My very intricate bedtime routine

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My very intricate bedtime routine

by Stefan Matthews

I have a very intricate bedtime routine. Most people just wander upstairs to bed, maybe locking the front door first. 

Perhaps they even check the windows are closed, on a good day. Some even leave them open to let in the cooler, night-time air. Most people are far too casual. I’m not most people. I always ensure that I’ve not left a window open, nor a door unlocked. Most people would call it paranoia. I call it common sense. 

Plus, with the house break-ins that have been happening recently, I feel that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Rumours are circulating of a killer that sneaks in late at night while people are getting ready for bed. He hides in closets, under beds, anywhere he can find. Waits for them to go to sleep and then stabs them to death. I’m presuming it’s a ‘he’, perhaps that’s unfair. There is no reason a serial killer couldn’t be a woman. Either way, it’s a good thing I have my bedtime routine. No killer, male or female, will be getting into this house.

I start my routine in the kitchen, the most dangerous room in one’s home. I read that the majority of all accidents happen in the kitchen. Now imagine if there were to be a killer creeping through there too.

First I close the large window in front of the sink. The windowsill is freshly painted, so I’m delicate in avoiding it. It’s a wonderful duck-egg blue, the same shade as my kitchen cupboards. This is by far the hardest window to shut, as I also need to lean right over the sink to get to it. I almost snag my shirt on a knife on the draining board. I’ll be sure to put that away before bed, along with the saucepan I cooked my soup in. It was delicious soup, carrot and coriander. I’ll have to publish the recipe on my blog. The last recipe I published got two hundred re-blogs, I was ever so proud of myself. Though one of the commenters told me that the recipe was hard to follow. Apparently I get distracted too easily and go off on tangents when I’m writing recipes. It frustrates me having to read comments like that. These people don’t know me, they’re just projecting. I’m not easily distracted.

After the kitchen is locked up, it’s through to the lounge. Front two windows get locked first. Each have a little key that I hide in a drawer. Then I turn off the side lamps. I bought some new paper lampshades for them earlier in the week, dotted with leaf-shaped holes. I’m renovating the house, you see. Hence the duck-egg blue windowsill in the kitchen.

Sometimes, when the wind blows through the lounge windows, my new lampshades ripple and the light slashes across the walls. Beautiful.

Click. That’s one lamp turned off. Deep breath before number two, and…

Click. 

I snap my head back around as fast as possible. The reason behind this, is that my speed would catch an intruder unawares. He, or she, would not be expecting such instant movement. This surprise would then, in turn, give me a few seconds to escape. I’ve trained myself over the years to be hyper aware of my surroundings, you see. A combination of deep breathing exercises and meditation. This step has become increasingly important in my routine in recent weeks, for obvious reasons.

Thankfully, I’m alone this evening, once again. After adjusting to the lack of light, I surge on through the darkness and into the hallway. Most people are scared of the dark, but I enjoy it. My carrot and coriander soup has gifted me a greater ability to see in the dark this evening. This will give me an edge over any intruder. Apparently, the killer likes to target people who live alone. Good thing my bedtime routine will prepare me if he tries to come into my house. Or she.

I hear scratches coming from the back garden as I walk to the front of the hallway. Those damn foxes. Excuse my language. They’re such a pain. I swear, they have their own bedtime routine like me. First they dig up the garden. Every time. Without fail. Then, once the lawn is thoroughly ruined, they scratch at the back wall feverishly, as if trying to break through into my kitchen and steal my carrot and coriander soup. Sometimes it can go on for hours. Whines and moans, itching and clawing. Nuisance.

I try my best to ignore the foxes as I head to the front of the house. The scratching gets fainter at this end of the hallway. There’s a knack to locking the front door – I always found it appealing to have a door with a bit of character, so to speak. Makes breaking in that much less appealing to someone else. You need to lift the door up slightly as you turn the key. I leave the key in the lock.  That way no one can pick the lock and stab me in my sleep. A vital step.

