Friday, August 10, 2018

Reverse Haunting (No title yet) – Kevin: 1

by Darrell Winfrey

Kevin stumbles as he briskly walks down the dirt road toward the cabin that he has called home for the last month.  The laces of his left shoe briefly trail behind before snapping forward with each step.  He knows that stopping to tie it might be just as imperiled as stepping on it and falling.  Little by little, he moves closer to the comfort of the little cabin in the woods.  A quick glance behind him offers assurance that one of Them is not following.  The assurance is only temporary as he glances at the woods on either side of the road.  The foliage is as thick as the air which is made even more difficult to breathe by the large laundry bag he is carrying.

The road would not seem as long if his roommates had simply left the porch light on.  He would see the tiny beacon marking the end of the dark, lonely road.  The crescent moon is already behind the trees and doesn’t offer much assistance.  Passing the old, broken ‘Keep Out’ sign right before the last curve informs him that he has only about 200 yards of straight road to go.  The sign seems oddly placed until one sees that it marks a side trail that is now overgrown with underbrush, poison ivy and a tangle of vines.  This is only visible during the day.  The thought of which sends chills down his spine.  Due to what the world has now become, fear of the day is far more pervasive than fear of the dark, although the natural fear of darkness has not diminished.  Dawn is no more than an hour away and those very real and dangerous terrors start appearing before first light.

This portion of the road has a thick canopy that blocks even the midday sun.  He can barely make out his feet and the dust cloud he’s constantly refreshing.  He focuses back on the clearing ahead as he can now make out the shape of the cabin shrouded by the shadows of two large trees on either side.  The thought rolls around in his head, I’m going to get on to both of them about that light.  It should always be on!  He trudges on, seemingly in slow motion, as the cabin gets larger and more defined.

He eventually makes it to the gate and stone path that leads to the front door but then suddenly freezes.  He feels goosebumps on nearly every inch of his body.  Something large had just moved off to the right of the cabin.  The movement seemed really high off the ground, but not actually in the tree.  He stands there, eyes fixed on the spot.  If it is a person, they must be at least 8 or 9 feet tall.  His heart is racing.  He can hear the thumping within his ears.  Sweat starts to bead up and run down his brow.  Stay still as a statue.  He takes one cautious step and then another followed by another before freezing again.  He reaches into his pocket and slowly pulls out the keys.  He continues to stare at the spot for an eternity before moving again.  He is surprised at how quickly his lanky legs are carrying him toward the porch.  He loses sight of the moving darkness as he reaches the steps and clears them in a single bound.

Kevin stumbles and crashes into the door but still manages to put the key in the lock immediately after.  It’s the right key!  He unlocks one deadbolt and hopes he is just as lucky on the second one.  No chance.  It’s still too dark to see so he has to feel for the right one.  Why do I have so many keys?  Is that something moving again off to the right?  Not wasting time to look, he finds the right key and unlocks it.  When he twists the knob and opens the door, the chain catches it.  He beats on the door and yells through the crack, “Unlock the damned door!”  An authoritative tone is attempted, but his voice cracks at the end.  He reaches in trying to fumble with it, knowing there’s no way that can work.  “Unlock the door!” he yells again.  There are no sounds or movements inside.  He hears a rustling sound behind him and glances over his shoulder as his fear turns to anger and then back to fear again.  He takes a few steps and slams into the door with his shoulder.  One hit does nothing.  The second hit causes a slight pain to shoot through his arm.  

“Come open the fucking door!”

He almost hears a little voice say, Just kick it in.  He puts down his bag, steps back and gives the door a strong front kick which produces a sharp cracking sound as some of the wood splits a little.  The rustling behind him now sounds like footsteps dragging along the stone path.  He gives the door another kick that splinters the wood and pulls the chain anchor out of the wall.  The door slams hard against an inner wall and starts to close again.  Kevin rushes in and closes the door behind him.  Click.  Click.  The locks don’t slide as easily as before, but the door is secure.  My bag is still on the porch.  I’ll just tell Jenna to get it when she wakes up.

The room spins a little, causing him to lean his back against the door.  He closes his eyes and stands there to calm his nerves.  After few seconds he opens his eyes and takes a quick step away from the door on the off chance that something had followed him up the steps.  He looks around the room and takes in the scene.  The living room, which makes up most of the cabin, is in a little disarray.  A few plastic cups and food containers are on the floor.  A dried up spill is on one of the end tables.  It looks like the same spill from the night before.  A small pile of clothes rests on the floor a little too close to the kitchen area.  Both sinks are half full of unwashed dishes and the counters are a little dirty.  Kevin’s eyes track around the room and land on the couch where a pair of slim jeans are draped across the back of it.  They are partially hidden by the small hump that he identifies as his roommate Jenna.  She is wrapped in a sheet, curled up fetal and appears to be hardly breathing and quite undisturbed by his near destruction of the door.  Kevin also wonders why she had decided to get up and then fall asleep on his ‘bed’ again.

Stupid slut.

