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I was amazed how quickly my dad found a new house for us after he was told where his job was headed. I never really try to understand what anyone want...

PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

Dropping the last cardboard box down in his new office, Clark wiped at his forehead with a smile. He’d finally moved out from that rat hole of an apartment and gotten a small house on the North side of town, close to the school where he taught. It was within a five-minute drive, with the grocery store another five. Once he had his internet set up, he would only need to leave when his friends wanted to go out for drinks.

 

 

“I could use a beer right around now,” Clark said. Walking from the room destined to be his office, he turned off the light and closed the door.

 

Walking into the small kitchen, he opened the old refrigerator and fished out one of his imported beers, popping the cap off beneath a hook on the side of the fridge. Taking a long swig of the Swedish delight, he blinked when something moved in his peripheral vision. Turning, he looked over the counter and into the living room.

 

All that was there was his leather sofa, his low wooden table, and his entertainment center with an unplugged television.

 

“Huh… wonder what that was?” Clark muttered, setting his beer down on the counter.

 

Reaching behind himself, he pulled out the long knife he’d been using as a multi-tool all day; a heavy handled Bowie knife that had belonged to his grandfather, Clark had uncovered it when packing up in his old apartment. The nine inches of folded steel made for an effective tool, as well as a handy weapon in case someone was in his new home.

 

Walking into the living room, he looked around with a frown. “I know I saw something in here… whoever you are you better get the Hell out of my house!”

 

The cry echoed across the wooden flooring and bare walls, with no tangible response. Staying silent, Clark walked to the front door and checked it, his frown growing deeper as he found it unlocked and partially open.

 

“Damn… barely been here a day and someone’s already broken in,” Clark twirled the knife in his hand before closing the door and locking the deadbolt. “You in here? I just locked the door, so you better hope I don’t find you!”

 

Stepping around into the hallway leading to his bedroom, bathroom and office, Clark studied the smooth wooden floors, hoping he could find some smudges indicating footprints. His own sock-clad feet didn’t leave any marks, and apparently neither did the intruders… the floor was spotless.

 

“I’m not playing any games, you better come out and show yourself!” Clark called out, brandishing his knife as he stalked down the hallway. He stopped when he heard it.

 

Sniffling, followed by sobs. A feminine voice, somewhere in the darkened bedroom. Clark scowled. “I can hear you, whoever you are! I don’t know why you came in here, but you better come out. If you hurry up I promise I won’t call the police.”

 

The sniffling continued, wracking sobs wheezing down the hallway. The person didn’t seem to be coming out on their own accord. Clark sighed.

 

“Alright, I’m coming in…” Clark warned, walking up to the partially closed door. Pushing it open, his free hand went to the light switch, flipping it on to dispel the cloaking shade.

 

He heard a slight fizzle followed by a pop. The light didn’t come on, leaving Clark to stare into the darkness choking his room. As his eyes adjusted, he could make out the stacks of cardboard boxes in the corner next to his nightstand, his bed dominating the middle of the room. A small armoire was pushed up against the wall, hiding a side bathroom that served the master bedroom. He could hear the sobbing in the room, but couldn’t see anybody… it was almost as if the crying was coming from all around him.

 

Taking a few cautious steps into the room, Clark squinted his eyes to better see through the inky void. “Okay, I don’t know who you are but I don’t appreciate you coming into my house. If you’re hurt, or in trouble, I can always find a way to help.”

 

Clark’s offer earned a choked sob, followed by a bone-jarring slam behind him, the door crashing closed before the click of a lock signaled that the room was sealed. Spinning around, Clark stared at a shadowy figure.

 

It was definitely a woman, if the curves were anything to go by. She was short, probably just around five feet tall, with a heavy bosom and wide hips. She seemed trim despite her hips, and from what Clark could tell she had long hair tumbling down around her. Her arms were folded up, hands pressed over her face as she wailed into them, body trembling from the bone-wracking sobs.

