#horror #fiction #shortstory
I heard the footsteps upstairs when I was alone in the house. My wife was vacationing in Roanoke, Virginia, on her yearly hike with her best friend. She was due back the next day, so I was cleaning the house, trying to help her extend her vacation a little bit by coming back to a home that she could relax in. This is how I had done things in the past, however in these current times there is no more relaxing, no place that you can really call home.
It felt kind of trivial, too, to be working so hard to have a clean house for her, when I wasn’t holding on to a lot of hope that she would actually be coming home. And even if she did come, I still wasn’t sure she’d be the same. Some folks are offing themselves, but some folks are just changing. I tried to stop her from going, and I think I almost had her convinced, until her friend called her and said that she found a perfect spot, a hiking trail that had very few reported events. I could almost read my wife’s mind – her friend sounded so excited, she just couldn’t say no. And I couldn’t put my foot down and say no to the woman who has been maintaining my sanity for all these years, even before the events started.
This left me to mind the house, which in some small way helped me feel a little better, some miniscule piece of the normal past, a time-consuming task to occupy my mind. I was actually starting to believe that I was crazy, and that none of the events of the past few years had actually happened. Then I heard the footsteps. I was in the cellar, cleaning some of the old recycled products that we had stored for various crafts and projects, things that I knew at this point would never come to pass. I didn’t hear my front door open, I didn’t hear anything outside. Just footsteps in the house. And I knew I was about to experience an event.
A friend had recently told me what to look out for. “Look for the anomaly. Look for what doesn’t make sense. None of these events take on a logical pattern. There has to be something out of place. If someone runs into a bank with a gun and holds it up, you can bet your ass that the bank is being robbed. But if someone runs into a gun store with silly putty in his hand and attempts a robbery, you’re about to experience an event.” Two days later, he changed. Now he wanders around Wal-mart all day long, looking like he lost something important. They don’t all go to Wal-mart, but he did.
The axe I had in the basement was the first thing I though of. The second thing was my gun collection on the second floor. Could I make it into the house, up the stairs, and into my bedroom before the intruder could get me? If I had any idea what I was about to face, I might actually have been able to make an informed decision. Truck keys? In the kitchen right inside the door. I could make a run for it. But this was my house, my refuge. If I were to run off, and have something happen to me out in the world, then I was leaving this unknown horror behind in the house. If my wife by some chance made it home, I was leaving this thing for her to face alone. I couldn’t bear the thought of that. I made the decision to fight.
I grabbed my axe and an old Bowie knife and opened the cellar door. At the top of the stairs, standing above me, were six large men in brown robes, standing in a half circle holding candles. Not knowing how hostile they were, I opted for my knife. This unexpected greeting changed my plan entirely, because I couldn’t climb out of the ditch with any agility if I was holding my axe. I set the axe on the ground at my feet and ran up the side of the ditch toward one end of the half circle because it would have been suicide to rush the middle. I easily dispatched of brown robe number one, shoving my knife directly into his throat. Pulling it out as the body fell to the ground, I turned toward number two. He was backing away from me. I looked and saw the others backing away as well.
Taking my chance, I rushed number two, pushed him to the ground. There was more resistance this time, and I took a few fists to the face before I could entirely pin him to the ground and plunge the Bowie into his chest. I missed the heart twice, but on the third time I nailed it. I heard the wet sucking sounds from the other stab wounds slow down and stop within seconds. I looked up for the positions of the others, but they had backed off into the woods, beyond the treeline, and I saw and heard nothing.
My eyes were watering from the punches to my face, and there was blood pouring out of my nose. I had to take care of that before dealing with whatever entity was in the house. I had just thrown away some old shirts during my cleaning, so I walked over to my large garbage bin to get one out and clean up a little bit. As I opened the bin, a giant hairless dog-like thing popped out of the bin like a jack-in-the-box. If normal proportions are any indication, there is no way this thing could have fit in my garbage bin. But it was there, and I had to stop it from getting out. If I tried the knife on this creature, I was pretty sure I’d lose a hand. I ran around behind the bin, and started to close the lid. It took all of my strength, and quite a bit of pounding, on the lid and on the back of the dog’s head, before I could close the lid all the way.
I used my knife to stab into the lid a few times, to see if I’d find purchase, but I felt nothing. There didn’t seem to be a lot of movement, so I took a chance – I ran to my truck, where I had a full five-gallon can of gasoline in the bed. I reached into the cab and grabbed my cigarettes and lighter. I doused the garbage bin with probably a gallon of gasoline. I was too close to the house, or I would have used more. With bloody hands I lit a cigarette, then I lit the garbage bin. I’m not sure which was more satisfying.
I wiped my hands and face off on the dewy night time grass, and rehearsed my game plan for whatever was inside the house. Go for the gun. Which gun? The shotgun – most effective in this situation. Isn’t the pistol easier to carry? Power, it’s all about power right now. And the shotgun has the most power. I rehearsed barging in the door, heading straight up the stairs, and making it to my gun. And that is precisely what I did.
I didn’t sneak, I didn’t look around, I made a beeline for the upstairs bedroom. I got to my always-loaded shotgun, opened my nightstand drawer, found a box of shells, and started stuffing them into my pockets. Now, I could investigate.
“Are you okay up there?” My wife. Or, at least, my wife’s voice.
“I’m fine,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Dinner’s ready,” she informed me.
I looked down to see her standing at the bottom of the stairs.
“I thought you went to Virginia,” I said cautiously.
“You talked me out of it, remember?”
I laid the shotgun down and went down the stairs to the kitchen. My wife, or something that looked a lot like my wife, was making stir-fry. It smelled good. But this didn’t make sense. It could not have been her footsteps I heard. I looked at the smeared blood on my almost-clean hands. Out the kitchen window, I saw her car in the driveway, right next to my truck. That hadn’t been there, had it? I don’t remember now. I walked to the north window and looked out, at two dead bodies and a flaming, melted garbage bin. I touched my tender nose. I peered into the woods, looking for the other four brown robes, but I saw nothing.
“Come on, sit down so we can eat. Tell me about your day,” my wife said.
I sat down to eat. I couldn’t harm what might be my wife. And I couldn’t say no to the woman who has been maintaining my sanity for all these years.