Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Dead leaves crunch underneath, noises of crickets joining in to create a small melody for my walk back. The air while cool, is yet dry tonight, no wind in the trees. The fenced neighborhood, dark, lonely, and quiet; though, that being due to the late hour. My feet carry me to the familiar home, the place I know inside and out like the back of my hand.
What time is it?
The thought sinks into my mind. Eyes weighing heavily; specifically from the long days of working. Or was it weeks? So much work, all important work that means life or death to me. Sleep means nothing to me. It just gets in the way.
I go on until the point where I might collapse. I’ve never learned my own limit. Only at a few times, I give heed to rest and find somewhere safe to sleep wherever I am. A few hours always make due, until the deadline ends. Then I can finally rest again.
I slip past the side gate of the residence in front of me, careful to not push it past three-quarters of the way, or it’ll make a horrible racket. The last thing I want is noise, one huge noise that would awake any sleeping soul around. That would just be another nuisance, I don’t need more eyes on me.
Well, not more than the eyes that already have been looming on me since the beginning. Watching my every move. Staring, stalking.
I approach the backside, with that feeling of still being watched, I’d rather use this door where no one can spot me. Safer, less intruding people to catch me from here. Yet, With hesitation; I still have to-. No, no need to look around and check the surrounding around me again.
Withholding my breath. My eyes scanning the darkness for anything. That feeling still looming over me, crushing its weight on me. I turn my attention back to the door, new locks, a new code. No one can get into this place now without the knowledge of both.
I took a deep breath. Starting to fiddle with the lock, it jammed quickly on me.
A low growl slips past my lips, focusing more on this stubborn lock. A defect, but a welcoming challenge. My teeth grit, my growing focus distracting me between that paranoia of being watched. This damn, stupid lock.
I could feel it growing, those eyes in such an intense stare. The image of a prey being cornered by its predator, just ready to attack and sink into the most vulnerable parts of me.
Feeling my heart started to race, I push it all into one final rough shove. Not short after, I am greeted by the heavenly click of it giving way to me.
I slip inside quickly, shutting the door behind me. Making sure to lock it back up before moving to the alarm system and placing in the monotonous, long code I had learned by heart. I scan the dark room, then glance back to the door once more. I keep my gaze fixed onto the door, going through a deep string of thoughts. I stand there, my breathing being the only noise heard. My mind goes from trivial things as the door lock, then to the situations leading up to the reason of getting those new locks on the door.
Then it came to me. All the sounds around the place. The shift of things either being placed into a new location or going missing completely. The sudden broken coffee mug in the middle of the floor.
That constant sound. I could hear it clearly. Echoing, taunting me.
Was it all in my head?
It was driving me nuts! Waking to the sound, or coming back inside from a long day away, always the same sound.
Drip… Drip… Drip.
Even thinking of it now makes my blood boil, my heart pound and fall down into my chest with an agonizing pain. I try to shake myself free out of my trance, inhaling quickly. That stopped as soon as security was changed. I gave a nod to myself, my mind reaching the conclusion that, with a bit of grease, the lock will give way without the frustration.
No need to even bother with the turning on the lights. The basement couldn’t be too hard to find. I followed my path down the stairs, letting the sounds of my exhausted steps echo loudly on the staircase. A few creak under my weight, always on the 6th and 10th step. The door moved without any impedance, the icy chill of the room hit me, following with a musty smell reaching my nostrils.
I stop. Unable to recall where I left off, what I was looking for in here. I grumbled as I made my way around the room slowly. The solitary window giving the room a beautiful, but unsettling glow from the moon. The light casts an odd and distorting shadows on the hard, rough stone walls.
As I keep searching about, my frustration started growing over the amount of useless, annoying things gathering dust in this cimmerian basement. In the midst of it, I caught a sound. The farther into the end of the room I got; the clearer it became.
That sound again. I froze in place, feeling my eyes widen, vision fading into a limited field, as if in a hypnotic trance. I listened to the rhythmic sound, the soft thuds.
“One… two… three… four…” I whisper under my breath, counting the second that pass by with each sound. I’m not longer really focusing on my actions, making my way closer to the sound, as if an invisible force urges me to go there.
My body moves in front of a leaking pipe, the water softly dripping out its weak point, clearly cracked open with rusting over time. I continued to stand there and just…. stare. With seconds passing, my mood switched from an unsettling calm to an aggravated state. My eyes gazed down on the leaking pipe with anger.
A curse leaves my lips, there is enough at the moment to deal with, I don’t have time for this stupid mess. I grab a tool hanging from my belt, lifting it high into the air; readying to fix this pipe. Then I hear it, a scuffling sound. I freeze in place, listening closely.
The longer the silence fills the room, the louder the scuffles seem to get, and the more damning each drip of water feels; the noise, as if it is going to alert the thing to this location.
