My ears woke up first. There were teeth outside the house somewhere; I was sure of it. But I’d locked the window.
Beside me, my wife rustled in her bedsheets. The susurrus of old, married dreams stirred on her lips.
Close. I’d swear the noises were just the other side of the window pane, if only I’d turn around to check. In a moment, I’d hear something again… or, more terrible, perhaps I’d hear nothing at all, holding in breath.
Even the smell wasn’t right: too damp, too clammy. Oh God, it was close!
The old door was ajar only a crack, but that was… no, forget it.
But I’d closed it, hadn’t I?
My wife must be awake now. My quivering body rattled the mattress like a threshing machine.
Did the carpet move just now? I shouldn’t have taken my eye off it, I shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have! The door exhaled through its long, thin lips.
Slowly, I reached for the bedside lamp. But then something from under the bed would grab my flailing hand, or slice off my flabby fingers! I could see now, the stumps wiggling at my palm’s end, like little puppies’ tails.
My hand shot back under the plump cover of the duvet. I’d wet myself; my feet were sodden. The smell, my god! It must’ve woken my wife by now!
‘Wife!’ I whimpered, ‘wife, wake up!’
Her finger shot to my lips.
My own hand crept timidly to meet hers.
‘I heard something-’
At last, I grasped her hand, stealing her fingers for my own. A breeze blew through the open window. I rolled my wife’s fingers in my palm, the digits cold but comforting, she-
The window was open.
No, it couldn’t be. My wife hated a draft, it would’ve kept her up.
I gripped my wife’s hand in mine. I reached out for the rest of her, sliding my hand up to her shoulder.
I ran out of arm just above the elbow.
And now the door was open wide.
I opened my mouth.