“It’s dark and the streetlamps emit little light. I’m crouched behind a car, hiding. I’m alone. The street is eerily quiet and deserted; the houses on either side are abandoned. I don’t know how I ended up here all by myself with not a single living soul in sight. I’m catching my breath, thinking I might be safe for a while. I’ve been running all night, running and hiding, running and hiding. I feel I am doomed never to see the light of day breaking over the horizon, the sweet chorus of birdsong, the rattle and clink of the milkman? I can hear a distant rattle and clink, but it’s not the milkman making early deliveries of bottles of milk. This is the rattle and clink of something else, something that may have once been human, but any humanity it once had has been lost for an age and it has no recollection of what it was like to be human.
The dreaded sound is distant, but I won’t be fooled by that. They almost had me before – yes, there is more than one, more than ten; there are far too many of them. I did not stop to count each contorted, disfigured being as they defied their stuttering gait, their misshapen limbs, and seethed like molten lava across the fast dwindling space that separated them from me.
I begin to move again, slowly at first using the parked cars as my shield, then faster as I glimpse the on-coming horde of dark shadows. The sight of a rotting arm from the other side of the car makes me stifle a scream and I begin to run. They’re closing in on me. Their guttural cries, their agonised moaning, their strange wheezing, the rattle and clink of the chains that once held them dragging across the ground, it all becomes louder. I run into a house, hoping to find help, but there is no one there, no weapons, nothing I can use to defend myself. I hear the shuffle of footsteps scraping across floorboards. They’ve followed me in. I stifle a scream, my hand stuffed in my mouth, my heart beating so fast I think it might explode…”
And this is when I hope to wake up from the nightmare! Sometimes I do, sweating and panting and clutching at the duvet, other times the nightmare continues… I’ve had this recurring nightmare since my early twenties when, against my better judgement, I let a friend drag me with her to watch George A Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead. I would have walked out of the cinema if I hadn’t been so terrified of what might be waiting for me out there!
George A Romero’s film featured hordes of the undead. My book, The Long Weekend, features just one monster, and he’s real. I’m going to take the word ‘thriller’ in a much wider sense for my top thrillers – it’s a varied lot. If they have anything in common it’s a certain dark nightmarish quality.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
The Children of Men by P D James
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Bone-Collector by Jeffrey Deaver
The Mermaids Singing – Val McDermid
I am Legend – Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson