‘It’s always best when the light is out, I am the pick in the ice
Do not cry out or hit the alarm, you know we’re friends ’til we die’
– Thom Yorke (Radiohead), ‘Climbing Up The Walls’
‘Alone. The most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.’ Humphrey had read this somewhere, probably in a Stephen King book, he couldn’t remember exactly which, but he agreed with the passage then and he sure as hell agreed with it now.
Though Humphrey was not alone, he was anything but alone. Humphrey was crumpled into the corner of his bedroom, his arms covering his head, his entire frame trembling, his pores and eyes unreservedly discharging sweat and bitter tears. He sat there in his darkened room with Dread, who poked him mischievously with his cold fingers. With Sorrow, who warped his heart and ate him alive. With Darkness, who shrouded Humphrey and the entire room under his tattered cloak.
But worse than any twisted emotion, worse than any mutual deception of the eye and the light, worse than any melancholic betraying thoughts Humphrey may have had, was Death, who came in the guise of an Intruder that occupied the downstairs of his house, ravaging his house in a relentless chaotic frenzy.
Despite Humphrey’s feeble efforts to block out the noise, he could still hear everything. The crash of the tableware and glass, falling and ultimately exploding into pieces as they collided with the floor and the walls. The loud bang as his television was thrown across the room, smashing into a wall and the sizzle of the circuits bursting. The scornful cackle of the Intruder. It was a hair-raising, vulgar, sharp screech that penetrated Humphrey’s delicate ear-canal-walls, went straight to his brain and exploded, the shrapnel of the explosion cutting his soft organ.
It took a moment for Humphrey’s mind to register that all sound and movement had ceased downstairs. Gradually his brain escaped from the cycle of fear and earthly senses returned to him. He realised his pants were drenched in urine, which made him click his tongue disapprovingly.
Humphrey’s aged brain was working overtime attempting to process what had happened. Most of the day was a nauseating blur to him and passed by rather uneventfully, but he remembered dozing off, and he remembered Sleep’s grasp on him loosening and faltering to the hostile sound of his back door crashing in. That’s when the Intruder broke in. But the dust has settle and the Intruder has departed now, probably satisfied with the destruction caused and the items burgled.
Humphrey picked up his walking stick and with immense effort he managed to summon the strength to get up. He intended to go downstairs and phone the police, but only managed two steps before he heard a bang on his door. The Intruder was still in the house. The Intruder was right outside his room.
Humphrey’s legs collapsed right on the spot, and that frosty familiar feeling of numb helplessness enveloped him again. He shrunk back into his corner and broke into a fit of hysterical sobbing. Outside the Intruder was pounding at the door.
‘Open up,’ the Intruder said hoarsely, ‘open up, man, you’ve gotta open up. I need her back, man, open up!’ The Intruder proceeded to pound at the door, slowly at first, but then he snapped and broke into a violent fury of pounding. ‘OPEN UP!!’
After what felt like an eternity to Humphrey, the Intruder ceased pounding at the door and fell to the floor and, to Humphrey’s great surprise, began to weep.
‘Open up,’ the Intruder wailed,
For a brief moment a spark of pity for the Intruder lighted up in Humphrey’s mind, but the spark dimmed as soon as it appeared, and Humphrey was back in his hopeless state of terror.
Silence slithered around the room, but his tyranny was brief and hastily retreated when Humphrey’s bedroom door collapsed in with an earth-shattering BANG, rattling Humphrey’s brain inside his skull. The Intruder got in.
He was a tall man, of medium build, in his mid-thirties with moon-pale complexion, as if the sunlight had only a nodding acquaintance with his skin. The Intruder stood there, looking down at Humphrey with the look of absolute discontent on his face, a sandwich in his hand. And a gun in the other. The Intruder’s eyes were dim, with a hint of triumph in them, and Humphrey noticed that he was salivating.
‘I find you at last, demon!’ the Intruder exclaimed with triumph. He fiddled with his gun, groping it with his index finger. It was not point directly at Humphrey, but it was dangerously close. The Intruder made a slight a motion, which made Humphrey recoil and defensively position his arms in front of his face, as if trying to defend against an incoming strike, but the Intruder merely took a giant bite of his sandwich, the rest of which he tossed away, along with his gun.
‘I have been lookin’ for ya’ for so long,’ the Intruder grunted, ‘you ‘ave taken away that I hold dearest, you ‘ave taken away my light. Where is she?’
Dread glumly retired his post behind Humphrey and was replaced by Confusion. Humphrey was flabbergasted, ‘what is this madman talking about?’ he thought, but out loud he said, ‘I- I’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about.’
‘Ya’ know damn well wha’ I’m on about. I wan’ her back.’ The Intruder spat.
‘I think y-you’re mistaken, s-sir,’ Humphrey murmured, ‘I’m just an innocent ol-‘
‘WHAT DO YOU WAN’ FROM ME?’ The Intruder snapped, his eyes budging and his breathing getting heavy. Dread cheerfully resumed his post.
‘Listen, man, I’m begging you to give her back to me,’ The Intruder got down on both knees and clasped his hands together and tears gathered in the corner of his eyes, ‘I’m an empty shell wiv’ out her. An insect, I’ll do anythin’!’
Humphrey was cornered; he had not a hint of how to proceed. The Intruder was utterly insane, fragile, and capable of cracking at a moment’s notice. He was a danger to himself and, more importantly, a danger to Humphrey. Humphrey’s eyes desperately scanned the room, looking for something, anything, he could use against the Intruder. Time, that’s what he needed. Time. And a damn miracle.
In the past, time and time again, Humphrey’s mind had failed him. Whether it was through an examination when he was young, an important job interview, when proposing or just during everyday endeavours. And today it was no different.
Humphrey couldn’t even move, he felt like a spectator observing through the eyes of someone else’s body, he could only watch and not take party.
‘Fine. He told me you wouldn’ cooperate. He told me you wouldn’ give her back to me, he told me everythin’. But there’s another way, if I kill you now, she will return to me. He told me.’ The Intruder said through gritted teeth, as he progressed towards Humphrey. His teeth bared, his eyes filled with contagious madness and his veins popping out, on the verge of bursting. His bare, cold hands made contact with Humphrey’s neck, which made Humphrey shiver, and squeezed.
Humphrey’s eyes started seeing shades of black, then stars and then no more.
Humphrey woke up, rubbed his eyes, and then wearily scanned the environment. He had been here before, he couldn’t remember when but he was certain he had definitely been here before.
‘Good morning,’ a cheerful voice said, ‘are we doing alright?’
Humphrey looked to his right and saw a young, pleasant man in a uniform.
‘Who are you? Where am I?’ Humphrey asked, dazed. His eyes were burning
‘I’m officer Peter, just call me Peter, and you’re in Worthington Hospital, you were brought in last night,’ Peter replied in his cheery manner.
‘What happened last night?’
‘Well, we got a call from your neighbour reporting a break-in, and we came over as soon as we could and came just in time and the intruder is in custody now.’
‘What did the intruder want with me?’ Humphrey questioned.
‘His name was John Gates, and he recently lost his wife in a car accident. Poor man was mad with grief, and was only last week taken into an insane asylum, from which he miraculously escaped and came for you.’ Peter nervously answered.
‘He…’ Humphrey trailed off, ‘he kept referring to a third-party who told him to come for me. Are you sure there was no real motive after coming after me?’
‘I can only speculate on who he was referring to, but Gates was mad beyond help. That person could have just been a persona, driving him to psychotic acts, which seemed reasonable to Gates.’ Peter responded.
They had said their goodbyes and Officer Peter left, leaving Humphrey alone. All alone.