Here’s another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. You can find that here. This one was simple, it starts with a knock at the door. (So much possibility!) The story below is actually a continuation from a previous story. This one. It should still stand on it’s own though, so don’t feel you need to read the earlier one just to get this.
The clock had just struck 12:17 the first time I heard it. I was in the back of a house, and didn’t quite hear it properly, what with the clock striking and all. (Who’s house was it? Well, mine, I guess.) I was spinning that damned penny from knuckle to knuckle, while some inane TV show played in the background. (Who’s even making these things?) I shut the TV off and waited for the clock to stop chiming. (Damn clocks chiming everywhere I go.) After it finished, I listened.
Sure enough, it came again. Three distinct taps. Tap. Tap. Tap. Like someone knocking on a door. Surely that couldn’t be. It came again, louder this time. Was I finally going mad? (Or have I been mad this whole time?) There couldn’t possibly be somebody knocking, could there? Well, only one way to find out. I got out of the recliner I’d been sitting in. (For what, three days?) After a steadying breath, I made my way to the front of the house. In the back of my mind, I knew it couldn’t be good, somebody knocking after all these years. (How many has it been? Five? Ten?) The entire way to that front door, the knocking grew louder, but never faster. It occurred to me, as I reached the door, that it might be him, come to taunt me again. I sighed. I hated him, but I knew I’d open that door anyway. A prick god was still better than nobody at all, right? (Is that so?) I opened the door.
My jaw fell open. It wasn’t the prick god standing there, on the porch of the house. (My house now.) Instead, it was a woman, blond hair and green eyes.
She smiled at me. “Hi,” she said. “May I come in?”
I stood there, my jaw still slack. (Fucking let her in!) All I could do was stare.
“Okay,” she said, still smiling. She slid past me and closed the door. I kept my eyes on her, but otherwise I stood there, transfixed. (Another person!) After an awkward minute or so, she spoke up again. “I’m Karen, nice to meet you.” She held out a hand to me.
“Uh,” I began, but no words came out. (How long has it been since I’ve actually spoken?) “Hi.” My voice sounded raspy in my throat. “I’m-” (What was my name?) “David?” I took her hand and gave it a limp shake.
She laughed, a little. “Well, it’s good to meet you David.”
“How?” I began, but she put up a hand to stop me.
“There are some things better not said.” The smile was gone. “Okay?”
I nodded. (I’m going to die, aren’t I?) The smile returned. I had to do something. “Would you like a drink?” I managed to squeak out. (Well, that was lame.)
“No thanks,” she said. Her eyes widened and she grabbed me by the shoulders. “You know what we should do?” I stood there and stared as she shook me. “We should go on a date!” (What?)
“A date?” I repeated.
“Yes!” she squealed. “It’ll be fun!” I didn’t respond. “Oh, come on. How long has it been since you’ve had a chance to go out on a date. Five years? Ten?” (Fuck.) “Let’s have a little fun!”
I agreed to a date. (That was dumb.) Dinner and a movie. (Really?) She took me to a fancy Italian-style bistro. (How cliche.) It was only a few blocks from the house, so we walked there together. Surprisingly, I had never been in the place, or really ever seen it. (How is that possible?) She walked in like she’d been there a hundred times. I peered through the door she was holding open. The place looked like you’d expect a fancy Italian bistro to look, just without any people, naturally. What did she expect here? I shrugged and walked in. (You idiot.) It wasn’t like I had anything better to do.
“You are going to love this place,” she said as I walked in. “They make the best Chicken Parmesan.”
It struck me as an odd statement, but I didn’t say anything as I followed her to our table, the only one with a tablecloth and candles. We sat down and she took a sip of the water I hadn’t noticed before.
We sat there, silent for a few minutes. “God, what’s taking the waiter so long?” She said, tapping her fingers. “I can never get any service in this place.” I started to speak, but she held up a finger to stop me. “Wait here.” She got up and stormed to the kitchen area.
A few minutes later, she returned with a big smile and two plates. “It’s okay, they’re just a little short-handed right now. I brought our food, hope you like Chicken Parmesan.” She sat the plate in front of me. It certainly looked like Chicken Parmesan. (There’s no way.)
My eyes went wide as the realization hit me. “Are there people back there?” I asked.
“Of course there are!” she said, placing her hand on her chest. “Why would you think there weren’t?” I stared at her for a few seconds. Actual people? I hadn’t dared hope. After a few more seconds, she seemed to feel guilty. “Okay… No, there’s nobody back there.”
My heart sank. “Then how-”
She put a finger to my lips. “I told you, there are some things better not said.”
“But you’re here,” I started.
“Yep,” she replied.
“Are you going to stay with me?” (What a dumb question.)
She laughed. (She actually fucking laughed!) “Oh, no. Of course not.”
Somehow, my heart managed to fall even further. “Then why are you here?”
She took a bite of her food. “You know you’re not the first one to ever be here.” My mind couldn’t keep up with the sudden change in topic, but she pressed on. “You are, however, the first person to live this long here.” She shrugged. “I had to see what you were all about. Besides, you’re kind of cute in a lonely-hermit sort of way.” (I’m cute?)
My mind finally caught up with her. “So, you won’t stay, and I’m guessing you won’t take me with you, either.”
She gave me a wink. “You got it babe.”
I could feel my blood pressure rising in a way I hadn’t felt in years. It felt good. (Maybe a little too good.) I stood. “So, what? I’m just some entertainment to you?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “But really, is that so bad? At least you get some entertainment too, right?” She motioned to the chair. “Sit. Let’s finish our date.”
“Fuck your date!” I yelled. (That was stupid.) I grabbed the table and flipped it to the side, snarling. (That was incredibly stupid.) The food flew across the restaurant, splattering tables with red sauce. I stormed out of that fancy Italian bistro, hoping to never see her again.
It’s been a couple of months since that date, and I got my wish. I haven’t seen her once since then, but my life has somehow gotten worse.
I’ve started seeing… things at the edges of my vision. Shadows, something moving, maybe. I’ve never gotten a good look at them, but I see them all the time, just there. They make it hard to sleep.
Maybe I’m going mad. (God, I hope I’m going mad.) I don’t think so. I think I made her, whoever she was, angry. This is my punishment.
The clock strikes 12:17 and I chuck that damned penny into a river as the things edge closer.