Click. Every breath in Eli’s body stilled. He didn’t even have the time to take a last one. Scrape. The door never opened soundlessly. There was a small whimper of wood as if the hinges in the old house were as mind-numbingly terrified as he was. Creak. The first stair. He didn’t bother to hide it. Eli could. He knew if you put your foot to the right you could tread with no noise. Become a ghost. Flit from room to room praying you weren’t noticed. Weren’t seen. Whoosh. The whisper of air. More deafening than the tread of each step as he climbed to the attic. Nearer. Closer. Then bitter. The noise tasted acrid on his tongue as if inhaling the sound brought the poison. But then it was. He was. A poison so suffocating it crept inside him until it leaked from his body. The last time he had been made to sleep on wet sheets he never thought he would ever be dry again. Thud. Was that his foot on the stair or the last flailing echo of his heart knowing he was trapped? Another and another. Each one the knell of his end. And tonight it would be. His or his own. Eli’s fingers tightened around the tiny blade. So small to fight such a huge monster. Either way he didn’t care. If the monster didn’t die then he would. Eli pressed his lips together and the sting in his fingers reminded him it would be over tonight whichever way. He hoped for one outcome simply to save the others. The smaller ones that would come after him to the house with the secret room. The one where children were forgot. The one where the monster lived. The one where you lay in the sickened sweat from your body night after night and listened to the sound of the door downstairs. Shrill. The scream in his mind as the door opened and the half-light that shadowed the size fourteens that forever were the start of his waking nightmare. The pulsating in his chest was silenced. Only the pain in his fingers from a grip so tight kept him conscious. Awake when he craved for oblivion. Hatred. It burned so bright. Kept him alive when he hungered after death. And of every raucous sound he knew, some so vile they were only ever whispered, hate thundered on. Tonight it would be deafening.