First Draft

Page 1

Page 1

The stillness of the moment would have taken a conscious soul aback, had any conscious soul been present to witness it. The curtains stood still, like fluted, stone columns bordering the open window. There were no crickets or cicadas outside, nor cars nor raccoons. This was the witching hour, and the world was bewitched. The only suggestion that the scene on display wasn’t a photograph was the slow meandering of the crystal moonlight across the wall opposite the window. And, perhaps, the ever-so-subtle twitching of Benjamin’s foot – paired at times with a faint cooing sound from behind his closed lips. The blissful peace of the moment was truly wasted on the sleeping world.

Yet all moments must come to an end. And a moment as still as this could easily have been upended by an act as subtle as the flutter of a moth’s wing – though what inevitably did bring the scene to a close was, when compared to the flutter of a wing, more akin to a grenade discharging, just beyond the nearly-closed bedroom door. For from within the narrow sliver of black – the black expanse of the halls and rooms of the house which lay beyond reach of the moon’s glow – emanated the most menacing of sounds: the singular creak of a floorboard.

When the sound had reverberated through the hallway, down the stairs and into the past, the peaceful stillness of the moment did not return. For now, there was a new awareness – that something was stirring, just beyond the bedroom door.

Benjamin’s head twitched to the side. He faintly murmured. His foot twitched again, and then his finger, before he again returned to his statuesque state. He breathed deep – and as he did, the narrow, vertical sliver of black that stood between the door and the doorframe grew wider, though only enough to be noticed by someone who already understood what was soon to occur. Ben’s slow, silent exhale procured no responsive movement from the door panel. But moments later, he breathed deep again. And again, the black sliver grew wider. Whatever it was that stood on the other side of the door panel saw no urgency. It clearly knew – it was inevitable.

As the door slowly heaved for the third time – again in cadence with Benjamin’s inhale – one of the old hinges creaked. Or rather, it popped, as door hinges often do when being opened in a clandestine manner. Ben jostled, muttered to himself, and smacked his lips. He was lying on the knife’s edge between unconscious ignorance and the sudden, unpleasant awareness that he was being hunted. From the hallway, a subtle fury of scratching sounds – like a dozen dinner knives gingerly clicking into the hardwood floor – again reverberated into the darkened void, before all once again fell silent. Benjamin murmured one more time, but then soon relaxed his body and drifted deeper into his darkened slumber. In the complete silence, a pasty shadow in the hallway, just barely visible against the obsidian black of the crack of the opened door, drifted into view of the bed. And centered within the nauseating shadow was a dark circle, which was blacker than the surrounding darkness of the hallway. A phantom, it silently rose from its position just inches above the floor, up to the top of the door frame. Not a sound did it make. The black, shimmering circle was transfixed on Benjamin’s motionless, hapless body. It glared down at him with patient malice.

Benjamin breathed in deep. The pale shadow vanished from the crack of the door, and again the faint clicking of dinner knives cluttered the silent air. Somewhat delayed this time, the door yet again heaved open, ever so slightly. And in stillness, whatever it was that lay beyond waited for Benjamin’s next inhale.

This continued on for well beyond an hour. The shimmering pane of moonlight shifted to the far side of the room and then slowly shrank into a sliver of silver, in a process that curiously mirrored the the widening column of black of the now nearly-open bedroom door.