A man returns to his home in the snow where he is haunted by an evil presence.
|A sheet of frost hugged the window so tight cracks erupted erratically in ugly patterns across the glass. The occasional tear of water slithered down the wooden frame and landed on the cold floor with a shallow 'plip'. The tree outside occasionally caressed the brick of the house gently with its sharp nails, causing clicks and scratching noises to pierce through the thin air of White Top Mountain. The base of the house was lodged in thick, white, sludgy snow that reached up to and above the door. Icicles hung like frozen, dead bodies in the gallows on the gutters that stretched around the house like black snakes, rattling against the force of the blizzard outside.
Mr Sutherland, the local ski resort’s caretaker, burst through the front door, sheets of ice exploding from the hinges and cracks. He was a short man with a natural, pale skin colour, however his cheeks seemed to always stay rosy. He turned placing his hand firmly against the cold metal handle of the door and pushed hard against the wind to slam the steel bar through the wooden lock of the door. A pleasing clunk followed. He ripped the hat off his bald head and shrugged off his snow jacket, which slid to the floor, revealing his dark red jumper. He shook off the excess snow and walked over into the chequered floored kitchen, and turned on the burner under the kettle. After a short time a low rumble began, whilst Mr Sutherland gazed out of the window until the phone pierced his thoughts, startling him. He walked over to it and removed it from its body.
“Hello?” No answer left the speakers just crackling back at him. He repeated, “Hello?” Still, no answer came. “I’m sorry I can’t hear you. I’m hanging up now. Goodbye.”
The phone clicked into its body. A long pause came after that. Only the heavy breathing of Mr Sutherland could be heard. Mr Sutherland was in his late fifties. He traveled over to White Top Mountain twenty years ago after the tragic death of his wife and child. He found work at the ski resort at the base of the mountain and worked there ever since. He had a slight Scottish accent, which others occasionally had difficulty understanding, the reason, he told himself, nobody replied into the phone. 'Yes, that's why'. Today was the anniversary of his wife's death. Mr Sutherland knew this, but whilst living on White Top Mountain, he almost forgot, the fear and upset that he had left behind. He began to walk toward the kitchen again, but was stopped, paralyzed almost, by another ringing. He turned around to see the telephone light flashing. He paused for a minute, considering the situation. They’re calling again, maybe there had been a bad connection, after all. 'Yes, that's why'. He shook his head slightly and walked over to the phone.
“Hello?” Breathing hissed through the speakers.“Who is this?”
“I am neither a friend or enemy or relative or stranger.”
“Michael, is this you?”
Michael was a co-worker at the ski resort who was always playing stupid jokes on his colleagues. But this was not funny. Mr. Sutherland was spooked slightly.
“No. I am not Michael. Nor am I Christopher the bartender or Edward the instructor. I am nothing.”
Mr Sutherland squinted his eyes in thought. This must be a joke, surely this was a joke. He took a deep breath and whispered, stuttering slightly, “That’s not possible; I can hear you as well as you can hear me. You must be something, I mean someone.”
He scared himself then; it felt like someone tore some of his breath out of him when he said ‘something’.
“Mr Sutherland, I am fear. I am fear in whatever form or shape you wish me to be. My voice is perfected to chill you and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up like spikes. I am your worst nightmare, your darkest thought and your scariest memories. I am the shadow at the back of the room, I am the monster under your bed. I am the disease that cut the string of life from which your wife and child once hung by.” Mr Sutherland was panting now, sweating slightly.
“How do you know about that?” he whispered.
“I know everything about you, Mr Sutherland. You are fifty-seven-years-old. Your eyes are dark blue. You were born in Edinburgh in 1952 and raised by an alcoholic father. He used to beat you for sinning. You married Sally Turner at the age of 24. She died when you were 29. Your child died a year later. You moved to escape the pain and hardship Scotland gifted you. You arrived on the 23rd of October, 1999 and have lived here for the last few years.”
Mr Sutherland turned a very pale colour now, his cheeks no longer rosy, but icy. His eyes were damp as he had not blinked in the last half a minute, one of the most gut-twisting, heart squeezing moments of his life. “I . . . I. . . I have to go.” Mr Sutherland whispered almost just mouthing the words.
“Yes Mr. Sutherland, you do. The kettle won’t wait forever.”
Then the line was cut. Mr Sutherland was shaking so badly it was hard to steadily put the phone back in the cradle. He turned around - nothing was there. 'It’s not possible'. He edged slowly toward the kitchen, his bottom lip trembling furiously. He found the edge of the door and slowly peeked round. A fresh fog of steam was circling around the ceiling. He crept in, his mouth filling with saliva and phlegm. His eyes were bloodshot, but tears filled them, so they were more fleshy pink than red. He checked every corner of the room. He pushed himself up against the wall and grabbed a mug from the shelf above him. He shakily put it down on the counter and reached for the kettle. He clutched its handle and slowly began to pour into the mug. The water gushed into the cup so fast that within seconds it over-flowed. Mr Sutherland, however, did not notice. He just kept staring at the door, which led in to the hall where the phone was kept. He picked up the mug and sipped. Warmth filled his body yet he was still frozen in fear. After a few more sips, another ringing came from the hall. He dropped the mug, which shattered into little splinters as he ran to the phone. He panted as he bent down and pulled out the power cable for the phone. To his horror, the phone kept ringing. He let out a cry as he headed toward the stairs. The phone stopped ringing and went on to the automated answer service voice. “I’m sorry, but the person you’re calling is not available at the moment. Please leave a message after the tone." The following automated 'beep' sounded.
For moments, silence froze Mr. Sutherland in his place, the ‘beep’ seemingly going on for an eternity. But finally, it stopped. And again the voice spoke. “You cannot hide from me. I am behind you, beside you, in front of your face, nose-to-nose all the time. Wherever you go, I go and you will never, ever escape my grip.”
Mr Sutherland turned and ran for the stairs. He was almost crying, but he was too terrified to find the tears. He reached the landing and ran across to his bedroom. He burst through the door, and slammed it shut with his back pressed against it. The vibration traveled like a tidal wave through the house. The room was empty with no sign of any life, but was the voice alive? He tried to calm his breathing down to a steadier pace, but the caller scared him more than all his worst nightmares put together. He closed his eyes, begging and praying to a God he only wanted to believe was there. Opening them after a short while, he noticed his room turned dark and a cold light pushed gently through his bedroom window. He looked puzzled as seconds ago he closed his eyes in the evening light, his room fully lit. He looked through his bulging eyes and whispered to himself, “This is a dream, Andy. You are dreaming. Wake up. Please wake up.” He closed his eyes for the last time and breathed steadily. A cold hand placed itself on his shoulder and lay there for quite some time. Mr Sutherland turned - no-one was there. A laugh sounded from the corner of the room. He turned quickly, letting out a small cry. In the corner of the room stood two figures, a woman and a child. Mr Sutherland fell to his knees and sobbed against the floor, the two figures standing over him, smiling. He reached out to them, but they moved away, back into the darkness of the room.
"Alice", he whimpered.
The woman and the child faded into the corner of the room, their silhouettes only slightly visible. He knelt there, staring into the darkness where his wife and child stood. With another small sob, Mr Sutherland stood up, sighed remorsefully and walked into the corner and finally was consumed by the fear and taken into the darkness, never to be seen again, whilst the sound of a kettle shrieked and billowed clouds of boiling water vapor over White Top Mountain.