The sound of that doorbell caused icy fingers to clutch at my heart. Because it rang, you see. It should have chimed, with the bing-bong sound of the modern but tasteful new door chimes I had installed to replace Auntie Minty's old doorbell, which, more often than not, hadn't worked. I remember when I had told her what I was doing, she'd applauded the idea, because she had missed the postman with parcel deliveries countless times due to its unreliablilty. ''Get rid of the stupid thing.'' she'd said. ''I should have had it replaced years ago.'' And so I had. But here was the unmistakable sound of a doorbell. Not a doorchime.
So, it wasn't just the lateness of the hour that kept me in bed, pulling the covers closer round me, yet sitting half up, frozen in place.
I listened. I stayed in that position for ten seconds, twenty, a minute. The sound did not repeat, and I convinced myself that my mind was playing tricks on me. First, seeing my own face - and my own 21st Century -t-shirt in an old photograph, then seeing strange men in my bedroom in the middle of the night, and now hearing bells which were no longer there.
I put it down to overtiredness and overwork, gave myself a mental poke in the ribs, and added the old letter to the pile of old envelopes, resolved to read them properly tomorrow. A good sleep would make me less likely to be spooked. I wriggled down the bed, and turned onto my side.
It took a while to relax completely, and I heard a few more creaks and the steady dripping of the kitchen tap. The last thought I remember was that I needed to look in the yellow pages in the morning and find a plumber.
I dreamed about a place I'd never been to, or even seen. I was in a huge garden, full of flowerbeds crammed with exotic and beautiful blooms. I walked along the graveled paths and leaned in to sniff the blossoms. I had never experienced such a heady scent. At the end of the garden, there was a big wooden door, I tried the round metal ring that served as a handle. It was stiff, and I worked it from left to right. After a few tries, it gave, and the door swung open. I walked through the door, and it immediately closed behind me, and I turned round, in a panic.
The cold air woke me. I was standing outside, facing Minty's front door. I looked down at my bare feet. I was still wearing my night clothes, and I turned round to face the street, embarrassed, in case anyone was looking.
But the street was gone.