The door opens to what feels like my apartment, although it isn’t exactly my apartment. The rustic looking setting resembles the first floor of my grandmother’s house, specifically her kitchen and den; however, it is definitely not my grandmother’s house despite the similar layout. Someone familiar lives here, though, but I don’t know who. No one is around. The lights are dimmed, or even possibly off; the light emitting from the rooms resembles pinches of candlelight. A dull glaze finishes the wood cabinets and furniture. Looking into the den, I notice the furniture my family owned when I was younger. The place is comfortable, cozy, welcoming.
I come across the refrigerator, which is naked—no pictures, no calendar, not anything. On top of the fridge are Easter decorations, eggs specifically, the cardboard decorations which can be easily placed in windows. They were primarily one color, turquoises and reds prominent. There were three designs, but there were multiples of each, at least twenty-five of each. They were disheveled stacks as if the piles have slid like a deck of cards upon a table; place your palm on top of the deck, apply pressure, and slide to make it look like the cards are scales of a fish.
I turn around, and my current roommate startles me. He’s standing in front of me, sulking, looking more pathetic than usual. His hair is down to bristles, and his eyes—normally prominent—are more sullen and hidden by black and blue bags. He’s not smiling, nor is he frowning; his mouth is open slightly, revealing some teeth as his lower lip sags as if there is something between that and his gum line. There’s nothing except saliva pending spilling over—yes, currently dripping off over his lip. It’s just hanging there. He comes across as a stoned ape.
He’s not saying anything, but just staring. I move, and his eyes follow. I lean back and move my head from left to right, back to left and then to right, returning to left and ending right. He apes in synchronicity. Ape. He’s more miserable than usual, I can assume. His body from the neck down baffles me. He’s thinner, he’s lost a significant amount of weight, and his right shoulder is burned. It looks as if a char grilled chicken wing covered in minimal barbeque sauce replaced this joint and appendage. How can something look so burned still look fleshy?
Commotion from the other room bids for my attention, and I slowly walk away from the poor creature. The roommate doesn’t follow, but just stares at me. I constantly make eye contact as if he was a potentially dangerous (rabid) animal, and I was planning a narrow escape. The range of vision is only cut off by my passing the corner of the hallway.
In another room sits a friend of mine. There is, also, a little boy in the room, active and curious, but he is not hers. He is playing a video game, and he implies that I join in the fun. I sit down and the game consumes me.
Upon entering the elevator with the object—not magnetic—is still in my hand, I wait for the next floor. The doors close, but the elevator doesn’t budge. I wait for a few minutes before looking for a quick exit. There is a square opening on the wall to my left, but I definitely cannot fit through it. The quick realization of the flat gear-sandwiched object possibly fitting in that hole dawns on me. I fit the panel into place and the elevator kicks into motion.
The door opens to my grandmother’s kitchen. My father and grandmother, my maternal grandmother, stand in the kitchen. She looks at me, smiles. I reply with the same nonverbal gesture. As I walk around the round kitchen table, the two walk toward the dining room, heading for either the television room or the den. I stop next to the window and look out. Everything is still. There are no squirrels, nor are there birds flying by. The environment outside looks like a paused movie in essence everything has seemed to stop. The freeze frame also gives off the notion that the plants, trees, and scenery appear plastic or a two dimensional mural.
Everything at this moment has seemed to have stopped. There is no humming of the refrigerator, nor are there television shows playing in the background. The lights are off, but the sunlight entering though the windows provide sufficient light. The air feels thick and unfavorable to breathe in. I don’t have asthma, but I feel as if I may need an inhaler, or maybe even an oxygen tank. I don’t know if this is what’s making me feel very uncomfortable right now. I’m paranoid, but why? I’m in an unfamiliar place right now.
No, I’m in my grandmother’s house.
No. No, this isn’t it.
I walk to find my dad and grandmother. They aren’t in the television room. Peering from the dining room table, I notice they aren’t in the den. There haven’t been footsteps creaking around upstairs, so walking up is out. Looking back at the cellar door, I convince myself they didn’t go down there. I have no urge to search there. There is no reason to. That place is intimidating to begin with. The hair stands up on the nape of my neck.
I’m thirsty. My mouth is unusually dry. However, I continue my search. I begin to scale the stairs, peeking around the corner to make sure the coast was clear. The Norman Rockwell paintings still hang on the wall. Back, above my head, is the extraordinarily realistic painting of Jesus. He’s still hanging there, too. I step upon the first step. The second. The third. The fo—
What was that? I look around, my eyes scanning left to right, and similarly as an editorial typewriter scans for flaws as each letter is cast upon the page. In this case, what flaws in the environment. Television room: clear. Den: empty, except, of course, for the furniture. Peculiar, yes, that’s it. The generated fear moves from my neck, the hairs now temporarily at ease, to my hands—clammy. I wipe my sweaty palms, practically slimy, and upon my pants. Walking around, my footprints are padded silent by the carpet.
