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  Table of contents Issue Twenty THE CONTENTS



n North Boundry Road there is a house. In this house is a room. In this room is a cupboard. In this cupboard is…

The cupboard is locked.

I have no idea whats inside, or why its locked.

It’s right in front of me, at the end of my bed.

I can’t sleep, I can’t stop wondering, whats inside, why is it locked.

It could be empty, that's the most likely, it's a holiday home after all, who would leave anything they valued where people they don’t know could get at it.

Then why is it locked, who would lock an empty cupboard, no, there is something in there, something they don’t want me to see, something they don’t want anyone to see.

Surely that’s their right, it’s their house, it’s their cupboard, it might just be an old suitcase, or cleaning products, yes, that could be it, makes no sense carrying the hoover here every time a guest leaves, might as well have one here, it must be a nice one though, one worth stealing, else why lock it up, of course, that must be it.

I slept.

Then I woke.

No, not a vacuum cleaner, we saw the maintenance guy leave when we arrived, he was loading a vacuum into his van, one of those squat red ones, with a face on it, called Henry.

What then, what’s in there.

Clothes, maybe they keep clothes here for their own visits, or if they ever need to stay unintended, backup clothes, just in case, if I owned two houses I would do something like that, it makes perfect sense.

I slept.

Then I woke.

They live nearby, I have their address in my phone, it's by the bedside table, let's look, yes, very close, same postcode, no need for clothes here.

I can’t sleep.

I should sleep, I should put this out of my mind and sleep, remember the proverbial cat.

I can’t sleep.

It’s pitch black now, even the light of the moon is gone, I can’t see the cupboard, but I know it's there, knowing it’s there is making me think I can see it, a blacker shape in the darkness, darker than the dark itself.

This is ridiculous, i’m a grown man, I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I move downstairs, quietly, carefully, not wanting to disturb my family, they’re not concerned with the cupboard, they’re asleep. Their curiosity is under control.

I find the keys, one for the front door, one for the rear patio doors, one marked shed and one small one for the windows, no big key, not big enough for that big old lock on the cupboard.

I return to bed.

I can’t sleep.

Big old lock, big old lock, to big to pick, not that I would know where to start, big enough to shine torch through though maybe.


I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I get the torch, and move to the cupboard door. It’s no use, whichever angle, whichever way, the light reflects only off the inside of the lock. I can see nothing.


What was that, did I smell something, from the keyhole, damp, musty.

Another check.


How about sound, I place my ear to the keyhole, i’m actually scared, why am I scared.

I must get back to bed.

My ear is still at the keyhole, it’s been some time, I've heard nothing, yet I feel that I’ve heard something. My mind is playing tricks I fancy, I hope.

I return to my bed. It seems safer there.

I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

It’s not so dark now, the sun is rising, I can see the cupboard, I can see my wife in bed beside me, I'm no longer scared. Only tired.

I sleep.

I dream.

I’m standing in front of the cupboard, there is a key in the lock, my hand is on the key, the key is turned. The door is open, a portal, a stairwell, lined with sheets of pine, descending before me, the smell is back, musty, salty. I hear the sound of water, lapping gently against the unseen coast.

The torch is forgotten.

I step forward, one step at a time, they are stone, worn smooth over how many years, by how many enquiring feet.

It’s perfectly dark here, the light of the bedroom spills into the aperture above me, I want to go back, I know I should go back. But there is light below me as well, white light, not the comforting yellow glow of that behind me.

My steps are not my own, I still descend, the atmosphere thick in my nostrils, the echo of my footfalls louder now, I’m at the bottom.

Impossibly, the light of a moon, illuminating my surroundings, foundation beams, as far as the eye can see, with a narrow pier on each, for there is water, a lot of water, a subterranean sea.

My brain starts to piece things together, to pull logic from the chaotic haze, then it freezes, as does my heart.

There he is.

There it is.

I hear the water lapping at the side of his bright yellow dinghy as it slowly sways towards me, his yellowed reptilian eyes stare right through me.

And that smell.

Cold, shivering, i’m scared, I’m terrified.

I’m asleep.

I can’t wake up.

He’s smiling at me now, his scarlet red lips, bright against his white face, I barely notice his green hair or the smooth patchwork silk of his suit. I know what's coming next.

His lips pull back, revealing his yellow teeth, the fangs of a dog.

I scream.

I wake.

Thank god, it was a dream, he’s not real, it’s not real.

I move close to my wife, blessedly undisturbed.

I lift my head to look at the cupboard.


No key in the lock, no sound or smell out of place.

Only good sounds invade my ears, my wife’s breathing, gulls squabbling outside the window.

I don’t dare close my eyes.

I must sleep.

I dare not sleep.

I dare not dream.

I slept.

I awake, my wife is not there, I panic.

Then I hear my children, and smell bacon.

I descend the carpeted staircase, without so much as glance towards the cupboard, without so much as a thought to my nightmare.

I reach the bottom of the stairs, there is an envelope on the mat by the door.

I collect it.

Nameless, just a plain brown envelope.

I tear it open.

A key.




Craig Halder lives in London, England, with his wife, children and chocolate Labrador. Writing is a lifelong hobby he inherited from his father, who used to create choose your own adventure stories on an electric typewriter when Craig was a child. Other stories can be found at crghldr.wordpress.com.

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