Terryn peered out of her second story apartment window at the rain outside. The sky was charcoal grey, not quite dark yet, as it was only six o’clock. The rain was very much a comfort for a woman living alone, she surmised that no night crawlers were out and about on such a nasty night. It seemed a reasonable assumption at the time and gave her a little comfort before she rose to pull her thin cotton drapes. There was a growl of thunder and Terryn slid her lithe figure across the room towards an electric tea kettle. “Just need some tea,” she reassured the empty room.
Her flat was small, cozy you might say, or a mouse hole, overstuffed with too much furniture and too many rugs for a 500 square foot studio. The edges lined with mismatched shelves she’d found on college move out day. Each dotted with carefully arranged trinkets, crystals, shells, and a few burnt down candles that needed replacing. She kept the place surprisingly tidy, considering it was leaning just on the side of crowded.
A desk lamp with a pink scarf tossed over it cast a honeyed glow across the room and as she sank down onto her bed with her fresh cup of tea, she felt the shivers of the cool November night slip from her consciousness. Being alone had never ceased to bother her, only in that she never really felt truly alone. She never meant to be a superstitious woman, but too many horror podcasts and r/nosleep had left her with a perpetual creeping feeling, that only seemed soothed by a close nest. Tonight, she was torn, would music calm her? A movie maybe? Sometimes a book did the trick, but sometimes nothing could slow her heart’s palpitations and she had to sit quietly in the soft light waiting for it to pass.
Fortunately, the steady rain on this night did an excellent job of muffling the creaky floorboards of the old building. Terryn had chosen it, specifically for it’s vintage charm, a 1920’s red brick row house with three apartments, one above and one below her own. A squeaky, narrow staircase rain up the edge of the building, indicating that it had once all been one home. It left only a small corridor in front of each apartment, with no landing. The walls had just old newspaper for insulation, as it stayed cold in the winter and hot in the summer, forcing Terryn to play a daring balancing game to install a window box air conditioner every year and take it out again when it got cold. Despite its quirks, it had a small gated garden to the rear and was located on one of the more affluent streets in the town she lived, known for its historic architecture and closely packed college buildings. She’d gotten lucky to find it cheap, so it had been her home for the past three years and she had settled in nicely. The street was busy with cafes and bars that never left her feeling lonely, but sometimes startled her with unexpected sounds of joyous elation around closing time.
Still, a part of her wondered if a quiet countryside would suit her better, with large open windows that let in great slabs of light or if she would feel exposed. It was that daydream that was playing in her mind, when she heard a rattle on her window that made her start. She paused, her heart in her throat, but stray cats in the city weren’t uncommon, especially wanting in from the rain. So she waited, the small room engulfed in a tense silence for the sound to come again or a familiar scratching, but after a few moments there was nothing and that unnerved her even more. She struggled with whether she should go take a look out of the window, imagining the grizzled face of some vagrant peering back up at her. After a few deep breaths, she rose to slide back the curtains, but there was nothing there. Just a shadowy garden bathed in golden streetlights and rain. A car cruised, lazily past, its headlights casting a pale glow that twisted the shadows into long strips.
“For God’s sake,” she muttered, peering out a little longer, just to be sure, “this fucking house.” She collapsed back down onto her bed, sliding her laptop from the edge and rubbing her finger across the trackpad to wake it up. Her heart was still pounding in her ears, but the initial shock subsided and she thought a movie would quiet the echoing pulse. She browsed lazily, deciding on some old cartoon with an obnoxious soundtrack. It was bright and more than a little jarring, but cut through the room’s tension like a knife. She sipped her tea, smoothing a flyaway curl to her forehead and staring at the screen, but not really focusing.
TAP! TAP! TAP!
