20 Tales of Terror – Day 19: Intruder

Michael laughed through another mouthful of popcorn, scattering bits of kernels all over himself and the couch. It was a lazy Friday evening and he’d just settled in to watch a cheap horror B-movie.

The film was a true gem, with buckets of goopy over-the-top gore, actors who were doing the bare minimum to earn their paycheck and costumes that were pretty light when it came to the female characters. All in all, it was the perfect weekend film.

Yet another scantily-clad actress screamed unconvincingly as the shoddily costumed monster advanced on her, rubber claws bared for attack. Michael reached for another handful of popcorn. And that’s when the lights went out.

From a very young age, Michael had been scare of the dark. Not just because of what might lurk in the shadows, but the general sense of powerlessness he felt when he couldn’t see anything. It was a fear that never really left him. Trying not to panic, he tried to make his way into the kitchen, certain that there was a flashlight in one of the drawers. Dim moonlight was streaming in through the window, so at least he wasn’t in total darkness.

As Michael felt around in the dark, he heard a faint scraping noise. He stopped and held his breath, listening more closely. It was definitely a scraping sound, but was it coming from outside? Or was it in the apartment? Instinctively, Michael looked over his shoulder, seeing nothing but darkness. He almost wished that he had seen something other than the black void behind him.

In more recent years, the dark had awakened another fear inside Michael: that someone might be lurking in it. Could an intruder have broken in, taking advantage of the power cut? Or did they cause the power cut in the first place? Michael almost laughed out loud at the silliness of that last notion, but his throat still felt dry.  Looking out the window, he could see lights on in the other apartments, but they were of little consolation to him. He couldn’t cry out for help. Even if he could, it might not arrive on time. If someone had broken in – another scrape, louder this time, and closer – maybe it was best for him to just leave. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He had to stay and face whoever was there.

The kitchen was completely dark. Michael stopped at the doorway, casting furtive glances around him. Once his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he could make out the vague outlines of the fridge and the stove. He was also scanning for human silhouettes, but as far as he could tell, there weren’t any. Good. Michael crept carefully into the kitchen, feeling around and opening each draw with as little noise as he could. After what felt like many hours, he had the flashlight and a kitchen knife in hand. Whoever was out there wouldn’t last.

As he stepped out of the kitchen, Michael heard a strangled scream and saw a shape come bounding out of the dark. The figure slammed into him, knocking him to the ground. It was lying on top of him, wheezing and growling under its breath. He managed to push it off and pin it to the ground but it scratched at his face and managed to wrap its fingers around his neck. Struggling against the thing, Michael felt around on the floor until he found the knife, slicing his finger on it. Whatever this thing was, it had a strong grip and he could feel himself growing light headed. Mustering up all his strength, Michael raised the knife above his head and brought it down on. He felt it stab through meat and muscle, and the thing screamed, loosening its grip on him. Michael repeated the same action over and over again, clamping a hand on where the thing’s mouth was to muffle it screams, until it was completely still.

He slid off the corpse and sat back against a wall, gasping and wheezing. The power came back on. At last, Michael got to see the face of his attacker: it was the owner of the apartment. Michael was confused. He thought he’d killed him several hours ago. Apparently, he hadn’t quite finished the job. With a sigh of relief, Michael dragged the man’s body into the bedroom and wrapped him up in old blankets, sheets and newspapers. He dragged his knife along the corpse’s throat, letting him bleed out into his makeshift shroud. He wanted to be absolutely thorough this time.

Michael cleaned himself up, washing as much blood off as he could. He also cleaned up the kitchen and the surrounding area until it was completely spotless. Satisfied with his handiwork, Michael plopped himself down on the couch and resumed watching his movie. A stream of fake blood shot out from a mannequin that was supposed to be a dead man and Michael laughed, spitting out bits of popcorn again.


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