It was a bright and sunny day. The sun was warm, but a light, cool breeze cooled the air as it wafted past. The fragrant scent of lilacs floated on the wind, a vivid reminder of spring awakening. It was gorgeous out, and I glared up at the afternoon sun. Stupid homework.
I shifted my backpack onto my shoulder, groaning under the weight of it. I was only a high schooler! Why did they insist on giving us dictionary-sized books we'd only get half through for every single subject. I already snapped one bag strap this year and I wasn't up to replacing the damn thing again. It felt like the weight of the world was on my back...literally.
I turned the corner and the neighbor's dog started yapping. I ignored the little furball, like I always did and shuffled past their fenced yard. Passing a few more cookie-cutter imprints of the same exact house, I came to the low fence around our apartment complex.
Our apartment complex was kinda crappy. It was a small, reddish brick building, with splotches of white spackle dotting it from half-assed repairs. One of the cement balconies on the front was missing its railing (and a corner) entirely, while the rest were gaudily dressed up in pots of flowers and obnoxious wind chimes. There were only four apartments on each floor, and there were three floors total. I suppose it got a roof over our heads, even if it wasn't pretty to look at.
There was a big, awkward gap in the walk leading up to the where the sections had started to split. Even though I knew it was there, I still jammed my toe into the rise. I cursed under my breath and rubbed my sore foot. I hated this damn place.
The lawn was choked with weeds, and the dying grass was struggling to regain its luster against the invasion. Occasionally our landlord would actually cut the lawn, but usually one of the other tenants got sick of it and would mow. At this rate, I may actually feel compelled to take it out of the shed and give it a run.
The front door had seen better years, but at least it had gotten a new paint job a couple months ago. The white paint was streaky at best, but at least it brightened up the somber front porch. The porch itself was covered in chipped, gray paint. There were some scuffs and dark stains I wasn't sure I wanted to know where they came from. There was also a dark burn mark from where me and some of my friends tried to use our first firecracker. Heh. At least that was something memorable.
The door let out an angry creak as I threw it open, and I let it slam behind me. The frame around it rattled, and I mentally made a note of the lose nails trying to escape from it. I'd tell my mom, and she'd tell the landlord, but chances are, it wouldn't be until the damn thing fell off.
Our apartment was on the third floor, facing the back. The stairs groaned beneath my weight, and I'm pretty sure one of the boards actually squeaked as I stepped on it. The stairs were covered with a ratty, dirty red carpet. Well, at least I think it was red. It was hard to tell with all the stains and smudges on it. There were tears here and there, but some of the tenants had tried to fix it themselves with some fancy ass duck tape. Worked like a charm.
There was elevator, but it didn't really matter with how small the place was. Sure, I hated trudging up a couple flights of stairs with a bag of bricks in tow, but by that point in my walk home from school, I just wanted to get home.
At this time of day, my mother and little sister were already home, so I didn't have to bother with my key. I flung open the door and dropped my bag unceremoniously on the floor. I swear it shook the entire room, but all it actually did is make a loud enough thud to let my family know that I was home.
"Yay! Brother's home!" my little sister came running out from behind the divider that separated the kitchen from the main room. I could see my mother standing by the sink. She glanced my way and gave me a grin, but her hands were covered in soapy water.
I caught my little sister before she could jump on me, and I turned her around, "Maggie, what did I tell you about jumping on me?"
Maggie looked up at me, flashing me a grin, one of her two front teeth missing, "Don't jump! Don't jump!"
"Honey," my mother turned to face me, a dish rag and a glass in her hand, "how was your day?"
"The usual. School sucks," I made a face.
She frowned at me, "Watch your language. We don't need to give that negativity to Maggie."
"Sucks! Sucks!" Maggie laughed as she danced around my legs.
"Anyways," my mom sighed, "don't you have some homework to do? I'll bring you a snack later."
I rolled my eyes. Don't get me wrong; I love my family. Just after a tiring day of school, I just want to come home to some peace and quiet. I moved back to grab my bag. I dragged it across the floor.
I really wanted to go out and play, but the dark shadow of my homework that loomed over me prevented me from doing anything fun. I didn't get bad grades, but I also wasn't some genius. I needed any points I could get. I really couldn't afford to not turn in a homework assignment. I think my dad would kill me.
I threw my bag onto my bed and kicked the door to my room closed behind me. The apartment had two bedrooms, but I think the builders misunderstood what a room was. There was barely enough room for my bed and desk in there. I had a small shelf crammed into the corner with an old tube TV on it, and an old game system hooked into it. I didn't have room for a better TV, even if we could have afforded it.
I unzipped my bag and delicately made my way through the mess on my floor to my desk, carrying a couple books and several folders and notebooks. I dumped them onto my desk. I grabbed a pencil and cleared away some of the old papers that cluttered the desk. I finally found my laptop and I flipped it open. It groaned as it came awake, and the screen flickered before my desktop stared at me. Beneath the clutter of images and folders was a picture of my favorite movie, but it was all but invisible beneath the mess.
