John Barnett is a lover of fantasy and the macabre. Between working full time and writing for RavenLit he can be found dungeon mastering Pathfinder games, tinkering with Linux, or engineering the world's greatest bowl of ramen.
It is my first, and last day off. All I want is to be left alone.
The grind of customer service has me on my last straw. A straw I can see bending and fraying beneath me. If I get another call, from another idiot, declaring that their computer is fried because their clumsy asses kicked the plug from the wall I will scream. Perhaps more. I can’t tell at the moment. I am that frazzled. Day off though, relax.
I sink beneath the bubbles in my tub. Water plunges around my ears, soaking into my hair, and purging the stress from my skull. Warm water, this is salvation. If a better sensation exists I have yet to come across it. I push the long hair from my eyes as I emerge. Something grabs my attention. Shock passes over me. Was that the click of a door?
It’s my imagination. Something fell off the tub when I came up. That’s the only explanation. A quick search reveals nothing out-of-place, or on the ground. Shit. Maybe my cat closed the bedroom door? Clumsy thing.
With a heavy sigh I release the stopper. So much for a relaxing soak. I step out of the tub and towel off. Wrapping the towel around myself like a short dress I step out of the bathroom. The lights are off so I flick the switch. “Little Cthulu, you in here?” There is no response, and the door is closed. A cool breeze catches me off guard. I whirl around to have my heart explode. My window is open. I never open my windows.
My first reaction is to dash over and slam the window shut. I stop midway. If a killer is here, yes I have decided it is a killer no one would rape me I’m far too boyish and ugly for that, then they would want to distract me. I slow my breathing. It takes some effort, but these are skills you learn in my line of work. If there were a killer skulking about in my room I’d be able to hear them before they got to me. I back myself against a wall thinking it will give me a better view, and wait.
The seconds stretch like hours. This unnerving feeling comes over me. I’m not certain what it is, but any hairs on my body that didn’t make me look like a pin cushion before are now needle straight. It’s quiet, too quiet. The sound from the street below should be intolerable with the window open. Nothing. An overwhelming curiosity to see if the world has ended takes hold of me. I fight it, tooth and nail. Something beyond strange is going on.
I edge along the wall scanning the room. Nothing seems out-of-place. My bed is still pristine, all my cute pictures of Little Cthulu are arranged along my dresser and walls, even my yoga ball is where I left it after my work out. I make it to the side of the room opposing the window and look out. I can see a tiny silhouette but can’t make it out. I scan the room for comfort one more time, and strain my eyes to see.
My cat, my poor cat, is dangling by his throat. Something wet hits my chest. I know at once I am crying. Not your normal few tears in silent grief. The kind of crying that’s more like bawling only silent. I gasp and my chest heaves like a ship that has just run aground. Then I’m on the floor. Still screaming.
Something black darts across my vision. I scramble away in a terrified version of the crab walk. What in the nine hells is that? Its speed was inhuman. Aliens? Not only is a killer in my room, but it’s an alien? No, calm down. Be logical about this you’re just seeing things from all the stress and anxiety. If you just close your eyes it will all go away. Everything will be normal again.
I do it, and open my eyes expecting to wake from a nightmare. Instead I see is a cold pale face looking at me with this mischievous grin. It’s somewhere between the look a child gives his mother when he knows he’s done something wrong and thinks being cute will have it forgiven, and the look of a severely deranged person would give under a similar circumstance. I opt for the latter. I lock eyes with him. Something seems so welcoming in them. I find myself wanting to reach out and caress his well chiseled jaw, to throw myself upon him, to seduce him.
Wait, that’s not me. I’m not like that. I am in no way a two-cent whore that throws herself and every murderous psychopath that breaks into her apartment. His stare feels penetrating. I fidget as I feel his hand pull my hair. I didn’t see his hand move. He’s leaning in, too close for comfort, smelling my hair.
I break the stare hurrying to my feet. My towel comes loose, and I struggle to keep it covering my body. A part of me wants to let it go. No, don’t do it. I tell myself. He’s done something to you. Stay strong, stay focused. It takes all my effort, but I manage to get the towel back in place.
He stands in a fashion that is all elegance. For the first time I notice that he’s wearing a bowler and suit with red tie. They seem to enhance the color of his green eyes. He removes his hat with a bow. “You have the will of iron, my lady.” The accent is British.
Oh great, not only am I being murdered by a mad man, but he’s a damned foreigner. I slap him hard as he comes up. He replaces his hat and looks at me. There’s not a hint of anger in his eyes.
“That is a mistake I will only permit once, miss.”
He smiles. It has arrogance written all over it.
Maybe I can use that against him? I don’t know, but something about it sends chills down my spine. I find myself terrified again, backing away. I won’t die here. I bolt for the door. The handle sticks. Whirling around I say, “You did this.” Great miss obvious. Tell him what he already knows. Warmth spreads to my cheeks. I look away.
Don’t look away, watch him. It’s your only hope. “What are you doing here?” I say forcing myself to lock eyes with him.
He answers with a silent approach. I inch away towards the window. If I can jump out then I may escape from this injured instead of dead. What’s there to lose? I break for the window and leap.
Air leaves my lungs, followed by pain. I’m on my back, hands clutching my gut.
“Don’t be stupid Rachel. No one could survive that fall.”
His smile sends waves of anger over me. Rippling through me, mingling with the fear, enhancing my resolve. “Fuck you.” I spit at him. It lands between us.
“Feisty, I like that.”
He walks over and grabs my throat, and lifts me to my feet. His hands are ice. At least he’s not choking me. There’s just enough pressure to let me know who is in charge. I scratch at his wrists. This only makes his smile widen. He pulls me in. I grab his wrist and push. It’s no good. He reaches around me with his other arm, grabs my shoulder, drops the hand from my throat, and with a tug I’m spinning like a dancer. I stop in his arms. He dips me low, like in a romantic dance scene, and kisses me. It’s ice and fire all at once.
“Sweet dreams.” He says winking, and bites my neck. Pain shoots through me. I scream, only nothing comes out. The room spins in a whirlpool of color. Everything goes black.
The next morning Little Cthulu wakes me. We’re alive. I pull him under the covers to snuggle. My leg brushes against a glacier.
“Good morning, Rachel.”
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