This time she jumped in earnest, slamming closed her laptop screen and flying to the window. Again, peering out into the dimly lit yard, there was nothing there. It must be a cat in the bushes, she thought, or... She moved cautiously over to her front door, lowering her eye to the peephole. Maybe she wasn’t understanding where the sound was coming from, but the hallway, as usual was dark. She groaned, the stupid landlord always forgot to change the lightbub. She checked the locks for good measure and the deadbolt and the chain were secure. She moved back to the window and rattled the pane, trying to recreate the sound, but the window only murmured hollowly, not at all like the sound she’d heard. “It must have been someone on the street kicking a trash can or something,” she exhaled, thoroughly spooked. She gathered up her nervous energy and decided to do some dishes. The warm running water over her hands was comforting. She finished, and turned the water off, surveying her little space. Warm and cozy, no shadowy corners for anyone to lurk behind. If anyone tried to break in, she would see them coming, she assured herself, as she turned to put a glass in the cabinet. She swung confidently around to grab the next glass and a truly terrible scream jumped past her lips before her eyes even focused.
A tall dark figure was moving fast towards her. Her instincts moved her numb legs to stumble backwards, hardly comprehending. There had been NO ONE there only a half a second earlier, but the form was lightening fast and its damp hands were wrapping her in a bearhug before her back hit the cabinet behind her.
She went to scream again, her entire body tensing outward under his touch, but he’d pulled her violently knocking the air out of her lungs and it came out as a muffled cough. She heard an evil hiss over the pounding in her ears and then blackness.
She was aware, before she woke, that she was damp. Had she had a nightmare? Was she sweating? Maybe she had a fever. Terryn kept her eyes squeezed shut a little longer, her nose sniffing for the familiar scent of her shampoo in her sheets. A coppery smell roused her senses and she wrinkled her brow, rolling over. Her sheets...were very soft. Terryn’s eyes flew open. These were not her cheap Walmart sheets.
Her last memories from the night before came swooping into the front of her mind like a vulture and she sat upright. Her eyes danced madly around the room. It was dark, shadows softening the edges, obscuring its size. She was in a large bed, draped in heavy, but plush coverings. Her auburn curls clung to her damp cheeks and she brushed them away with a panicked gesture. In the dimness she could make out some sort of end table with a lamp. Shaking, she lifted her hands to it. She let her fingers feel around for a knob or a pull, but it sprang to life with just a touch, splashing the room in an amber glow that startled her. The wall coverings were some dark shade of blue or purple, giving it a queer look. There was a looming black wardrobe on the opposite side of the room and a writing desk framing a window. The damask curtains were drawn. She held her breath and listened, turning her head slowly to a solid wooden door. No light pooled underneath from the hallway and she heard nothing.
She listened for a few minutes longer, and sure there was absolutely no sound, she carefully swung her feet down to the velvety carpet below. She breathed slowly, her skin prickling with sensation, as she stepped silently towards the door. She stopped every third step to listen for a moment, until finally she had her face pressed against its cool surface. There was nothing, no sound. No cars passing on the street or squeaking footsteps. Complete silence, except her heart pounding in her chest and her own ragged breath. She let her fingers fall down to the cold black doorknob, giving it a gentle twist. The latch clicked with an echo and she winced, pulling the heavy door open. The hallway was cool and the hairs on her moist skin rose as the air pressure changed. It was pitch black except the feeble splash of lighting spilling out from behind her.
Terryn froze. Her eyes straining to see anything in the darkness, but nothing moved and her lungs started gulping in air to scream.
“Hey” the voice was deep and male. Her curls shuddered under his breath it seemed before he appeared. A tall, thin man, whose face was lost in the shadow of the doorway. No scream emerged, but with her lungs filled Terryn lunged forward, her bare feet making confident contact with a wooden floor. She fell into one long step and then another, before thin, but strong hands had her by the shoulders.
She fought, throwing her weight back against him, hoping to catch his instep under her heel. She stomped and thrashed, using all of her breath to fuel her electrified muscles, but he pulled her against him with familiar force.
“Hey, hey, hey” he cooed, holding her close and wrapping his long arms around hers.
A wild “let m-me go!” burst from her lips and she swung her head back violently, writhing. “Let me go!” she screamed, this time in a shrill voice that echoed against the bare walls.
