10:38 PM – Free Short Story

As the drink drains into my stomach, burning its way through my throat, all I can think is, “How the hell could this be happening?”
I look down and see the glass is empty again, so I fill it with the cheap bourbon sitting on the end table next to my bed and lift it to the light, staring at the brown liquid and the peace it will bring me.
I never was much for drinking. The taste of it never sat well on my tongue and I hate the way it feels when it hits my belly. The subtle sick feeling it evinces is hard to ignore.
Call it a remnant of being raised by a booze-addled dad, a whiskey drunk who took out his problems and his fears on me and my mom.
Still, the booze is the only thing that helps me sleep any more. The only thing that keeps the memories from coming back and biting me in the chest, tearing bits of me away with every minute that passes.
I’m surprised the bourbon even works, after all that’s happened.
The phone call seemed so innocent.
There I had been, doing nothing more than watching some stupid flick on the television, something to pass the time between work and sleep. When it rang, I picked it up and said the standard hellos.
The voice, that deep, monotone voice, on the other side made me cringe. It sounded almost like a computer voice, one of those things you call and demands you press one for English and two for some other random language. Obviously fake, but someone tried to program it with a personality.
“He’s coming for you,” that voice said, then a click as the other end hung up·
I stared at the phone for a minute, wondering if I had really heard what I thought I did, then just shrugged my shoulder and put the phone back on the receiver.
I turned off the television and was just putting the remote back on the table beside the chair when the knock on the door came.
I stood, instinctively making my way to the front door and grasped the knob, all before the thought of the phone call struck me. I hesitated at the door, wondering what was going on.
I’ve never been a fearful person. I’ve always done what needed done, without thinking too hard about the consequences. I’ve got two ex-wives and a heavy stack of bills to prove I don’t think much ahead on things. I do them by impulse, something that always drove my poor mom mad. My hesitation at the door lasted only a mere moment before I turned the knob.
The man standing there was disheveled, and, though it was dark from the sun going down, I could see trails of blood leading from his head to his cheeks. I hadn’t even realized it was raining until I saw how wet he was. It was one of those soft rains that does not make much noise as it hits the house, but will drench everything exposed nonetheless.
“Please,” he said, “help me. Someone is trying to hurt me.”
His voice was high pitched and a bit nasally, but whether that was from his walk in the rain or some product of his way of life, I could not say. From his appearance, it could have been from a punch or other blow that made it the way it was.
I looked behind him, trying to discern anything out there, but the light was gone and I could see nothing past the end of my driveway. I lived at the end of a long road and there are very few houses along this way, being out in the boonies. It was one of the selling points that made me jump at buying it. People left me along, and that was what I preferred.
The guy stood there, watching me with hopeful eyes, so I stood aside a bit and said, “Come on in. I’ll get my phone and we can call the police or something.”
He came inside and I closed the door behind him, cutting off the sound of the light rain and the dripping of water from my porch. “Stay here,” I said, as I turned away and walked back to the chair I left the phone beside. I picked it up and turned back around, tapping the button that would allow me to make a call.
“What’s your name?” I asked, as I started to dial 911.
There was no one there.
The way my house is built, there is no way he could have passed by me without my noticing him, and the door would have made a sound as it opened. At the very least, I would hear the difference when it came open, with the sound of rain and water everywhere.
Still, I stepped forward and opened the door, flipping on the porch light. As it flickered on, I stared out, searching for his movement. He was definitely gone.
I closed the door again, wondering what was going on; I looked down, more out of instinct than anything else.
It struck me that the tile in front of the door was completely dry, barren of any water that would have obviously dripped from the man as he stood there in that spot.
I’m a reasonable guy. I’m not given to flights of fancy or even much imagination, but, I have to admit, what happened that night scared the hell out of me. How could any of this be happening?
Another drink goes down, this one more bitter than the last, if you can believe it. I don’t think I will ever really get the taste for this stuff, but it’s something I think I will have to get used to. I don’t know any other way.
The phone call must have triggered something in me, I thought. Maybe I had been asleep, or sleep walking or something, and woke up standing near the door, remembering the last vestiges of the dream as I stood there.
That had to be it. There’s not really anything else.
That lie helped me get upstairs and into bed, sleeping off the fear that was there, subtle, in my mind.
Work went normal the next day and I came home, flipping on the television again and just sitting, thinking, wondering about the previous night. The weather forecast on the news said it was going to rain again that night.
Night fell, and I turned off the TV, getting ready to head to my room and pass out. The night before had been pretty restless and sleep came hard.
The ringing of the phone stopped me in my tracks.
I picked it up and clicked it on, giving a soft, “Hello?”
“He’s coming for you,” said the low, monotone voice on the other end. Then the click as the line was disconnected.
I looked at the digital clock on the wall and saw it said 10:38 PM. The red numbers were big and strong.
