shut firmly, leaving me in the pitch black.
The clicking increased. I attempted to swallow the lump in my throat, but nothing could shift it. Feet shuffled towards me, the clicking growing ever louder. Tears rolled down my face as her freezing breath touched my skin.
There was a clink and my hands fell loose. I instinctively rubbed at my wrists, the metal having bitten into my skin. The breath and clicking retreated. I winced, waiting for the inevitable, but it never came. The clicking of her tongue stayed away from me, to the left side of the room.
As quietly as possible, I pulled myself to my feet. My body ached all over, muscles and ligaments rebelling against the adrenaline which spurred them to move. With great difficulty I took slow and reasoned breaths, feeling my way across the opposite wall from Monique until I hit the stairs.
I couldn’t believe it. Even with that infernal clicking following me, I had made it to the stairs. I scrambled up them and tried the door handle, the clicking increasing in frequency once more.
The door opened.
I did not dare risking a glance back as I burst out into the light. I was momentarily dazed as I came into my new surroundings: a normal suburban flat. The main door was at the end of the corridor, keys hanging on the hook next to them.
I raced forward, hands shaking as they fumbled the keys from the hook, fingers desperately trying to work the keys into the lock. It turned and opened. I threw the keys to the ground and dashed out into the moonless night.
I recognised the street. It was Albany Way, not two streets from my own home. I checked my pockets. Everything was gone: keys, phone, wallet. Still, I kept a key in a fake rock near my door; if I could just make it there I could barricade myself in and call the police.
I tore through the streets, breath wheezing in and out of my lungs. I reached my door, stumbling up the pathway as my legs turned to jelly. I broke open the rock, grabbed the key, then locked myself inside.
I stood with my back against the door, heavy breaths burning my lungs. The phone. I dashed to my living room and grasped the phone from its holder. A dead line.
The lights went out, plunging me into darkness. Something scraped at the front door, swiftly followed by the sound of the lock mechanism turning. Fear flooded through me at the thought of what that thing was which was coming after me.
In a blind panic I tore up the stairs and into my bedroom. I slammed the door shut, only to hear feet racing up the stairs and along the landing.
The door swung open, knocking me flat on my back and the wind from my lungs. I stared up, tears filling my eyes as I saw that wide smile. She clicked at me as she slowly stepped forward, looming over me with her full fearful height, eyes filled with the thrill of the hunt.
She paused for a second and listened, then swiftly shut the door behind her and moved a bedside cabinet and a chest of drawers against it.
My mind saw chance of rescue. Perhaps it was the police approaching, or a neighbour after hearing the din we must have created? I crawled back onto the bed, pushing myself back against the headboard. Just keep alive until help arrives, I told myself.
The clicking stopped. Monique looked at me, a low and unearthly growl rising from her throat instead. Darkness encroached in the corners of my vision, driving my eyes into tunnel vision, the only thing I could see being that pale, vein-riddled face. I gritted my teeth.
Madison burst into the room, sending the door and furniture into splinters. She grasped Monique as she pounced, pulling her away from my defenceless body.
‘No!’ she said, gripping Monique’s throat so tight that her skin somehow turned even paler. ‘Do not play with your food! You must learn! You must learn!’
Monique shrank back, and for the first time that evening I saw fear in the creature’s eyes. She glanced at me between cowers, annoyance at her prey being so close etched in her face.
Madison looked at me and shook her head. ‘Messy. Much too messy. And unfortunately, you’ve seen all too much.’ She ushered Monique to stand and gave a nod in my direction. ‘Go on then. Finish it.’
That maniacal smile cracked her face once more, the clicking returning to a fever pitch. My scream did not even have time to leave my throat as savage teeth tore into my flesh.