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This Imaginary Friend Didn't Come to Play

A father must protect his twin daughters from a shadowy, malevolent force in Let Him In.

let him in excerpt
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  • Photo Credit: Juliane Liebermann/Unsplash

Alfie's wife, Pippa, died tragically and all too young, leaving him the single father of their twin girls. But the trauma isn't over for this broken family—it's only just begun.

His daughters show up in his room one night, standing together at the foot of his bed. They fearfully report that a man is in their room. With no trace of anyone, Alfie assumes it was a nightmare—a theory which seems to hold up more as they come back with the same fear night after night after night.

At first he thinks the shadowy figure the girls see is just a natural symptom of grief. But now their strange imaginary friend has taken on a more sinister presence, as his daughters speak of this shadow taking them away. He reaches out to Pippa's psychiatrist sister, Julia, hoping they can rid this ominous figure from his children's lives. But Alfie begins to experience some haunting visions of his own, and gets the feeling someone is watching him, too….

To confront the poison that has latched on to his daughters, he must face not only his own complicated past, but the dark secrets of the Hart House itself. This Gothic paranormal thriller will have you choking on your fear, and we couldn't be happier to include it in our December/January Creepy Crate!

Read on for an excerpt of Let Him In, then subscribe to Creepy Crate for your chance to receive a copy!




Let Him In

By William Friend


This morning, I heard the name Black Mamba for the first time, and it made me remember some dreams. Not mine; dreams that my daughters had. Visions that splintered their sleep.

It began nine months after the accident. Every night, during the devil’s hour, I’d wake to find the twins standing motionless at the foot of my bed, their faces veiled by the dark.

Daddy, there’s a man in our room.

Those words became familiar, like a choral refrain, and could stir my body while my mind, or the better part of it, remained asleep. I’d shift beneath the cold, stiff sheets, flatten my nose against the pillow, and sigh. No there isn’t, I’d say. But my arm, half-dead with sleep, would lift the duvet all the same and let the girls clamber in to nestle in the cleft where their mum had once slept.

Naturally, the first night was different. On the first night, the twins’ mere presence at my bedside, sudden and unexpected, sent a shot of adrenaline through me.

“Daddy, there’s a man in our room.”

The sentence jerked me upright, like the tug of a noose and the floor falling through beneath my feet.

“A man?” I said.

“A man.”

And the girls stood so still, and their voices were so flat and toneless and dead that I could scarcely breathe. Yet somehow I gathered the strength to tiptoe out of my room and toward theirs.

“Stay here,” I whispered, but they wouldn’t let me leave them, so we shuffled together down the staircase, their tiny hands squeezing mine as we listened. And it was only the silence—the pure, solid hush of night—that began, finally, to calm me. Blood flowed back to my face and neck, and I started to feel like an adult again. Like a father.

“Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?”

“It wasn’t a dream. It was real. He was there.”

Into their room we went, and the snap of the electric light instantly illuminated everything, revealing nothing, no one. I flung open the wardrobe doors, lifted the duvet, with its chalk-blue swirls, to search beneath their bed. Unvacuumed carpet and misplaced toys—but no one there.

“What did he look like?”

“He…he…” Their voices quivered as feeling returned, and they fumbled for their words. “It was dark. We couldn’t see.”

Down another flight to the ground floor, where we flooded each room with reassuring light. We checked everything: windows, doors, locks. Nothing was open, nothing was smashed. Bewildered, the girls turned to each other, half in search of support, half in suspicion. We retraced our steps. “Where did you see him?” I asked. “Show me.” And just like that, all synchrony in their words and movements fell apart.

“He was out here,” Sylvie said, her finger charting vaguely across the landing. “We saw him through the doorway.”

But Cassia jerked her head and cried, “No, no, he came into our room!”

“But the door was closed.”


And suddenly they both seemed very tired. I stroked and kissed their heads; strands of their static blond hair gleamed in the low light.

“It must have been a dream,” I said.

“It wasn’t a dream,” they said.

“Let’s get you back to bed.”

“Why can’t we sleep with you?”

The girls’ night visits persisted for several weeks, and I dozed through each one more deeply than the last, until the visits themselves took on a dreamlike quality; until sometimes it was only the girls’ presence the next morning—their tiny bodies curled up next to mine—that reminded me of their appearance in the night and of what they’d said.

Then the visits stopped, just as they’d begun: suddenly and without explanation. I woke each morning to an empty bed, and the memory of the whole thing started to fade. I never asked the girls if the nightmares had ceased. They must have, or else why had the visits? Nor did I question why they’d begun in the first place, nine long months after the accident. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind—assuming it had all meant nothing, assuming it had run its course.

