Just as he was starting to calm down, he heard a knock on the door. He turned around quickly, his heart beating like a drum, and took a few steps forward. He was having a hard time breathing now, but he didn’t notice that. If his fingernails were digging into his palms hard enough to draw blood, he didn’t notice that, either.
He could almost make out the person- his rational mind assured him that it had to be a person- behind the dirty glass window at the top of the door, but what he saw there didn’t make his heart calmer or his breathing easier.
He wanted to turn, turn around and run until he couldn’t hear the knocking on the door, but he also wanted- needed- to know for sure. Out there, in the woods, it hadn’t looked like a person. It had looked, in fact, a whole lot like something else. He could almost put a name on it, what it had looked like. Of course, his rational mind chimed in, it was dark, in the woods, and you’d just heard all of those stories a few hours ago. Of course, you would think something was stranger then it was. But then, why not just call out? Ask what they want?
He turned and walked into the bathroom, turning the light on as he went. He only had a minute until whoever was out there got tired of waiting and (broke down the door) turned and left. He turned on the faucet on the sink and splashed water, cold, he wouldn’t have warm until Wednesday, on his face. He glanced into the mirror for a moment and found he looked far older than the thirty-six he knew he was. It was as if he had aged twenty years in the past hour.
He spoke to himself for a moment, and his own voice made him jump. “There’s nothing wrong. Everything’s fine. You just need to answer the door, give out directions to the pizza place down the road, or maybe the mechanic, the tourist will thank you, they’ll be on their way, and that’ll be that.” Nevertheless, when he looked at his hands, they were still shaking.
Before he could change his mind, he reached out and turned the doorknob. He took another deep breath and pulled the door open. The first thing he saw was the light. It had been dark when he’d entered the house, less than ten minutes ago, he was sure, but now the sun was at its peak as if it had been there the entire time, and he had failed to notice.
The second thing he noticed was the blood. There wasn’t much, but there was enough for him to know it didn’t come from a nose-bleed or a scraped elbow. He wasn’t an expert, but from what he’d seen watching old C.S.I. reruns, the blood looked like it came from someone being stabbed. Someone that was standing in his doorway, maybe knocking on the door. Someone that wasn’t there anymore.
That was when his vision started to blur. He closed his eyes and covered them with his hands, but he could still feel the light shining into his eyes. He turned away and tried to walk into his house, to close the door, draw the shades, to get away from that light, but he tripped on something. Something else that hadn’t been there before. He barely noticed when he started to scream; by then his mind was racing too much to care about disturbing the neighbours.
He jumped to his feet and took off, as fast as he could, and slammed into the door to the kitchen. It almost separated from the frame. He puked on the floor, then collapsed into the corner, crying, no longer screaming, he didn’t have the strength.
. . . . . . . . . .
Time passed. Not much, an hour at most, but it seemed like an eternity to him. After he managed to calm down, or at least to push back the tide of insanity that was trying to overtake his mind, he thought about calling the police. It seemed like a good idea that was what you were supposed to do when something like this happens. But first, he had to go back there, to see it again. He didn’t know why, but that seemed more important than calling the cops, at least at the moment.
The sun hadn’t been shining earlier. The next thing he saw, or, more importantly, didn’t see, was the thing he’d tripped on earlier. There wasn’t even a blood stain on the carpet. He suspected that, if he had the strength to look, which he knew he didn’t, there wouldn’t be any blood outside his door, either.
Had there actually been any knocking? Had he even been in the woods earlier? He couldn’t trust his memory at the moment that was certain. He decided, whether any of that had been real, or not, he’d had enough of it for one day. For one lifetime, if he could be so lucky. He didn’t stop to clean up in the kitchen, he didn’t even examine the door. It could all wait until he had several hours of sleep, and the sun, the real sun, was shining brightly in the sky, before being dealt with.
He half expected sleep to elude him through the night, but he fell asleep within minutes of lying down. He didn’t have any dreams that night. He had no way of knowing that this would be the last night in a long time he didn’t wake up screaming.