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November 2003 - Creaking Horror

It was 4am and pitch black outside. No moon shone on the curtains to give any indication of what was about to happen. I lay there, petrified in my bed, just listening.

The strange creaking and clicking noise grew louder and closer. Who was it that was trying to break in? What did he want? Could it be a mad axeman come to do away with me for ever?

Now, if you read the last edition a month ago, you would have been expecting that terribly exciting start, because I did promise that I'd come up with something rather special to celebrate three years of Nick Harvey's Comment on the Web, didn't I?

We got well into the swing of thoughts that come to you as you're lying in bed the last time round, so I thought I'd continue the theme, but with a bit more excitement to keep you all enthralled, dear readers.

I'll take money that a lot more of you are still here, gripping tightly onto your seats, on the fifth paragraph, than stayed this far last month; so I WILL continue the story right now, stay tuned.

About fifteen minutes earlier, I could have sworn that I'd heard a very similar sound coming from the kitchen. The long slow creak, then the odd clicking sound as if the intruder had dropped a load of marbles on the tiled floor.

Still I lay there, completely motionless. If I pretend to be fast asleep, perhaps he'll take what he wants and just go and leave me alone.

Then, almost as suddenly as it had begun, the sound stopped. Silence, total silence for one, two, three minutes. Has he gone away? Is he out there in the corridor waiting for me to get up and investigate? If I go out there, will he swing the giant axe and have done with me?

Then, CRACK, a sharp report from the general direction of the sitting room. And more silence.

Now it's half past four and the bed's soaked in sweat, even though I'm shivering with the cold.

The clicking starts again, at the bedroom window once more. I gently slide a hand out from under the covers and grasp an ashtray, the heaviest thing I can think of to hit him with. The other hand creeps silently up towards the cord with which to turn on the light.

In one swift movement which could have been choreographed by the finest ballet director I'm standing up draped in the duvet, the light is on, the ashtray is high in the air ready for anything and the curtains are thrown back.

Nothing, nobody, no sign of a soul. If he WAS there, he's run off so silently he must have been in the ballet himself.

I check all the other rooms, swopping the ashtray for the heavy wooden leg off a three legged milking stool which is kept in the sitting room for the youngsters to sit on when they visit.

No sign of entry, no sign of anybody having been in any of the rooms. Not even the tell-tale sign of a hastily discarded marble on the kitchen floor.

Back in bed, it's now five o'clock and the leg off the stool's on the bedside table, just in case. Off goes the light and I try to settle.

Who knows whether I drop off or not, is it five past five or seven o'clock? This time the long, slow creak comes from the bathroom; then the clicking; and another shorter creak. Off I go again, leg of stool akimbo!

Still no axeman to be found, still no evidence of entry, still nothing to give any small hint of what's going on.

It IS seven o'clock, so there's no point in going back to bed, especially as the double glazing people will be back in an hour to fit the last of the new windows in the second bedroom which I use as an office.

I get dressed, drink a few cups of very strong coffee to steady my nerves and settle down to watch a bit of breakfast television.

Eight o'clock arrives, as do the men to do the last window. They join me in the coffee drinking and then get on with fitting. A rather good job they've made of it as well. They've cleaned up by lunchtime, been paid and gone on to the next job.

It's odd you know, but when I first started spending a lot of time in Cornwall at the weekends, the Church clock striking used to wake me up every hour, on the hour, right through the night.

Now, I'm so used to it, I just sleep straight through it, even in the middle of the summer when all the windows are wide open, even the ones facing the tower.

Isn't it funny how your brain sort-of tunes in to the sounds it expects to hear while you're asleep and simply ignores those signals if your ears send them to it?

It's like people who live near a main road or an airport. In the main, they just ignore the rumbling lorries or the roaring jets as they pass by their bedroom windows and get on with sleeping.

Some years ago, we had chickens down the garden and I could sleep through the cockerel crowing at half past four on a summer morning with no trouble at all. All the neighbours used to complain bitterly about him, but I took no notice and carried on snoring.

Spend a week in an hotel and you sleep through the drunks coming back to their rooms after a few days.

The power of the sleeping brain is incredible. Let's face it, it can't actually get any sleep because it's still doing all this filtering business while the rest of the body is deep in the land of nod.

Amazing things these brains, which is why I've chosen them as the subject for in-depth analysis in this month's, special, third anniversary edition of Nick Harvey's Comment.

Well, after that terribly gripping start, I thought it really was about time that I got round to explaining what this edition is really all about.

I'm not sure whether this point, this far into the proceedings, counts as the end of the beginning, the middle of the middle, or the beginning of the end, but having kept you on the edge of your seat for this long, you might as well carry on now.

Yes, brains, that's the subject this time round. Brains and the fact that if you don't tell them something, they can't possibly be expected to know about it.

All very logical that, which highlights the problem. Well, have you ever come across a double glazing salesman who exhibited an ounce of logic? No, of course you haven't.

Let's face it, when logic was being handed out in the early days of civilisation, the double glazing salesman was too busy thumbing through the telephone directory trying to work out whose evening watching Coronation Street on the box he was going to disturb that night.

Consequently the logic got handed out to all the other mortals, but not to him.

That's the reason he doesn't warn you of all the free extras you get with every set of new windows you have installed.

If he DID warn you, you could store the information away in your brain to be recalled at the point it was needed. This would save an awful lot of worry and heartache with the proud possessors of newly installed double glazing.

It was the fitters who told me about the extras on that second day, just after I'd brewed up their seventh cup of coffee.

"By the way" they said as a sort of unimportant aside at the end of the conversation over the bill, "the windows will take a day or two to settle in to the temperature of your flat, so don't worry if they creak and click a bit for the first few days."

It was very lucky that they finished at lunchtime on that second day, because it meant that I was able to re-assemble the three legged milking stool in the sitting room and retire to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to make up for the slightly disturbed sleep I'd had the previous night.

If only they'd bothered to tell me all the important information on the previous day!

It was 4pm and nearly dark outside. No moon shone on the curtains to give any indication of what was about to happen. I lay there, happily in my bed, just listening.

The strange creaking and clicking noise grew louder and closer. Who was it that was going to worry about such a silly noise? Certainly not me this time. I turned over and went to sleep!

The beginning of December is the date for the next edition of this horror story, so I trust you'll be standing by your beds ready for it on the day.

Until then, I think I'd better turn in for a peaceful night's sleep, so please creep out quietly as you leave. Right, I'm off, where's me night-cap?

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