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by Charlie Britten

I was lying on my bed with my laptop, writing on my friends’ walls on Facebook, which is what I normally do when I’m at home in the evening, when I heard this clicking sound, really loud.

Click. There it was again.

My shoulders hunched and all the muscles in my neck tightened. I had this mental picture of myself having two massive shoulder pads, except they would be hard and triangular, like camels’ humps. 

Click. Again. Pushing my computer aside, I drew my knees into my chest, tighter and tighter, pressing my spine against the wall, wishing I could blend into it, become invisible. 

Click. There was A Man in the house. I was sure of it. Click. There must be, downstairs in the lounge, because that was where the noise was coming from.

Click. No, I really wasn’t imagining it. He was upstairs now, in the next room.

I eased myself off my bed, gently, trying to make no noise at all. I walked across the room, each soft thud footfall on the carpet like crashing saucepans to my ears. I grasped the brass doorknob. In seconds, I would look across the dark stairway. There would be no Man and everything would be all right. But my hand froze. I could not bring myself to do it, to open my bedroom door.

Click. Click.

I drew in my breath and held it. He mustn’t hear me, not my breathing, not my heart beating, not the blood coursing through my veins like a waterfall. How did he get in?  Mum locked everything when she went out. I saw her do it. "Are you sure you’ll be all right, love?" she asked as she picked up her purse. "I'll only be out for a couple of hours."

"I'll be fine.” Being home alone would be so much fun, I thought.

Click. The sound zapped through me like an electric shock. I jumped, literally. This wasn’t A Man. This was a Thing and it was actually in my room. 

For several minutes, I stared at the spot where the noise emanated, my carpet, my clothes on the floor, an empty coffee cup. But I heard nothing, just the gale that was my own breathing. 

Not taking my eyes from the spot, I grabbed my phone and texted my friend, Laurie. She rang back straightaway: it was so good to hear something as normal as my ring-tone, even if it did make me leap ten feet in the air.  

“It’s the radiators, you idiot!” she said. “They click when the heating goes off. Don’t they?”