I held my breath. The rhythmic drips only seemed to get louder. I could hear the noise getting closer, moving above me. I believed to hear something fumbling outside in the yard, maybe, but it was definitely coming from up above. There was a whisper, a hush voice speaking out, nearly muted by the sounds within the building.
I hear it. A click.
Twist. Turn. And with that, they opened a door upstairs.
They got in? They are in the house now. My thoughts raced on the possible outcomes, was this person here to steal? My thoughts twisted up in my head, my panic turning into anger. No, they are here to cause great harm. Great pain.
With the tool tightly in my hand, I moved down, moving quietly towards the door. I held my breath, listening to where exactly this person could be located. I could feel my pulse beating against this tool, long, heavy, and metallic tool.
The living room, there they were. I started to sneak up, avoiding the 10th step, then the 6th that had scared me alerted earlier. I gripped the tool in my hand once more, adjusting my grip on it. At that moment, I knew I was about to do this person more harm than what they were thinking to do onto me.
My teeth grit together, breathing slowing so to become barely audible, my back pressing softly onto the wall. I pondered quickly, guessing the possible forms of attack. I heard them, messing with something metallic. Not a gun, possibly a weapon such as my own?
Doesn’t matter, I needed to listen carefully and attack them. Before they can get to me at all, my knuckles ached with the pressure. So eagerly, I wished to peek out, to see exactly where they were holding up. To size them up, then take them down, but it was too risky. I could hear my heart pound faster, flooding my head.
I waited with bated breath.
A step here, a step there.
This person’s breath laboring, still unaware that I know they are here. That sound of metal moving and ringing. Their voice was silenced, their steps slowly walking towards me. I felt my eyes widen once again, the tool in a death grip; ready to swing with all my might.
Tap, tap, tap, then silence.
I can hear them breathing, words whispering under their breath. This is definitely a man’s voice, he is messing with something; speaking to himself. I was about to almost sprint into action, but no, I had to keep the upper hand.
Tap, tap, tap.
He drew closer and closer, a few more steps and I saw the blur of motion. I quickly swung, a sickening crunch following as my tool made contact. In the merest moment, I could see the shock in his tired, dull eyes, his greasy hair moving to the tools groove.
No control. I can’t stop myself, one hit just isn’t enough. I swung again, and again. He hit the ground, I couldn’t stop. I kept slamming the tool down in a frenzy, the same way someone kills a bug for disturbing.
My wide eyes stared down at the scrawny man before me, the metal object under his hand, shaking against the tile floor where is fell with him. His greasy dark hair, slowly soaking in the liquid. His other hand, pale now and bearing the scars of one’s labors and reaching out for something in his final moments.
My breath heaved, logic and rationality returning back into my mind. I stepped away, the warmth of the liquid slowly cooling on me. I shook my head, made a quick beeline for the bathroom, and flicked on the light.
My tool was set down, the rusting pipe echoing a loud thud on the counter top; liquid dripping off the ends of the pipe. My cold reflection stared back at me in the mirror glass.
The faucet was turned on quickly, going to work on washing the blood off me. Hands, my upper face. The dark cloth covering my mouth, doing its job in shielding the rest of my face from messy situations. I could smell the iron lingering around my nostrils, almost making me sick.
I leaned down close to the sink, letting the whole situation sink in deep. My eyes moved up, removing the mess of black hair out of my face. That black, unkempt, greasy long hair. I stare at my reflection for what feels like hours, the mixed color of dead eyes of green and ice-cold blue staring at the prominent scar upon my forehead, the one that bared a grim reminder and awful memories.
I grasped a towel, wiping away the water and any remain blood on my skin. Too bad my grey shirt held onto stain a lot easier than the rest of my black clothing, then I might’ve been able to forget about it by now.
Sighing, my fingers thoroughly brought out a trinket from my vest pocket, staring down the gem hiding safely within the fabric. This trinket seemed to talk to me, it always had.
Over and over I heard it call out for me. Maybe, it was just my mind playing a trick on me. But that undeniable whisper remained. I slipped back into deep, empty thoughts once more before I realized I had been staring at the gem this entire time. Placing the purple gem trinket back into the safety of the pocket, I thought of the possibility of losing it. I would die to keep that trinket safe.
I turned my heel from the mirror, moving back into the hall once more. The body caught my attention once more, the phone shaking more against the ground. I moved in close, staring at it without a single emotion on my face. Without hesitation, I stomped down with my worn boot, breaking it into several pieces.
The crimson liquid had already covered the tiles, feeling no remorse about my actions. I no longer had the desire to stay put inside. After all, at this location, there would always be the feeling of us being watched by those around this neighborhood of bars.
I chuckle. A smile tugging at my lips as I moved away from the mess I had caused.
Besides, This isn’t my home.
Credit: Ivy Banks