Author's Note: To this day it's still the scariest nightmare I've ever had. Rated 'M' for language and content.

The Returning

We were fighting. You know, one of those arguments you often have with younger people. The stupid brat, I thought to myself. He was about fourteen but must have been at least four inches taller than me. I can't even remember why we'd started fighting in the first place. All I know is I said something, and then he twisted it around, making me look and feel stupid. I hate manipulative bastards like that. However it then began to get out of hand. I was becoming upset, my voice rising in indignation. Upon recognising this, the boy got confident – and loud. Gradually my offence turned to anger, and I was fighting back. The boy started yelling. I yelled. He was really irritating me and I lashed out, shoving him away. He scrambled back towards me, now really pissed off, and that was when he ripped my T-shirt. Right down the front, from the collar to the waist, as easily as though it were made of paper. I saw it flutter down from me and flop onto the roof. It was impossible to be worn anymore.

I clasped my arms around my naked torso, suddenly shivering against the bitter morning breeze. I was totally afraid, and alone – alone with this boy who could have easily killed me. It certainly felt like he was going to. I looked at him, and he saw the vulnerability, the weakness, and the opportunism. He was crawling towards me.

I flung myself away, and watched his dark eyes as they regarded me with a malevolent hunger. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hide. But I couldn't. We were both sat here, on top of the garage roof. I had never been beaten up before…was this my turn?

I turned my back on him as I scurried toward the edge. I was going to jump down and run away.

I felt a hand seize my ankle…and then relent. I turned around and saw that my friend Luke had arrived – he was fighting the bully away for me! I could have sung with relief, but I didn't. So I watched, and I laughed – Luke was way taller than this kid and it was amusing to see the kid flinch and cower from him.

I should have intervened and told Luke to stop. Luke was overcome with fury. I knew that the boy was no longer going to bother me…and I did nothing. Luke kept hitting him. I heard it, like an apple being whacked by a hammer. It was gross. I saw the blood fall like a light shower onto the grey roof. The boy was squealing. I wanted to do something, and yet I didn't. I found myself scared, all over again.

And what scared me even more was seeing Luke reach down for the old cables that were fixed above the garage door. I was horrified and sickened as I watched Luke viciously wrap the coils around the boy's neck. He was screaming. I was screaming. But Luke did not stop. I prayed that someone would hear us – surely someone must have been alerted by now? But nobody had. We were alone.

And then Luke pushed the boy.

I didn't have time to cover my ears before the sound of the boy's neck snapping like a matchstick met them, followed by a curdling thump of his beaten body smacking into the garage door, barely a foot from where I sat, and then there was silence.

It took a while to remove the body, and then to scrub the surface of the garage roof clean of blood, for which I used my ruined T-shirt. We worked slowly and silently, our fingers trembling out of shock. More than once I dropped the rag because my hands seemed to lose feeling, and God knows how we had managed to take the body down and lay it on the garden without one of us fainting. But we did. Luke gave me his sweater to wear because he was wearing a T-shirt himself beneath it.

Now we sat on the backdoor steps of the house, the garden before us. Time had become a jealous rivalry, having slowed itself down so that nothing but the darkness of eternity stretched out before us. How would I ever come to terms with this? Would I ever come to terms? Again and again, though I mentally defied it, my eyes could not help but fall on the face of our victim – he was never to laugh, cry nor sing again, thanks to us. His face that had probably wrinkled many a time in mirth was now pale, his eyes white, glassy and vacant, his skin decorated with brown blood. It was more than I could bear.

We were going to talk. I knew it. After thirty minutes, which felt to me like a thousand hours, we were sat on the steps beside each other, and neither of us had said a word since the dispute up on the garage roof. I was surprised that no one had entered or left or even poked a curious head out of their house during this period. I despised it because it felt like I was being alienated for my crime to struggle through the guilt alone.

I wanted to speak first. I wanted to ask him why. Why did he do that? What the hell compelled him to resort to such a thing as murder? I was already safe. I was already OK. There was absolutely no reason for Luke to go as far as he did. I raised my eyes slowly, hatefully, feeling rage and anguish pulsing through my veins. I felt ready to strike at him, to cause him pain; I loathed him. But then as my eyes came up, I saw his face. It was pale. It was broken in shock and regret. My abhorrence of him dissolved into pity.

