by Haley Kral

by Melody DobbsKatie waved to her boyfriend, Jake, trying to signal him to get his car out from in view of the house. He had the headlights turned off, but there was still a chance of her parents hearing the engine or looking out to see the late model sedan. She fit the key in the lock and attempted to open the back door as quietly as possible.

She slipped inside, shutting the door behind her as softly as possible. All of the lights were off in the house, so there was a chance her parents had already gone to bed. If she could just make it to her room without waking them, she might be able to convince them she had been there for awhile. As far as her parents knew, she had just gone out to a movie with a group of friends; which she really had. It had just started earlier than she told them and, after, she had driven to the park with just her boyfriend. They had lost track of time making out on the merry-go-round, but there was no way she was admitting that to her parents.

As Katie skulked through the kitchen, the glow of the microwave clock shone 1:03 AM. She cringed; over an hour late. If she got caught now, she was dead. She toed off her flip-flops in hopes of making it across the living room and up the stairs without making a sound.

The living room was dark except for the porch light shining through the front window. Katie let out a relieved breath. If her parents weren’t sitting up, she was probably in the clear. As she mounted the first step to head up stairs, something tugged her attention toward the living room. She surveyed the darkened room, trying to think what had caught her attention. It was so dark. Her parents normally left the lamp beside the couch on for her when she stayed out late. She glanced to the lamp, shaking her head. As she turned back to the stairs, a car passed outside, its headlights illuminating the room. There was someone on the couch.

She turned back and walked around the corner of the couch, a slight frown creasing her brow. It wasn’t just one someone; both of her parents were sitting side by side. She mentally began to prepare an excuse elaborate enough to explain her tardiness, but not so extreme that they would suspect she was lying.

“Mom, Dad, you have to let me explain.” Katie started to plead her case. She stopped, surprised that her Mom hadn’t already begun a lecture, like she normally would. Instead, her parents continued to sit totally still, as they had since she spotted them. The pale light of the porch light filtered into the room, casting eerie shadows across the faces of her parents. Something was wrong. They both sat straight-backed, staring ahead without expression. Neither one had even looked at her. They must be really mad.

“I know we’ve talked about me being late and, seriously, it wasn’t my fault. Jake’s car wouldn’t start.” Still, her parents did not react. “I was going to call, really, but my cell phone died.” Katie hoped that wasn’t too much.

The teen studied the unblinking faces of her parents and her anxiety over possibly getting grounded changed to tightness in her chest. She felt her breath tremble just a bit and tried to ignore the warning her instincts were giving her that something was very, very wrong.

“Am I grounded?” Katie muttered. There was still no reaction from the couple before her. “Mom, I really am sorry. We just lost track of time. I didn’t realize you’d be so upset.” She watched for any reaction, but her parents just stared past her, as though she didn’t exist.

A gust of wind rattled the wind chime on the front porch. From the corner of her eye, Katie noticed the front door move. The wind had pushed the door in, as though it had never been closed. She glanced back at her parents and noticed no reaction. She walked over to the door slowly, glancing out toward the porch. She didn’t see anyone outside that could’ve opened the door, so it must have been left open. Before she closed it, Katie leaned out to glance around the front of the house. The house was situated on the corner of their street and, as far as she could tell, both sides looked empty. Satisfied that there wasn’t a murderer or something lurking outside, Katie tried to shut the door. She pushed, but the door wouldn’t seem to fit into the frame. She fit her palm against the front of the door and pushed. She noticed that, just above the handle, the wood felt rough. She squinted in the dark to make out what was wrong. In the feint light, it looked as though the door had been scratched. Katie pulled the door open an inch, allowing the light from outside to slide across it. Her breath caught. Something or someone had gouged three deep grooves into the edge of the door, crumpling the wood.

Katie looked over her shoulder to her parents, still motionless on the couch. She felt a prickling around her eyeballs and her breath had become harsh. “What happened?” she whispered harshly, not truly expecting an answer. She released the door and spun around, as though expecting someone to be waiting behind her. There was no masked serial killer with a knife or snarling werewolf. It was just her living room; normal as ever. She crept back over to stand in front of the TV, right in the line of her parent’s dead stares.

“What’s going?” Kate questioned softly, silently praying that her Mom and Dad would snap out of this and her fear would be for nothing. She shook her head, confused, and noticed that a cold sweat had broken out across her forehead. She swallowed hard and decided to turn on the lamp, hoping to shed some light on whatever had happened here. Katie reached a trembling hand towards the pull cord on the lamp. She clicked the light.

Like robots, both parents snapped their heads in her direction, causing her to jump. Their bodies still sat stiffly facing forward; only their heads had rotated her way. In the yellow lamplight, Katie took in her parents’ faces. Their expressions looked totally blank, devoid of emotion. Katie’s eyes skimmed past her mother’s mouth, set in a grim line, before reaching her eyes. Her mother’s eyes, normally a warm chocolate color that Katie saw reflected in the mirror each day, shown an unnatural, neon green. She stumbled back a step involuntarily. She snapped to her gaze to her father and saw the same inhuman green stare.

“Mom? Dad?” Katie whimpered, her eyes filling with tears.

Finally, her parents gave their first reaction since she had arrived home. Perfectly timed, like two automatons, a slow, predatory smile crept over each familiar face.

A scream building in her chest, Katie did the only thing she could think to do; she turned and ran.

Category: Fiction, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student