by Kara Mercer
She can’t sleep. It’s 2 am and her mind is turning in circles. The hum of the only white noise that will put her cluttered mind to rest isn’t doing its job and is only making her cold. She gets up to make the trek through the pitch black to make her fan stop rotating, but she startles the cat. She hears claws sticking to the carpet in a messy get away attempt. Her cats weren’t known for their agility, and in his haste, her furry friend knocks into the food dishes. The loud clang of metal makes her jump and her heart start to race. She can’t see a thing. She always enjoyed sleeping in the dark, but it’s 2 in the morning and she’s wide awake. Her heart continues to knock on her ribs until she realizes it isn’t her heart, but something else. She can’t quite pinpoint what the sound was. It sounded like the pitter patter of the buttons on jeans or the zippers of sweaters tumbling in the dryer. She chalks it up to someone deciding to do laundry very late at night.
Continuing her mission, she very carefully steps towards where she knows her fan is. She ends up bumping into the chair of her desk that is overflowing with books. She hears them all tumble to the ground, the whoosh of pages and cracking of bindings making her flinch as she imagines all the bent pages. She reaches blindly for her fan, and doesn’t notice the absence of the knocking she had heard earlier. Now that the Doppler noises of her fan have stopped, and one steady stream of wind remains, she finds her way back to her bed. The rustle of sheets is a welcoming sound; her day had been very trying and all she had been looking forward to was a good night’s sleep.
She tries to shut off her mind as she gets comfortable again. She allows the fan’s whirring to carry her into a semi asleep state. Just before she falls into the sweet hold of unconsciousness, however, she’s awakened by a flash of bright light. Her eyes snap open, her pupils immediately regretting the decision. Every light in her room is on, making her squint. The buzz of electricity fills the air and grows increasingly louder. A loud pop and everything goes dark again, and this time there is no grounding sound of a fan, or any other noise that normally accompanies the various amenities. There is just silence. It’s 2 in the morning and she considers running to her parents’ room like she used to when there were thunderstorms, only to remember her parents weren’t there. She doesn’t move from where she cowers under the covers, seeking the same kind of protection now. Breaking glass coming from several different places in the house makes her tense. Crash and then nothing. The house is dead silent now.
The discernible sound of booted heels falls down the wooden steps towards where her room is. She holds the blanket tighter to her and wishes she had gotten up to hide. It’s too late now. She waits, holding her breath. The footsteps stop right outside her door. Escape plans filter through her head, and her heart still hasn’t slowed from earlier. The silence would have woken the dead. She thinks she can hear her blood rushing through her veins. She feels her heartbeat in her eardrums as she cranes to listen for any other sound. The footsteps never retreat, and she never goes to sleep.
EDITED BY: Elizabeth Fish