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Not Afraid of the Dark

Roy Dorman | Kim Peterson

For most, the absence of light can sometimes be a scary proposition. However, the absence of darkness where one expects to see darkness can also be disconcerting.

Though still a bit groggy from sleep, Jim Trumbell came to a quick and complete stop in the hallway of his apartment when he saw light shining out from under the closed bathroom door. He had gone to bed early, it was a work night, and had awoken at 1:15 because he had to pee.

Jim lived alone and rarely closed his bathroom door. He was standing there staring at that closed door, thinking that the only time he closed the door was when he had company over. Considering the rather frightening immediate circumstances, that these thoughts were going through his head at all had to be some sort of denial reflex taking over. Jim definitely did not want to deal with whatever this bathroom light situation might turn out to be.

He took two more steps and peeked from the hallway around the corner into the kitchen. From where he stood frozen, looking through the kitchen into the living room, he could see the front door was standing open about three or four inches. The sound of the toilet flushing broke him from his reverie and he quickly and quietly stepped into the broom closet in his kitchen, being very careful not to let the door make a sound as he closed it. He stifled a whimper when the thought came to him that he might not be alone in the dark closet. He waited and listened, barely breathing; hoping whoever it was would now just leave. Even if they took something, he wanted them to get out and let this be over. He would get the locks changed in the morning and be sure to get some kind of sturdy deadbolt.

After a few minutes, he heard the front door quietly close. Jim waited a little while to be sure and then came out of his bolt-hole. Still scared to death, his heart beating wildly, he walked through the kitchen, into the living room, and checked the front door. It was closed, but not locked. Jim remedied that immediately, locking the door with the key he kept on a nail by the door. He knew he should call the police, but what would he say? Somebody came into my apartment and used my bathroom while I was sleeping? And flushed the toilet when they were finished?

Though he felt weirded out and also somewhat violated, Jim made the trip to the bathroom that had been delayed. Nothing in there seemed out of order, but there was a very faint sweet odor that seemed familiar to him. He peed and shut off the light.

Though he knew it would be impossible to get back to sleep, he headed back to his bedroom but pulled up short when he saw his bedroom door was now closed. Worse yet, his bedroom light was on; he could see light coming through the small space between the door and the floor. He tiptoed back through the kitchen and without thinking, turned the knob of his front door, momentarily forgetting that he had just locked it. He then felt a new wave of terror as he saw that the key was no longer on the nail. He was locked in! Looking over his shoulder, back through the kitchen, he saw light was now flooding the hallway; his bedroom door was open! The room swayed and Jim felt himself starting to faint. He struggled not to lose consciousness. Lying on his back on the floor in his hallway, Jim felt a hand firmly grab his right ankle.

He now recognized that smell from the bathroom; here in the hall it was stronger. It was the perfume that his wife had liked to wear. But she was dead; he’d buried her in the woods a month ago. He had convinced friends, family, and her workplace that she had told him that she needed a break from their relationship. He said that she’d packed a few things and left. Jim had filled two of her suitcases with some of her things and had taken them to the land fill. The rest of her things he left in her drawers and on her side of the closet, telling people who asked that he was sure that she’d be back soon.

As he was being dragged down the hall to his bedroom, he looked into his wife’s face. It was covered with dried blood, dirt, rotting leaves, and was twisted in a grimace of hate. She was wearing one of her dresses that had been left in the closet and had obviously put on some of her perfume. That’s where the smell was coming from; it was her perfume but it was mixed with an underlying smell of decay. “I came back; I came back for you,” her voice rasped in a tortured whisper. “I’ve missed your touch.”

Jim then lost the battle to try and remain consciousness; he slowly drifted into darkness as he felt his wife struggling to hoist him onto the bed.

About Roy Dorman

Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, The Story Shack, Theme of Absence, Near To the Knuckle, Cease Cows, One Sentence Poems, Spelk, Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals. Roy is currently the submissions editor at Yahara Prairie Lights.

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