Tuesday, 15 February 2011

She's back - with a vengeance. A.J. Humpage - February Femme Fatale.

February Femmes Fatales - February 15th

A.J. Humpage's second entry in the Femmes Fatales showcase is a demonic little number, which means it's right up my street. Creepy and chilling, tickling all those raw nerve endings with a wicked, probing fear.

And you know what? I have a theory (actually I have more than one). I think this is Ally's reply, or the opposite side to Pixie J. King's Sleeping Shadows. I've asked them, but like the naughty vixens they are, they ain't tellin'! But whether yay or nay, it works perfectly in its own right.

Let A.J. Humpage take you to bed...

Nocturne by A J Humpage

Kate had always suffered bad dreams, for as long as she could remember. The kind that crept into her consciousness each night, fingering and ripping at her nerves like a dirty, eager demonic whore.

She often dreaded sleep. It brought with it the creature that feasted on her fears and sneered at her like a repellent child.

Hypnagogia, the doctors said. The transitional stage between wakefulness and sleep, and the cause of her strange visions. But despite the medication, she still dreamed about the night demon which breached her mind, mocking and pawing and frightening her.

This night was no different, as the drum of her heartbeat echoed around the room, pulling her deep into sleep. So soft and malleable. Vulnerable. Outside, silhouetted shadows of naked, gnarled branches danced as the wind taunted.

Kate drifted towards an empty blackness.


Her bedroom door slowly opened to the shadows in the hallway; they sucked out the warmth and left a slicing chill, but Kate remained in slumber, despite the room growing colder. A teasing stream of vapour coiled into the air as she breathed.

The door wavered as though a soft breeze had swept past. The shadow in the corridor lurched, grew black.

Quiet vibrations undulated beneath the floorboards, crept across the room like a rolling bank of fog. The metal bed frame rattled slightly and then fell silent.

Kate’s eyes fluttered open, the blurred line between consciousness and sleep somewhat jaded. She half-listened for a moment; her mind tuning into the peripheral. Sounds in the conscience.

A creak spilled into the chilly air.

She lifted her head, gazed at the darkened doorway and shuddered at the cold pressing against her skin with steel fingertips. She could have sworn she’d closed the door. She got up and closed the door against the blackness, then returned to bed. She drew the sheet up over her shoulders and settled back into the pillows. Perhaps tonight would be her first nightmare free sleep.


She drifted.

A stilted, oppressive silence descended like a clammy cloud of vapour, clung to the cold air. The darkness brooded; grew thick with each minute and filled the stairs and hallway as though shrouding something from view.

The bedroom door silently swung wide. Like an invitation.

The dark mass in the hallway slithered forward into the chilled room and oozed towards the bed as though seeking out her warmth.

The trees outside stopped moving. Shadows became still.

The bedcovers moved. The sheet slowly slipped down her body.

The bed creaked. An indentation appeared beside her torso, as though something rested against the mattress.

Kate groaned. Through the fog of sleep, she felt pressure on her back and her eyes immediately opened to the greyness.

A rancid smell instantly drifted up her nostrils and slithered down her throat like a hungry serpent. She retched, opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came; her voice stifled by the entity pressing down on her, pushing her into the bedclothes, forceful, angry.

The pressure on her body increased, sharp nails etched into her back.

Muscles stuttered, but she couldn’t move; nothing would work.

Christ! Help!

The sound of her heartbeat became loud and fast in her ears, and her stomach churned, full with a fearful, bilious torrent; the sickly swell instantly filling her veins and numbing her body further into submission.

The wardrobe doors rattled.

God, how she wanted to scream, but raw terror clawed at shredded nerves; no sound could get past her swollen larynx. Fear fizzled at the back of her mind, inching through broken synapses to fill her conscience with the sickly torrent.

Sounds crept in; low and brooding. She knew the demon from her nightmares had perched on her back with a glib, Faustian grin. Sometimes she could almost hear it laughing. Sometimes she could hear it breathe; the rough rattle of its lungs. She would often smell the fetid scent of death drape over her, smothering her, but she knew it would be over soon; the nightmarish episodes never lasted long...the horror would subside and she would slip into a deep sleep once again.

Something gurgled. The weight shifted on her back.

Lungs depleted and instantly filled with air. The stench receded.

A noise finally seeped into the darkness; her voice broke. She lifted her head, eyes wide as she peered over her shoulder, fearful she might catch a glimpse of a demonic creature, but only a shifting darkness stared back at her.

The pressure gradually eased from her and feeling returned to her limbs. She shot out her arm to grab the lamp on the side table, almost knocked it over. And then, at last, light filled the room, sending the shadows into retreat.

She sat up, eyes adjusting to the glow. She gazed at the door. It lay wide open against the baleful blackness that seemed to be squatting near the stairs. Fear crawled beneath her skin like a parasite.

Had she shut the door? Or had she dreamed she had?

She glanced at the wardrobe. The rattling noises had seemed so real. The sense of the demonic imp crushing her into the bed had seemed real, but she knew they were all in her mind, the soupy residue of near sleep, just gossamer strings of her imaginings and fears.