A moment later, a knock at the door sounded, loud and clear, the echo if it passing through my ears.
The guy at the door looked no different than he had the night before. The same disheveled clothing, the same blood dripping down his face from an injury on his head, and the same wetness as the rain came down behind him.
“Please,” he said, “help me. Someone is trying to hurt me.”
It was the same high pitched nasally voice as I had heard him speak the night before.
I let him in, heading to the phone in silence after I closed the door behind him, leaving him standing just inside the house. I picked up the phone and started to dial 911.
I turned around and saw no one there.
For four nights, the same event happened. Each night, the phone call, then the knock. Phone call and knock. Phone call and knock.
I did not understand what was happening and each time ~I heard the knock, I was finding myself more and more frightened. Each night, the rains came, followed by this strange man and the ringing of the phone. It was like I was trapped in a nightmare that just would not end.
After four nights, I had enough and knew I had to change things, had to stop this from happening before I lost my mind.
The phone call came, with the grating monotone voice. The knock, strong and unhesitating as it echoed through the room came next.
I walked to the door, flinging it open. I did not even wait a moment before I lunged forward, driving the tip of my knife into the chest of the dishevelled man. I felt it go in, felt it falter for a split second as it pressed through a bit of tough muscle or cartilage. When I pulled it out, blood flung across the front of me and I heard him gasp.
The second plunge of the blade caused him to fall backward on his back. His head bashed into the wood post and I could hear it crack. Blood began to press its way out of his skull from the gash I opened in his head, as more spewed from the deep wound my blade inflicted.
Over and over my knife entered him, each as deep as my strength would allow me to do.
I knew none of this was real, knew it was all just a play in my head. It all felt satisfying nonetheless, as I unleashed all the anger, fear, and paranoia the past fdays had built up. I knew all of this would soon pass, and I would find myself alone again.
The man tried to speak, I think, but all I could hear was the life draining from him in a splutter of sounds, burbling from his throat as blood filled his lungs to capacity.
I stood then, looking down at him as he lay, unmoving except for a twitch in one foot. His eyes were closed and I found myself deeply relieved that it was all, finally, blessedly, over.
I turned around and went back inside, knowing the man would disappear, just as he had done each night before.
My hands shook as the blood was washed away. It’s funny how easily it really is to get it to come off skin, though ~I knew the clothes would be a different matter. Still, I felt realyl good by the time I got out of the shower and came back downstairs, towel in hand as I patted down my hair.
It was not until then that realization struck me.
If he was not there, how could there be blood?
When I opened the front door, the sound of rain met me. The darkness was deep, but I did not want to risk turning on the light. That’s okay though, since there was light enough coming from inside the house to show me the body still laying there, with wet blood all around.
A million thoughts were going through my head, but I was numb to most of them. I just did not want to think, could not think, about what I had done. All I could do was react.
The shovel in my garage was easy to find, and the rain of the past days made the ground simple to get through. His body weighed a lot more than I expected, and went into the deep hole I dug with a slapping sound. A bit of air must have been left over in his lungs, as a whooshing sound came from his throat when he hit bottom.
I finished covering him with dirt just as the sun was beginning to come out, though it was murky in the cloudy sky. The rain had let up some, but the cold drizzle had already gotten into every pore of my being and I was shivering from it.
Well, maybe my nerves had some to do with that, too, but it was hard to tell.
As I take another drink, I wonder if those police officers that showed up at my door the next night could see how fresh the paint on the porch really was. The hair dryer I used to try to get most of the tackiness out of it seemed to do well, but there were still some spots that looked really wet, especially because of the damp air.
When they asked me if I had seen anyone, or if anyone had come knocking, I told them, of course, no. They told me about the accident up the road and were going to everyone in the neighborhood, trying to find the guy who owned the car.
They walked away, satisfied, but the whole thing really had me on edge. When I got back inside, I pulled out the bottle of whiskey my ex left in the cabinet and took my first drink since my days in college.
It’s pretty much been a steady part of my diet ever since.
I wonder if any of this had been what started my dad drinking, started him down the path of destruction which led him to, eventually, do himself in one night. The rope had been a strong one and, when I found him, I was grateful to see the old bastard hanging there.
Yet, looking back on things now, and remembering the stories my grandma told me about that side of the family, the ability to, sometimes, see the future before it even happened, I wondered if, one night, my own damnable, drunk father had ever gotten a strange call in the night.
I wondered if he had a knock on his door, wondered if it happened over and over again, until, finally, one night, out of desperation and the desire to just make the crazy train derail, he decided to take things into his own hands.
I wonder, as I take down another glass of the bitter drink, if his ability to see the future started the same way.
It’s 10:38 PM again. Without the drink, I don’t think I would ever sleep again.

 

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