Luke spoke first. His voice was coarse and low, and he struggled to enunciate clearly; every syllable trembled, and he kept his eyes to the floor. 'We have – we can't leave him there, we gotta – gotta go before someone – someone sees us…'

'What are you saying we do?' I whispered, and it hurt.

Luke's voice resonated within me, and it was stronger – slightly. 'We're going to make – to make it look like a suicide.'

'How will we do that?'

Luke thought for a second. I could see him running his hands anxiously through his hair, and would not have been surprised if he ripped it out. Then he said, 'go get some rags from the kitchen.'

I turned around and stepped up to the door, pushed it open, and entered the house. The room in which I found myself was the kitchen. The yellowing radiator ran along the wall to my left. Beside the door (through which I had entered) at a right angle was an arched doorway over two or three steps, which led down into the dining room. In front of me were the fridge and cupboards. The right side of the room was dominated by the sink unit and the window that looked out onto the driveway, which ran up to the garage, outside and behind me to the right. This meant that the garden was behind me and to the left, beside the garage. The plastic blind was down over the window, but open so that slivers of timid, cloudy sunlight filtered in onto the wood-laminated floor. The room was semi-dark and gloomy but I was still in too much a state of shock to bother turning on the light or see any of this, quite apart from the fact that it was only morning.

I shuffled towards the sink, not fully aware of my surroundings or of how much noise I was making, if any. My mind was completely in another world. I reached out towards the cupboard beneath the sink with a hand that I did not recognise. I shook my head to clear it, and felt something warm splash onto my nose – I had been crying. I watched as my hand grasped the handle (was it actually my hand?) and pulled. I think my eyes were now staring into a very dark cupboard. Why had I come in here again? Oh, yes, the rags. They were there, all covered in dust

(dust dust like from old bones dust)

and grime, and piled in the back corner. I leaned over and grabbed them, and then straightened up with them clutched in my trembling grip. I turned to the left and my legs were taking me to the door, which my hand then opened and I was outside again on the steps.

Luke was stood before the garden steps. His eyes were focused on me, and yet…not seeing me. It was an eerie feeling, seeing him stood there with such a vacant and troubled expression upon his face. It was the sort of face you would expect to see of a mental patient.

I felt a sudden compulsion to run and wake from this nightmare, but I couldn't. My legs would not allow it. Unless there was something else there; something in the way the trees drooped from side to side in a whispering breeze and the way the white clouds strolled across the sky. It was all perfectly ordinary weather, but to me it felt different. I felt enclosed and threatened by the presence of an invisible…something. I heard it in every swish of grass, every murmur of birds. An icy chill of foreboding poured down my spine.

'Well? Did you get them?' Luke's voice said sharply.

I jerked out of my trance and came down the steps towards my best friend. I didn't like the sound of his voice. It had turned hard. I looked at his face – it was still pale of course, but dry. This made me quickly try to wipe the sweat off my own face using a dusty rag – we had to get a grip on ourselves. Luke already seemed to have done this although he did turn blank frequently.

'Here,' I said faintly, dumping them at his feet.

'Right,' said Luke, before running his hands through his hair again. I knew he was trying - and failing - to think clearly.

(come on come on get a grip get a hold)

Over his shoulder lay the boy's body, but I did my best to keep my gaze averted from it. I studied Luke's face, and wanted to either hit him or hug him, but I could not assess properly my feelings. I shook my head, and felt an audible thump of my heartbeat.

(we're alone that's obvious and yet I sense something else close by)

'Right, what we're going to do with these rags,' said Luke, 'is wipe the top of the garage, the handles of the doors, the cables, the banister; everything we've touched, 'cause they'll be looking for prints, and so that includes the b- the body…' he stumbled slightly. I winced, too, at those words.

'Will that work?' I asked.

My eyes couldn't help but flicker slightly to the body and then back.

'It'll have to,' Luke shrugged, and I felt a pang at having asked such a stupid question.

I tried again. 'But there are bruises, Luke – you hit him, they're bound to see -,'

'I know I hit him!' he suddenly shouted. I looked into his eyes and saw fear and anger there. Again, I glanced to the right at the body.

