Midnight Horror — a short story by Gladys Hobson

 

Midnight Horror

Midnight Horror

 I had been thinking about the exciting new book I had been reading, Exit… something or other, by Geoff Nelder — you know the sci-fi chappie — when all of a sudden I heard this dreadful rumbling noise. Of course, I didn’t really think something was coming up out of the earth like in Nelder’s book, that is, until I checked the time with my bedside clock. It said midnight, but surely midnight was the time I switched off the light before the earthquake, or whatever, began. Weird! Had time stood still? My hair stood on end. Truly it did. Well, I admit, I do have a good imagination.

I tried to switch on the light but nothing happened. No street lights were shining into my bedroom either. But the loud noises made by house and car alarms filled the air in a most alarming manner, as of course they are programmed to do.

Anxiety made me want to get out before the house fell in. So I felt my way down the stairs, resolving to go in the garden. Shaking like a leaf didn’t help, I stumbled down a few steps and became painfully bruised. Not being the only one wandering about, beams of light from powerful torches pierced the darkness. Swearing and shouting told me my neighbours had been disturbed too.

My comely size 14 might only be dressed in pyjamas but I had no intention of going back indoors. My eyes soon became accustomed to the gloom, but what I saw only made me more afraid; a dark object began moving towards me. Strange grunting noises brought up stiff pimples on my flesh. I ran blindly across the lawn towards where I knew the garden shed to be. But I stopped in my tracks as a glowing globe suddenly came partly into view.

No! Impossible! Surely I must be dreaming? But I didn’t need to pinch myself; I was already hurting from the fall. Confused, trembling and with my head in a whirl I tried to reason things out. Impossible, my world appeared to be in chaos from which reason was barred.

A heavy crash booming simultaneously with a brilliant flash of light threw me to my knees, where I lay in a heap like quivering jelly. A low whine, becoming louder and louder into a crescendo of unmitigated agony, assaulted my ears. Just as I was wondering if that pitiful howl had escaped my own lungs I felt something wet and heavy pressing up to me. Could it be a hound from hell? Had something akin to Nelder’s fictional dog been lifted out of pre-history to be thrown into my lap? With my head in a whirl, how could I possibly think clearly? I was finding it just too hard to untangle the difference between forward-looking science, and fiction loosely based on scientific fact.

A roar, a flash, flames shooting into the sky just a few feet away, sent terror into my paralyzed body. My shed was on fire! I loosed a pent up scream. The creature in my lap bolted pursued by its own pitiful howl.

The skies opened and the ensuing downpour brought me to my senses as well as quelling the flames threatening to lick me to death. At last I could understand all that had happened: a power cut, caused by natural electrical activity. And the roar and shaking ground must be a result of a severe storm. Likely trees would be down and maybe…

My whole body suddenly froze: just in front of me, close where the shed had been, I saw a glowing ball…

“Are you all right, Grace?” It was Betty, my podgy next-door neighbour, dressed in her aging blue chenille housecoat, bending over me.

“Where am I?”

“On your own sofa. I think maybe you fainted, but you do have a bump on your head. We have sent for an ambulance just in case.”

“The lights are on.”

“Yes, the electricity has been restored.”

“How did you find me?”

“We saw the shed on fire and when the rain stopped we wanted to make sure it was out.”

It all came back to me. “The shed… the fire… the… the thing that glowed.”

Betty’s wrinkles creased in puzzlement. “The thing that glowed?”

“A globe thing. Just like in Nelder’s book. It must be real then: science fact, not science fiction. That’s what caused the storm and everything… must have. I saw it clearly after the rain put the shed fire out.”

”Oh, you must have seen that new solar light in our garden. Tim bought it yesterday. Good isn’t it? Jake doesn’t like it though. Damn dog started peeing on it. But he soon shot off when that thunderbolt cracked.”

What a relief.

Suddenly the lights went out.

A glow appeared in the sky through the open curtains.

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