Colin felt his eyes grow heavy. He struggled to focus on the piles of papers that littered his small side table. He glanced at his watch. It was 1.57. He sighed sadly, shaking his head. The baby would be asleep by the time he reached home. He hadn’t been able to make it home in time for almost a month now, and he didn’t even get the weekends off. He bundled up the completed articles, and walked to the publisher’s cabin. He hoped that all of them were perfect-he didn’t have the time to read them today. Dumping the stack on the glass topped table afforded him a sense of slight relief.
He was going to take the week off- sleep in with his wife, play with the baby and just relax. The promotion had come with its own problems. He walked back to his brand-new office. Everybody had gone home after turning in their reports, so he had to shut down the office. He clicked the lights off. After locking all the doors, he made his way to the parking. When he was halfway there, he remembered with an acute pang of guilt the gift he had left behind in the office. He was loathe to go, but his conscience troubled him.
He walked back up the stairs in the dark, knowing his way instinctively. As he neared his office, he felt an unwelcome sense of uneasiness. Something was not quite right, but he couldn’t place his finger on what it was. He pushed the door open. Head half-bowed with exhaustion, he groped around on his table, not quite having the strength to switch on the lights. Suddenly, his hand touched something cold and wet. Something inhumanely cold. Something that felt like an open, waiting hand.
Colin jerked back his hand, shivering uncontrollably. He hurriedly flipped the light switch on. Nothing. He was alone. He looked down at his hand and barely stifled a scream. It was red. Blood. He intuitively started praying. Grabbing the doll that sat innocently on the table, he stumbled his way out. His fingers fumbled as he turned the last lock. As he reached the main door, and stretched out to flip the main switch off, he felt a hand already there. He didn’t look. He was too shocked. He just ran.
Colin pulled out his set of house keys from his back pocket. His hands were still red, his breathing still shaky. The half-hour drive had done a good deal to calm him, but he still couldn’t shake off the uneasiness, and the feel of the hand. He had spent the whole ride winding the little clockwork doll he had gotten as a gift from a ‘Secret Santa’ for his little daughter. A ‘Secret Santa’ in the middle of July? But it didn’t matter. She was a pretty little doll, and when she was wound, the doll would start chanting in a trance-like, yet mystically musical voice- ‘six, six, six, six, six….’ Why six, he didn’t know, but it was sweeter and more melodious than anything he had heard. He hung his coat and hat on the rack, and made his way up the central flight of stairs, his hands unconsciously winding the little doll. When he reached the master bedroom, he saw his wife fast asleep, the baby curled up next to her. They looked beautiful even then. He felt a little better, seeing them so much at peace. Deciding not to wake his wife, he made his way to the guest bedroom. He fell asleep in his clothes.
Colin sprang out of bed, breathing heavily. Something had woken him up. The sense of uneasiness was still there. He listened carefully in the still of the night. All was silent. He looked at his watch. 2:59. He exhaled softly, convincing himself it was nothing. That was when he heard the closet. It was slowly creaking open. He squinted at it in the darkness. Something was pushing it open. And then with a screech a horribly contorted figure came at Colin. He had no time to react. The corpse’s hand went straight through Colin, emerging on the other side, bloody. And Colin jerked awake, sweating.
It had been a dream. Just then he heard the grandfather clock in the hall chime. Thrice. It was three. Devil’s hour, thought Colin suddenly. As though his thoughts had awoken some entity, Colin heard a high-pitched scream. His wife’s. The baby’s screams rose up to match the mother’s, but then both of them fell abruptly silent. Before he could do anything, he heard the closet door creak open. Like a movie being replayed, he saw his dream come to life, but this time he knew it was for real. As he finally felt his life slipping away, hanging limp in the creature’s grasp, his hand stroked the doll’s face which he had brought for his daughter. She seemed to look straight at him as she began her monosyllabic chant. Only this time she said- ‘nine, nine, nine, nine, nine….’