Things Don’t Always Go Bump In The Night
by Mike Sherer
In the pitch black.
“Jim. Wake up.”
“I heard something.”
“What this time?”
“I don’t know. Something.”
“A noise. Downstairs.”
“It’s nothing, Peg. Like always.”
“Nothing?” Squeaks from an old bed as Peg sits upright. “I hear a noise downstairs in the middle of the night that is loud enough to wake me from a sound sleep and you say it’s nothing.”
“You’re a light sleeper.”
“Good thing I am. Someone could steal the bed out from under you and you wouldn’t miss it until morning.”
A heavy sigh of semi-resignation. “What did it sound like?”
“I don’t know. I was sound asleep, then bang, it wakes me right up. It was loud.”
“So you think I should go down and check it out?”
“My God, Jim, it could have been someone breaking in.” The agitated woman nearly knocks over the bedside lamp turning it on. “Will you go downstairs and see?”
In the sudden pupil-piercing light a young couple in their twenties is seen in an old ornate four-poster bed. She is sitting up, stiffly erect, dark hair and feverish concern spilling out over a carefree tee shirt. While the just-roused man, bare-chested and bare-faced, pries himself into an upright position alongside her. He coughs, yawns, stretches. “You know this old house. You heard a window rattle or a door shake or the floor settle.”
“I might have heard someone break in a door or smash a window or walk across the floor. Will you please go see? I won’t be able to sleep until you do.”
Having exhausted his defenses, the husband flings back the warmth of his covers. His well-toned, sleep-stunned body clumsily staggers up from the softness of his quickly-fading dreams. In stylish boxers he sets off into the night.
Peg, sitting up against the headboard nervously twisting the sheet bunched in her lap, attentively follows her husband’s route. As he stomps out of the bedroom he flips on the hallway light. She listens to the heavy tread of his bare feet on the wincing hardwood of the upstairs hallway. The bruised stairs creak at his lumbering descent and the downstairs foyer light comes on. The floor here also creaks.
It is an old house, with an impressive vocabulary. They had bought the two-story brownstone in the city a year ago. Their existence as apartment dwellers lasted through only one lease, the first year of their marriage. They had both been anxious for their own place. Already they have done much to it, yet there was much to be done. Jim was good with his hands, and she was acquiring new skills rapidly. But there was only so much time, since they both were employed, and only so much money. So they worked on their house as the time and money became available. Besides, there was no rush, they had an entire marriage during which to complete the job.
Peg hears Jim rattle the front door to assure himself that it is locked. He squeaks from the foyer on into the living room. From here she can no longer follow his late night round through their house, he is moving too far away. She can only imagine his progress. From the living room he will proceed into the dining room, the kitchen, the family room to check the back door, then on down to the basement. Then will come the inevitable “I told you so” as he returns to bed and grumpily curls back into his sleep.
Their old house creaks, squeaks, rattles, groans, screeches, patters, thumps, knocks, whistles, and generates other uncopyrighted noises for which there are no human labels. A century of battling gravity and the elements have worn out the materials, severely tested the architect’s design. She knows this. Yet she has so often heard ghosts chuckling in the shadows behind her, demons in otherwise empty rooms whispering plots to overwhelm her soul, maniacs lurking in dark crooked corners with torturous instruments in hand. Night is the worst. How many times had she roused her husband from a solid sleep to dispatch him into the bowels of the house? How many times had he returned to bed with ridicule on his lips? Still, she knows one time there will be something, something other than wood, plaster and glass echoing in the dark.
Too long. Peg glances at the clock. It is taking too long. Jim should be returning. She quickly returns her anxious gaze to the ominous hushed void just beyond the open bedroom doorway. He could have walked around the block by now. “Jim!” Not a sound. “Jim!!” Old, old house, absolutely quiet. “Jim!!!” This house which, for the year she had lived in it, had always spoken, had always conversed with her, was now mute. For the first time. Ever. “Jim!!! Where are you?!!!” From neither the old house nor the young husband comes a response. Only, and nothing but, silence.
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Mike Sherer wrote a screenplay that was made into a movie under the title ‘Hamal_18’, released direct to DVD in 2004. It is listed in the IMDb. Sherer has a blog, ‘flanging’, (mikesherer.wordpress.com) and a novel, ‘A Cold Dish’ he is trying to get published or secure agent representation for. He is currently writing short stories.
6 thoughts on “Things Don’t Always Go Bump In The Night”
Well-crafted and subtle. You can’t help but imagine countless possibilities.
Great story! Either Peg and Jim are themselves ghosts, or Jim decided to book it on out of there and find another woman who’ll let him sleep through the night.
I never really considered that angle, but its a good one.
Definitely has a screenwriting feel to it.
I agree with Charles–very like a script. And very effective as a chiller.
Well done. I have to keep my wife from reading it or I might as well give up my bed. It’ll be a speedy delete.