Lightning flashed across the sky, veins of light breaking through the shadows.
Constantin took the stairs three-at-a-time, satchel slung over one shoulder. He checked his watched as he hit the landing, a sheen of sweat gliding down his face as he checked the doors in the long, seemingly-endless hallway. His gaze shifted to his watched again, skin flushed as the numbers ticked by. He swallowed, tugging at the collar of his dress shirt as it clung to his skin.
The walkie-talkie strapped to his belt hissed, white noise flooding the area. Constantin’s pulse jumped, skin crawling as the ghostly whispers crawled through the air. Behind him, the hallway darkened like lights shattering overhead. A distant scream echoed, sharp claws digging into his head.
‘You cannot run forever, Constantin Ari Dubois,’ He found the door, hands shaking as he fumbled with the keys. Constantin looked over his shoulder, eyes widening as the hallway blacked out, section after section. It was akin to something he had seen in a horror movie, a monster which screamed its rage through the halls unseen. He turned back to the door, sweat dripping into his eyes as the ghostly whisper caressed his senses with sinister intent, ‘I will always find you. You cannot escape.’
The key slid into the lock. Constantin turned it, flinging open the door and diving headfirst into the room. He kicked the door shut behind himself, gasping for breath as something large and heavy slammed into the thick wooden door. The walkie-talkie hissed and spat, whispers clawing at his ears as he climbed to his feet. He locked the door and secured the deadbolts, then stepped back and eyed the door with a sense of dread.
It had followed him back. They had followed him back.
Would it be enough to keep them out? The question haunted him, as dark and pressing as the inky black shadows pacing on the other side of the door. He could see it, eyes wide as he watched the human-like pacing and the shadows attached. Is it enough?
Constantin made his way through his apartment, shaking. Books rested, open, on every counter and flat surface. Notebooks waited, notes and lines and memories written in their bleeding pages. Pictures dotted the walls, of him and a young woman with haunted eyes. He paused, fingers lightly tracing the slick surface of the photo.
In the background of the photo were the others. He could count them, almost. Dozens of shadowy figures, shoulders slumped and eyes blazing. They were appearing more and more in his photos, grotesque grins promising nightmares and pain. Light, airy laughter came from his walkie-talkie, filling the silence with its echo.
‘Ari, why won’t you let us in?’
He eyed the door, lips pressed into a thin line. His gaze shifted to his watch, the time reading 4:37 AM, before turning towards the book. He had one hour and twenty-three minutes left. One hour and twenty-three minutes and then he could sleep.
He heard the laughter, the sound of nails dragged down a chalkboard, before the speaker whispered, ‘We can take you to her, Ari. To Saralee. We can take you to her. Let us in.’
Constantine clenched his teeth, jaws grinding together as he pressed his palms against the table. He bowed his head, pushing away the voices beckoning him from the hall as he closed his eyes. He stilled his mind, breathing slowly. Every breath he counted until the soft, sibilant whispers faded from his hearing and the chill in the air lifted. Once he felt a sense of calm return, he lifted his head.
He spied a newspaper clipping off to his left, the image of Saralee’s smiling face cutting him deep. Constantin reached for it, dragging it across the table. He eyed her smiling eyes, seeing the light within them even in the black-and-white of the article.
Then his gaze dropped to the passage beneath.
Tragic Accident On Prophet’s Drive: Murder, Suicide Or Accident?
Yesterday, at 11:17AM, Saralee Morano, 21, was killed during a hit-and-run. She and Constantine Ari Dubois, endgaed three years prior, were shopping on Prophet Drive when, accourding to witnesses, she ran out into traffic and was hit by a black, four-door truck. Key witnesses state they saw her and Dubois arguging shortly before the accident. Police are still investigating…
Constantine pushed away from the table, stomach lurching.
No matter what he did, no matter how he educated himself, nothing seemed to change. He made his way to the kitchen, gaze shifting to the massive bottle of wine resting innocently on the table. The roses in the vase next to it were wilted and drooping, each head hanging as if something horrid had occurred.
Something horrid had occurred. Constantine reached for the flowers only to stop with his fingers a hair’s breadth from the dull, lifeless bodies. Hand falling to the side, he skipped the wine and grabbed a bottle of water and went into the back hallway of his home. To his right, a door stood, cracked open, waiting.
He pushed it open, a lump forming in his throat as he eyed the cradle in the middle of the room and the fantasy-inspired mobile over it. The rocking chair next to the cradle, the book case in the corner and the sofas next to it – his hand hung limply from the doorknob, eyes sensely stinging as he eyed the soft greens and whites, the gentle browns and yellows, of a painted forest.
Constantine turned away, making his way to his bedroom where he collapsed.
In the distance, a voice whispered his name.