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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

5 A.M.


In for some mild horror? Enjoy!


5 A.M.





5 a.m.
He walks into the bathroom. He didn’t close the tap right, of course it was dripping, hence the noise. He shrugs in relief and lowers the baseball bat – he had been robbed one too many times to sleep through unusual sounds – and turns round to go back to bed when he hears a distinct thud. He freezes. Robbers after all? The sound dies out slowly but leaves a frightening echo in his ear.
What was that?
He listens closely. The house is shrouded in absolute silence. Must have been nothing.
He goes out into the narrow hallway. The light bulb over his head starts to flicker, he should replace it. In the morning. He yawns. Everything in the morning.
With a bang the light goes out and leaves him and the hall in total darkness as he stands perplexed for a second. 
Then the racket commences. In the blink of an eye all the walls around him are quivering as if in an earthquake, paintings, pictures, they crash to the ground and above all other clatter is a relentless knocking, always that monstrous knocking, on the walls. Like someone was constantly going at them with a hammer or an axe. It was maddening!
He covers his ears with his hands and sinks to the floor, begging it to stop.
And it does.
Unsure if it is all really over, he gets back to his feet, constantly eying his surroundings as if he is suspicious of it. As if something, or someone, is out to get him.
He tries the light switch, it’s dead. “The morning.”, he whispers to himself.
He steps into the broken glass of one of the picture frames on the floor and curses at it. He picks it up. It is a picture of him alongside a smiling young woman – Anna, he sighs silently – on the beach. Where her face, that he knows so well, is supposed to be, there is a red smudge. He cut his foot, it must be bleeding. Such a shame...
He takes the picture with him to his room and locks the door, flinging himself onto the bed and wrapping his sheets tightly around him, hiding his face, like a scared child would. He falls asleep.
8 a.m.
The alarm-clock goes off peeping. What a horrible sound. It’s like a woman screaming. He reaches for the thing still half-dazed and sends it flying through the air. It hits a wall and falls apart. All is silent once again.
Five more minutes, just five more minutes...
He snoozes off again.
At 8.15 he finally rolls out of bed. Stretch. He grabs his bathrobe, hurled over a chair just like he left it, and makes his way downstairs, scratching his head.
He stumbles into the kitchen and yawns in his fist while he opens the fridge to reach for a carton of milk. Casually leaning on the opened doorframe, he drinks from the open box. Freedom.
Then his eye is drawn to the freezer next to him. He can’t immediately say what, but there is something not right. It makes so much more noise today than ever before, and it is somewhat different, some sort of, moaning sound. The thing seems almost... evil to him.
The fridge door falls shut with a bang. He startles even though he closed it himself. He is beginning to feel very uneasy and is about to quit the room, when there is a rattle behind him, clattering metal.
The freezer is moving, side to side. It is loosening the cable from the socket so it can come after him! He bursts out into a sprint, ready to run for upstairs. The fridge breaks free, it hounds him, knocking over and crushing everything in its path to get to him.
He can’t get out of the room!
He circles the tiny dining table, the possessed thing in hot pursuit. Knifes, cups, vases, all tumble to the ground with the shaking.
Then he hears another dull thud. Has the knocking started again?
No, there’s someone at the door.
Thank God! One of his neighbours must have heard the commotion and come to his aid!
He bolts for the door, nearly sliding past it on his slippers in his haste.
There is an old man, the landlord, wearing his bill-collectors pair of specs and holding a stack of papers.
His rent was late.
“Mister Val...”
“Come quick!” He practically drags the elderly man into his apartment. “There’s something going on in here, it’s the freezer, it’s gone haywire, come see, I’ll show you, it’s just un...”
“Unbelievable, yes quite!”
The man utters annoyed.
“I... I don’t understand.” The kitchen was completely normal, the freezer was where it was supposed to be doing exactly what a freezer does, freeze. There was not a single thing on the floor or out of place.
“Someone must have...” Picked everything up? Fixed it? He knows how that will make him sound. Worse enough as it is. The last thing he needs right now is for the people around him to take him for a freak. So he just said. “I swear it was acting funny.”
“There is nothing wrong with this freezer!”
The landlord walks over to it. For a moment his hand rests on the grip as if he was going to open it. His heart skipped a beat, then quickened pace as he watched him.
Then the man just lets go.
“Well, seems perfectly normal.”
He turns to face him with a serious demeanour.
“If this is another one of your silly ideas to postpone rent with complaints, you’ve got the wrong person!”
“No, no, of course not. Hold on a minute. I just forgot.”
He gives the landlord what he owns him. Leech...
The man nods. “Have a nice day!”
He makes a move towards him – anything not to have to stay in the kitchen by himself – but the chap just replies with “Don’t worry, I’ll let myself out.”
He hears the door close on him. Now what?
He doesn’t want to stay here, near that freezer that could go homicidal at any time, and looks at his pocket watch.
8.45, time to take a shower.
With one more suspicious glance at the kitchen, he returns to his bathroom upstairs, but locks the door just in case.
He’ll just order out, get a pizza or something today, perhaps invite some friends over. The crowd will scare the demon away.
7 p.m.