 

Clark felt a pang of guilt for threatening her the way he had, but quashed it. She’d invaded his home, and he needed to deal with her. Just… not in as an aggressive matter that involved a knife.

 

Sheathing the knife in the leather hilt hanging, Clark held his hands up to show he wasn’t a threat. “Look, no weapons. Why don’t I get you something to drink, to help calm you down? You seem like you could use a little pick-me-up, and I happen to have some wine that could stand to be drained. We can see what can be done to help you out while we have a glass. Sound good?”

 

The woman sniffed once, her face rising from her hands, blank in the darkness. “Home…”

 

“Home? Did you run away from home?” Clark asked, taking a tentative step forward.

 

“No… can’t find it. I’m lost…” She said before descending into tears once more. Clark felt awkward, as he had no idea how to calm the woman.

 

Reaching out a hand to try and pat her on the shoulder, he tried to assure her he’d help her. “There, there… I’ll help you find your home. Do you know what street it’s on, or what area of town?”

 

His hand grasped her shoulder, only to find it wet and cold as if she’d just stepped out of the shower. It was also bare, leading Clark to realize she was naked. He whipped his hand back as she seemed to descend into painful cries at his touch, shivering and backing away from him as fast as she could. Shivering in the corner, she slid down the wall until her knees were up by her hands.

 

Clark shook his head, clearing his throat. “Here,” he said. “Let me get you something to wear. You’re cold, so a sweater would do you wonders. I think I have some sweat pants hidden in the same box…”

 

Her cries slowed, and he could see her head lift up to look at him, a slight shimmer of… something… coming through the darkness. It took Clark a moment to realize that it must be her eyes. Turning, he walked over to his boxes, lifting one up and setting it down on the bed. He knew that the box beneath the first held his winter clothes; opening it up, he fished around for a sweater.

 

He never got the chance to find it, as he felt a quick tug from behind. Spinning around, he let out a choked grunt as he felt a shard of ice pierce his stomach, the woman standing mere inches from him. Her hands were gripping the handle of his knife, rammed all the way to the hilt just below his belly button. A wet giggle escaped her lips as he turned the knife inside him, tearing out the side, leaving a wide opening that blood gushed from, splattering the floor. Reaching down with numb hands, Clark gurgled.

 

He could feel the ragged tear in his gut, his probing fingers attempting to staunch the torrential flow of blood as he dropped down to his knees. “Why…?” He said through clenched teeth, the pain just now beginning to thrum through his body.

 

The woman giggled, bringing the knife up to her face. He could hear her scrape her tongue along the blade, tasting his blood as if it were a delicacy. “Home… you came into my home. Now it’ll be your home too… forever and ever!”

 

Clark wanted to ask what she meant, but was suddenly blinded when the lights flickered on. A clatter in front of him made him squint to see what was happening… only to see his bloody knife laying on the floor in an ever expanding pool of blood. Light-headed and weak, Clark fell forward with a splat, grunting as he felt his wound rip open wider from the movement. Despite the bright light filling the room, a darkness began to creep at the edges of his vision.

 

Tears filled his eyes as a sudden sadness filled him, an overwhelming sense of grief that he couldn’t resist. He choked back a sob, his body shaking as he began crying into his sticky blood, cheek resting against the floor. Rolling to his side, his bloody hands went up to his face to cover it, to shield it from the light as he slowly lost his will to live, as his life ebbed from him. The entire time, he sobbed uncontrollably, a sound that was matched by feminine cries coming from the darkened bathroom, where he could just make out the shape of a shadowy woman, watching him with silver eyes.

 

Silver eyes full of fear.

 

Full of sadness.

 

Full of anger.

 

Clark exhaled his last breath, body trembling with his final tremors before falling slack. The sobbing woman was joined by a tall man, his cries mournful and low compared to the crackling sobs coming from the woman. He held his face in his hands, hunched over as he cried. Clark could feel himself lost in a sea of despair, a despair that could only be solved by him finding his way home.

 

Finding his way there, and preventing others from taking it.

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