We return to the Strange bit of story we have been reading over the past stretch. Dare I say, we still have no answers and it just gets stranger…
Catch up or reacquaint by following the links…
No Place Like Home
He had to get home, had to make sure that Charlotte was okay. And they let him go. His mind drifted back to his escape as he wandered the streets looking for something familiar. That was it, had to be it. They let him go. Streena had disappeared into the tunnels below the city and Jack had fallen asleep on a lump of blankets in the corner of the small room. Stan had slipped out in the dim light of the tunnels and searched for a way to freedom.
He reached the surface in a section of the city he didn’t know, streets unfamiliar and no landmarks to guide his way. As long as he continued working in the right directions he felt sure to find something he knew, something that would take him home again.
When Stan found streets he recognized he breathed easier. It took a few hours but he knew the neighborhood. He would be home and safe again, ready to put all of this mess behind him. He and Charlotte would lay low, stay out of trouble and everything would blow over.
Something about the way home had changed. It all looked like it always did. The change wasn’t physical. He passed the same people going to the same places he saw everyday on his way to and from the laundry. But the change was there.
Maybe it was the murder. He struck a blow against their oppressors and felt better for his guilt. And still the guilt remained. He caught sight of a patrol at the far end of an alley off of Washington Boulevard, a block from his apartment. That was it, the patrols had increased. Would they recognize him? Know him for the killer he had become. He rubbed at his hands to remove the blood he felt return from the night before.
Darkness had fallen across the front of his building when he walked into the courtyard. He didn’t have long before the night patrols and curfew came about. But he wouldn’t be on the streets once he made it home, made it back to Charlotte.
He bounded up the stairs to the third floor landing and the door to their apartment. It was the exertion that caused his heart to race and his stomach to turn. The door cracked open and unlocked were the things that completed his sense of dread.
Stan opened the door to a dark room and his hand hovered over the switch before he decided to leave the lights off. The dimming twilight through the living room window gave him a sense that the room had been untouched. The furniture was still in place at least. He closed the front door behind him and locked it with a click.
“Charlotte?” Stan whispered into the darkness. No one called back to him, the sounds of life were absent. Other sounds, the noises of a building settling in the dark, echoed in the room and in his head. His heart hammered a steady rhythm in his ears as he walked through the apartment.
Through the fading light everything looked as it should in all the rooms. But Charlotte was gone. It wasn’t until he stepped in the kitchen that he found any evidence that she might have been here at all. A knife thrust into a mayonnaise jar, bread with wilted lettuce, tomato, and air dried crispy meat, were sprawled on the counter. A cutting board with a large kitchen knife and onions sat off to the side near the sink.
A key slid in the door lock and slid the deadbolt back with a heavy click. The thunk came to him in the kitchen, startled him as he tried to decipher the mess left on the kitchen counter. Charlotte would never have left food out like this. The front door closed with a soft click.
A soft crinkle of bags filled the air with the scuffle of feet against the linoleum just past their front door. Stan grabbed a knife and leaned close to the refrigerator. The intruder would miss him at first as he rounded the corner from the living room into the kitchen.
Just as he had done, the intruder didn’t turn on the living room lights as he made his way through the apartment. The crinkling bags grew louder as he walked toward the kitchen.
Stan was ready, his fingers white as he gripped the knife ready to thrust into the unknown. The kitchen lights flicked on just as he swung the knife forward. Charlotte screamed as the knife whistled past her face and she dropped the few bags of groceries. Stan jumped back, away from the falling bags and away from his wife as his heart hammered against his chest.
“What the hell is the matter with you, jumping out at me in the darkness like a madman,” Charlotte said. Tears fell from her eyes as she collected herself again. She left the fallen bags on the floor while she placed the one still in her hands on the counter.
Stan looked at the knife in his hand for a moment before he set it down on the counter. Then he looked at Charlotte, searched her face for he didn’t know what. “I… I…” he said. “It’s been a day…”
“I’ll say. I got a call from Autumn and rushed to their apartment to help. Didn’t have time to clean up or have my lunch. And then this, have you gone crazy? What’s going on with you?”
“You spoke with Eric and Autumn then? Did they tell you about her adventures?” he said. “They acted like nothing happened, like Eric and I hadn’t gone in search of her.”
She bent down to clean up the broken bags and the mess on the floor. “You have been spending too much time at the laundry. All this work is giving you an overactive imagination.”
I bet you didn’t know that Smashwords is running a huge book sale on their site for the month of July, great deals on books all month long. During the month of July you can get any of my books on Smashwords either free or 50% off the cover price with the code SSW50. Right now is a great time to stock up on all those titles.
Unless of course you are a Patreon subscriber. Patreon subscribers have even better access to everything. There are some great benefits to subscribing and more coming along in the future. Hit the button to find out more.