Amy is a third year student of English with Creative Writing at Queen’s. She loves travelling, food and all things Scandinavia. Occasionally her pen slips on the page and a short story falls out.

‘Beware the Deafening Sunlight’ by Amy-Leigh Shaw

Nobody ever listens during the day. It’s true. It’s why you hear the rustling as you try to fall asleep. It’s why all your deepest conversations come to pass late into the night.

It’s why it was late into the morning that we walked around the gardens of a National Trust House, you know the type. A middle class family outing, the opacity of the foliage dappling us like stained glass, as my daughter chattered to my wife, trying to have an opinion on politics.

I think I was worried that she wanted to be an adult too fast. She had no friends her own age, preferring instead to read in her spare time. I worried that it might be our fault, that we included and elevated her into our conversations too often. That’s why I suggested the hide and seek, so that we could come down to her level, rather than dragging her up to ours. We were passing a bench, so I sat down and prepared to count.

I do wonder, now, if I had only tried to listen past the blaring brightness of that moment, what I might’ve heard. As it was, I was ignorant, so I watched my wife and daughter scamper away into the trees, and I covered my eyes.

And it started.

My secret trick as I counted was always to listen to the retreating footsteps and work out their direction. But before I had time to start my countdown, just for a second, I thought I heard three lots of footsteps, instead of two. More likely just a combination of the echoing woodland and my newfound vulnerability at the loss of one of my senses.

I got to five before I heard the echo again, this time seemingly much closer behind me. I wondered; was my little girl trying to sneak up and scare me?

With an image of her playful smile in my mind, I decided to frighten her back at the last second. The movement was now right behind me, and very close. I grinned. I poised myself to jump, I inhaled, ready to shout…

Two cold thumbs pressed down hard on my eyelids.

I tried to scream but could not.

The person who had me chuckled my own chuckle against my ear and it was my voice that questioned me.

“Do you want them to live?”

The thumbs tightened as I nodded.

“Then you shall not.”

And then the pressure was gone, but now I could feel no eyelids to open. I tried to speak, but only made a faint rustling sound. I could hear footsteps everywhere.

“Ready or not,” my own voice called; but it had deserted me, and came from the distance, “Here I come!”

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Recorded in the QR studio by Lucy Smith and trusty sidekick Emmet McGonagle.