It was a beautiful country house on top of a hill overlooking the valley

It was a beautiful country house on top of a hill overlooking the valley. During the summer it is possible to see for miles around and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Mathew was watching his favourite game show from his dad’s favourite armchair with his feet up on the coffee table. His parents had gone out for the evening. This is the life he thought to himself.

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There it was that was the second time he’d heard that thud. The first time he had heard the thump he did not take much notice of it.

Mathew clicked the television silent, straining his ear against the storm that had suddenly sprung up. It splattered the roof with a mixture of rain and hail. He could see fog floating across the window glass seeking shelter from the thunderous wrath of the Gail force winds.

The second thump had come from upstairs, as though someone, or something, had knocked a book to the floor. Mathew gripped the arms of the chair and cursed his parents for leaving him alone on a night like this, knowing he was fearful of storms, empty houses and prowlers, however imaginary they might be.

Not a very confident boy by nature, Mathew had had a very overprotective upbringing and even at school would not join in and play with the rest of the boys just in case he got hurt and an infection took over. His favourite teacher Ms Oakes always used to say to him, “Don’t worry Mathew. One day you will be able to play and join in with the rest of the lads.” He had spent a lot of his childhood in and out from hospitals because at the age of 5, he contracted pneumonia, which led to complications with his liver and kidneys.

The television screen flickered in silence as it ran the news story again, warning the public about the man with the knife. He’d escaped from a mental asylum and had been evading the police for the past two days, leaving no clues or reasoning to his appetite for slaughtering anyone who were home alone.

Suddenly Mathew heard a door creaking open upstairs. He had meant to oil the hinges of his bedroom door for weeks. He wished he had. As he strained his ears he could hear the drip drip of a tap in the kitchen. As Mathew ran his sweaty hand through his hair uneasily, he realised that his breathing had got a lot heavier. He was sure he could hear his own heart beat. Mathew reached for the phone, preparing to phone his parents again, but winced at the thought of what his parents may say. He had last spoken to them an hour ago and they had reassured him that everything will be fine and that he was only worrying himself unnecessarily.

“Dad it’s me again.” He said weakly into the phone. Despite trying to sound brave, his voice quivered unsteadily.

“How long do you think you’ll be now?” he asked impatiently.

After a short pause, his dad sighed and said, “Won’t be more than a couple of hours Mathew”

“But dad, I heard someone upstairs!”

“Now Mathew we’ve already talked about this, you mustn’t let your imagination run away with you.”

Mathew knew he wasn’t going to be able to convince his dad.

“Just watch some TV and make yourself a cup of tea, we won’t be long now.”

He replaced the phone in its cradle and trembled at the emptiness of the house as the storm raged outside. A jolt of lightening cracked nearby, its brilliance lighting the corners beyond the window. The lights flickered, plunging him into darkness, and Mathew dug his nails deeply into the fabric of the chair. As the storms fury roared directly overhead, the lights fluttered, fighting to stay alight. The lights remained at half strength their pale yellow light casting deep shadows in the corners, hiding nightmarish beings that only Mathew could imagine.

As Mathew finally plucked up the courage to investigate the noise coming from upstairs, he heard the screech of an owl echo through the room, which sent a shiver down his spine. He pushed his shaking form from the chair and crept towards the hallway.

His mouth was dry and his heart was pounding as he tiptoed slowly up the stairs.

TAP TAP!

TAP TAP!

He was almost certain he was going to collapse with fright. He looked around the room anxiously, looking for something he could use to defend himself with. The hair on the back of his neck stood upright as he struggled to climb up the stairs.

He turned the knob on his bedroom door and slowly pushed the door open. He felt his knees giving way. Suddenly he heard an ear-piercing screeching sound come from the corner of the room. He jumped and raised the walking stick he had picked up. As he scanned the room frantically, he saw a creature with big, bright eyes staring back at him.

Mathew switched on the lights and saw a branch of a tree through his broken bedroom window

As another jolt of lightening crackled over his head illuminating the bedroom, Mathew saw a branch of a tree through his broken bedroom window.

“So that’s what’s been making all the noise up here.” Mathew then switched on the light

“You’re an owl,” Mathew shouted his heart pounding. He tossed the walking stick over his shoulder and grabbed handfuls of his hair. “Its just a stupid owl”

He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The owl rotated his head from side to side, oblivious to Mathew’s state of mind and continued to stare at Mathew.

“Just an owl,” Mathew whispered again as he kneeled down on the floor with relief. “were you as frightened as me? You scared me half to death.”

“I do let my imagination run away with me sometimes.”

“Imagination indeed” the man whispered from the far corner of the room. The dim yellow light shone off the knife in his fist.

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