The stillness of the house presses around me like warm, damp cotton. There’s something stale about the air, but I drink it anyway, savoring stagnation. I am alone at last in my solitary Mecca – free from the humming of monitors, the moist thwacking of buttons on controllers, the steady exhalations of dank breath from slack jaws, the creaking drag of fingers across screens (inaudible, so they say, to anyone but me).
The hush is as fleeting and intangible as a wafting smell that conjures a memory my mind can’t surrender – Moonflowers on the breeze when a white curtain flutters, a cotton nightgown in a cedar drawer, that first copper tang of fear. (Have you ever grasped for a memory that squats darkly just outside your awareness?)
Then I hear it – four muffled thumps. Footsteps?
I am alone, I reassure myself.
Of course I’m alone, I insist resolutely, my hairline prickling icily.
A shifting drag. A sound that is more than air escaping from an aging house.
My momentary repose is ripped away with finality as I feel a paralytic unease fly down my spine to pool in my feet. Liquid terror. Immobilizing.
I know what I need to do. With a mounting dread and a rattling sigh, I shake loose the invisible bonds that lash me to my fear.
Mother always laughed through a mouth full of canned meat and vermouth when I whipped open shower curtains or peeked cautiously under beds. “Paranoid. What are you afraid of? The bogeyman?” she would sneer, the sticky squash of her chomping teeth ricocheting painfully inside my head.
But before I can watch the day swirl down the shower drain in crimson rivulets, I must check. Before I can be certain that only my own face will stare from the mirror, I must check. Before I can pass the pale, cooling bodies stiffening on the floor and sink into their soft, empty bed, I must check.
I can’t afford to leave any survivors.
This story was inspired by two sources. The first – Trifecta’s weekly challenge. This week, the challenge was to write a response incorporating the 3rd definition of the word fly 33 – 333 words: