Kay bolted upright in bed.
She could swear she heard something. A crack, a thump; something low and bassy, but sudden, and loud, and it came from beyond the closed door to her bedroom. She moved her phone aside to see the bright red numbers on her nightstand radio: 3:03 AM.
She sat very still in the pitch darkness, her concentration entirely focused on what she could hear — which at the moment was nothing.
A minute crept by. She slept with every door in the house shut; something she used to do when she was younger because she was afraid of ghosts. She realized it was stupid to assume a ghost would bother to open a door, but it made her feel safer. Just as pulling the blankets over her head did, which she contemplated doing.
What am I doing in Ichor Falls, she asked herself. America’s most haunted city and I had to choose a school near it. Kay originally didn’t want to buy into all the stories of dead locksmiths seeking vengeance, the undying and insane trapped in an endless black forest near her house, children burned alive in their schoolhouses; but once she’d given in, Kay couldn’t help but read all the literature she could find about Ichor Falls’ terrible past.
It wasn’t so bad during the day. It never seemed to bother her friends. They could laugh it off. What’s wrong with me? I jump at every noise and shadow.
Another minute. Still listening and hearing nothing, her eyes adjusted and she now could make out details of her dark room. The bedroom door was shut. Window shut. But there’s that coat rack across the room with her hooded jacket on it, the folds in the hood hanging softly open to the floor, sleeves wrinkled but still neat at the sides. It wasn’t hard to imagine a body or torso floating inside that jacket, the hood lowered to conceal some terrible sunken bleeding face with eyes like wounds. Any minute now the sleeves would slowly lift up and start reaching for the bed…
Was that… the sound of something sliding along the wall outside? No. Stop it. She squinted a little and could see her closet door. Not shut all the way. Open just an inch, that inch seeming far darker than all the dark corners of this room combined. What stares out from that inch? she thought. What waited inside until the dead of night? What made noise to wake the slumbering victim, to locate her in the dark? What needed only a single inch to slip out into reality like a black cloak, ragged with fangs, scraping the edges of the closet door like clawing chalkboard as it pressed its way out…
Kay listened again, gripping her covers tightly to her face. Another thump. Wood on wood, wood on brick. A squeal of casters. Low rumbles. These sounds were real. Were they inside the house? If they were, they’d be in the front room. Two doors away.
Suddenly Kay felt cold electricity crawl up her spine at the distinct, ringing sound of metal jangling, like silverware criss-crossing. Like a cannibal from a cartoon. Her skin crawled. What was that story? she thought without forming words as she sat petrified in the dark. The old hag, quite dead, reaching from her grave for the top of her tombstone to pull herself out, like some single-rung ladder to hell. Stop it. She used to live in this house. More muted thumps. From the cupboards. She was murdered in this bed. Shut up. She’s missing one small bone from her calf, and she’s come back for it.
No. STOP IT. Or the ghost of a child, a poltergeist, not haunting one house but the whole town SHUT UP making it his playground in death. The sound of something heavy dragging. Vibration. He often finds an unwilling playmate in his victims NO but if you are lucky he will show you what the flames did to his tiny body ENOUGH!
She was remembering yet another story when she heard a click.
Her bedroom door creaked open, so slowly, achingly.
Kay’s eyes fixed on the crack, her face locked in a silent scream. She had not invented the sounds, they were real, and now the door opened, the door is open and it’s here it’s now inside
* * *
Student Murdered; Killer Shot Dead by Police
Falls Police shot and killed a burglar early this morning, but not before he had fatally stabbed a woman in her Alethia home during an aborted robbery attempt.
Officials say Travis Wayne Garrol, 36, broke into the home of student Kayleigh Harris, 23, around 3:00 AM. Garrol was witnessed wielding a knife as he exited the home, and when police confronted him, he refused to drop the weapon.
Police say that although the house was in disarray from Garrol’s search for valuables, there was no sign whatsoever of a struggle in the bedroom.
“It was peculiar that twenty whole minutes passed between the break-in, and her death,” said Falls Police Commissioner Honora Volney. “She died with the phone right beside her, untouched. We don’t know why she didn’t feel compelled to dial for help at the first signs of trouble.”