With his eyes glued to the shadow creature, Kevin whispers to Jenn, “What the hell is that thing? Have you ever seen one before?” When he looks back at Jenn, he sees the fearful expression gone and now replaced by what appears to be relief. This strikes him as odd, but he doesn’t ask her about it.
Jenn nods her head slowly. Kevin starts to ask another question but Jenn shakes her head slowly and puts a finger to her lips. Kevin figures that she is trying not to make any noticeable movements as she cuts her eyes toward the creature. Kevin slowly turns his head the same direction and notices that the creature is still as a statue behind the gate. He can’t tell if he is looking at the front or back of its featureless form. He can only assume that it is looking in their direction. Kevin remains frozen and holds his breath a very long time. He holds it as long as he can before having to slowly and silently let it out. He almost gasps and puts his hand over his mouth after the creature suddenly turns and starts walking toward the right side of the cabin.
Kevin looks back at Jenn who is already looking at him with a very concerned look. Kevin gives her a ‘what now?’ look to which Jenn responds by silently mouthing the words, ‘Don’t move’. They wait in the dark until they hear the sound of the large centipede rustling away. Kevin’s legs feel stiff from standing in the same position for so long. He imagines them breaking in several places, like the shadow creature’s legs, once he starts walking.
They creep up the path toward the gate. Kevin starts to open the gate as Jenn veers off to the right. He hears Jenn hiss and looks over to see her shaking her head vigorously. She beckons for him to follow her as she continuous on the outer perimeter of the fence. When they can see that nothing or no one is in front of the cabin, they continue around the fence a little faster. They probably could have slipped between the horizontal members of the farm-style fence, but the tight fit might prove fatal if something were to come after them.
When they make it to the front gate, which is already open, Jenn stops and stares down the road as if she is waiting for something.
“Come on inside,” Kevin whispers urgently.
Jenn starts speaking in normal voice that startles Kevin because of how loud it sounds, “You go in, and lock the door. I’ll be there in a minute.” She starts to walk down the dirt road.
“I’m coming with you,” Kevin says right before he starts feeling dizzy.
“No! You need to go inside,” Jenn says enunciating each word as she waves him off like a child.
Kevin wants to argue but his brain feels a little scrambled at the moment. He walks to the porch, occasionally looking back at Jenn who is now walking very fast down the dark road. Kevin unlocks the door, goes in, and locks it back as instructed. Kevin is a little worried about her for a second before reassuring himself that she always seems to do quite well on her own. He looks at the door frame and chain and thinks, It’s not professional-looking work, but Jenn did a pretty good job fixing it. Kevin notices that the house is much cleaner than it was before he went to sleep. There’s no way Juan did this. Then he remembers that he hasn’t seen or heard from Juan since he woke up. He walks over to Juan’s bedroom door and knocks.
“Get your lazy ass up, man!” Kevin says sternly.
He puts his ear to the door and listens. He doesn’t hear a sound, so he knocks again and waits. There is still no sound that he can hear through the door. Kevin starts getting a little concerned, but figures Juan might have his headphones on. Even then Juan will usually yell something derogatory when we bang on the door. He knocks again and listens, but there is still no sound coming from the other side.
“OK, dude. You’re starting to worry me,” Kevin says and pauses before saying, “NOT!”
Kevin tries to hide the uneasiness in his voice. He looks toward the bathroom but doesn’t check it when he remembers that Juan’s bedroom door only locks from inside when the door is already closed. He tries to twist the knob again to confirm.
“I must have caught you in there pulling on your noodle to pictures of sea mammals. I guess I’ll see you when you get done. Just wash your hands first.”
Kevin is worried, but decides not to break another door. He goes to the kitchen to look for something to eat. He looks in the pantry and finds Raman Noodles, canned beans, sardines, and cereal among many other assorted items that don’t necessarily make a meal together. He chooses cereal and uses the last of the milk.
As Kevin sits there, his mind starts to wander. He thinks about a recurring dream that has never made any sense to him.
In the dream, he is near a river that is flowing quickly. He can only guess that he is a toddler because a nearby folding chair is so large, he would have to climb onto it to sit down. Sitting near him on the shore is a man whose face looks like a blur that has wispy smoke trails the same color as his skin rising from it. An older little boy, with a face having the same smoky blur to it, is standing near the man. They are talking loudly to each other in a language that sounds like it should be English, but very few of the words are recognizable.
After a while the man grabs the little boy by the jacket. There is more gibberish yelling until the little boy pulls away and falls down. He then gets up and starts running along the river bank. The man chases after him yelling something loudly. He then finds himself walking toward the river and following them along the bank before the dream fades. It always seems to end there, although he feels like the original dream was much longer.
After breaking from his daydream, Kevin looks down and notices that his cereal is completely soggy. How long have I been sitting here? Before he can take a bite, the click of a lock makes him turn his head toward the front door. He watches it, waiting for Jenn to come in, but realizes that the sound came from another part the house after he hears a door creak open. Juan’s bedroom door is not visible from the kitchen, so Kevin yells in that direction.
“Damn, man, I thought you were in there dead!”
No answer or any other sounds come from the room. “Juan?”
Kevin gets up and slowly walks toward the bedrooms. Jenn’s door is closed and he can’t see Juan’s door until he rounds the corner. “Juan?” he calls again while trying to keep his voice from sounding shaky. He pushes the door open, allowing the dim light to slowly reveal what is in the room. When the door is almost completely opened, he can see Juan sitting on the edge of his bed, facing away with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He is unnaturally still and doesn’t seem to notice Kevin entering the room.
“You OK?” Kevin asks cautiously.
The room is mostly dark and Juan still sits on the bed without moving a muscle. Kevin creeps over to him and reaches out to touch him, but before he can get close, Juan puts his hands down and quickly turns around in a jerky, robotic manner. Kevin shrieks at what he sees. Where Juan’s face should be is a hole of pure darkness that is darker than any night sky could ever be. On the outer edges are thin, dark tendrils extending away from the hole as they wave ominously.
Copyright 2018 Darrell Winfrey