Then it’s back through the dark hallway to the dining room. The clawing has stopped, thankfully. I creep along the wall, keeping myself low to the ground. If anyone swings at my head, they’ll miss me, and I’ll be able to counterattack. I’m trained in both Aikido and Tae-Kwon-Do. I sometimes post Aikido tutorial videos on my blog, along with my soup recipes.

I head back through the kitchen en route to the dining room, past the open window above the sink. I close it, which is always a difficult task as I have to lean over the sink to do so. The blue paint on the sill has flaked a little already. Annoying, as it means I’ll need to buy more paint. I’ll have to be more careful when I shut it in the future.

Next it’s keeping low until I reach the back door. This door requires two turns of the key. I like to do three, just to be safe. Leave the key in the lock again, of course. Next is switching off the corner lamp. I turn this one off at the mains, ensure it doesn’t catch fire when I’m asleep. I read that the second most likely way to die in your sleep is burning by electrical fire.

It’s almost pitch-black downstairs now. I wait in the corner of the dining room, next to the back door, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness before I move again. I can see all the way through to the lounge from here, which gives me an advantage over any murderers who may be in the house. A very unlikely occurrence, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s funny, often when your eyes adjust to the darkness you see things that aren’t there. Research into the phenomenon tells us that it’s one’s mind filling in the blanks. Tonight, for example, I can see the outline of a figure just behind the sofa. I rub my eyes and re-open them. The carrot and coriander soup kicks in as my eyes pierce through the darkness. No more figure just behind the sofa. My presumption is that it was simply ambient light from the street outside, darting through my new lampshades. The human mind is odd, always seeing things where there shouldn’t be. 

Finally, I shut the small window to the left of the back door. It’s only a single panel of glass, but you’d be surprised at how small a hole a body can squeeze through if a person is determined. I make sure to check the garden for any sign of murderous activity when I do this. The lawn is looking pristine. I’m very proud of my lawn.

Nothing else to see outside besides a few bits of mud below the kitchen window. Must have been the damn foxes, they’re always scratching up against the back wall. Excuse my language. Most people think that foxes are cute little things, but they can be a real nuisance. Always digging up the lawn, clawing at the back wall, adhering to their own little routine just like me. They’ve gone to bed now it seems, thankfully.

I sneak back through to the kitchen, still keeping low, and put away the saucepan on the draining board. There’s a nagging feeling there was something else to put away. But after a moment I dispel the idea. Research tells us it’s a phenomenon called false memory, when you remember something that isn’t true. I do a lot of research into the mind, gives me an edge in life I find. 

I’m very excited to finish my carrot and coriander soup tomorrow. Better make a note, mention in my blog about how it’s good for seeing in the dark. Some people don’t believe that carrots help with seeing in the dark. They’re wrong.

And finally, I head through to bed, the house safely locked up. Teeth brushed, bladder released, pyjamas on.

I click the bedroom door shut behind me and slide into bed. As I settle into the mattress, I smile to myself. I find it so much easier to sleep now that I have my bedtime routine fully laid out. I used to toss and turn for hours before, paranoid that someone would come into my house and stab me in my sleep.

I turn over to check the bedroom door. It’s slightly ajar.

This is ideal. That way I can see any figure approaching me as I fall asleep. Most people would be paranoid about a bedroom door being open, but not me. I know the rest of the house is locked up safe and sound.

Though, just as I start to fall asleep, I notice my wardrobe door is broken – seems to be creaking open on its own. It’s a new bit of furniture though, the wardrobe. I bought it from the same place as the paper lampshades. Even put it together by myself. 

My guess is, it’s probably just a problem with the hinges. I’ll have to have a look tomorrow.

Stefan Matthews

Stefan Matthews

When he isn’t at the beach on the South Coast, Stef is busy writing short stories, film reviews, stage-plays and screen-plays. He is currently working with a youth theatre improv-group and is always trying to find new ways to get involved in local art projects, from independent short films to amateur stage plays. After all, some of the greatest art is forged in the fires of micro-budgets, barebones production and scary campfire tales.

You can also find Stefan via his website

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Photo by Peter Mason on Unsplash

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