The TV screen stares back at me. I sit on the caramel couch, my foot tapping the carpet lightly. Not a single noise stirs in the house and I continue to stare at the black screen. My finger joins my right foot, in unison like a metronome. I take a deep breath in. Silence. I continue to hold my breath and I can only imagine my face turning blue like in the cartoons I used to watch when I was younger. My eyebrows move up, down, left, and right, quickly as I try not to sweat.
He can’t get me, I think to myself.
My body shakes as I try to hold my breath. Why am I even doing this? I bend forward as a gush of air blasts out of my mouth. I sit back up and try to relax. My eyes begin to wander. Right now, my house is dark. A few shadows dance on the white walls; the window blinds can’t block all the light outside. I turn towards my bulky front door. Ten different locks attach to the doorknob. Several thick metal chains hang across the mahogany door, as if they are playing a game of tic-tac-toe. A baseball bat is propped up at an angle by the couch, only several feet away from me.
Make sure it’s always there…
A few pictures stick to the wall. It only takes a second glance to see that they are about to fall. Only a rusty nail keeps them pinned to the wall, like a loose stamp on a letter. Dust covers the frames, but the memories are still clear. My eyes focus on my favorite: my friends huddled around me at summer camp back in ‘79. A small grin appears on my face as I stare at my younger self, the summer sun plastered to my burned, teen skin.
The silence is broken. My frail heart skips a beat, and my head turns quickly to try to locate the source of the sound.
Please be the neighbors.
I swallow some saliva that has been building up in my scarred mouth. Slowly, I stand up, bending my hairy knees. I keep my back bent and arms in front of me like a soldier in enemy lines. A single drop of sweat runs down my check. The butterflies are awake in my protruding stomach as I make my way towards the window. I reach my hand forward, aiming for the white blinds, which are home to a few cobwebs.
Please be home. I repeat this phrase over and over in my head.
My shaking hands move a single blind just enough to expose the driveway of the house next to mine. Sunlight hits my pale face. My eyes squint from the blinding pain. I blink a few times to adjust to the light and finally receive my answer.
Their car is gone.
My head turns around faster than a bullet. My eyes locate my bat and lock on, like a missile glued to its target. I start to sprint towards the center of the living room, a few bones waking up in my lazy legs. In the corner of my eye, I see him.
How did he get in?
He walks casually into my living room and I focus on the baseball bat. I’m only inches away from the weapon. I extend my hand.
My legs stop, my body pausing in mid-run. I can feel the edge of the bat touching my fingertips, and my insides vibrate from the sudden stop. I blink a few times rapidly, and then stop blinking altogether. The man walks towards me as I stand paralyzed. He lifts the baseball bat and I can no longer feel it in my grasp; my only hope ripped apart. He sits down on my couch. His bottom bounces slightly from the plush. He takes a look at the wooden bat. His brown eyes inspect it like a detective at a crime scene. His black eyebrows rise. Lifting the bat closer to his face, he sniffs it with his pointy nose. I try to move the muscles in my face. They don’t budge, holding me captive; prisoner in shock. The edges of his mouth extend slightly, showing off a dark grin. He extends his tongue out of his mouth, exposing his black teeth. The man’s blood-red tongue licks the side of the bat. His grin turns into a wide smile as he throws the bat behind him.
“I can still taste my blood,” he says, shifting slightly on the couch. He looks at his hands and rubs them together. “From our last session,” He looks at me and waves his hand, amused by my frozen posture. A friendly gesture, if it was coming from anyone but him.
When I get out of here, I’m going to beat you until you can’t spell your name.
He laughs out loud.
“I already can’t spell my name,” he says in a cheery tone. “Why do you think I have this?” He points to his nametag, which is pinned to his black vest. His eyes look down at the magnetic strip attached to his clothing.
“M-I-D-N-I-G-H-T,” he says, saying every letter in a crisp manner. “Midnight!” he yells, baring a smile to his only audience member. “It appears that I can spell my name,” He bobs his head up and down. “I can go to the next round of the spelling bee!”
Midnight laughs. I am forced to stare at him while he closes his eyes, appreciating his joke. He wears a blue shirt and a vest on his skinny chest. Each black button is buttoned except the last one. The sleeves on the shirt are rolled up, displaying his unnaturally grey arms. He wears black pants along with a pair of lily-white shoes. The pants and shoes remind me of the ying and yang, two contrasting colors.
