By Chef MrBaubas
I’ve never been a social person. If asked, I could name all of my acquaintances in a single breath and count my friends on one hand. Not to say that I hate people. I love people. It’s just that I get really bad anxiety when it comes to talking. If any aspect of a conversation catches me off guard, if I haven’t mentally prepared myself, then I shut down. I can’t think no matter what I do. It feels like my head is weighted and I’m drowning in burning sand.
I’ve tried fixing this problem before. Believe me I’ve tried. I’ve given it a shot at everything from self-help books and meditation to exposure therapy and the ever present advice, “Stop being a pussy.” Nothing works. As you can imagine I’ve messed up more than my fair share of job interviews because of this. In fact the only job I managed to get was a night janitor’s position at my old high school. It made sense really, I knew the building so the learning curve was easy and since I was there at night I didn’t have to worry about running into anyone. It was a perfect fit.
Due to my work schedule however, I usually found myself awake at night even when I wasn’t working. My whole circadian rhythm was messed up.
So there I sat, alone in my one room ground floor apartment at 3 am on a Friday. I finished work early and had the whole weekend to myself. So I settled in with a movie and was winding down when there was a knock at the door.
I quickly muted the movie and turned. It was a faint knocking that I almost didn’t hear. I had to sit in silence just to make sure that I actually heard something. It knocked again. Someone was definitely there. I briefly questioned whether I should answer. The low intensity of the knock made me uneasy. The only reason I could figure someone would knock on a door at 3 in the morning that softly would be to see if there were any dogs inside.
Freaked by this thought I turned the television off. I didn’t want even that slight ringing sound a muted television makes to escape.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the sudden dark. The white of the front door stuck out from the shadows casting a ghastly glow while I sat. The knocking continued. It wouldn’t cease. The gloom around me shifted with imagined horrors as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Though the door was closed I couldn’t help but feel watched. Either someone knew that I was home, or they were insane. I didn’t want to know but the knocking was incessant. I had to check it out.
I crept through the dark careful to avoid making the floorboards cry out. Once I’d made it to the door I carefully placed my hands on either side of the wall and leaned forward. I had to avoid putting pressure on the door or I’d give myself away. As I leaned toward the peephole the knocking came right by my head. As close as I was it sounded like thunder in my ears. It took everything I had to keep from shouting out. Slowly I lifted the brass latch over the peephole inching it with glacial speed so it wouldn’t squeak. When it was secure I allowed myself a deep breath. I had darkness to my back and uncertainty before me, I looked.
There on the other side of the door, in the dead of winter, stood a man who had managed to avoid making any footprints in the snow behind him.
Even in the dark I could make out the details on him. He was dressed in all white. Short sleeves and a hat with a black band on it. It took me a few seconds to realize what he was.
A milkman, but not quite.
His appearance was haggard. His clothes were filthy, stained with sweat and somehow streaked with dirt. The right leg of his pants was ripped to the knee and his belt was hastily fastened leaving it dangling about his waist. He looked like a 50s era milkman who was in a rush to get dressed.
The color was drained from his face and his yellowed eyes were gaunt as if sick. They were sunken in his skull with dark sagging bags. Yet in the middle of his forehead sat a perfect circle, dark in contrast to his pale skin.
He stood silently for a moment before taking his hat off. He ran a scraggy hand through greasy brittle locks then worriedly looked behind him. As he turned I saw the back of his head and instantly knew what the circle was. A large portion of it had been blown out, the entry in his forehead reciprocated in a grisly display of ripped flesh and shattered bone. Skin hung in tatters around the cavity and chunks of pink and red dripped out in gooey clumps. This was no burglar.
A gasp escaped my lips and he quickly turned. He knocked again, this time louder.
“Is someone there?” He asked nervously. “Can I come in?”
I pulled myself away from the door incredulous. This couldn’t be happening. I was just sleep deprived or something. This wasn’t possible. At least, this is what I tried telling myself. The growing lump in my throat however didn’t buy it.
