I hope you enjoy this snippet of Mike Ennenbach’s short story which can be found in Static Dreams Volume One, along with eight other dark and twisted short stories.
One by one, the lights in the gray house across the street turn off until the entire house is nestled in darkness. A quick glance around the neighborhood shows similar results, as if as the midnight hour tolls from the church in the heart of town, everyone has the same ideas of sleep. There are no cars driving up and down the quiet street, no sounds emanate from the sleepy houses that line Superior Street. The entire area seems like it was snatched from the Fifties, white picket fences surround each home with small flower gardens and even the occasional tire swing drifts lazily from a gnarled branch of an old oak tree.
Not a single thing seems out of place in this picturesque scene of suburbia to the casual glance. But if you were to strain your eyes against the semi-cloud-covered moonlight, you might detect what appears to be a solitary form huddled in the bushes outside of the little gray house with the number hanging above the door. If you continued to stare at the silhouette in the bushes for a moment longer, you would notice it stand upright and stretch muscles that have cramped from an hour of motionless wait. And if you watched for a moment longer still, you would see the shadow quietly open the front door of 1312 Superior Street and shut the door just as quietly behind it.
The inside of the house is much the same as the outside: inside the foyer lies the living room with a nice, if not worn, couch that has a hand-knit quilt hanging over its back. An old rocking chair sits openly, as if inviting someone to come sit and rock away the stress of another day. Pictures line the walls around the fireplace with warm smiling faces looking down at the stranger who recently let himself in. The mantel of the fireplace showcases a large photograph of a couple happily sharing their first kiss of wedded bliss and is surrounded by photos of groomsmen and bridesmaids all sharing the couple’s happiness. Another group of pictures shows the same two lovers on white beaches playfully frolicking in the rolling ocean surf.
The shadow steps up to each photo and stares intently at them, soaking in each detail before moving on to the next. For a moment the cloud cover breaks and pure moonlight bathes the room and the shadow reveals itself to be a man dressed in all black. He walks around the room with confidence as if this isn’t his first time inside. The way he looks at the people that smile at him, it seems he is a friend or possibly family member just glad to be home. But he is neither friend nor family, for all of the names that he has been given there have not been many men like him at all.
After absorbing the entire room, he continues his scenic tour into the kitchen. Ceramic hens and roosters decorate the small comforting kitchen. The smell of dinner still lingers in the air, though no sign of it appears anywhere. The countertops and sinks are clean, and all the dishes have been put away. Even the dishtowel that hangs from the handle of the oven door is fresh and dry. He walks around the room deliberately until he reaches a set of drawers next to the double stainless-steel sink. Without hesitation he opens the third drawer from the bottom allowing the light to play across the blades of a full set of Ginsu knives.
He was there the day she bought them. Standing silently at the mall as she listened to the sales pitch. It excited him to approach her. The scent of her perfume filling his nostrils as the hunger raged in his head. He appreciated the heady irony of stepping up to her and pushing her towards the purchase with a smile and a tale of cooking for his family. She swallowed it too, hook line and proverbial sinker. He wonders if she felt electricity as she first unboxed them. If she knew what the blades would be used for one day. He smiles, imagining she did even though he knows it is impossible. Or was it? Was anything truly impossible anymore?
He stares at them for a moment, with that grin of memory, and silently pockets the long serrated bread knife then pushes the drawer closed.
Done in the kitchen, he makes his way to the stairs that lead up to the second floor of the house. The pictures that line the stairway don’t quite have the joyfulness of the ones on the mantel; in fact, they almost glare at him with stark disapproval at his very presence. With the grace of a cat, he slinks noiselessly up the steps and down the hallway before stopping in front of a half-opened doorway. He breathes deeply as if catching the scent of the woman he knows will be lying asleep inside this room.
M Ennenbach | ©2020