It was only this morning, when Marian came round with jam tarts and tears, and the girls told me about Black Mamba, that I remembered in a rush those moonlit serenades from a month ago—the girls’ dead eyes and voices, and the things they’d said echoing in my head like a leitmotif, strings that keen and tremble long after being touched.

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  • Photo Credit: Stefano Pollio/Unsplash


I’ve come to the house—not because I want to, but because he’s asked me to.

Hart House, No. 4, Allington Square, London: the house where I grew up. I loved it once, as we all did, and part of me still does. My happiest memories are connected to this house, as well as the most frightening, which makes for what people in my profession call a “compound emotional response.” In every room, the walls are pale and blank, but they bear, in my mind’s eye, the imprint of a thousand smiles, a palimpsest of all the birthdays I’ve celebrated within them—nearly a hundred, for no fewer than seven people.

Two of those people are dead now. I see them in the walls here too.

Alfie opens the front door with a soft smile.

Pretty, in a manly sort of way. That’s what I thought of him when we first met almost a decade ago. Now he’s pretty but damaged, his face lined, his sandy hair mazy and thick. He looks more grizzled than he used to, though not as a result of maturity, but of trauma. I’m not judging. I look dreadful too, or at least assume that I do. I haven’t looked in a mirror properly since the accident.

“Thanks for coming,” he says, taking my coat. Still a gentleman, I think, even after all that’s happened.

No—more so, I realize sadly. He was never like this when Pippa was alive. I’d come to visit, and Alfie wouldn’t so much as look up from the telly. He’d just call out cheerily from where he lay on the sofa, one twin tucked beneath each brawny arm, and jut out his cheek for me to kiss. Now I watch him fold my scarf before draping it carefully over the banister, and his tenderness is hard to bear. We move into the kitchen, and I distract myself by looking at the girls’ latest drawings, pinned to the fridge by magnets.

“They’re in bed,” I hear him say. I nod without turning. Sylvie has drawn a whirl of falling petals, with hard black outlines and softly smudged interiors. Cassia has drawn blue crystals, cold and clear. The girls’ names, in the far corners, are calligraphed with letters that put my own crabbed scrawl to shame. I brush my hand reverently across the paper.

It’s dark outside and cold in the kitchen. I hear the clink of mugs, the flick of the kettle. Alfie’s brewing tea. Normally when we’re together, we drink—really drink—but not tonight. Today is the first of the month, just like the day of the accident. Wine would feel inappropriate, as it often does when you need it most.

I assume he needs it. Maybe that’s just projection. I should try to find out.

“How are you?” I ask, keeping my back turned.

“Fine,” he answers, speaking into the sink. His voice is flat, unreadable, but I don’t argue. For all I know it might be true, on most days at least. I’m fine most days too. The anguish has finally eased. I know instinctively that he’s at his worst when he’s around me, just as I’m at my worst when he invites me to Hart House.

He pours some tea into my favorite mug, black and speckled with stars, and we sit at the table. The stars appear only when the mug is hot. By the time around half have been snuffed out, it’s safe to drink.

“How are you?” he parries eventually, fiddling with the handle of his own mug, which looks tiny next to the span of his palm and fingers. Alfie’s a big man, a smart one too, and soft-spoken.

“I’m fine too, I guess. Keeping busy.”

He nods tightly. There’s something on his mind, something he wants to tell me. This wasn’t a routine invitation; I thought that on the phone this afternoon. Something about his voice—breathless, catching—struck me as off.

“At the clinic?”

“Mmm,” I say. “Finally seeing a full roster again. More or less.”

After the accident, I couldn’t work for months. I took long-term sick leave, which only made things worse. I needed to work and I needed therapy, but—given my day job—both options felt closed to me. As with a cold, there was no cure. I just had to wait it out. Things are better now, at least a bit. I can work through my pain. I can talk about it. Other people can give me theirs again.

I sip some tea to mask the awkward silence and burn my tongue. The stars are still shining furiously. I only have myself to blame.

“Have they called you again?” I ask. “KCL, I mean. About going back.” Alfie’s worked at universities for as long as I’ve known him.

“No, no,” he says quickly. “There’s no pressure. Not this year.” Whatever’s bothering him, then, it isn’t that.

I push my mug to one side and do what I do with all recalcitrant clients: fight the urge to fill the awkward gaps, use the silence against them.

Eventually, he cracks. “Marian was here this morning,” he says tentatively, and at last I begin to understand his mood. Mum. I touch his wrist and nod sympathetically. No one could ask for a trickier in-law, even in better circumstances. I love her, but that much even I admit.

There’s more, of course. I see it in his hesitation. Something has happened. Something bad or at the very least concerning. But I won’t rush him. He’ll tell me when he’s ready.

We sit in silence, stirring our tea. It’s ten months today since my sister’s death.

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Feature image: Juliane Liebermann/Unsplash; Additional image: Stefano Pollio/Unsplash