They came at night.
We heard the first scream, in the distance, just before we went upstairs for the night. I dismissed it as a cat, but it immediately spooked Susan. That said, she’s easily spooked.
We heard the second scream more clearly, through the bedroom window, which I had opened to ‘prove’ that there was nothing to worry about. It was no more than two streets away. I didn’t call the police, there didn’t seem to be any point. Someone else, someone closer, would be able to help them more than I could. I closed the window.
Not ready for sleep, I picked up a paperback. But I couldn’t focus and I soon gave up on reading. I was about to try to settle down when Susan suddenly sat bolt upright, eyes wide.
“That’s weird,” she said, “‘#screams’ is trending…”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“On Twitter. They’re using the hashtag ‘#screams’ — look,” she showed me her iPad, “there’s dozens of them. All over the place, people are hearing screams in the darkness…”
“Like, now?” I asked.
“Yeah, they keep coming. They’re everywhere…”
She turned to me.
“Switch the radio on,” she pleaded.
I switched the radio on.
Static. Across the entire dial, no-one was broadcasting. I found the TV remote, but every channel was blank. I grabbed some clothes from a chair and got quickly dressed.
Suddenly, our son was in the doorway, eyes bleary from sleep.
“There’s people making noise outside,” he complained.
Sam’s bedroom was at the back of the house. As I stepped through the door I could hear multiple voices screaming, and close, maybe only on the other side of the houses behind ours.
I rushed back to find Sam sitting in our bed, Susan’s arms wrapped around him, terror in both their eyes.
“You’d better keep him in here,” I said, but even as the words left my lips I could hear more screams at the front of the house and I knew that soon we would be surrounded.
“It really is everywhere,” whispered Susan. “There were hundreds of tweets by the time the wifi went down.”
“The wifi’s down?”
“Just now, while you were in Sam’s room. There’s no phone either. I tried to call Dad but the land line’s dead and I can’t get mobile reception.”
We were cut off. I went downstairs.
We seemed to be safe in the house, for now, but the screams were getting louder and closer all the time. We were going to be surrounded, and soon, but surrounded by what? Would it… they… attack? We needed a way out.
By now, Susan was at the top of the stairs, with Sam clinging to her leg, whimpering and petrified.
“I’m going out, to see if I can see anything,” I said.
“Don’t you dare. What if it’s gangs, or terrorists? What if they have guns?”
“Can you hear any guns?” I asked, “Can you hear any shouting? There’s only screams, like… That’s not the sound of people being attacked.”
I had only just thought of this. It seemed comforting.
“I don’t know. There’s so many of them!”
“Exactly. Who could attack so many people at the same time?”
It made sense, and I was warming to this line, but I didn’t believe it. Something was out there; something was making those screams.
“Exactly,” she repeated, “it could be terrorists.”
I opened the door.
I didn’t feel so brave stood on the doorstep. Instantly the screams were louder, and they seemed even closer than they did through double-glazed windows.
“Who’s out there?” I called out, my voice weak and wavering.
I got no reply. It was eerie, an aural backdrop of shrill, rasping noise. In the pitch black night, hypnotised by the wall of white noise, I stood still.
“Who’s there?” I called again, “What do you want? What can I do?”
One voice rose above the screams. “Leave us,” he cried, urgency in his voice, “leave us, stay back! We are lost…”
I stepped backwards into the house and slammed the door, certain in that instant that he had saved my life.
Susan stood alone at the top of the stairs.
“What did you see?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“Nothing, no-one. It’s too dark. Where’s Sam?”
“He’s in his room, hiding. What’s out there..?”
“Nothing,” I insisted.
I started to climb the stairs. I stopped half way up.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, looking concerned.
“I thought I heard something.”
It came again, a brushing and dull thumping at the front door. And, weakly, a voice.
“Help me, please help me…” it rasped. I recognised it at once.
“It’s him!” I exclaimed.
“Out there!” I tried to explain, “he told me to stay back. Saved me. I have to let him in.”
“No you don’t! Who is he? You can’t just…”
I was already back at the front door.
“It’ll be okay,” I promised, no idea if it was true. “I have to help him. Go into Sam’s room and close the door.”
My hand was on the door handle. She looked at me, pleading, and then turned and left.
I opened the door. There was no-one there. I stepped out again, but still there was no-one, just the darkness and the screams, closer than ever. A window smashed at the back of the house, and suddenly the screams were inside. The front door slammed shut behind me.
My heart pounded. I could feel my blood coursing through my body, suddenly hot, the arteries aching with hunger. My senses were swamped by a rising tide of viscera; sweet and tangy, I could taste the flesh on the night air. I opened my mouth wide and screamed with desire. I was lost.
Phil Oddy lives near Cambridge, England, and would like to describe himself as a writer.