“You’re home early,” his tone was different, confused. It was as if he was suddenly talking to someone else. “Why are you home so early?”
My breathing started to pick up and I slowly backed away from the door. I tiptoed away staring at the nocturnal blue glow coming from the still open peephole. A phone, I needed a phone.
He kept talking as his knocking grew louder. “Come on open the door already.”
I fumbled through the dark like a blind man until I reached the couch. I reached down and on the middle cushion my phone sat. I grabbed it and hit the screen unlock. Nothing. The phone wouldn’t come on.
“Why were you home so early? You shouldn’t be here.”
I pulled the battery pack out and put it back in, still nothing. Maybe I was hitting the wrong button because I couldn’t see? I flicked on a small lamp expecting the room to be illuminated. The lamp wouldn’t come on either. I tried another and was met with the same result, in fact nothing powered on.
“This isn’t what you think, just open up.” He jiggled the handle.
I sat in the dark watching the door shake. What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t call for help and there was only one way out. His voice was pained and he sounded impatient. I still get chills thinking about it. Why was he so nervous?
“Why are you doing this to me?” he asked angry. “Fine. I see how it is…” The knocking stopped.
Seconds stretched into agonizing minutes of silence. It seemed like time crawled on broken fingers as I sat there. Had he really gone? Nothing turned back on yet I couldn’t hear anything from outside.
When ten minutes had passed I got up to check the peephole.
I put my eye to the aperture and was met with a sight I dreaded. On the other side of the door the specter stood staring straight at me with a look of pure hatred. He slammed his fists on the door and started screaming as I fell back. The entryway shuddered under his assault and dust rained from the ceiling.
“I knew it!” he screamed in a shrill voice “You were hiding from me! Now open the door!”
The handle violently exploded into movement as he pushed and pulled. Furiously he beat on the door and it seemed the whole apartment came alive with noise.
“Open up! Open this fucking door damn it! I swear to god I’ll kill you!”
I scuttled away as fast as I could eventually backing into the side of the couch. I stared wide eyed as he bombarded the door like a raving beast. He was angry, beyond furious but he kept diverging, his voice switching from demonic to frightened.
“Why? Oh Christ why are you home so early!?” he nearly sobbed.
I could hear wood groan as the door started to give.
“Open this door! Open it! Open it! Open it!” each shout was followed by pounding.
I curled up in a ball quickly losing my mind. Nobody was hearing this. I was alone without a chance at help. He grabbed the handle with both hands again and pulled back and forth letting out a howl. The latch to the peephole flew up and down as it clattered against the wood noisily.
There was a final crash against the door and he began crying in frustration.
“Please!” I heard him say. “It’s not what you think!”
My eyes were shut tightly as he cried out. His voice was now pure fear. It sounded as if he was being murdered. “Don’t do this to me, I’m begging you please!” he was breaking down almost completely incoherent. Then a noise resonated that immediately caught my attention. It was a gun cocking.
A gun shot ripped through the air with the sound of bottled thunder. I could feel the pressure wave as if I was right next to the barrel. My head began throbbing violently and felt like I could throw up. There was a ringing in my ears as the smell of gun smoke wafted through the apartment.
There was no more banging. No more screaming or crying. The smell lingered for a moment before dissipating. I lifted my head and stared at the open peephole. The opaque light of dusk hung in the air as ceiling dust visibly filtered through it. It speared through the black of my home resting at my feet. My heart had long since leapt into my throat, but when that light was suddenly blocked out I swear I could taste the blood.
A malicious silence flitted through the air with the sound of heavy breathing. Then a voice cut through. It was a different voice this time, a cold voice. One that could have belonged to Hannibal Lector.
“Thanks for not letting him in.” It rasped.
The shaft of light returned and I heard the telltale crunching of snow as someone walked away. This time I did not get up to see who it was. Even when my lights cut back on and the migraine died away I stayed put. I don’t know what all of that was about but that second voice scared me deep in my bones. I don’t how I knew, but I could tell that as that voice was speaking its owner was smiling.