It was a bleak day at the turn of autumn.
Thunder roared portentously in the skies overhead, while a torrent of rain drenched the yard and turned it to mud.
The wind had just picked up. It took hold of the trees and shook them until a fresh layer of soggy leaves had littered the dampened earth. The wind’s eerie whistle filled the apartment and brought with it the sharp bite of coldness.
A streak of lightning greeted her at the window – a quick flash of white in a blue sky that was gradually filling with sunset colours. It was gone as soon as it appeared and was soon followed by another low roll of thunder.
She shut the window and shuffled back to the couch for a nap. There were few things more soothing in life than falling asleep to the soft pitter and patter of rain against the window. Even the roar of thunder and crack of lightning could do little to ruin that.
It was some hours later before she awoke. The dancing light of the muted television set flickered and bounced off the leather couches and shiny picture frames. A quick glance at her phone told her that it was only a few minutes past ten – a little too early to turn in for the night, but much too late to feel productive. It was the perfect time for a late night snack.
She flipped the lights on in the kitchen and reached for the refrigerator door. The bulb overhead flickered for a moment and then plunged her into darkness. The landlord had promised and failed a thousand times to fix that. She flipped the switch on and off again, but there was only darkness. She noticed then that the television set in the living room had also gone out.
She checked the lights in the hallway, but they didn’t come on, either. The storm had ended while she slept, and there had never been a blackout at her apartment before. What could have suddenly caused the lights to go out? Had the whole apartment building lost electricity? Or was it just her?
She returned to the kitchen and began to fumble through the drawers for a candle. She was almost certain she had stashed one away there in case of an emergency.
Suddenly, the lights flickered again, and then came on full flush. She shut the drawer and breathed a sigh of relief.
A low growl in the pit of her stomach reminded her of her errand, but the sudden sound of scratching and scraping down the hall gave her pause.
She was home alone. There was no one else in the apartment – or was there? A stab of fear pierced her heart. The flickering lights filled her with more dread than mere annoyance this time, but thankfully, they did not go out.
The scratching and scraping paused for a moment as though it too had held its breath, and then it began again with renewed vigour. It bore a striking resemblance to the sound of someone trying to force a window open, and at three floors up, there couldn’t possibly be a good reason for that.
The scratching and scraping continued.
She could stand in the kitchen or she could investigate and prepare to defend herself, if necessary. One foot in front of the other brought her down the hallway and to the bedroom door. For a moment, she hesitated and then with a last call of courage, she flung the door open and flipped the lights on. There was no one in the room.
Still, the scratching continued at the window. It was louder now, and seemingly more vicious. She took a deep breath and opened the blinds, but there was no one there. There was only darkness and the silhouette of dancing trees and waving branches at the edge of the yard.
The scratching persisted.
Where was it coming from? She followed her ears to the culprit and laughed at her paranoia and suggestive imagination. It was only the music component system trying to recover from the shock of the lights going on and off. It was changing and checking each disk inside.
“Stupid,” she muttered to herself as she left the room. Her relief was palpable.
On entering the hallway, the lights began to flicker again, and even through the rapidly changing state of light and darkness, she noticed that the knob on the front door was turning. She took a step back, and gasped as she was plunged into complete darkness yet again.
The shadow of a tall man in a hooded shirt appeared in the doorway.
The lights then flickered to life and illuminated the face of the intruder. Again, she laughed at her paranoia. She had watched one too many suspense thrillers of damsels in distress.
It was no serial killer or deranged psychopath – not this time. Only her roommate watching her curiously from the door.
Originally published November 9, 2015 on Alexis Chateau.
40 thoughts on ““A Bump in the Dark” by Alexis Chateau”
I love seeing images incorporated into storytelling! I started experimenting with it myself in one of my series. Great work 😀
Thanks Elle! This is the one time I tried it. It was fun.
Wonderful and thank you. Always keeping your readers guessing. Write on Madam. Write on. S.
I see you found another one! Thank you 🙂
Thank you for the follow! I hope to hear from you soon!
I hope I’m not overstepping my boundaries by being frank, but I’m not a fan of this post. The title drew me in and the suspense was there to a degree, but I was disappointed. The writing style and the way you handled the story threw me off because the images interrupted everything. As a writer, one shouldn’t need images to supplement because the writing should be more than enough to draw a mental picture and play that movie in one’s head. Also, the writer in me cannot stand useless adverbs because they’re of no help to anyone. They’re lost opportunities for great imagery and instead hold the reader’s hand through the story.
The concept itself is lovely, but the writing needs work.
Good luck on future pieces!
Earlier this year, I sat in a media specialist class at the GSU campus nearby. The professor’s topic of that day was on media critics, and how quickly we judge a piece or an artist before seeking to understand or do research. I believe you’ve fallen into that trap.
If you checked my other posts and short stories, you would realise this is not my usual writing style. It’s satire, and hyperbole rolled into one. The irony and point of the story is the exaggerated fear and utter pointlessness of it; and the language was crafted to match.
Ultimately, we’re all entitled to our opinions and you’ve aired yours.
But if this is the way you welcome new readers before even building a rapport, then alas, you may need the luck more than I.
All the best – and happy 2017.
Phew, the ending was far happier than I thought it would be, thanks for that! A thrilling read.
Haha. You’re welcome Sonny. You should try the other one as well, much scarier!
I liked the ending. good work
Thank you Jacob. 🙂
Wow… I should not have read this after midnight. It got to me… in the very best way. I was heartily glad for the ending you gave it! : )
Haha. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my bit of fiction. I’m working on a short story series as we speak, so keep an eye out for more of these! Thanks again!
Awesome! I’ll keep a lookout then!
Loved the way you began this story. It drew me in immediately. I found myself taking shorter breaths as you plowed through to the end. The descriptive wording painted a great picture and I could see everything that was happening. I need to set more time aside so that I can follow the people who are following me. Thanks for the “early bed-time” story!
I hope this bedtime story doesn’t give you nightmares! I’m really glad you enjoyed my post and thanks for checking out my blog!
No worries, I’m a big girl and don’t frighten easily. I’ll check out more of your posts as soon as I can. I have a feeling that we could be great blog-buddies. (did I just coin a new term there? **snort)
Haha. Maybe you did. I have more short stories coming up so keep an eye out for them! 😉