Turn of the Screw

Monday, October 12, 2015 by Topher Chapman

Licensed CC0, Public Domain
Licensed CC0, Public Domain

The whine woke me up.

I turned my head and glanced toward my bedroom door. It was open. I usually slept with it open as it allowed the breeze to circulate through the house on hot nights. Headlights outside the window flashed by on the wall as passing cars chased the shadows from my doorway.

Nothing was there. It must have been my imagination. I settled back into slumber.

The sound was more shrill this time. I opened my eyes to a long, low squeal instead of a whine. I threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. I looked out my bedroom door and down the hallway.

There was nothing. Only my shaggy rug and the collage of vacation photos on the wall. It was quiet. She was still gone.

I padded through the dark and back to my bed. The silence surrounded me as I pulled the covers up to my chest. The emptiness next to me still strange. If it had been warm, she might have been up, going to the bathroom. It wasn’t. She wasn’t.

I forgot the noise, closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I needed it.

A twisting groan woke me again. This time, it was loud, acute, sharp at the end. I was sure I heard it. It was not part of my dream. Someone was in my house.

I leapt out of bed, flinging the quilt over to her side and grabbed a golf club from my bag. Whatever kept waking me up was about to get a 3-Wood to the face. I growled. I needed to sleep. I had a busy day, it was late, and I had more to deal with in the morning.

For once, my quick temper was going to be righteously unleashed.

I stalked down the hallway and out into the main room of my little house. I gripped my club and pulled back to swing at the jerk moving my 50-inch television around.

No one was there. It was deathly silent. There was only my stertorous breathing and impotent fury.

Would the sound have been that loud if it had come from the living room? Was there someone back in my room? Back in my bathroom?

I walked to my front door and checked to make sure it was still locked. I tightened my grip on the club and crept back toward my bedroom. The waking adrenaline was wearing off. Fear was settling in.

That’s when I heard the noise again. A loud, staccato squeaking of sharp iron on wood. It was coming from my bedroom.

I paused in my doorway and peeked in. My room was dark and empty. I glanced to the open bathroom door. You couldn’t see in, but the light was off.

Cautiously, I slipped in. Without a sound, I knelt and looked under my bed. There were only boxes filled with Christmas decorations.

I stood up and moved to the bathroom door. I peeked around the corner. The toilet seat was down. Did I leave it down? I couldn’t remember.

Something flashed over my shoulder in the mirror. I spun as a car drove by and a second set of headlights shone in my window.

The shadows were making me jumpy. It was probably the water pipes. My water heater had kicked on or something. I put my club back in my golf bag and flopped into bed.

I needed sleep. The last few days were taking their toll. I pulled the quilt back from her cold, empty side of the bed and closed my eyes.

After three deep, calming breaths, the sound was back.

Loud. Shrill. Persistent this time. It wasn’t stopping. The alternating squeal and groan harmonized in an ominous, rhythmic refrain. I squeezed my eyes tighter. The sound didn’t stop. I tried to put my hands over my ears.

My left hand wouldn’t move.

My eyes shot open.

The back of my hand was slapped against the headboard and a large, T-shaped hand drill bored through the center of my palm, grinding deep into the wood. Three feet of twisting iron pinned my hand to the hard oak.

She had the handle.

She gripped hard and leaned on it. She turned the squealing gimlet drill further into my palm. That’s when the pain hit me. It froze the scream in my lungs.

But she was dead!

She stopped twisting the thick bit and looked at me. Accusation flared in her eyes.

She bent down and picked up a similar drill from under the bed. Her eyes were now translucent white fire as she glided to the other side of the bed. The cold metal gouged the wood floor as she dragged it behind her.

“No! Please, stop! Don’t!” I shouted.

She ignored me and reached for my right hand. I pulled it away from her and rolled to my side of the bed, trying to get up. An icy grip wrapped my wrist and pulled me to my back and across the bed. I struggled to free my hand from hers as she pushed it up against the headboard.

“Now, you can’t hit anyone anymore.”

She punched the tip of the bit into my flesh and twisted.

Blood erupted.

The groaning squeal could be heard between my screams.

900 word “Alternate Story With A Best-selling Title” entry for the October 2015 Fantasy Faction Monthly short story contest.