Despite the worst title I could ever come up with, this short story was inspired by 90’s movies, and urban legends. I really need to change what I’m watching…. Enjoy.
“This babysitting thing is super easy. These kids are already asleep and they have this waterfall pool,” Sarah said to her best friend as she opened the bathroom door, her towel in one hand and her mobile phone pressed against her ear by her shoulder.
“I don’t think you’re allowed to just allowed to use the pool.” Paper rustled on the other end of the phone, Bea was probably studying for their ancient history exam tomorrow. Boring, what did she need to know about the Thracian war for?
“Why not? They didn’t tell me not to use it.”
She pushed open the sliding door and stepped into the sticky night air. Crickets hummed in harmony as sweat dribbled down her back, the fine hairs by her forehead sticking to her temples.
“You are terrible. What if one of the kids needs you and you can’t hear them outside. I don’t know? It just seems a little irresponsible.”
“Bea, just relax. I mean, what’s the worst thing that can happen? They come home and find me taking a swim. Big deal. I gotta go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Alright. I just don’t like the idea of you up there in that house basically alone. There’s no one around for kilometres.”
“It’s nice here. Quiet, peaceful. See ya, don’t stay up too late studying.”
“Have fun with your delinquent tendencies.”
Sarah hung up, snapped a quick selfie by the pool and messaged it to Bea. That worry wort, but her best friend since kindergarten. Out of the top story window, Simon the 3-year-old let out a ‘I want someone to cuddle me now’ cry.
“Really,” she sighed and looked at the pool longingly, the noise ramped up and she jogged inside and closed the door behind her, flipping the lock just in case she was going to be up there all night.
She pushed the door open and snuggled in his bed, his little blonde head and small tear stained face was peeking out from underneath his Spiderman doona, his eyes squeezed shut.
“Shhh,” the springs popped as she eased onto his bed, his fine hair slipping through her fingers as she settled him down.
Her phone vibrated on her lap, Bea’s face flashing up on screen. “Bea, I can’t talk now,” she whispered as Simon snuggled in deeper under the covers.
“Sarah. There was someone behind you in the photo you sent me.”
“What? What are you talking…”
“The photos in front of a pool, there was a man behind you. I’ve called the police. Please tell me that you’re inside.”
She pulled the phone from her ear and opened her photo roll. In the far corner of the backyard was someone. A man in dark pants and a black turtleneck, his face hidden under a baseball cap pulled low.
Her stomach dropped and she ran to the alarm panel at the top of the stairs. Hitting the on button, she tried to remember if she locked the sliding door from the pool. Yes, yeah, she had.
“Sarah!” Bea’s muffled voice came from her hand.
“Yes, I’m inside and just turned the alarm on. I’ve got to go and get the baby. Hold on.”
Straight into the master bedroom she scooped up a barely six-month-old sleeping Katie she cradled her carefully and went into Simon’s bedroom and shut the door. Dropping a thick blanket on the ground and she put Katie on top of it.
“How long are the Police going to be?”
“They said at least twenty minutes.”
“Shit. Okay, I’ve got the kids in Simon’s room, the alarm’s on and the house is locked up. I’ve got to call the Brown’s and tell them to come home. Can you stay on the line?”
“Come on, pick up. Pick up.” Mrs Brown’s phone went to voicemail. She dialled Mr Brown and he picked up on the second ring.
“Mr Brown, it’s Sarah.”
“Hi, Sarah. Are the kids okay?”
“Yep they’re sleeping. Mr Brown, there’s a man in the backyard.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s someone outside.”
Mrs Brown’s voice talked over the top of his. “Sarah, call the police. Is the house…”
“Police are on their way, it will be 20 minutes, and the alarm’s on, and the house locked. But I don’t know if that will stop him. How quickly can you get here?”
“Drive quicker, Tom.” Mrs Brown shouted before coming back on the line. “We are five minutes away.”
“Alright, we’re in Simon’s room. Hurry.”
She hung up and went back to Bea’s call. “I’m here.”
“They are only 5 minutes away.” Sarah said and Bea’s sigh of relief made her giddy. She inched over to the window and peered down onto the pool area. In the far corner, he was still there, watching the house, he couldn’t see her behind the sheer curtain in the dark room, but she could see him. The sharp angels of his face disappeared under a beard, his clothes too heavy for the hot night, everything about him was wrong.
“Bea he’s still there, I can see him.”
“Take a video of him or something, make sure the cops have someone to look for.”
She switched her phone to video and got only inky blackness. “It’s too dark.”
She squealed as the alarm was beeped, signalling that it had been disarmed, and then the sound of the garage roller door opening and closing was the best thing she had ever heard.
“They’re home.” She hung up from Bea as they thundered up the stairs calling out for her and their children.
Sarah looked down into the backyard and the man was gone. Maybe that was worse.
She opened the bedroom door and pressed her fingers to her lips. “We are okay, the kids are still asleep,”
They came in anyway, frantic hands making sure their precious ones were alright.
Sarah motioned them to the window and pointed to where the man was standing. She told them what she saw and Mrs Brown pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. “Thank goodness you’re okay. Thank you for acting so quickly.”
Her eyes travelled down her body and she realised she was still in her swimming costume, despite the dangerous situation, she blushed. “I was getting ready for a swim. I’ll just go and get my clothes on.”
She rushed into the bathroom and put her shorts and singlet back on, and washed her face with cold water. She was never coming back out here, no matter how much money they offered her.
The police searched the area and found foot prints leading into an adjacent banana farm. They thought it might be one of the seasonal workers, just going for a wander. Even when she showed them the selfie, they said they would look into it in the morning.
Before they left she got into her car, the flashing lights a reminder that she was safe. Oh gosh, what was she going to tell her parents? There was no way they would let her babysit again.
Pulling out onto the street she cruised down the hill and stopped at a traffic light, her heart still beating in her chest, her hand still trembling on the steering wheel.
A small movement in the backseat and a hand wrapped around her face, covering her mouth and nose. She struggled forward, her eyes meeting his in the rear-view mirror.
Then there was nothing.