Lockdown

Lockdown

A Story by rannon96
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A short horror story, set in the current lockdown. How does one run when you can't go outside?

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I always hated staying at home. Monday morning, I would get up, I’d go to work, I’d repeat through to Friday, then it’s bars and restaurants, errands and cafes. Home is nothing more than a moment to exist of an evening. I would put some pasta on, have a glass of wine and sleep, waking only to dress myself and leave.

Being conscious at home is something that I have always believed the working and capable among us do for little more than a few hours at a time. It’s a charging port for my phone, I’d watch television briefly and rest in bed till my batteries are full for the day ahead. Idleness is a gift for those fortunate enough to not to have a growing list of demands and the luxury of a person with far more patience than I myself hold. 

At home everything is always a little too quiet, so much so that every little sound seems to ricochet of the same four walls around and come back a little distorted. At every word and sound I would jump with no one to gauge my reaction off, no one to tell me it’s all in my head. Everything could feel a little wrong there.

I will always remember that one weekend about 3 months ago, approximately a month after I got this place, my first place of my own, I had a nasty sprain and was stuck in bed recuperating. Of course it’s worth noting I was pretty hopped up on pain meds, but it’s like the walls were almost speaking to each other, the air would grow cold without warning. Every open door was a threat to me and the weirdest thing was is that I could never remember having opened them. It almost felt like something was reaching out the me, something with this one familiar note I could never quite place, trying to call me in to it.

I distinctly remember the feeling of fear I held, yet at the same time the whole memory is shrouded in fog, like I said I was on a lot of pain medication. Needless to say I don’t feel it agreed with me!

Even still, since then, the idea  of being alone in my flat and fully awake for longer than was absolutely necessary was something I avoided profusely. Every night before I’d go to sleep I’d feel the discomfort of an eery atmosphere around me, it had always dissipated by the time my morning alarm sounded. Everyone get’s it. The chills of a night alone, only cleared by morning sunlight or the quiet comfort of a paralleled eye to share your perspective with.

So as someone who has never been able to simply “be” without the need to find a task or purpose to keep going, I very rarely find myself solely in my own company. Although often I am not directly in the social presence of another, I would find  myself surrounded at the gym, the shops, work, with similarly independently minded people, whom I have long presumed, like I, get something of the creeps when being the single occupant of any four walls.

Like I said, I’d go home to charge. That’s it.

Needless to say when the Covid-19 began sweeping the globe I felt  a level of discomfort at some of the measures imposed. At first, it was a minor background inconvenience, easily ignored, filed away into the recesses of my brain. The deadline was distant, hence my reaction was on hold.

Myself and my colleagues chuckled and rolled our eyes as the hoards swept the shelves at the supermarkets, we marvelled about the mass overreaction, we compared it to the likes of Swine Flu and Ebola, after all had they not been the ones to claim us?

I continued to work as normal, my train would get quieter, but not notably so. The queue at Costa a little shorter, the bars sparser, again not measures I’d care to complain about!

However when the first few deaths started showing up, things got a little odd, I still wasn’t worried- I took care of myself, I had good diet and exercise, but the trains got quieter still and some services were cancelled.

Within weeks the world started shutting down for me and my excuses to avoid my flat dwindled one by one. The gym gradually emptied, several machines were turned off. Nobody wanted to go the pub anymore, sometimes I could get hold of a few likeminded people, but then all the pubs shut anyway, so did the restaurants, so did the gym. The schools had already closed by this point, so those of my peers who I usually would have had over for a glass of wine to bridge the empty silence were busy looking after their children. I threw myself into my work at that point, I started staying late, although the workflow slowed somewhat.

Then the office shut.

Usually working from home is quite a nice opportunity to relax a little, catch up emails in pyjamas with the cat, however when you’ve had your fill of nothing do besides be at home, plus you’re a person of my particular discomfort in the idleness of the same four walls, suddenly things get a little… uncomfortable.

