by Robbie Atienza
There is something in the walls. I can feel it. Sometimes, I sense that I’m being watched, observed, like a fish in a glass bowl. These last few months, it’s as though there’s a sadistic presence within the house, tapping at the glass to elicit a response for its own amusement. My fiancé, Richard, doesn’t seem to notice. He tells me I’m just being paranoid. I think he’s starting to think I’m crazy. Maybe I am crazy.
It started about three months ago, the night Richard proposed. We came home from our date to find that the front door of our house had been kicked in, leaving splinters across the foyer. When the police arrived and told us it was safe to go in, we took inventory of what we lost. That’s the funny thing. Nothing was missing. Every valuable accounted for, every important document secure. The police told us that the would-be burglar must’ve gotten spooked before he got the chance to rob us, but I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t sleep that night. The image of that sinister, black footprint on our broken door imprinted itself in my mind.
As the weeks went on, I started hearing sounds at night. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I would hear coughing, metallic clanging, sometimes even my own name. I would shake Richard awake and beg him to check. In a drowsy voice, he would say something my ex-husband always used to say: “You’re lucky you’re so beautiful.” He’d go downstairs and a few minutes later, he’d come back to bed and tell me it was nothing. That can’t be true. Several times, I tried telling Richard how I can’t take another minute in this house, how we should just pack up and move, but he brushed it off, believing it to just be pre-wedding jitters.
Yesterday, when we came back from grocery shopping, we found a dead canary in our bed. Its neck had been twisted almost all the way around. Its yellow feathers were speckled with blood and black powder. Richard did his best to console me as we waited for the police to arrive. Without any signs of forced entry, the best the police could do was deliver their signature “We’ll look into it.” When the police left, I pleaded to Richard that we spend not one more night in this house. He said that he empathized and that first thing tomorrow, he would buy some security cameras and new locks. I told him it wasn’t enough. Richard objected, saying that this was his father’s house and his father’s before him. He wasn’t going to let what he assumed was some neighborhood kid’s sick idea of a prank take it away from him. He urged me to stay and against my better judgement, I gave in.
A crash. A scream. I wake up. I instinctively turn to Richard but he isn’t in the bed with me. My heart drills at my ribs as I hear clattering and rumbling coming from the downstairs kitchen. Suddenly, the noises stop. God, what do I do? I turn on the bed lamp and reach for my phone, but it isn’t there. Only a black smudge.
“Richard?” I cry. “Are you there?”
I brace myself as I slowly walk down the stairs. I flip the light switches as I cautiously step through the shadowy house. When I reach the kitchen, flipping that last switch, I see my fiancé. His neck twisted almost all the way around. Before I can process it, I hear a hacking cough behind me. I turn around. It stands in the living room just outside the kitchen. Despite the lights being on, the man-like silhouette is darker than coal. The only features you can make out of the jet-black figure are his miner’s cap, his beady white eyes, and his rotted teeth.
“Carl?” I ask, paralyzed with horror.
“Honey…” the figure croaks. “I’m home.”
Read the editors’ questions for Robbie Atienza.
Robbie Atienza is a Filipino-American film and television major at LaGuardia Community College. He is a passionate storyteller who seeks to entertain audiences with his works, whether they be told on the screen, stage, or page. His inspirations include Stephen King, Martin McDonagh, and Quentin Tarantino. You can find him on Instagram @robbieatienza.
Image credit: “Canary Chic,” M.Shattock, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.