I plugged in my headphones and put them over my head. I opened up my music and let it play on shuffle. The harsh music was comforting to my ears, and I flipped open my notebook. There were lines and lines of text for the assignment, and the words blurred under my gaze. This was gonna be such a pain.
I started trying to scratch out the rough draft of my paper, but my eyes were getting heavy. I finally gave in and let them close.
I snapped my eyes open. I realized I had been drooling. I picked my head off of my desk and rubbed the drool from my face. The papers were crinkled beneath me and I cursed under my breath. My teacher would pitch a fit.
As I glanced around, I realized the only light in my room came from the dim glow of my laptop's screen. The music was humming in my ears. I wondered if my mother had tried to get my attention. I couldn't hear anything above the blare of the vocals.
I pulled the headphones out and went over to my door. I cracked it open and peered out into the hall. I was greeted by darkness beyond my door. I frowned and glanced back at my laptop. The time was only seven. Was it really this dark already? Usually the sun would still be clinging to the horizon at this time.
I tried to open my window to get a better look, figuring the years of grime coating the glass wasn't helping. I couldn't get it open no matter how I tried. I fell back, frustrated. Damn window was always sticking. I left it alone and instead went back to the door.
I felt for the light switch just outside my room. I flicked it up, but nothing happened. I angrily tried flicking it up and down a few more times, but still nothing happened. Stupid faulty wiring! I went back into my room and raided my desk drawer. I had a lot of odds and ends in there, including a lighter and some birthday candles. It wasn't much, but it was better than walking around in the dark. I lit a candle and pocketed the lighter and the rest of the candles.
As I stepped back out into the hall, I called out, "Mom? Dad?"
By this time of night, my dad would be home as well. I heard creaking from out in the main room, but no one answered. I frowned and started creeping forward. The candle only gave me less than two feet of light, so I had to move slowly, careful not to run into anything.
The hall was short so it didn't take me long to get back to the main room. I called out again, "Mom? Is there a power outage?"
I waited a moment, but still there was no answer. I glared into the darkness. This was getting ridiculous. Why wasn't anyone answering?
"Okay," I snarled, "ha ha, very funny. You got me. Now, just answer me!"
And suddenly, my candle went out. I cursed aloud as I fumbled for the lighter and another candle in my pocket. I was flicking the lighter to bring it to life when I heard a quiet giggle echo around me. A shiver ran down my spine and I blindly blinked about, trying to find where it was coming from.
"Maggie?" I squinted against the darkness. Of course, she didn't answer though.
The lighter finally flared to life and I hurriedly stuck the candle into the flame. The flames licked at my fingers and I yelped, dropping the lighter. I cursed and kneeled down, feeling about on the floor for the lighter. I knew it couldn't have gone far, but I was having the worst luck finding it.
I heard the giggle again and the sound of a door opening and closing. It sounded like the front door, only a few feet in front of me. I sucked in my breath, trying to keep myself calm. This was getting seriously freaky.
My fingers finally felt the lighter and I gripped it tightly in my hand. Before I could pull it back, something brushed my fingers. I shot up, nearly dropping the lighter again. The candle's weak flame flickered in my hand, but it fortunately stayed lit.
I was done with this. I'd wait until the power came back on and figure out what was going on then. I rushed to the front door and turned the knob, only to find the door locked. As I struggled with the lock, something hit me. If the power was out, then why was my laptop still on...?
I cursed and rapidly turned the knob, but no matter what I tried, the door didn't budge. I slammed my shoulder against, but all it did was make my body ache. I stepped back, holding up my candle to the door. I gasped aloud.
The door didn't look anything like the door I knew. Instead of the dirty wooden door that I saw every morning before I left, there was a sturdy metal door in its place. There was a chain crisscrossed across it, and solid bolts held the chain in place across the door and frame. I leaned closer, trying to get a better look. It looked like there were letters scratched into it-
Suddenly there was a loud thud and the door dented in towards me. Two more thuds and dents followed suit, and I fell back on my ass. I scrambled backwards, trying to get away from the door. I heard a couple more thuds before they stopped and darkness engulfed the front entryway again. I didn't stop moving until I bumped into something. I took deep breaths, trying to calm my breathing.
This must all be some horrible nightmare. I just needed to wake up, and everything would be back to normal. I was just tired and cranky from my tedious day at school. This was just a dream. This was all just a dream!
My hands were trembling so badly I dropped my candle. It fell to the ground and rolled away, almost instantly going out. With my hands still shaking, I forced myself to grab the lighter and another candle out. I didn't want to be in this darkness without a light for even a second.
As I lit the candle, I started to formulate a plan. There was a flashlight in a drawer in the kitchen. The kitchen was only maybe ten feet at most away from me. I could get there in just a couple seconds, as long as I kept my cool and didn't stumble. The flashlight would be much more stable than some flimsy candle. Plus, it would light up a whole lot more. Once I had the flashlight, I could make my way towards my parents' room. Maggie shared their room, as she was still pretty young. Maybe they were just hiding in there.
I nodded to myself, trying to reassure myself that everything was alright. But, even if this was a dream, I didn't want to die in it.
