A little bit of darkness to brighten your day
Staying is a story I wrote for the Mocha Memoirs Flash Fiction "Women in Horror" Contest, 2016: http://mochamemoirspress.blogspot.com/p/wih-flash-fiction-contest.html
It won first place. You can purchase a print copy of it and all the other runners up here: https://www.createspace.com/6384605 (Disclaimer: I get no portion of the sales)
It’s happening again.
She roused and opened one eye, groggily lifting her head to listen.
You’re just nervous, hearing things.
She waited. Not a sound. With a sigh of relief, she’d just started to lower her head back to her pillow when—
Thump. Creak. Thump.
She shot up in bed, instantly awake, every hair on her body standing on end.
There it was again. Thump. Creak. Thump.
Despite the urge to pull the covers over her head, she forced herself to rise. She slid to the side of the bed and lowered her feet to the cold floor, all the while hearing the creak of the floorboards downstairs.
She shuddered but tried not to cry out, tried not to make a sound as she crept to her bedroom door.
Thump. Thump. Thump. The sound of footsteps.
She lived alone; there shouldn’t be any footsteps, but there they were, and in the near-silence of the house, they sounded thunderous.
She bit her lip and pressed her ear to the door.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
He was walking from the front hall… into the… Yes, he was in the dining room now.
Thump. Thump. Thump. A pause. Thump. Thump. The kitchen.
“Wait!” She sprang back from the door in terror.
That one had come from the stairs! There were two of them this time!
Clambering backwards, she almost screamed when something banged into the back of her knees, but it was just the mattress. She scrambled onto the bed as the footsteps made their way up the stairs.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
She had to fight to stop the fear from paralyzing her.
Thud. Thud. Pause.
She counted in her head. He was halfway up.
Would hiding do any good? Could she hide from them this time?
Thud. Thud. Thud.
She had to make a decision, had to do something.
Frantically, she slid down over the other side of the mattress, folding herself into the narrow space between the bed and the wall.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
He’d reached the top step.
She held her breath, waiting for the next sound, but nothing. Silence.
What was he doing?
Her head started to buzz. Her pulse pounded until she worried she wouldn’t be able to hear him over the sound of the blood roaring in her ears.
Had he gone? Had she been granted a reprieve?
When she was sure she couldn’t take another second, when she was certain that crying out and giving herself away would be preferable to this interminable uncertainty, she heard him turn and take a step toward her door.
Trembling, she squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back tears, and tried to think what to do.
Thud… Thud… Thud…
He was almost there.
He was coming for her.
She had to do something. She would not let them terrorize her like this, not in her own home!
The footsteps stopped. He was right outside the door.
She peeked up over the edge of the bed. Watching. Waiting.
The door knob jiggled.
Had she locked it?
It started to turn.
Never taking her eyes from the slowly rotating door handle, she snaked her hand up the side of the nightstand. Groping blindly in desperation, she felt her hairbrush, a pillow bottle, her reading glasses… Nothing of use, no weapons, nothing with which to defend herself.
She was out of time. The door swung open on silent hinges. A black figure filled the doorway, almost blocking the weak light from the hallway, his features obscured by shadows.
She felt a shudder pass through her entire body, had to consciously stop herself from passing out from the terror.
The figure stood there, unmoving. He seemed to be surveying the room. After what felt like minutes, she gathered her courage and rocketed to her feet. On the way up, she grabbed a random object from the nightstand and flung it wildly before dropping back down to her hiding place to watch.
The glass of water she’d thrown smashed into the wall beside his head, shards of glass flying everywhere as water rained down.
He jumped and she was somewhat gratified to see him falter and take a step backwards. He quickly seemed to regain control, however, and squared his shoulders.
His voice was deep, but quiet. She covered her ears against it.
“Emily,” he repeated, louder this time.
She would not listen. She would not listen.
“Emily,” he said her name a third time. “You do not belong here. This is not your home any long—“
At this, she felt a rush of rage rising up inside her.
Not her home any longer?!
She rose and this time snatched up at the lamp. With a yank, she pulled the cord from the wall and flung the light directly at his head.
He ducked just in time and it flew over him to crash to the hall floor.
She heard him gasp. He was afraid. The tables had turned. He had no power over her. She was no longer scared, she was furious.
How dare they? How dare HE?!
He tried one last time, but his voice quavered.
“You do not belong here! You must leave! THE POWER OF CHRI—“
She called upon her rage, her fright, the unfairness of it all and, with all her strength, she summoned her force from across the room to slam the door shut, bashing him in the face, knocking him to the ground, cutting him off mid-sentence in a yelp of pain and terror.
She heard a muffled curse from behind the closed door, heard him scramble to his feet, heard his footsteps fleeing down the stairs as he called to his partner that they had to get out of there.
Heard, with a frisson of satisfaction, the front door slam behind them, and knew she had driven them away yet again.
This was her home. She was staying.