He stands in front of his wardrobe and picks a clean shirt and trousers, he’d be running out of those really quick now, he should learn how to do the laundry, and practices his best nonchalant “So what if she’s gone, I’m gonna live it up anyway” face. It has to be convincing.
He grimaces at his reflection. From the corner of his eye, he sees a vague spot appearing in the mirror. He jumps back a step. He sees his face, his eyes wide open, his mouth twisted in abhorrence. The spot takes over his face and blurs it. It takes the shape of another. It is a woman’s face now. Anna...
It is Anna, the way she looked at him, only twenty-four hours before, when she tells him she’s leaving. That was the last time he ever saw her. She was leaving for New York the very next day – today! – and she promised him she’d never return, and as of yet, she hadn’t.
Anna is leaving. Anna... left.
Suddenly all around him voices emerged, so many high voices, laughing, screaming, crying, all at once, it was horrible! The room around him begins to spin, things bang into each other in the air.
Why won’t it ever leave him alone?
He drops on his knees and puts his hands up in the air, pleading, protecting.
“Stop! Please, stop! Don’t do this to me! I didn’t do anything! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!”
He screams from the top of his lungs. The spinning stops, then the screaming, everything falls to the ground – thud, thud, thud – around him.
Shivering like a dry leaf in an autumn breeze, he tries to pull himself back together. He’s crying. Composure, mind your composure, he tells himself over and over. He goes into the bathroom again and washed his face with a hand cloth. The cold feels good, it soothes his glowing skin. He dabs his eyes to make the red go away, the swollen.
He brushed his shirt off, his knees.
Posture! He rights himself, shoulders back, breast front, chin up.
The bell rings.
He picks up the phone and lets his guests in. Then it’s time for the finishing touch: the smile. The perfect, somewhat crooked half smile that they expect. He has to give them what they want.
His attention is drawn to the kitchen. The table, it has to be purified. It has to be rid of evil. It has to be used by many, in playfulness. Therefore he drags it to the couch so they can use it to put their drinks on.
He gets out the one good table-cloth, the one Anna picked, and flings it over its mutilated surface.
There. All done.
Finally his friends arrive at the scene. They are cheerful. They are loud. Loud enough to chase it away, to chase it out of him.
He greets them like a true host, a broad beaming grin and open arms, hugs each cordially and thanks them for coming. They say it’s just been too long, but he knows better. They’re here to cheer him up.
He smiles. He’s grateful. At least tonight the house would hold its tongue.
In no time the TV is on – sports of course – low voices fill the room, themselves with drinks and his ears with meaningless chatter. An exorcism.
Everything is back to normal. Life will go on unchanged for him. The evening is a success.
Not long after, one of his more adventurous friends has gone through a drawer or two, and a cabinet no doubt, and returns with a carton box as his spoils.
“Hey guys, let’s play this.”
Playing Cluedo...
Not exactly what he had in mind to celebrate his newly regained bachelor’s existence, but anything was better than to be alone on a night like this.
I suppose the guy thought it would be the only thing that would not remind him of her.
Each of them takes a piece of paper from the notebook and a number of cards and begin to  write down what they know about the case and so does he:
“Anna in the kitchen with an axe, chopped up into the freezer last night.”
That about sums it up.

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