This is the first morning to which I am working from home, my office was amongst the latest to switch to these measures despite my reassurances I would be happy to come in and risk it.

I set up my laptop on the coffee table, I stick the radio on for a moment- Coronavirus reporting. God, I’m so tired of this. I switch off the radio and tell Alexa to shuffle the Top 40, much better.

I go to the kitchen as the coffee machine whirrs to life, I put my cornflakes in a bowl, add milk, I take my coffee and my cereal over to the sofa, I plug in my laptop.  Everything is so quiet.

9am, I begin the day. I sift through my emails, 4 unread, I can do very little about them from home, I file 3 and draft a holding response to the fourth, business has really taken a hit. I update my reports, I  have now cleared my emails.

It is 09:23.

Often in the office I find myself in moments of rare quietness in my workflow in between the usual rushes, in these moments I would ask around the office to see where I can be of use, or I would chat to a colleague about anything, often menial conversations I find myself repeating, but conversations nonetheless.

There’s nothing to do, there’s no one to ask.

I swing my feet up on the sofa besides me, I scroll through my socials, empty shelves, lockdown selfies, a few sick friends, a few drama queens.  It’s very cold.

Forecast is 11C, not hot, not cold, average at best. It’s freezing. I literally feel like I’m shivering to the bone.  I check the heating- it’s on. I pull a blanket over my pyjamas. It doesn’t help.

My living room is something of a large square room, there are 3 doors, one heavy and blue with a keyhole, a letterbox and a bolt, the front door, 2 lightweight and white, 1 to the bathroom, the other to the bedroom, the kitchen is open planned as part of the living room.

I hate being in a room with so many doors, I don’t know what is about doors, but they have always made me feel a little uneasy, perhaps from the perspective that we can never know exactly what is on the other side at any given time, although I will denounce that thought as silly, because this is my flat where I live alone and it is locked. I know exactly what is through every door.  That being said, I always keep my doors shut, partly for the draft and efficiency of my heating bills, partly because if I am completely and totally honest open doors scare the crap out of me. Open  doors serve as an invitation, likely to nothing in particular, they just seem to say something, obviously they don’t. Regardless, I keep them shut.

Another email  comes in, I skim over it, again not for me to action, I file it. I get up and begin heading towards the bathroom. My legs shake a little with the quiet hesitance of nervous energy, I force a chuckle from myself. Something is really not quite right, I’m being ridiculous. There’s a note in the air, that same note again, something I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s inviting, like somebody reaching out, I don’t know why, but it’s ever so slightly sad.

I reach for the handle on the bathroom,  it’s freezing. Why is it freezing? I pull my hand back in quick motion, shocked by the unprecedented cold, I see something flash past in the corner of my eye. My heart rate rises in my throat. My breath is stuck, It’s catching. I reach for the handle again, it feels normal. Just breathe normally. I open the door and go in. I lock the door behind me even though I am alone. You are alone,  you are  safe, or at least I tell myself.

I sit on the toilet with my head in my hands forcing my face into a laugh. How silly am I? All this panic merely arisen from being alone, why must I always be like this? I feel so stupid right now, how can I let terror quicken so within me in the presence of a slightly cooled door handle? Maybe the chills are indicative of the virus? I feel otherwise fine. I’m just being silly.

I flush the toilet, I wash my hands and look into the mirror opposite me. Tired eyes, nervous eyes. Still usually I wear concealer so the haunted expression tainting my skin likely has a lot more to do with my lack of makeup!

I note that I am alone in my reflection, I feel something at that thought, something familiar at the pit of my stomach, although it doesn’t quite feel true.

I go to unlock the door, it is unbolted, I could have sworn I locked that? I swear I’m actually setting myself up for fear and nervousness at this rate, besides why would I have locked a door in my own flat anyway! I close the door to the bathroom, I sit back on the sofa, I take a sip of coffee.

My bedroom door is open.

