Flash fiction: Lurking by Val Muller

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story involving waiting. 

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit series Corgi Capers.

Lurking

By Val Muller

The autumn chill bit the air. Leaving the window cracked open seemed like such a good idea earlier, when it was warm and sunny. Now, Christy shivered against the cold. Her heavy fleece blanket was barely enough to keep her warm, and she drew the covers up over her shoulders like Garfield in those old cartoons. 

She glanced toward the other side of the bed. Normally, she’d curl up against John for warmth, but of course it was the night of his board meeting. It only happened once a month, but of course it was on the day she forgot to close the window. John never got cold, and he would gladly get out of bed to close it for her.

If he were here.

How long would the meeting go? Once, it went past midnight. How bad would it be if she texted him? “Can you hurry up the meeting so you can come home and close the window?” Hmmm, would he think that was cute, or would it annoy him? 

Christy turned over under her warm cocoon to get comfy as she pondered. It might annoy him, especially if the Board started arguing over funding again. How petty she was to consider texting him about such a thing. It was just a stupid window. She should either fall asleep in the cocoon or close the window herself. 

She peered out from the blankets, and her heart jolted. She was facing the closet door, and it was hanging open. Her nightstand lamp was reflecting off something, creating a grumpy-looking semblance of a face from deep among the clothes. She felt like a child as she pulled the cover back over her head.

Why the hell was the closet door open? She never left it open like that. Probably John had been searching for the perfect outfit for the meeting, and he left in a rush. Christy fought uninvited thoughts and memories. As early as kindergarten, she learned that you never, ever go to bed with the closet door open. It’s an invitation to monsters, after all. It fell into the same category of never letting your foot hang down over the edge of the bed, or sprinking salt over your shoulder if you spilled any. 

Irrational as it was, now she would never be able to fall asleep. Her kindergarten self would be screaming for Mom by now, insisting the offending Portal to Nightmares be closed. But Christy was alone in the house, and she had to either make her way through Cold and Nightmares to remedy the situation, or else wait for John.

As she waited, she rehearsed how she would say it. Of course it would have to be casual. She would have to downplay its significance lest he tease her or, worse, pick up on her fear. Of course the grownup in her knew there were no monsters in the closet. She could explain the logic of that using words. But how to explain the visceral nature of this fear, the primordial dread of darkened passageways opened to the vulnerability of sleepers?

She shuddered to think that the open closet door was going against every bit of biological wiring within her. She ducked back in her cocoon and pulled the blanket tight over her head. This was going to be a late meeting. How long could she wait? 

From her warm bubble, thoughts intruded like marching insects, each bringing a minuatae of dread. Shadowy claws scratched at her consciousness, and the unbearable silence of the room tortured her ears. Where was John? The minutes passed like years in a life sentence, and now, every sound of the house settling brought new paranoid fears of home invaders and wild animals and the supernatural. John’s meeting would never end.

*

John seemed surprised when he got home. Not only was Christy still up watching TV, but she had dragged her heavy fleece blanket all the way to the couch downstairs. She must have felt like a kid again, left home alone to do all manner of crazy things, and here all she chose was to watch a little extra TV. 

He was still shaking his head about it as he led his sleepy wife up to bed and closed the window and closet door as she arranged her blanket back on the bed amd settled to sleep.

The Spot Writers–Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/ 

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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