That’s one of his terms of endearment for her that he never says to her directly, although he says just about anything that pops into his head to everyone else.  The thought of waking her to chastise her about not opening the door crosses his mind and vanishes almost immediately.  Earlier they had had a heated argument before he left to collect the rest of his belongings from their previous residence.  He is in no mood for her silent fury right now.  Jenna scares the hell out of him sometimes.  He contemptuously stares at her while thinking that the only time she seems at peace is when she is asleep.  He glances at more of her clothes on the floor and reminds himself that the goth-like, hipster style of hers is more of a mask than something that is part of her.  He also knows that the mean, hostile exterior he sees is also a mask.  Jenna stirs momentarily and Kevin feels lightheaded again for a few seconds.  Then he hears a sound coming from another room.  Before checking it out, he remembers the porch light and turns it on.  As he crosses the living room, he feels like he’s floating in a fog.

The sound came from his other roommate’s bedroom which is directly across from Jenn’s with the bathroom in between.  Kevin didn’t put up a fight on room selection when they moved in.  Being confined to the cabin most of the time is claustrophobic enough, so sleeping in a tiny cell of a bedroom would be maddening.  He walks up to the doorway and finds Juan lying on the bed with a pair of old-school headphones on.  When they first met, Kevin was curious about Juan’s first name and found out that his birth name was actually Wan, but he changed it to Juan just to mess with people.  Juan is lying on his back wearing an extra wrinkled button-down shirt, athletic shorts and tube socks that look like he had been walking around outside.

“I guess banging on the door and yelling is not a sign that I really needed to get in.” Kevin said testily.

Juan stares at him for a few seconds looking only with his eyes but not lifting his head before replying, “I figured Jenn would let you in.”

“You know she sleeps like she’s in a damned coma.  I was out there way too long.  What if something was attacking me?”

Juan shrugs and then sighs before sliding the headphones partially off his ears.  Kevin can’t hear any music coming from them, but maybe he’s too far away.

“I’ll keep that in mind the next time you need to get in,” Kevin says angrily.

“I don’t go anywhere, dude,” Juan says matter-of-factly.  He pauses for moment before looking at Kevin quizzically and saying, “You weren’t out there long before you decided to ‘Hulk smash’ the door.  Had I gone out to open it I would’ve gotten busted in the face by it.”

The thought causes the hint of a wicked smile to briefly pass across Kevin’s lips.  Then he glances at Juan’s socks, which cause him to fume again.  Kevin pointedly asks, “Were you outside right before I came in?”

Juan lifts his head a little and curls his lip while looking more directly at Kevin.  He opens his mouth like he is about to say something, then closes it, and shake his head before letting it flop back down.

“I just thought I saw something huge on the side of the house,” Kevin admits, “Something was also behind me.”

“Is that your crude way of making fun of my weight?  Not amused or bothered.” Juan’s voice reveals a hint of irritation.  Juan is quite a large guy and possibly strong but no one would ever know because he spends most of his time sitting or lying in bed.

“Dammit.  I’m serious.  I just saw something close to the house.  Something big.”

“Reeeally?  How close?”  Juan feigns interest.

“Kiss my ass.  We don’t even know for sure that they can’t get in here.  There might be one in the house right now.”

“Might that have something to do with a door somebody broke?”

Realizing the conversation is pointless, Kevin ends it with a very thoughtful and witty, “Fuck you.  And try to leave the porch light on next time.”

Juan puts his headphones back on before Kevin can finish his suggestion.  Kevin thinks for a second about how unlikely it was that Juan was out there.  He probably would have seen and heard him come through the back door at the very least.  There’s also no way his fat ass could fit through his bedroom window.

Kevin turns around and is immediately startled by an eerie shadow standing in the doorway across from him.  He hears himself shriek loudly as he feels a chill.  The dark figure is completely still with something like a large cape or robe over its narrow shoulders.  Then it says in a slow, groggy voice, “You trying to scare the piss out of me?”  It was just Jenna standing in the doorway with her back to him and the sheet still wrapped around her.  She steps into the dim light of her bedroom.  “Wake me when the sun comes up if you’re still awake,” she requests.

Kevin nods without thinking about the fact that her back is to him.

“Thanks,” she says, “Good night or good day or… whatever.”

She had already turned the light off and closed the door before he finally says, “Good night.”  It is almost like they hadn’t been arguing earlier.  She never seems to hold onto things long or maybe she does and just buries it.  That might explain her occasional sociopathic behavior towards people.  That’s probably why she and Juan rarely talk to each other.  Neither one of them have an abundance of people skills, so maybe they are perfect for a world where it is incredibly rare and sometimes dangerous to encounter other people.  If Juan had heard his shriek, he made no comment about it.  He probably was laughing, but Kevin didn’t bother to look back at him.

He slowly drags his feet over to the couch and sits down.  His feet are strangely mesmerizing as he just stares at them for an unusually long time.  He doesn’t remember tying his shoe.  Shouldn’t they also be covered in dust?  He finally takes off his shoes and curls up on the couch in the same position Jenn was in.  She even left him an extra sheet to use.  Why did she ask me to wake her in the morning?  She never covers her ears when she sleeps.  Who could possibly sleep through that godawful sound of screaming and moaning all day?  He figures he will try to stay up long enough to wake her since Juan won’t do it because he is, well, Juan.  He grabs his shooting range earmuffs from the end table and lies there staring at the ugly flower pattern on the back of the couch.  He is sleep before the first ray of sunlight begins to illuminate the sky.

Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey