Amelia awoke to the sound of rain on the tin roof.

The sound was so quiet at first that she wasn’t sure why she had woken up at all. As she lay in bed with her eyes stubbornly clenched shut, she found herself tapping a foot, as though she were impatiently waiting for her sleep to resume.

She regretted renting the attic room in this house, cheap as it was, as she had not slept well since she moved in. She found herself tired all through the day. Not just sleepy, but physically as though she had run marathons in her sleep. She found herself twitching at work and irritated. She’d been reprimanded for rapping her fingers impatiently during meetings.

It was worse when it rained, something that was increasingly regular. Every storm was amplified horribly and she found herself waking constantly to hear heavy raindrops falling what sounded like centimetres above her head.

At least, she reminded herself as she pushed her face into the pillow, her position at the top of the house meant that she couldn’t hear the inhabitants of the lower floors. No one seemed to board in the middle floor, the owners lived on the ground floor due to, she supposed, their frailty. Their faces didn’t look terribly old, but they wore thick, baggy clothes like they felt the cold acutely and they moved so slowly, hunched and stumbling around the house when she actually saw them.

Amelia rolled onto her back, expecting that she would need to wait out this period of restless energy. She tried to recall if she had been dreaming, as the feeling of stress in the pit of her stomach had not left her. Normally waking in her bed was a relief after a nightmare, but she couldn’t remember any nightmares.

Amelia straightened herself, folding her hands above the blanket over her stomach to emulate the perfect posture for sleep. Staring at the ceiling, she found her fingers tapping insistently without her conscious decision. They rapped at the back of her other hand, one after the other. One, two, three, four, pause… one, two, three, four.

She wasn’t sure how much time she had laid there, tapping out that tempo before she realised she was matching the raindrops above her. She forced her fingers to still as she listened. That was what had woken her up: it was not random rainfall, but overlapping instances of the same pattern, over and over again.

Moving quietly, still listening to the pattern, Amelia moved towards the window facing the street. She could see the streetlight, glowing dimly from this distance. She stared out at the quiet street, no lights on in any of the houses. No traffic, no pedestrians. No rain.

Yet the sound of rain above her kept going. Uneven instances of the same pattern, crashing over each other.

She walked to the other side of the room, to the window facing the backyard. She convinced herself that the house was at the very edge of the rain and that she would see rain falling across the concrete courtyard and be able to return to bed. She scarcely noticed that her footsteps followed the pattern. One, two, three, four, pause, one, two, three, four.

The concrete was completely dry. Below the moonlight and the glow from the streetlight, she could see the outline of the house. The top of the roof was shifting. She looked away immediately, convincing herself that the shifting, writhing blur atop the roof was rain striking it heavily.

Amelia hurried back to bed, still pausing on every fifth step, as though afraid to break the rhythm. She covered herself completely with the weighted blanket.

She shivered despite the slowly increasing heat of her shelter. Her breathing was ragged. Four hitching gasps, a pause, four more.

The blanket did not feel large enough for her curled-up limbs. She knew her panic would drive her out of there soon and considered what she would do next.

She did not want to walk towards the window. She tried to slow her dragging march towards the vision of a clear night as endless tapping continued above her. The only pause came in her continued rhythm. One, two, three, four, try to stopOne, two, three, four, go back to bedOne, two, three, four, please God help me

She lifted the window open in short, juddering movements. It opened as wide as it could, nowhere near wide enough for her to fit through, she thought with a sense of relief.

She put her head out, feeling some sense of relief that her shoulders could not fit withing the gap provided. Slowly, she turned her head upwards, bent at the waist. Her rotating was like the ticking of a clock, one increment at a time but inexorably moving onward. Her feet shuffled and her next strained, but she kept her eyes closed. Finally she stood still. Her shoulders rested on the window frame, her body weight resting upon it, her bent knees pressing her against it was hard as she could. She looked like a demented limbo player, her stomach distended with the strain of holding herself there.

Still, she kept her eyes closed. She heard the pattering slowly change tempo. Some spend up, some slowed down until they all synchronised. It was deafening and she knew the sounds were approaching the side of the roof where she was close to breaking her own collarbone attempting to extrude herself though the window.

Finally, she opened her eyes. She saw the moon and movement interposed between her and the sky. They were waiting, but they were not patient. They did not have anything she could interpret as hands, but she knew what was tapping was fingers. Thousands of fingers, tapping on the roof and gutter, some beginning to curl over the edge and towards her. They were not made of fingers. They were made of anything that could be used to grasp and they most were still tapping impatiently on the roof.

The tapping sped up excitedly as they reached for her.

There was no tenant in the attic the next day.

The police were eventually called to the house, finding a door locked from the inside of a private room and two windows no human could fit through.

Not one of them noticed the soft, but insistent tapping from above.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s