His black hair is combed to the right and a piercing of a star sticks in his earlobe.
He would be handsome if he didn’t work for the Devil.
His fit of laughter over, he looks back at me. “Well, I must admit,” he says. “Our time together has been quite fun,” My arms start to ache from being frozen. More sweat begins to trickle along my forehead. “But, unfortunately, our time is up.” He walks to me. He places his face only inches away from mine. He looks right into my eyes.
“I’d love to have more fun with you, but Boss says I have to move on,”. A chuckle escapes from his mouth as he stretches his arms. “Doesn’t matter, I guess,” he says, pursing his black lips. “You’ll be seeing him soon anyway.”
We stand alone in my dark living room, both of us not saying a word.
What are you going to do with me?
“Something you won’t like.”
He flexes his arms and lifts my body. He holds me like a suitcase and my body aches even more. I feel like I’m holding the longest plank in the world. He walks out of the room and into my cluttered kitchen. I hear his shoes clack on the marble floor as he continues to hold my body sideways, whistling while he walks.
We reach the backdoor of the house. A single lock lies on the floor, broken in pieces. Inside my head, I slap myself. “Yup,” Midnight says. “You made it too easy for me,” He holds me tighter, pressing me against his ribs. We walk outside, into the daylight. My neighbor’s tiny, yellow car pulls up in their driveway right as Midnight makes his way onto the street. I try to scream, but my words only ring in my head.
Stay in the car!
They don’t listen.
The wife steps out of the vehicle, her blond hair moving slightly in the afternoon wind. A few grocery bags hang from her thin fingers. Her husband follows her as he exits from the driver’s seat. I hear him humming “Sympathy for the Devil” as he locks the miniature car. They turn around, and their happiness turns into confusion. I wonder what they’re thinking as they watch their reclusive neighbor being carried by another man, his appearance like someone who has hid in the dark for too long.
Midnight pulls up his left hand and I watch, my mind racing and shouting in horror. He extends his index and middle finger, thumb on top – just like a gun. He goes for the wife first, mimicking a shot from his large hands. She immediately drops her grocery bags and her body slowly turns pale, starting from the top of her head, to the tips of her toes. She falls to the ground, all of the blood drained from her body. The pavement under her is red, as if her blood found a way into the cracks of the ground, changing the color altogether. Her husband stands there, his eyes terrified. Midnight chuckles as he shoots him next. His body slumps over just like his dead wife’s. More blood pours into the couple’s driveway.
You terrible son of a bitch.
“Oh, shut up for once, will you?” Midnight yells, looking straight at my motionless face. He turns and walks to a crimson car. The Maserati is nearly all red, except for the tires, which are as black as Midnight’s teeth. Midnight opens the passenger door and places my rigid body in the padded seat. He shifts my body until my eyes are at a certain angle, staring at the roof of the sports car. He closes the door shut and walks around.
I listen closely as he enters the car. The engine comes to life and the Maserati roars. We begin to move forward.
His fingers roam by the numbers on the radio. He stops on a classic rock channel and drives faster, pressing the gas. I no longer feel my body, and my eyes begin to water.
Please, someone help me…
A single tear rolls down my face.
Tell my family I love them.
“You can tell them yourself,” Midnight replies in a serious tone, his eyes focused on the road. We continue to drive. My eyes begin to flutter and then close, tired from staring at the roof.
Kill me now.
“I’m working on it.” He replies in a cold tone as the expensive car comes to a stop. Midnight exits the vehicle and I hear his feet move quickly outside the vehicle. A few seconds pass. I can’t hear anything except for the slight hum of my desperate breath.
I feel the car begin to move. It moves forward and stops.
I listen intensely, my brain raising red flags. I hear a mechanical noise and the car begins to shake. I don’t feel it move forward or backward. It just shakes. The noise returns, this time much louder, and my heart begins to beat out of my chest. The car shakes like a girl having a fit, causing my body to shake with it. Panic fills my lungs.
What’s going on?
I feel the inside door closer to me. My skin presses against the leather armrest. My skin begins to sting. More sharp pains poke at my body.
The car is shrinking.
The noise is back and my body is forced and pushed into an uncomfortable position. My eyes watch as the roof erratically touches my nose.
Oh God, please no!
I hear the noise once more.
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