But curiosity drew her from the bed to the wardrobe. She reached out, heartbeat pulsating in her fingertips as she gripped the handle, momentarily resisting the urge to...

...face her fears...

She opened the doors, sighed at the cluttered space in the wardrobe, cursed. You dreamed it, idiot.

She shut the wardrobe, went to the bathroom to get a glass of water, still muttering.

* * * 

Bereft of her warmth, the air in the bedroom quickly cooled again, laced with an arctic hush. The light dimmed.

The wardrobe door slowly swung open.

The stench of rotten flesh oozed into the ether.

A hunched, spidery shadow smothered the wall, entered her bed.

The daemon patiently awaited her return.

A J Humpage has stories published in many anthologies like 6 Sentences, Pill Hill Press, Static Movement and many e-zines. She also writes articles and dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com. She has completed her first novel and some of her stories and poetry can be found at http://ajhumpage.blogspot.com.


  1. Holy crap, AJ! I read some pretty dark stuff, but that has just officially give me the heebie jeebies! I think I might just stay in this brightly lit room rather than creep off into the dark hallway towards my bedroom *shiver* Nice work!

    Also, Lily you've outdone yourself on the artwork for this story. I love it!

  2. That strange no man's land between wakefulness and asleep is when I have the most frightening visions. You've done so well in capturing that atmosphere and sense of unease -- followed by truly waking up and "knowing" it was nonsense -- in this piece.

  3. That is so damned creepy. I've actually had a hypnogogic episode, where I was hallucinating some...invisible thing opening the door and entering my room. Now, reading this, I'm reliving that awful moment.

    Well written.Brr. Bad dreams.

  4. it starts creepy, cold and scary and just gets scarier as it goes. Don't we know of the things which move, the sounds in the room, are they real, aren't they real ... AJ, this is fantastic!

  5. I'm glad I've read this in daylight!! That was fantastic, AJ. So many great lines and awesome imagery in this piece. I'll be sure to check under the ded and all wardrobes before bed tonight!

    Great work!!

  6. Err, that was supposed to say "bed" and not "ded". Big clumsy fingers!!

  7. That is one of the scariest pieces I've read. You've captured that in-between state perfectly, when you really can't be sure what's real. I'm reading this in a sunlit room and I'm so spooked.

  8. This is very good. You have captured the fears of nightmares and demons, and laid them open on the page. You describe the way most of us try to justify own fears and how we try to negate them. I love the way you have included the rational explanations, then thwarted them with the last sentence.

  9. 'Scary' doesn't really cover this!!! There's just enough detail to allow our own imaginations to run riot and mine certainly did. Sometimes chilling tales can become OTT but this was deftly written, very near to a reality I've experienced in the past - so perhaps I'll sleep downstairs with all the lights and the TV on tonight!

  10. I had one hypnogogic episode when in my teens and it was the single most terrifying moment of my life so far, and I have done some terrifying things in most parts of the world. Even more terrifying if you are afraid of the dark, as I am. The feeling has always stuck, and it helped with the story.

    And to clarify for Lily, 'cos she's dying to know...Nocturne was written before Pixie wrote Sleeping Shadows, and although our stories do compliment each other, they are completely coincidental. Spooky or what!

  11. AJ,
    It isn't just the suspense build up or description you have in here, but its the truth you've got webbed between it all. Kate wondering if its her, her medication, if its hallucinations, dreams, or maybe a real demon? But that would be crazy. Which would make her crazy. Which is worse having a real demon pawing at your mind or being crazy? With either there is no escape. Or is there? Phew. Look what dark paths you are making me look down and its just past lunch time here. ;-) Freaky story.

  12. Thank for the explanation Ally; that really is weird! And if you can't be weird on The Feardom...

  13. Although my beginning of Sleeping Shadows appeared waaaay before this one was written. No, the only thing she stole, apart from some sleep off me, was my name. :)

    Um...was it wise to read this before bed? Probably not. My own story gave me nightmares....I doubt I'll sleep tonight now. Jeeeez, fabulous as always.

  14. The last section does it for me. The unknown thing waiting ... well creepy, AJ!

  15. Thank you all for the comments, I feel somewhat happy I've creeped you all out. Sleep tight...

  16. Add another creeped out reader to your list! AJ, that was sublimely spooky! Delish!

  17. ooh, this was so full of atmosphere. I loves it.

  18. OMG, that was creepy! I'm officially scared!

  19. Glad I don't get sleep paralysis any more! I do like watching my hypnogogic images but they can be pretty creepy - why our minds come up with this stuff I don't know! Well done, AJ!

  20. This really does it for me:

    ”…they sucked out the warmth and left a slicing chill, but Kate remained in slumber, despite the room growing colder. A teasing stream of vapour coiled into the air as she breathed.”

    ”The dark mass in the hallway slithered forward into the chilled room and oozed towards the bed as though seeking out her warmth.”

    So filled with atmosphere! Well done!


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.