“Hey your going to hurt yourself,” his voice was calm, carrying a whiff of amusement. He held her solidly for such a thin man, and dragged her back into the room, nudging the door shut behind them. Terryn, whose strength was depleting fast resorted to desperate measures and let out a screeching howl. She gasped for air to let out another and he abruptly let her go, pushing her gently forward. She stumbled before twirling around to face him.
“Must you scream?”
Terryn threw her shoulders forward and spreading her legs wide. He was between her and the door and she planned on going through the door. She pushed all of her 115 lbs forward, her shoulder aimed at his diaphragm, hoping to knock him off balance, but he caught her with a soft thwap.
“STOP.” His voice boomed, rattling the window. Terryn flew backwards against the bed and bounced across the spread.
“Just stop,” he said more softly, as she scrambled to right herself.
Exhausted and panting, Terryn withdrew to the far corner of the bed, to get a better look at the situation. He was really strong for such a thin man, his form looming a good foot taller than her. His hand were raised, palms up to her as he carefully inched forward. She glanced around the room, quickly looking for something she could use as a weapon and on instinct yanked up the bedside table and raised it above her head, sending sundry items clattering across the floor. His hands dropped to his sides and he tilted his head, his mouth opening slightly to quickly run his tongue across his lips.
“Calm. Down. Terryn.” He said the words slowly, stopping his advance. Terryn scurried, end table still raised to the opposite corner of the room, eyeing the damask curtains. Could she throw the table through and jump before he was on her? The heavy curtains were tied with velvet sashes. She frowned, her strength was failing. She would have to calculate her next move.
“Terryn. Please don’t.” the man’s demeanor had slackened slightly and he took a step back. She saw him blink and instinctively hurled the end table at him as hard as she could, diving into a brisk charge. This time she sidestepped him and leapt for the door. She heard a muffled grunt and felt herself fly backwards as the table slammed against the floor. She found herself pressed again, to the soft bed. His face close to hers, she saw for the first time that his eyes were a chilling grey.
“Terryn, I can do this all night,” he mewed, a threatening smile forming on his lips. Terryn’s strength was spent and she went limp in horror, tears pouring suddenly from her eyes.
“Noooooo” she moaned, defeated. The man jumped back, the look on his face contorting to worry.
“Hey, hey” He threw his hands up behind his head, “hey look I’m sorry. I scared you-jesus”
“Let me go,” she whimpered, the tears flowing freely now, curling her legs back underneath her body.
“Fuck,” the man swung around, pulling his hands over his face, he paused before turning his attention back to Terryn. He took two steps back, as if considering his next move and cocked his head to the side.
“Look, I knew this was a bad idea. I’m not going to hurt you.” Terror flashed across Terryn’s flushed face and she sobbed. He clapped his hands over his face, “Jeeeesusss girl, what can I say?”
“Let me me go!” she insisted. He dropped down to the floor suddenly in a crouch.
“Look I can’t let you go, but I’m not going to hurt you.” He paused, “can we just talk?”
Terryn’s eyes bore into him, tired, but brimming with distrust. He stood up again. There was a long silence only disturbed by Terryn’s sniffles.
“Uh...my name is Jules.” He stepped forward putting out his hand. She glared at it as if it were a venomous snake.
“You took me from my house,” she murmured, “let me go.”
Jules frowned. “ I can’t let you go, but I can answer questions, don’t you want to know where you are?”
Her voice shuddered with rage, “No. I want you to let me go.” Jules flopped down next to her on the bed, she eyed him cautiously, but didn’t move.
“If I tell you what happened it won’t make any sense, I just-” His grey eyes met hers with a kind smile, “I just want you to know, you are in no danger. No one here will lay a hand on you.”
Terryn reflexively scoffed. “If...you just calm down, okay?” he continued, “Can we have a little truice?”
“I want to go home.”
Jules laughed nervously, “I understand that. I really do, and as strange as it sounds....well...in a way you are home.”