(there is a power in this place I can sense it I can feel it)

'I- I'm sorry -,'

'Don't say things like that, ever,' said Luke, stressing each word equally. 'Do not recount what we did…'

I was afraid; Luke was much taller than me. But it was not just him I was afraid of. I looked at the boy, over Luke's shoulder. It was stupid, really. I knew perfectly well that the mind conjures up strange images when put under a lot of tension. But I couldn't help it, and I couldn't put my finger on it. You could say that the guilt was turning me insane. I was so sure that I could sense something in the air, something foul

No, it really was stupid to think that! I knew the boy was dead; I watched him die, I heard his neck break! I even saw his eyes turn white and glassy, the flow of blood from his wounds stop and coagulate…

'Michael? Michael!'

My eyes whirled back onto Luke's face. 'Sorry.'

'Why the fuck do you keep looking at him? It isn't helping matters, the guy is dead.'

(is he dead is he dead)

'I know, I'm sorry,' I said. 'Carry on.'

Luke started talking again, but I was not listening. I stared at the corpse.

(I can sense it something lingers)

I could not have been imagining things…

'Look at me.'

'I know!'

I was certain the boy's hand was by his side a moment ago, not lying flat across his chest…


The pounding of blood in my ears...

'OK? So you do that and I will -,'


He spun around in confusion. I saw the boy sit up slowly, and heard the creaking of his stiff limbs. I saw hands that were as pale as sand reach up and begin to unravel the coil that had been tied around his neck. Crack. The neck was in the natural position. More creaking as the head turned robotically towards us, and glinting, unseeing eyes fell sharply upon us…

A paralysing terror broke over me and I collapsed backwards. My ankle smacked the bottom stair and I stumbled. Luke was upon me, his breathing high and uneven, his eyes wild in horror. 'Go,' he said. 'Get in the house, just go! Run!'

I saw beyond him the boy's hands going down into the grass, heard his legs clicking at the knee as he began forcing his way to his feet…

I gave Luke one last fleeting look and then spun around. Luke was shoving me as I scrambled up the steps. I reached the top and my sweaty hands fumbled frantically with the doorknob.

I looked over my shoulder. The boy was already descending the garden steps.

'Don't look, just RUN!'

The door swung open and I threw myself in. Luke slammed it shut behind me. 'Lock it,' his voice ordered.

I did so, and leaned my head against the window. My head throbbed painfully. My heart drummed against my ribs. I was more scared than I had ever been. I took a moment to just stand in absolute stillness, listening with all my might. Where was Luke? Was he ok? What was he doing? Everything around me spun and I had to use the door to support myself. In my panic one comforting thought arrived; the door was locked.

There came a loud shriek from outside

(oh god no please please no)

And then silence. I waited, every inch of my numb mind harnessed to whatever it was on the other side of the door. What should I do?

Then, as I stood there, a fresh sound met my ears; a sound that sent cold rushes of fear spiralling down my neck; a sound that turned my legs to water; a sound that was too close, too fucking close at hand – the sound of a dry hand sliding along a banister…

I looked down to the right and saw a pair of glinting, glassy white eyes leering out of the darkness at me from just two or three feet away…


The thing was walking up those few short stairs towards me, its deadly gaze trained on my face…

A fresh wave of icy terror flooded me and I acted before thinking. My hand seized the handle – I wrenched – snap, the lock broke and the door swung open – I jumped out and vaulted down the steps, turned around at the bottom and ran full out down the driveway – thud thud thud, my feet pounding across the road – for the life of me I didn't stop or slow, I just wanted to place as much distance as possible between myself and that thing. I went sprinting across the roads, jumping over walls and scrambling over fences, I must have run for almost a mile and didn't stop until I reached a bunch of trees at the end of a street I was unfamiliar with.

I hurried beneath them in a panic. It was cool in here; the trees were huge and the leaves made for a shady, green canopy that covered the area. There was a bank littered with old logs and weeds before me, and I walked down it somewhat. Nearby there came the sound of a stream, and I realised that the bank must slope down towards a brook. I edged downward until the brook came into sight. Then I sat down on the bank, watching the silvery water trickle by.

My head still ached. I massaged my temples with my fingers, my eyes closed. I tried not to think about anything just now. The main thing was, I had escaped. But I couldn't help thinking of Luke…was he…?

But no, I couldn't think about that. I shook my head again and stared at the water.

I had only been there barely ten seconds before a new sound met my ears; the sound of twigs snapping and feet shuffling through undergrowth, very close at hand…

My head spun around. He stood there, his eyes gleaming in the semi-darkness, his white hands, stained with purple blood,stretching towards me…