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The silence spoke volumes and Tim paused, suddenly terrified of what may be lurking behind the door. Slowly, he withdrew his hand from where it hovered in front of the door and stared at his house in horror.
A sinister something hovered in the air around his childhood home, not quite a smell, a feeling – of wrongness, of terror. Tim backed away from the door, off the old porch, the steps under his feet creaking, groaning, sighing. His hands, suddenly slick with perspiration, slipped on the top of the plastic bag he was carrying and the ice fell to the hard ground, splitting the container in two. Frozen cubes bounced off the ground, shards that found their way into Tim’s shoes, the folds of his jeans, freezing him from the inside out.
In the time it’d taken for Tim to run an errand, the house had changed. A window, four feet off the ground, was shattered, ragged tips of glass jutting obscenely into the empty space. Flecks of blood, still wet, glistened in the moonlight, obvious even from Tim’s view a dozen feet away. Beyond the broken glass and the gaping hole, the lights of Tim’s house were off, leaving only blackness where a half hour previously a party had been in full swing.
The steps of the porch, down which Tim had just made his hasty descent, were smeared red, the terrible crimson coming from a breadcrumb trail, ending – or beginning – at the front door which was lazily swinging ajar, daring Tim to investigate, to see for himself whatever terror awaited him just inside.
His feet were moving, sloshing through the frigid puddle at his feet. The light of the moon – too harsh, like a police spotlight – seemed to focus on the little isolated house, bringing the tell-tale signs of crime into sharp relief. The utter silence of the scene terrified Tim more than screams ever could, and he paused for a moment on the front stoop.
Some ancient, illogical part of him rebelled against the opening of the door, for after witnessing the scene there could be no turning back. He should leave now, abandon the house he’d been raised in, raised a family in, never take a peak beyond the door, never think about the rivulets of blood on the steps, on the windowpane.
It was a moment, a minute, standing in front of the door, and suddenly his secluded house in the middle of an empty wood seemed full of secrets and danger. Somewhere, the low moan of a wolf, the hoot of an owl, the sigh of branches snapping in the wind. Tim shook his head, took a deep, shuddering, steadying breath, and pushed open the door.
Few things had changed in his brief absence. Still there was the hall closet, bulging with the many coats, strange ones, those of guests, relatives, and friends present to celebrate together. Still there remained the tiny shoes of his daughter, the tinier ones of his son, lined up neatly beside the front door. Still, the beautiful needlepoint, stitched and framed by his wife, hung the day the day he graduated from medical school, one of the proudest of his life: Primum non nocere. First do no harm
And those similarities somehow made the differences worse. Like the smears, handprints sometimes, others indistinct shapes, glowing scarlet in the moonlight on the wall, more obvious when Tim flicked on the light. Like that awful silence.
Tim’s feet moved him forward before he could run back out the door. Down the short hallway, into the sitting room, which led into the large, homey kitchen, which led into the living room. Tim stopped in the doorway. His hand, shaking, shuddering, reached around the corner, shimmied the light switch up…slowly…
And then he screamed, and screamed, and screamed.