Welcome to part nine of the current long story cycle (Cracked Windows). The links will be laid out in sections to cut down the total number we see on each post. You will be able to follow from week to week as needed when new sections appear.
Past the Breakfast Nook
Jerome scanned the neighborhood, up and down the street. All the noise from his forced entry must have caused a racket to wake the neighbors. No lights had come on in the sleeping houses. No one had peeked out their doors. He didn’t understand it. As he looked through the broken window again a stray thought had filled his mind. The cold and the exertion felt distant, like a part of him had been watching the whole thing from a distance. Even as he scrambled to find the best purchase to climb through the window he felt as though he looked down on himself, a spectator in the crime he had been reduced to.
That all changed when he stood at the edge of the kitchen. Memories of childhood, when he had been in the house before, flooded his vision. A different time, a different situation lay out before him as he remembered the last time he had been in this house. The old widow had just been laid to rest. Her son had opened the home to the neighborhood so everyone could say their good-byes.
Jerome had been in the basement, the second bathroom. It scared the hell out of him, so unlike his parents house. Darkness flooded the rooms beyond the small hallway that extended from the landing at the bottom of the stairs. The bathroom lay just past several doorways. His parents hadn’t gone with him. He was old enough and brave enough to go to the bathroom by himself. It was the only time in his life after he had learned that he remembered how much he wanted his mother to be with him in the bathroom.
The eyes he had seen at the end of the hallway, two pinpoints of red. They had followed him as he walked down the hall to the bathroom door. No sound, no words, they had followed him. He had wet himself before he could get so far as the bathroom door. Wet himself as he stood frozen in fear, staring at the pin points of red light.
The presence had never come near him then. It had left him. Disappeared deeper into the basement, deeper into the darkness. It left him to find himself humiliated and ashamed. Jerome had run from the house then. He didn’t wait for his parents. He had run straight home and hid behind his bed with the wall furthest away from the old house behind him.
His parents had found him later that night, still in his soiled jeans. His mother never said a word of the incident. She helped him undress and get cleaned up for bed.
He had grown numb to the cold. Its lingering effect lost to his memories. Still he scanned the entryway and broke the spell of memory. It was the same house but a new time and a new owner. The ghosts of his past wouldn’t be here. They couldn’t still be here after all this time.
“Hello?” He raised his voice to be heard further into the house. The broken glass around his feet should have woken the man hidden deeper in the darkness. But neither his voice nor the glass garnered a response.
Jerome scraped the wall in search of a light switch. The cold had hit him harder than he thought. The skin on his hands felt like paper and tingled when he touched the wall. To his regret, the search gave him nothing useful and did little to illuminate his way into the kitchen, the room next to this small entryway.
Nothing happened when he flicked the switch for the kitchen light. He had stretched his arm into the room and around the corner where he expected to find the switch. The room remained dark, an oppressive darkness that obscured the path further into the house.
Something about the darkness and even more, the quiet changes the heart of a man. Jerome spent a few minutes staring deep into the house and through it his resolve drained away. At first he thought it had come from his humiliation memory. But it was something more. The darkness deeper in the home had a pulse to it. It thumped against his chest, in his ears. It wasn’t so much a scream in the night as it was thousands of whispers that grew to a deafening roar.
His heart raced and his breathing grew labored as if he had been running. The darkness pressed tight against him, even as he noted that the street lights outside did not shine through the windows along the street side of the kitchen. He remembered the table that had been set there at one time, a breakfast nook, intimate and close for family. And as he thought back he knew that the next room would be the dining room.
It had been a formal affair. A small buffet had been set up for the old woman’s funeral. They hadn’t had much but what they could, they shared with those who mourned her passing. The furniture had been removed long ago. Even through the darkness he could see the space where the kitchen table had been. Jerome had no markers to guide him through the house.
He stood at the entrance to the kitchen, unwilling to travel further in. Without light, the furniture all removed, he had nothing left to guide him where he could go. The quiet ate at him. And he expected to see the eyes.
But there was nothing.
He wasn’t even sure what he had expected to find in the house. After all this time, he wanted something, anything but had no clue what it might be.
Jerome did the only thing he thought to be possible at this point. He backed out into the entryway and felt his way to the door. Not until he grasped the door handle did he turn his attention away from deeper into the house.
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