It’s a game of hot and cold. The perspiration on my palms retracts into my pores, the adverse force springing goose bumps. The knocks had grown more distinct, hollower. I’m not supposed to be here, no, not now. I crouch down next to a cabinet and upon opening the doors I come across china plates. Maybe the reverberations from my walking shook the plates enough for their knocking against the wall or door of this cabinet.
At the time you weren’t walking.
No, I wasn’t.
Man, am I thirsty; I’m so parched that my throat is incredibly sore, and it is the strep throat type of sore where it’s almost annoying enough for the ailing person to want to scratch through their skin to a simply itch. Looking for the time, I notice the clock has stopped. The silent ambiance is thick, feeling as if my ears have popped even though they haven’t. I walk to the door to the front porch and peer out the window. There is no one out there. If no one is out there, no one is knocking. No one living, of course. Could it be a ghost? There would be no other reasoning. There has been no threat, so I have no reason to be worried.
As I stand close to the window to the porch, my nose fogs up the view. Looking out down both ends of the vacant street, I assume this road speaks for the rest of the village: there is no sign of life. There seems to be no possible movement, not even a light breeze teasing the branches, rippling the leaves. The world is in a vacuum. Everything is just so. You could say if someone were to drop a pin, you’d probably hear it. I don’t think you could in a vacuum. I don’t know. This place could be void of sound. However, I did hear the—
I pull the door open to the predictable nobody, nothing. The knocks were deeper this time; louder, in fact, and closer. Warmer. I hold my breath, the lump in my throat solidifying. I knock on the porch door. I wait. No resp—
It’s closer now. I’m getting hot.
I look into the den basking in the cold blue light from an overcast sky sunlight penetrating the opaque-curtained windows. I just want to make sure the sound is coming from the cabinet next to me and not the den. It’s definitely not the porch. I place my hand upon the side of the chest, my fingers sliding down the cold finish. This cabinet is vacant. There is a windowed case displaying more china, tea cups and saucers—
Let us not forget about the bottom cabinet where the goodies are kept.
I jump in response as if I never suspected this noise ever would come (again), as if I have heard this din for the first time in my life. Whatever it is, it’s definitely in the bottom cabinet. Breathing though my mouth, I realize I sound like a breeze, clashing against the windows and doors when the air passes through my achy throat: wheezes. I silence myself. It may be time to leave. Yes, this would probably be a good time to leave.
Knocking some sense into myself up, I turn to walk tiptoeand in long strides on my way to the kitchen, being ever so cautious when I hear the click and creak of a small door opening. My stride slows as my foot feels almost frozen in mid-air. The hair on my neck stands on end and ready to jump up from the pore. I shake the hand of Fear with clammy hands. I turn around slowly.
A small—it looks like a plush animal—creature lies down in the wooden crevice. Its legs and torso are set almost parallel, the body bending at the lower back and tailbone against the cabinet wall and its head rests towards its feet. The only visible parts of whatever-it-is are the back of the head and left limbs. It’s breathing. It’s alive. It’s trying to walk, attempting like a newborn. I stand quietly, my feet spread apart just enough to jump the gun, beat any threat with a good running start. I’m in a showdown, and the faster gunman wins; however, I am unarmed. The limp and dark violet body belonging to the creature heaves with each breath. Inhale—its left arm twitches. Exhale—its left foot kicks.
The head turns toward me, looking up, glaring at me with half-dollar-sized eyes, the white sclera creating a halo around a black cornea—an eclipse. Its mouth is agape, tongue hanging—a twisted smile. Cocking its head up, it looks as if it were a dog wanting to play, or it is curious as to what alarm was presented. The thing slides its body out, feet first touching the ground. Standing about two feet tall, the creature jumps in place a few times to shake off being cramped. Its arms extend, palms out, reaching for me. All I can do is watch.
What do you want, I ask it; however, my words come out hushed and raspy. I can’t talk well.
Turning its body to the side, the creature’s right hand reaches into the dark cabinet as its eyes remain narrowed and directed upon my person. They—those eyes—won’t even blink. It pulls out a knife with a blade that is just less than half the size of its body. Despite the lighting situation, its glistening is distinguishable.
I turn quickly and plant my foot, steadying and bracing myself, before breaking out into a run. My ankle gives, and I trip; my legs fall numb and useless. Looking back, the creature is walking quickly toward me, mouth still open with the tongue swinging and its knife cutting through the air. I stand up halfway and walk two steps before falling back to the ground. I try, and I fail numerous times. Using my arms, I pull myself closer to the door. The sweat upon my hands isn’t providing me with favorable friction. I feel the creature looming and it’s significantly closer, its quarter-sized irises are black hunger. I continue, feeling the creature pull at my pant leg. I kick and pull my body, kick and pull.
Breaking out into a run, the whatever-it-is passes me and blocks my progress to the door. I stop long enough for it to lunge at me. I grab the creature and throw it against the refrigerator. It falls to the ground, letting go of the knife as it slumps over. I broke the thing’s neck. I expel a sigh of relief.