As a Halloween thank you here is my true short story 20 Minutes of Terror
To get an audio version click here
This is a true short story and believe me it was truly terrifying – enjoy.
20 Minutes of Terror
It had been three long weeks since she threw John out, and here she was begging for scraps. She was grateful of course, but had felt the looks and giggles and heard the whispered comments. It was bound to be her.
“Is this the last one?” she asked, as her mum handed her a small cabinet.
“That’s it. Don’t worry Caroline, things will get better. Now let’s have a cuppa before you leave.”
Caroline clambered over a chair, and out of the packed van. The assortment of furniture was a big help. Things are already better, she thought. She reached down and stroked the coarse fur of Bouncer, one of her mum’s two black Labradors. I wish I had brought Rosie, she thought as her dog would have been welcome company on the lonely drive home.
“You could always move back.”
“Thanks mum but I can’t.” She slammed the van’s rear doors and turned into a hug. It was hard to leave, but life was in Yorkshire now. Pulling away, she fought back tears and climbed into the van.
Caroline hated driving in the dark, and the journey would take almost an hour, but at least I’ve got a sofa to sit on when I get home, she thought.
Night covered the world with a heavy, depressing blanket as she steered the van out of the village and into the countryside. Reaching down, she switched on the radio.
She sang along to the 80’s music as the scenery changed from fields of potatoes and corn to small hamlets and back again. She would soon be home and was looking forward to another tea and her bed. She rubbed at her eyes and tried to ease the ache in her shoulders. Still, not much further she thought as she drove out of Bawtry for the last stretch of open countryside.
The headlights made a tunnel between the trees, lulling her to sleep. She yawned, blinking her eyes to stay focused. Soon she would be back and could unload the van, maybe even leave it till tomorrow. Her mum had suggested she called her sister Sara and her husband to help unload, but she hated to ask for help, she would manage, she usually did.
In the distance, a pin prick of light heralded the approach of a car. It was the first vehicle she has seen in miles and as it got closer her eyes protested at the brightness, she screwed them up tight to avoid the searing light. As the cars pass, the light caught the rear view mirror, and she saw movement behind her.
Her heart slammed into her throat and seemed to lodge there, stopping her breath. Had she seen something? No, surely not, that would be… She peered into the rear view mirror, her eyes desperate to penetrate the blanket of darkness behind her. All looked still. She could see nothing. She pulled her eyes back to the road, the lights seemed dimmer. They illuminated a bleak and dismal tunnel amongst the impenetrable backdrop of brambles, shrub and trees.
Panic slipped a greasy finger of fear into her mind. She was alone in a van, miles from the nearest house with an intruder behind her this cannot be happening. She was being a drama queen. She forced down the panic and took a long, slow, deep breath. Calmer, she peered into the darkness behind her, via the mirror. She craned her neck, but tried to look casual.
Gently she leaned forward and turned the radio down, listening, straining to hear, and hoping for any sign she was alone. How do you hear nothing? She almost laughed realizing she could only confirm she was not alone. Her breath was coming faster now, her heart was in her throat and the hairs on her arms prickled with shock and fear, as panic threatened to take back control.
Have you ever checked the back seat when driving alone? Well, she always did, but not tonight. The van was at her mum’s remote house, no one could be there. But she had seen too many horror films and visions flashed through her mind. A man’s lips at her ear or a knife at her throat – what was behind her and what did it want?
Oh, come on this is your mother’s van, who could be there? She glanced back at the road, but there was nothing around just trees and tarmac. How far was it until she would see houses again? Too far.
She froze at a tickle of breath on her neck and the unmistakable sound of breathing just behind her ear. Her heart flapped in her chest like a frightened bird and her arms locked solid. A cold sweat ran down her back and her feet trembled and tapped so loudly on the floor she knew her attacker must hear. Don’t think attacker. She tried to convince herself all was fine as the seconds ticked by. She felt movement behind her and closed her eyes flinching. Any second now the assault would come. With her body shock solid and fear trapped in her throat the seconds ticked by — but nothing happened. Opening her eyes Caroline peered into the rear-view mirror, but the headlights made little impact on the desolation behind her.