I’m sure of it, when I got up this morning I had every single door shut, I never open doors unless I need to go through them, then I shut them behind me. A draft maybe? That would be the most likely explanation, after all it had been cold earlier, but it has warmed up considerably now.

I should get up and shut the  door, but I can’t. I can’t explain why I cannot bring myself to do so, but all I can feel is this tightening in my limbs, this boiling of my blood, this pulsating thought through my brain telling me not to move. I feel paralysed by fear.

Yet nothing has happened, a room has carried a draft and a door has been left ajar, I am allowing myself to become consumed with paranoia.

And something else. Something familiar. Something distant.

Get up, I tell myself, Go into the bedroom, a window will have been left open a crack, get up and check so you can stop freaking out.

Yet my limbs do not move, I twitch a single toe inside my slipper, to ail a call to the rest of my limbs to move, my foot wriggles, I bolt upright. I take a deep breath.

In a quick decisive burst I march towards the bedroom, quickening into hesitation as my hands rest inches from connection with the door, I didn’t open the window, I know I didn’t, I place a hand on the frame of the door and gently push. Everything is normal. This isn’t normal.

My bedroom is exactly as I left it an hour ago, the bed is half made, the duvet sloped into something of a squared position, sleepily applied minutes after the tone of my alarm. Next to my bed the is a small pile of dirty laundry, kicked carelessly into the corner Note to self: do laundry, my cosmetics table is meticulously organised as of last week, although a few lidless containers and a scattering of powder shroud it, signs of my regular use.  Everything is absolutely normal.

I sigh in relief, although I am still somewhat unsure what I was afraid of in the first place, I pick up the laundry and decant it into the basket by the door, I really ought to do that today. I walk over to the edge of  the rooms and open the curtains, sunlight streams through and lights up the dust as the dayglow shrouds the room in new energy. Instantly I feel better.

The window is shut.

Suddenly it dawns on me that the window was never opened, no draft had occurred, no breeze had carried the door open, perhaps I really had left the door open a crack? Perhaps something else opened it. I push hysterical thoughts from my mind, like I kept repeating; everything is normal.

The door slams shut behind me.

Everything is not normal.

My heart stops quick in my chest, I am frozen in place,  the sound was so distinctive, it cut through the ponderings of my own mind and screamed shut at a pace unnatural to any breeze. I can’t turn around, I can’t look, my feet are stuck hard to the carpet and my hands are clenched tightly.

A cool air tickles my neck and flows down my spine, cold splinters wash through my hair, caressing my cheeks as the fine hairs of my face stand to attention. I stare out of the window in front of me at the sunny day painted across the world beyond, yet in here I am so cold, so disconnected from this, I can’t move at all. Again that note rings out in my mind- I still can’t place it.

All at once the cold chills spreads across my body and I am paralysed in place, I am sure the only thing prohibiting my movement is my own heightened sense of terror, but move I cannot as my fear grows in every laboured breath. In front of my eyes the curtains begin to fall across the day, shutting out the sunlight and I am winded by the display, I have not moved an inch yet there they have moved in front of me as uncontrolled by the laws of physics. 

I am terrified.

I hear the sharp sounds of cracking above my head as the artificial remaining light from the bulb in the ceiling shorts out and at once I am shrouded in darkness. The cold burns at my skin, cementing me in place as the pitch black of my once safe bedroom blinds me. The walls whisper- I can’t decipher them.

I have never been more afraid.

All at once a surge of adrenaline washes over me as I pull my frozen limbs in to action, I burst across the room, falling over what I presume to be shoes under my feet, my terror cripples me in the inaction of to much action as I scramble to get up, to run, to go, anywhere but here.

