We've all seen or heard them at one point or another, I'm convinced of it. You open your eyes at night and see a shadow move across the doorway, you hear footsteps walking around your bed but can't wake up enough to do anything about it, or something pulls away just as you round the corner of your stairwell. In each case, of course, there's nothing there when you actually focus, or wake up, or walk a little faster into the room. Just nerves. That's what I thought, anyway.
I just happened to be wrong.
I really was having fun being a big girl, alone in a new house while the husband was dragged away on a business trip (bastard! I bet he arranged it on purpose too!) I got to play all the music he didn't like as loud as I pleased, talked on the phone to my girlfriends as long as I wanted, ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting, danced around the house in my underwear like a moron, the works. The house creaked a bit sometimes, and occasionally I thought I saw movement, but after turning on every light in the house and not finding a thing for the third time, well, I figured I was just being stupid.
Unfortunately it was a pretty cold night, the first cold snap of the year, and I'd forgotten to turn on the heat. Since my favorite blanket warmer was six states away things started getting chilly. I finally decided blue feet weren't sexy and got up to root out a blanket from the walk-in bedroom closet.
A streetlight outside provided just enough illumination for me to find my way around the bed without needing to turn on a light. I knew I'd tossed the big comforter on the floor in there somewhere, so while I couldn't see into the closet proper I decided to just feel around with my foot rather than flick the closet light on. I was just muzzily surprised at first when my foot hit something hard and stiff, shaped like the leg of a clawfoot table. I was puzzling over what the hell a table was doing in my closet when something surprising happened.
The goddamned clawfoot moved.
I jumped back a bit and was getting ready to scream when suddenly something big and powerful came shrieking out of the hanging clothes, scattering shirts and pants like a hand grenade detonating in a leaf pile. Off balance, it bounced me off the opposite wall and then landed on top of me on the floor. It was all happening way too fast, wrestling and punching and grabbing. Absurdly, the first thing that came into my mind was how its skin felt like the bark of a maple tree... hard and rough and jointed, but cold. I caught impressions of glittering eyes and a dog-like snout and the brilliant glint of razor teeth when all of a sudden I put a knee in something soft and threw the thing into the back of the closet as hard as I could.
At that point I wasn't thinking, I was just trying to get as far away from that thing as I could. I ran straight out of the closet and banged my shins hard against the bed frame (DAMMIT! WHO PUT A BED THERE?!?), fell face-first with a scream and then rolled as fast as I could to the opposite floor, promptly wrapping the sheets around my ankles. I landed with a thud on the opposite side and wrestled with my goddamned feet while my heart did an incredibly convincing imitation of a bongo drummer after his sixth espresso. I rolled over and scrabbled against the rough nylon of the carpet until my back literally hit the wall.
For whatever reason, when I finally looked up I didn't see it standing over me like I expected. I wasn't completely sure it had actually happened until I peered over the bed and saw the two gleaming dots of reflected streetlight gleaming back at me from deep inside the closet. It was at this point I realized I had a problem (well, in addition to the weird freaky thing sitting in the back of my closet, I mean).
I'd just wanted to get away from it, but inadvertently ended up on the side of the room opposite the bedroom door. Every time I tried to move past the bed I'd hear it start to growl, a low, rumbling noise like the lid of a crypt being pushed sideways. I always used to bitch about movies who had dumb heroes, ones that didn't do the obviously right thing and just got themselves deeper in trouble, and damned if I didn't end up choosing the moron option myself. I'd picked this place for its beautiful staircases as much as anything else, but now I was stuck at the top floor of a pretty three story brownstone with two brilliant, close-set diamonds gleaming back at me, and they were closer to the door than I was.
As seems to be typical in these situations (what? doesn't everyone have one of these things in their house? Are you sure?), I'd left my primary self-defense weapon, a genuine Louisville Slugger baseball bat I'd got when I'd visited their factory years ago, downstairs next to the front door. All I had was a set of old slats from the bed... planks an inch thick, three inches wide, and probably four feet long, stacked against the wall next to the dresser. Well, I guess I can lance it with one of these. I levered myself up with one of them, absurdly careful lest I get a splinter from it, and looked straight into those metal buttons still staring at me from the back of the closet. "C'mon you sonofabitch", I whispered to it quietly, "I'm ready now... come and get it..."
The two tiny lights in the closet went out.