Dr Ryan and the Presence on the Stairs by Lorraine Murphy

Flash Fiction, Horror

Evelyn Ryan made a cup of tea and put her cat out. Taking her newspaper and mobile phone, she climbed the creaky staircase to bed. Living in the small but comfortable flat above the clinic was handy, modest living a choice for the conservative family doctor. A doctor who prided herself on never providing family planning services of any description under any circumstance.

Behind her, a stair creaked and she wobbled, scalding her hand with the tea. She hurried into her warm bedroom and closed her door, blowing on the emerging redness then undressed, slipping a long cotton nightie over her head. There was no mirror in the room; vanity had no place in a devout life. Kneeling on the white carpet, she joined her hands in prayer, and closed her eyes.

“Hail Mary –”

Something crashed downstairs and she called Anne, her receptionist.

“Doctor, it’s late.”

“Anne, I believe there is someone in my flat. Will you stay on the line while I investigate?”

“Doctor, I’m hanging up. Ring 999.”

“No Anne, I’m probably over-reacting. Just stay on the line. Please.”

Evelyn turned the wooden knob on her bedroom door into complete blackness. She was almost sure she left the light on. She flicked the switch and the bulb lit brightly before exploding, plunging the landing back into darkness.

“Doctor? What the fuck was that noise?”

Evelyn peered into the darkness when something moved, making her gasp.

“Doctor, go back to your room and lock the door. Now!”

Something lunged at her face from the blackness. She screamed from the pit of her stomach, as it scratched her face. Salem.

“Oh Anne, it’s the cat. I thought I put him out; must be going senile.”

“Not a chance, you are the sharpest woman I know… Look, will I come over?”

How Evelyn wanted to say yes. “Not at all Anne, I will be fine.”

Returning to her knees, she composed herself and finished saying her prayers while Salem lay purring on the bed licking his black paws. She climbed in and snuggled his jet-black body. He’d nearly killed her with the fright, but right now he was warm, furry, and safe company.

As she drifted off to sleep, she thought of Wendy Williams. Wendy, who forty years ago, had turned up at the clinic, bloody, bruised and begging for help. Wendy, who, when turned away, promised to exact revenge on the day she died. Wendy, who died this morning.   

She pulled Salem closer and it was in that exact position Evelyn was found dead the following morning by her neighbour, calling to let the cat in.


 Lorraine Murphy is the author of a psychological thriller entitled Into the Woods and many published flash fiction stories. She loves to take everyday situations and twist them, then twist them again. As a teenager, she adored Stephen King and later found herself on the jury of Ireland’s longest Murder Trial. She lives in Westmeath, Ireland with her husband Brendan and three taller children.