It was dark. Oddly dark for a usually busy little street. It was my street, lined with cookie-cutter homes usually alight with a warm, orange glow. The lights still shone from the windows and doors but the glow failed to touch the sidewalk like they usually did every other night, it made me a bit… uneasy. As I walked down my street, I could hear everything; my shoes hitting the concrete sidewalk, making a crisp, stomping noise with each step. I could hear the crickets, chirping softy in the forest behind the row of houses, the buzz of the streetlights, whose spotlights fell dimly on the concrete. I should feel safe going down my street, why shouldn’t I? It was a nice neighborhood, not excessively wealthy but not impoverished by any sense of the word. Crime never happened here. Until last week, that is. Allison, a young woman, about twenty, had gone missing just last Tuesday, as she was walking home from work. Down this very sidewalk. Did she notice the dimness of the lights? Could she hear the chirping of the crickets as she walked home, never to arrive?
As I walked down the seemingly never ending street, I finally reached my home. It was nothing special, just like every other home on the street. It was a ranch, it had a small garage to its side where my two year old, used, dull red car sat parked outside the garage. The garage was too small for the car. I cautiously made my turn down my walkway and to my front door, reached in my pocket and felt the cold metal of the keys. I grasped them and looked at them in the dim light to deduce which of the five or so keys matched the lock on my door. I squinted to see the keys.
I froze. Tap. It was soft. Tap. But it was getting louder each time. Tap. It was coming from behind me, the sound bounced in my ears as I began to grow panicked. I wasn’t sure why I was panicking, it was probably just a squirrel or a raccoon. It was irrational and I knew it. Tap. The whole street had been irrational this week after Allison. Tap! I fumbled with my keys, and my sweaty palm grew slippery. Tap! It was so loud now, I felt the metal, now warm from my hands, slip from between my fingers and heard them clang on the welcome mat. I was now terrified. I spun around, scared to see what was behind me. Nothing. There was nothing behind me. I laughed softy to myself as I bent down to grab the keys I had so carelessly let fall. It was clear now, somehow, see clearly which key would fit into the lock, I inserted the key, turned the knob, and entered my home in relief.
the door closed softy yet quickly behind me and it was promptly locked. I took off my coat and hung it on the rack behind the door, sat down on my couch, and sank into the soft cushions. I sighed, my adrenaline still high from my foolishness outside. I was so tired after working a long day at my office and had not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I kept having this strange nightmare about a woman. I could see her in my dreams, walking down a dark corridor, she was cold and shivering. She would pull her coat tightly around herself as she grew colder and colder. The dream was silent, only her footsteps were audible. I remember seeing something behind her. Something that I could not identify, a dark shadowy mass. The woman then began to fade away. She continued to walk but became more opaque as she did. I always woke up at this point, and I never wanted to go back to sleep after. This nightmare was clearly caused by Allison. But why? I didn’t know Allison, I'd never met her aside from friendly smiles and pleasantries as we would pass each other on our way to work.
I drifted off to a restless slumber on my sofa. The dream came immediately, as expected. But this time it was… different. The woman was running, she was terrified. But this time I could hear a noise. A soft noise at first but it grew louder. Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! It wasn’t her footsteps, it was separate, and it was loud! It was what I had heard earlier outside. As she ran she grew tired, she began to slow with fatigue. As she slowed down so did the tapping. But another noise began to overwhelm my senses: crickets. The crickets grew louder and louder until they drowned out the sounds of the woman’s footsteps, they became so loud they hurt my head. I woke up in a cold sweat, I looked at the clock and I had only been asleep for an hour. I was spacey and felt ill, so I went to the bathroom and turned on the cold water and stared at myself in the mirror. The dream was a result of my ridiculous scare earlier, I knew that, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong. I looked into the glass and filled my hands with water from the basin. Then I splashed my face to calm myself down, the water was calming. I held my hands over my face for a few seconds, letting the cool water soothe my head. I lowered my hands and opening my eyes.
The woman. It was her. In the mirror. In place of my own face. It was only for a split second but I swear to god it was her. Staggering back from the mirror, I screamed. I’m losing my mind. I must be. I went back to the mirror and saw only my own reflection. It was pale, sweaty, and tired looking. I was beginning to get angry. I didn’t know Allison! Why was I being tormented? The hot anger was boiling inside my chest and the adrenaline got the better of me as I swung my fist at the mirror. My eyes clenched shut and I heard a shattering. I felt a sharp pain in my fist but I didn’t care.
My eyes opened again and I looked down at the basin of the sink. Splatters of my own blood were lining the sink and the remnants of the mirror, I looked at my fist and it was bleeding from the broken glass. I sighed to myself, realizing how stupid I had been. Sitting on the ledge of my bathtub, I thought about what I had just seen, rewinding the events that just happened in my mind. I buried my face in my still wet hands and took a few slow, deep breaths. It wasn't real... it couldn't have been real... that woman must be Allison, but why? Now I feel very sick. Slowly I got up from the ledge and wearily I went to the kitchen to grab some paper towels to dab the now coagulated cuts on my knuckles. They hurt but not as bad as my head. Just as I reached the threshold of the kitchen I heard it.
My face must’ve lost all its color right then. Cold shivers flushed over my body and I was paralyzed with fear. Tap. It was soft, but then it got louder. Tap! I ran into the kitchen and opened a drawer, I pulled out the biggest carving knife I owned and held it up at wherever the noise was coming from. My home was dark, too dark. I couldn’t see anything in the dim shadows, but I could hear it. Tap! My heart felt as if it were going to beat out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe, my head was aching. Tap! I swung the knife around at where the noise came from. It seemed to originate from somewhere different each time. Then everything stopped dead. I was sweating profusely, overheated, I was dying. A sharp pain in my chest struck me like a sledgehammer, my knife clattered on the linoleum kitchen floor as my hand grasped my chest. I coughed up a small amount of blood into the palm of my already bleeding hand. My vision started to blur and I felt dizzy, I was dying! The quiet in a way became so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. Then I saw it.
From the blackness of my living room I could see… something. It was hard to describe. The blackness surrounding the figure seemed bright white in comparison to the black void slowly moving towards me. It was the same as the dream, did this thing take Allison? I didn’t have the strength to reach down and grab my knife, I was panicking. I heard it getting loud again, not the tapping this time…but the crickets. The crickets got so loud my ears started to hurt! I saw it getting closer, my vision blurred as I began to fall towards the floor. My eyes opened one last time to see the knife next to me on the floor, and the shadowy figure closing in. I closed my eyes as the crickets began to fade along with my consciousness…
Tap… Tap… Tap…