Straining her ears she listened, the noise was still there, fainter now but someone was breathing fast just inches from her ear. It sounded as if they were panting, were they winded or… No Please. Should she stop the van and run? The view through the windscreen was of woodlands. The trees that she loved looked dark and impenetrable and the nearest house was about seven miles away. She would not get far across such rough country at night if someone wished to pursue her. She had to stay in the van.
Visions of more horror films flicked across her mind and she realized she was holding her breath and had slowed the van almost to a stop. She must keep driving, must not let on that she knew anything was wrong.
A spot of moisture, saliva, spotted the back of her neck, and she fought hard to prevent a scream from escaping past her trembling lips. All she could think was keep driving as her heart rattled on her rib cage, like a trapped bird desperate to escape and her body prickled with electricity.
She forced herself to stay calm, nothing had happened yet and maybe, if she kept calm she could, what? How could she escape? Whoever or whatever was behind her had only to reach out and… Her sister’s house! If she could get to Sara’s house, she could jump out of the van and run for help. Would she make it?
The breathing seemed to move away, she strained her ears to hear but there was nothing over the muted sound of Abba, singing “Waterloo.” Had she imagined this? She moved her head slowly. After a glance in the rear view mirror, relief bubbled up inside her. There was nothing there, only then a shadow moved. Black on inky black, something was moving toward her from within the depths of the van.
The urge to scream tensed her muscles and sent electric shocks up her arms. She bit her lip and the blood brought on a determination. Just a few more miles she could make this. This would not be her Waterloo. Leaning forward she eased down on the accelerator pushing the rusty old van as fast as it would go. Behind her came a tapping sound, like a nail being knocked on metal. What was the creep doing? Was it intended to scare?
As she pushed the car down the lonely road and closer to salvation the noise behind stopped, the breathing had moved away and all she heard was the occasional rustle. What were they doing back there? Moving her eyes, she peered into the rear view mirror. The van was just a black canvas, impenetrable to her and hiding a killer? She fought down the panic. No, stop this, so far you are fine. It was just a couple more miles and she would be at Sara’s house. Her husband would sort out this creep.
It was the last stretch before Doncaster and her damp hands slipped on the wheel as she turned the van. Her jaw ached and her throat felt raw as she tensed against… She tried desperately to peer into the blackness behind her, but the darkness was impenetrable.
The breathing and movements were very slight, maybe she was imagining this, maybe she was alone, and soon she would be safe.
At last, she approached the amber glow of the street lights. Just half a mile and there would be houses, people. But it was late, the streets would be deserted everyone tucked up safe inside their houses. Behind her, a scratch on the floor sounded like a fingernail scraped across metal. Her heart leapt against her chest like an angry child and beat against her rib cage. She leaned forwards, away from the dark and urged the van to go faster. The air was disturbed behind her and her neck crawled with the feet of a thousand ants. Something was close. Hot breath kissed her cheek and the breathing was so loud now, it almost deafened her. She wanted to scream, wanted to jump from the van and run but she must hold it together just a little longer.
She drove into the warming glow of the street lights and just ahead was Sara’s house. Leaning even further forwards, she held her breath and willed the van onward to light and safety. Oh God, she nearly cried out with relief.
She turned the van onto the driveway too fast and the tires squealed in protest. Unfastening her seat belt, she pushed the gear lever to park and leapt out in one-fluid movement. She raced to the door and hammered on the wood, shrieking, “Oh please someone, please help me.”
Bill answered the door. Hot salty tears streamed down her face and she collapsed against him and pointed at the van. “There’s a…a… man in the…”
Bill’s face turned to thunder and he raced to the van and yanked open the side door. He raised his hand and then fell backwards laughing.
“Come here,” he called.
She wandered over still scared. A touch on her back sent her heart into orbit.
“Sorry,” Sara said and taking her shaking hand she steered her sister towards her husband.
The two girls approached slowly. Caroline was shaking and Sara had picked up on her nerves. Just as they got to the van Bouncer the Black Labrador jumped out of the side door, his tail wagging with joy after his exciting ride.
I hope you enjoyed this short story, and yes it really did happen.
PS names have been changed but I’m sure you know who the dizzy b*&%h was!
To get an audio version of 20 Minutes of Terror click here