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By Amory Cutting

windows in a living room

The deep winter months were weeping with their crystal sorrow and for a moment’s respite from toiling life I sought desperately to borrow a vision of blithe from the bright and boisterous television screen, I was now settling down in the living room and I breathed in the radiating vapid scene. For the first half-hour, I was unencumbered by the thoughts of what the return to mundane reality would bring and so I sat and hummed to a holiday hymn.

The windows in my home resembled something of a church, too high, and though I had no protest and no real opinion on the matter I had hoped my mother would have installed roller shades or some remedy from the outside peering in. I always felt that passersby were too intimate, it was unnerving to meet a stranger’s gaze as I would dine. The kitchen though was hidden deep within, but the dining room looked out on the back and the front yard, no drapes, nothing cloaking the interior, so bare.

Then out of the corner of my eye something black and ominous became vaguely apparent. I stood with a start to my full-frame, lurking towards the window to catch the uninvited figure. But upon my approach I noticed nothing, and nothing encroached. I let the balls of my feet and the heals right behind them stalk across the beige carpet towards the door where a light switch would blaze to life the porch light savior, faithful the beacon would tell what had jarred me and bound tight my soul. Weary and startled, peering through the tiny window adjacent to the door my right eye first caught sight of the darkness now brightened by the porch light outside the door. The left slowly glimpsed a similar scene but now all that was very noticeable was the blizzard illuminated by the porch light beam. And looking about it was nothing but my imagination run wild and so I moved to the couch and etched on my face a cheek twitching smile.

For the latter half of the dragging minutes of the hour, I lay on my back with feet up on a small table, feeling the evening was not entirely soured. Innocuous entertainment would drag a rake across my brain, and I would laugh or simply conjure a feign. As time became nothing and nothing was set to time, I slinked to a stand to stretch and creek my neck from its stiffened vine when once again I was jostled wide awake by the noise of a pine beneath a foot pressed so to break. Motionless I couldn’t bring myself to look out to the luminescence of the streetlamp and the glowing thick drops of snow. Instead, I moved surreptitiously to the kitchen and found a knife to brandish to any characters sulking about seeking to exasperate my angst and my woes. My bare feet suctioned by faint sweat left prints across the hardwood floors leading from the kitchen to the dining room to the gold-plated transition that separated the wood from the carpet dividing the floors.

Breathing deep I moved to the living room where the lights flooded every corner of the house, and there outside of the huge window stood a figure not a meter from the window, standing where no pedestrian should. The light of the house cast no shadows for recognition and the lamp of the street was too far to lend any assistance in the matter. I was facing some faceless foe and found myself frozen with terror at the sight. I could bring myself to no other action but to move about the room waving the knife. The figure did not move nor breathe hot breath into the darkened night which rattled my bones and pimpled my skin with cold fright.

I don’t recall the moments that passed between the blinks or cold sweat terror, but somehow in some way, the figure was gone and no longer at the window. I took in a sigh of relief. I sat pondering my cowardice for what seemed like hours in the warmth of the living room glow and warming my arms in a self-embrace and then looked at the clock ticking at an incessant pace. The time was midnight. I looked about the front and back yards with impunity trying to capture my lost bravery. I shut the lights at long last and descended to the basement to my room so my bones could collapse. The darkness of my room held me in its safety, but something kept a specter at my side that was trying to bait me. I could not help but move to the tiny window looking out to the backyard. I climbed atop a bureau just beneath the window. Slowly I pushed aside the cardboard blocking out the view of the lawn leading to the forest.

And there in the gleaming moonlight blanketed in snow was the figure of darkness at the base of the woods terrifying and motionless once more. I slipped from the shelving and landed hard on the cold basement floor. Swiftly I adjusted the cardboard barricade as it had been once before. I would not sit petrified I told myself this time. I put on layers of clothes, strong boots and laced them uptight. I reached into my pockets, I often carry note cards for school and a small pocketknife. I kept the accouterment buried in my pockets not wasting a moment on trivial things, but the knife I kept clenched in my palms sweaty cling. I made my way up the dark basement staircase, flicking on lights. The kitchen, the dining and the living room too, I drenched in warm light glow and I was ready for a chase to ensue. To take on this apparition outside who was tormenting me so, and soon the wooden floor and the sliding door all quickly slipped behind me.

Beneath the moon, and speckled by stars, the royal blue of the cold earth was increasingly exaggerated, and my breath was thick as it billowed and drifted to a fall. And there it was, the figure that had haunted the night. My legs furiously began their tread through the gathering snow and the figure let loose to the woods to the unknown. The chase seemed to last only minutes into the deep of the thicket. And then as abruptly as it began it was over and the figure was nowhere to be found. I searched through the branches, through the thick wooded veil, but could not find it, the search was a perplexing aggravating fail. Then tumbling to the ground, tripped by something buried by the snow all around I found the figure resting as if dead not breathing, not a sound. The figure was wearing a familiar garb and was face down. The body seemed it had been there for some time, not the moments between a chase but longer, much longer. I backed away to take in the motionless corpse, check my surroundings, my breath and my pulse. Something was intimidating once again. Something about the body was reminiscent as a friend. And there in the palm peaking just above the fallen and burying snow was tip of a knife and in the pocket peering out a white ghastly note card. I shuddered and backed away, and a multitude of thoughts cascaded through my bones. My face grew distorted as my mind reeled to conceive this body laying before me. I looked to my house with its lights burning bright and felt surer that this tingling running down my spine was foolish, and my thoughts of home and forgetfulness of this figure would drive my furor to walk away and not look back on this unthinkable horror. I could report it to authorities let them deal with this atrocity. But looking to the ground behind me my eyes widened with a new terrible quandary, the body that had once been laying there, right there not a foot from me was now gone and lost to eternity.

I looked all about for traces of footsteps. Perhaps the figure was not dead, perhaps it was a figment of my imagination, perhaps, perhaps… but all my searching seemed in vain as the snow continued to bury evidence of any footsteps and any life that traipsed about in the chilling moonlight.

So, sullenly I trudged to the base of the woods, to the entry near my home. But as It became nearer, I noticed a peculiar sight, the sliding door was closed. The lights of the house were illuminated but the sliding door was closed. I walked around the house to the front and gazing through the window that Is where my terror and sorrow collapsed about me and compounded. For the television was once more a bright and boisterous screen, and I was settling down in the living room to breathe in the radiating vapid scene.

Category: Featured, Short Story