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by William Telford

I’d just driven about a mile from home, just past the police station, when suddenly this shuddery feeling came all over me and I said to myself, “Wait. Did I lock the door?”

“Yeah,” I said back to myself. “Of course I locked the door. I always lock the door, I never don’t not, not, not lock the door.”

And I relaxed a little and pressed my foot down and felt the surge as the van pulled away from the lights. But about a minute later I said to myself, “Are you positive?”

And I was, or was I? I tried to remember what I’d done when I was, or should have been, locking the door, and all this while I negotiated that tricky triple mini-roundabout near St Drogo’s Academy for Girls.

“Here’s the thing,” I said to myself. “I locked the door. I know I did. I did that thing I do. You know? Key to the left, two, three, key to the centre, two, three, key comes out, two, three.” And I relaxed.

But about two left turns later I was saying, “Wait, I don’t recall the key comes out, two, three, bit. In fact, I don’t recall the key going in bit, either. In fact, I don’t recall any of it.” And I started to sweat. But then I said, “No, I do remember, because I stopped to talk to next door’s tortoiseshell, as I … cripes! Was that today, or yesterday?” And my perspiration was boiling into a full-on fever as I swung the van around and about at the interchange and screamed, “Darnation!” as I high-tailed it back the way I’d just come.

It was all still as I pulled up in front of the house. I jumped out of the van and, like I was Starsky, threw myself across the bonnet, raced to the door, grabbed the handle, and …

The door was locked.

I fumbled in my trouser pocket, found the key, inserted it into the lock, turned it to the right, to the centre, did all the two three bits, took it out. I yanked the door open, ran inside, taking the stairs, two at a time, up past Mum’s old room, up past the cupboard with all the saws and hammers, all the way to the attic. And I grabbed the handle.

The door was locked.

I started to breathe again, pressed my head to the door, so close my ear caressed a splinter, a spelk. I could only hear my asthma, and from within, somewhere, a weak, pulse-like bumping.

I turned and padded down the stairs. When I left the house I made sure the front door was locked. I even did that thing I do. Key to the left, two, three, key to the centre, two, three, key comes out, two, three. Then I got into the van and accelerated. It was just as I got past the police station that I said to myself, “Wait. Did I lock the crate?”

William Telford is the Business Editor at The Herald in Plymouth. He also writes fiction and has had short stories published in Short Fiction 8, Ink and the Western Morning News. In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. He has also read his stories to an audience at the Forked, Black Books and The Word literary events, in Plymouth, among others, and on Eatmusic radio.