Ella rubbed her arms roughly and
hastened her pace. The separate click-clack of her heeled boots as they hit the
pavement echoed off the surrounding walls. She huddled deeper into her dress
and cursed her decision to forgo a coat. Night had fallen quicker this evening,
and she’d scarcely realised the time before the club was shut-up and its
customers expelled out to the cold, unforgiving world. Ella had arranged for a
friend to pick her up, but after waiting a half hour, she’d resigned herself to
walking back. It was only a few blocks to the suburbs and then only a couple of
streets onwards to home. The walk was pleasant during the daytime, but it all
seemed more sinister under the cloak of night, and a cool chill wrapped it’s
tendrils up around Ella’s shoulders and down along her exposed legs. Her eyes
darted from left to right and her breath began to quicken, a hazy mist
appearing, created from cold air and warm exhalations.
She reached the suburbs quickly and carried on along the quieter streets. The wind rustled lightly through neatly-trimmed hedges and tall sycamores. As she passed a row of houses to her right, a strange creaking noise reached her ears. Ella stumbled and paused slightly, confused. Her ponytail whipped from left to right, following in the wake of her head as she scanned the area, looking for source of the noise. Her eyes caught on the obviously unlocked door of the house directly to her right as it slowly swung inward. Ella checked her watch. The hour hand was pointed straight to the right and the minute hand pointed exactly up: 3:00AM to the second. She glanced back at the open door, wondering why someone living in the suburbs would be up at a time like this. The door stayed open, nobody appearing in the space it had created. But the more Ella stared, the more that space turned into an abyss, swallowing everything in its periphery. Ella blinked twice, sure that her mind was playing tricks on her: that the dark and quite was getting to her. Frown lines marred her forehead, but she continued walking, quickening her pace so she could return home just that little bit quicker.
The sidewalk was lined with street lamps, evenly spaced to provide optimum coverage. As Ella reached the second house, she heard that ominous creak again and the lamp she had just passed flickered once…then twice…then remained dark. She turned her whole body around and stared at the lamp. The creak came again and Ella instinctively looked back towards the first house, to the door, expecting it to have closed as sinisterly as it had opened. But nothing had changed. It was still that empty space, that deepening abyss. That sound came again and she turned her head slightly to the left, now focusing on the next house. This door began to open as slowly as the first one had. And just like before, nobody was there. Just that blank doorway, that empty darkness.
Ella turned back – the way towards home – and sped up until she was jogging. Each house she passed, the lights flickered off and the door opened, each time the noise scraping down her spine. Ella reached the end of the street and stopped, unable to grasp air. She looked back haltingly and waited. The doors stood open, the lights all off. The only thing that stopped the area from falling to complete and utter blackness was the silvery sheen cast by the moon.
And then, as if in complete synchronicity, a figure appeared at every door. Each one was non-descript, although as she looked at the figure nearest to her, she realised it was the resident of the house, Mrs Hambrey. Ella’s mother used to drop her off at Mrs Hambrey’s house sometimes for babysitting, but that sweet-faced woman was nowhere to be seen. Now, her face was blank and emotionless.
As one, they all stepped forward and walked in a straight line towards the sidewalk she had just crossed. Their movements were not jolting and rigid like a robot’s, but neither were they shambling along like zombies in a low-budget B movie. They walked…like they were human. But there was something missing: the movement was too smooth. There were not trips or stumbles; just an unwavering repeat of one foot in-front of the other. They reached the sidewalk, paused, and then all turned towards Ella. It was then that she saw Mrs Hambrey’s eyes. They had that blue film that eyes got when they’d been dead for a couple of hours. There was no emotion in those eyes, no recognition, nothing. Just emptiness. A quick glance told Ella that the others were exactly the same. Her eyes widened in fright and she started running again. But no matter how fast her legs moved, how quickly her feet hit the tarmac, she could still hear them; could still feel them behind her. Ella reached the row of houses with hers at the end. Spurred on by the sight of safety, she pushed herself just that little bit harder, took a sharp right at the path and braked hard at her front door. Panting, she reached into her right boot and pulled out her keys. They jangled softly as she inserted them into the lock and her front door swung open. Ella stepped inside and stopped at the oppressive silence behind her. They were there, standing at the edge of the front lawn, just…waiting. She scanned their faces as she regained her breath. What were they waiting for? They’d followed her this far.
A hand landed on her shoulder and Ella turned in relief, expecting the welcome sight of her mother. But it was those dead, dead eyes again. Her mother’s dead, dead eyes. Ella released a sob of despair and she – no, it – smiled. What used to be her mother reached past her and softly closed the door on those waiting figures, enveloping them in complete and absolute darkness.