I’m considering making this a “First Sunday” kind of deal, maybe even giving it a clichéd name like “The Sunday Story,” despite this first attempt being on a Monday. I never said I was a perfect man.
Last week was crazy, hence the radio silence, though maybe a little sparsity wouldn’t be a bad thing. Regular posts don’t mean jack if there isn’t any substance to ’em, so from here on out I’ll only post as frequently as relevancy allows.
Anyway, back to the experiment. This is an original tale I spun last night, solely for the sake of this post. If you like it, maybe it’ll be a thing. If not, I’ll probably still enjoy it, so maybe it’ll be a thing anyway. So there, BRAD.
A Knocking at the Door
© Copyright 2011
Another knock. This one definitely from the door.
It had been happening off and on all night. Every time she closed her eyes, there was a singular rapping on the door.
She’d told herself it was a dream. This happened occasionally, dreaming of ominous sounds just as she began to drift away. It was something that used to plague her mother. She stared at the door, still trying to decipher dream from reality, and thought of those nights when she was a little girl. She would listen to her mother shuffle through the house, chasing phantom sounds only she had heard.
Felicia kept her eyes focused on the door, but their occasional fluttering became heavier and heavier, and soon the little patches of blackness began to stain her vision.
Another knocking, as soon as the dark had become permanent.
It stopped as soon as she opened her eyes. Literally, right when her eyes opened.
Mid knock, it stopped. As soon as her eyes opened.
“Bullshit,” she whispered to herself. It hadn’t stopped. The dream was just over, the way they always are when you awaken.
She turned over, closed her eyes.
It was like the muscles in her back were spring-loaded. She sat up, twisted herself to look at the door.
Despite the January chill, she tossed the comforter back, turned so that she was on her hands and knees. It occurred to her how silly she probably looked, but something about the predatory nature of the pose appealed to her. She felt like some kind of feral creature, scrutinizing a potential threat.
An imaginary, potential threat.
She laughed at the realization, shook her head, scratched her neck where the loose hairs from her bun tickled her. She got back in bed, reclined under the comforter.
Out of bed, bare feet on the carpet, body tense, hand reaching for her phone. She took slow, deep breaths wanting everything to be as motionless as possible. Her breasts sank and bobbed inside her tank top with each nervous breath.
She grabbed her phone, unhooked the charger, dragged her finger over the screen to turn it on. The screen stayed black.
Dead. Fucking impossible, but it was dead.
Taking three quick, light steps across the carpet, Felicia reached out and flipped her light switch. Nothing.
The power was out. That seemed odd to her, considering it didn’t sound stormy. Maybe another fuse was blown.
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and the wind wheezed through the trees.
“Shit,” she whispered, to no one but herself. The last thing she needed was a storm to rattle her even more.
Felicia stood there, in the dark, hearing only the sound of her breath in the still nighttime.
The door shook with each pounding.
She shook too. Those little hairs started to tickle the back of her neck again.
The whole apartment seemed to rattle. She brushed aside the hairs, calmed herself until the walls seemed to stop vibrating.
The wind. It was the wind, an eddy from the storm caught on her porch. A vacuum shaking it in its frame…
No, not the wind. The wind did not have fists.
Christ, what was he doing? Trying to knock the hinges off? Was he kicking it?
Felicia stood in place. A draft from the crack at the bottom of the door wafted past the ends of her pajama pants. The cool air felt like a beckoning whisper.
The electric tickle hit her neck again, and her body recoiled as though someone had grabbed the scruff of her neck. She felt shockwaves of trembling dread spread through her shoulders and drip down her spine.
She clamped her hand on the back of her neck, halting the shudders and shielding her piqued skin from the nervous strands of hair.
Felicia literally hopped in place, both feet briefly leaving the worn carpet at the tremendous sound. The door shook from each blow. Hell, the door kept shaking after each blow.
The door settled in place. There was lightning, then low thunder. The windows shook a bit, but the door stayed still.
She could swear it was bowing around the deadlock, as though the tiny bar of metal was all that was keeping it closed. In her head she imagined the sight of screws spiraling loose from the hinges with each fresh strike.
The door hummed to a quiet still, and the apartment was silent again.
It was silent for a long time, actually. In reality, probably less than a minute, but in terms of fearful time it felt like more than an hour. Felicia stood in place for a good while, her toes clenching, clamping onto the carpet, anchoring her thin frame in place.
A phantom breath of nighttime air, and the tickling hairs again. She ran her fingertips over her neck, rubbing the tingle away and sweeping the hairs aside. She hated how they felt like tickling fingers.
Finally she took a long, slow, graceful step forward. Then another, and another, making less sound than an owl in flight. When she reached the door she stood before it like it would grow claws and slash at her. It took a long effort of breathing down the fearful little girl inside her before she got up the nerve to look through the peephole.
Nothing. No one there. Just the single, empty stoop, the yard empty on either side. The streetlight in front of her place flickering dully.
No one there.
Someone’s at the door.
No one’s there, Mama. You just had a nightmare.
Go back to sleep.
She turned, deciding she was a victim of either sleepwalking or mean spirited pranking. Whatever it was there were two things which she was certain of: the door was locked, and she was fine.
The knocking again. Small, shy, nervous, polite. Tiptiptip.
“A trick of the wind,” she whispered to herself, hoping she could convince the world in the same manner.
But the laughter? Yeah, there was laughter out there as well.
No. A trick of the wind, that’s all. A phantom carried by the storm.
But: tiptiptip. But not the laughter. She heard it, but told herself it wasn’t there.
There was a small metal tee ball bat she kept in the corner, for whenever she took her niece to practice. She grabbed it now, hefted it, reached for the door.
I really shouldn’t do this.
And she shouldn’t have, but she did. She kept the chain on, looked outside. The laughter stopped.
Absolutely nothing, except for the stormy breeze. It blew past her with a sweet scent, briefly chilling her. The gust seemed oddly insistent, as though the little eddy of winter air had been waiting to come inside. Dead leaves scraped against the walkway. The world outside was asleep, just as she needed to be.
She closed the door, noticing how the apartment felt so much cooler for having the door opened just now. The sweet smell even lingered a little.
She sighed, breathed so deeply her shoulders lifted, and put the bat back in the corner. Then she stood on her tiptoes, and stretched.
Ah, damn it! Those little hairs again, tickling the back of her neck.
She reached back to brush the rebellious hair away.
But this time, as she moved to sweep the tickling strands aside…
…she felt fingers.
Standing there, her blood colder than the January chill, Felicia heard a dark laugh in the nighttime. It blew from the shadows, wafted in the drafts, ebbed into her nightmares.
If anyone had been passing by at that hour, they would have noticed Felicia’s door rattling violently, as though someone was pounding on it. Relentlessy, mercilessly pounding.
Or they might have heard screams, if they bothered to listen to anything but the dormant storm. But even if they did, they would likely just shrug it off, assuming it was a trick of the wind, a phantom carried by the storm.