I finally got the candle lit. I rammed the lighter back in my pocket and glanced up. I found myself staring right into two lifeless eyes.
I screamed and she giggled. I took off running, and I couldn't hear her following after me. I vaulted over the coffee table and slid into the kitchen, scrambling across the tile floor. I slammed into the cabinet and my candle went flying in the chaos. I ignored it and went straight for the drawer. I tore it open, nearly taking it out in its entirety. I shuffled through its contents, dumping half of out onto the floor. I found the flashlight and let out a "woo hoo" as I flicked it on and pointed it towards the room.
The beam found her right away. She was standing only a couple feet from me. Now that I could see her in the light, I realized that she wasn't human. She was only about two feet tall, her porcelain skin cracked across her eyes and mouth. One of her eyes rolled about awkwardly. Her dark hair was cut straight across her face, but there were loose strands of it draped across her face and body. She was wearing a white, ruffled dress that was stained and streaked with dark smudges. She was wearing one sock, but her feet were bare otherwise. The bare foot had a crack running across it and up to her ankle.
She giggled again and one of her eyes rolled back in her head. I backed up against the sink. I reached back and felt blindly for anything that I could use as a weapon. She moved closer, but she didn't walk towards me. Rather, it was like she flickered in and out, and suddenly closed the distance between us.
I grabbed up my mom's good knife and swung it at the doll. I caught her right in the jaw, and I cracked the porcelain up to her cheek. A chunk fell out and she moved back, giving me a small window to escape. I pushed past her and jumped onto the divider. I swung over it and collided with the couch on the other side. I fell onto it with a thud, but luckily it was soft so it cushioned the blow.
I jumped back up and rushed back down the hallway. The light from the flashlight bounced around in a mad frenzy, casting eerie shadows over the furniture and walls I knew so well. I had lived in this apartment as long as I could remember. Nothing ever changed...until now.
I could hear her laughter behind me and I pumped my legs even harder. I nearly ran past my parents' room, and I skidded to a stop in front of it. I slammed into the door, trying to open it.
"Mom! Dad! Open up! Please!" I cried, furiously turning the doorknob. "Maggie? It's big brother! Let me in!"
The door suddenly gave way beneath my weight and I toppled inside. The flashlight flew from my hands and bounced to the floor. It rolled until the beam was glaring into my eyes. I straightened up, taking deep breaths. I crawled forward, reaching for the flashlight.
"Mom?" I repeated again, pleading with anyone to answer me. "Dad? Maggie?"
The room was strangely still. The darkness felt even heavier in this room. I was quickly losing it. I continued crawling, and just as I was about to reach the flashlight, I heard her giggling again.
I slowly turned around. The flashlight was illuminating the door way, and I could see her dark shape waiting there.
All I could do was scream. She moved closer, flickering in and out as she moved. Her legs and arms stayed firmly at her sides, never even budging. I didn't even want to think how it was possible.
She stopped just before me. Her head toppled to the side, and she shifted her body to get back in place. Her eye rolled back to the front and she stared down at me with both of her lifeless, glass eyes. Her face twisted into a smile, more of her porcelain skin cracking from the movement.
"Good night," her voice was high-pitched and rattling. I wasn't even sure how I could understand what she was saying. The voice itself sounded like it was coming from the walls, rather than from her.
"Let's play again."
I caught a glint of metal as she suddenly lifted her arm up and brought it down towards me-
There was knocking. I shot up from my desk, drenched in sweat. I blinked against the light and glanced down at my laptop. It was only five.
"I brought you a snack! Sorry it took so long," my mother cracked open the door. She was carrying a plate of cheese and crackers. She scoffed as she glanced down at the mess on my floor. She gently kicked aside some of the clothing to clear a path and set the plate down on my desk.
"Maggie broke her favorite doll," my mother sighed. "I hope you are at least having better luck with your homework."
"Y-yeah," I managed to stammer. I slowly took a deep breath and turned back to the papers spread out on my desk. They were crinkled from where I had been sleeping on them, but other than that, everything was in order. I forced myself to pick up my pencil and tried to write something.
My mom watched me for a moment before making her way back towards my door. She grabbed up some of the dirty laundry and made a disgruntled noise, "You really need to clean your room!"
"I'll clean it tomorrow!" I promised. There was a part of me that wanted to keep her here longer, just to reassure myself everything was back to normal, but the other part of me just wanted to be alone and have some time to figure everything out. That was just a dream. There was no way it was anything else.
There was a crash from out in the main room, and my mom went running out, "Maggie! I told you not to climb anything!"
I sighed and shook my head. It was just a nightmare. There was no reason to be so skittish. I had to get this paper started. I put my headphones back in and stared down at the paper. The words were still nonsense, but at least I wasn't tired anymore.
I absentmindedly reached into my pocket, wondering if I had any gum or anything in there. I didn't really want crackers right now. My throat was dry. I didn't feel like getting up to get a drink, so something like gum would have to do. I usually had something like that in my pants, anyways.
I dug deep into my pockets, trying to find anything of interest. When my fingers felt my lighter and a handful of candles, my heart about stopped.