I reach out hands searching in the dark for the end of the bed to pull myself up, they settle on something warm, soft and smooth urgently I grab on leaning my weight to pull myself upright. The something I have settled on wraps around my hands, I can make out the distinct feeling of warm, slender fingers, they grab at my hands, pulling me up. Instinct inclines me to let myself be carried whilst adrenaline hastens to push away, I stumble to my feet and snatch my arm back. Have I gone mad? I must be mad, this isn’t real, this cannot be real? I’m mad.

With no time to  think of logic, rhyme nor reason I bolt myself into the bedroom door, it gives easily and I fall through- hardly surprising as I have no locking system. The living room too is black. I fumble, hands scrabbling off the bumps in the wall, the very terror consuming me clouding my ability to think a single consecutively strung thought with any merit. I don’t want to die.

My hands eventually settle on the familiar chipped paint of the front door,  I feel across the numbness in desperation with my fingers, searching for the bolt, I find it, I unlock, I settle on the catch in the door- I turn it. Please, thank you god, just go.

Suddenly the blow of an arm packs heavily across my throat. I am pulled backwards across the room, my hands scrabble at the arm, scraping and pulling with all my might, panic and desperation as I gasp for sips of air, but the pull does not weaken.

Rasps of breath escape in frantic motion as I am thrust down to the ground, I claw at my neck, I claw for air, but none comes.

The fear consuming me is like none felt before at the unrealistic prospect of what currently presents itself as reality. Thoughts flash in and out of my mind in quick succession, settling on nothing and providing no relief, I can’t breathe.

The arm loosens slightly, although I feel a lifetime without oxygen has passed as the air shoots back into my lungs like sandpaper, I’m incapacitated. 

I don’t dare move, I can’t think, I’m still.

I’m f*****g terrified.

I sit immobile, silent, rigid in place, every sip of breath counted and guarded in shock. Again a familiar note washes over me, but I attempt to push it from my mind and think with any logic, but logic has escaped me.

I can still feel the indent on my neck from the skin of another, pressing into my windpipe. I know this cannot be real, yet something distinctive stops me from denouncing this as madness, the sheer terror inching through my blood stream keeps me pinned in the moment. I can’t escape.

I feel a tickle of cold breath float over my face, although it is worth noting that that it doesn’t carry the same warmth as breath ordinarily would, there is a faint sweetness and an air of dust, like a memory, a memory of a feeling, again, I can’t place it.

“You’re never here.” At first the whisper is so quiet I almost don’t catch it, yet is has a clarity to it that hangs across my mind, each word drawn out in bold across my consciousness.

The whisper carries an air of sadness, yet an edge of coldness and blame and something else I can’t quite put my finger on, an air so distant, like something I haven’t felt in such a long time.

Why does my brain keep settling on this?

I try to speak, I can’t. Every sound and stutter is caught in me and I can’t convey it. I want to scream and cry and howl.  I want to run and fight and live. I can do none of these things.

“I- Wh-“, I splutter, sense having escaped me, I am in delirium.  I cannot respond. All bases of my function have simply stopped knowing how to be, all I can think of is this one solitary note. Why can’t I remember?

The arm wraps around me again,  softly, almost comfortingly, it strokes the length of my arm and glides across the nape of my neck. It holds me, I’m so afraid, it’s like I have forgotten how to show fear.

“Don’t speak.” It whispers, again I hear that distinct note in it’s voice, I try to place the note in myself as the hand at my throat tightens, my oxygen restricted, I cling to the note of something so familiar, yet so distant, the masked feeling.

My hands clutch up in the final panic and terror reaching to free my throat. My windpipe crushes. This feeling intensifies and everything is burning white despite the darkness, there is a ringing in my ears as they grow hot, the pressure building inside my head, screaming to attention, blinding in the darkness, howling in the silence.

The last thing I hear is that note. 

That one note caught in the undertones of whisper that makes me understand all of this.

It’s lonely.         

© 2020 rannon96


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Added on March 21, 2020
Last Updated on March 21, 2020
Tags: lockdown, self isolation, horror, scary, ghost, fiction, coronavirus, covid-19