“Don’t move a muscle.”
The words, whispered in my ear, roused me from my sleep. After a brief moment of confusion, I recognized the voice as that of my wife.
“He’s been standing there for god knows how long. I think he’s waiting for us to wake up.”
I opened my eyes just a crack, and I saw what had startled my wife. There, at the foot of the bed was a man. He was large, over six feet tall by a head. He wore a rubber mask of a cartoon dog with red, bloodshot eyes.
Gripped in his left hand was a duffle bag, which clattered with the sound of metal on metal whenever it shifted in his grip. His right hand held a video camera.
At the sight of him, my heart instantly began to race. My brain yelled at me to get up and run, but I forced myself to stay completely still. I became lightheaded as my slow breathing could not keep up with the demands of my racing heart.
The phone was on the night stand, just inches away. Would I have time to unlock it and dial nine one one before the stranger got to me? Would it even matter if I did?
One thing was clear–I couldn’t just lay there, I had to act. As quick as I could, I lunged out of bed and threw myself at the man. He was too quick for me, though. He dropped his bag and shoved me back onto the bed.
I knelt down, and began rummaging inside his bag. He pulled out a long metal rod. He clicked something on the side, and the end of the rod erupted into a crackling shower of sparks.
He walked towards me slowly, taking his time. I knew I only had one shot, so I waited. He was almost close enough to reach me now. The rod blazed with electricity.
When he was close enough I kicked out as hard as I could, connecting with his shin. He let out a strangled cry of pain and staggered back, dropping the rod. I snatched it up and fumbled for the switch. I couldn’t find it. The man pushed himself to a knee.
I felt a button, small and rubber. I pushed it in, and the end of the rod lit up. I jammed it into his stomach, and he fell back, convulsing.
After a few seconds he went still. I used the rod to push the mask up and reveal his face.
“Boo!” he shouted.
My heart jumped out of my chest for just a moment. It settled down only a little when I recognized him. It was my brother. He was sitting up and grinning. He rubbed his shin and winced.
“Gotcha,” he said.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” I yelled. “You could’ve given me a heart attack.”
My brother shrugged.
“It’s Halloween,” he said. “What was the matter with you last year when you left that fake horse head in my bed?”
I held up the rod.
“And this?” I said.
“Olsen’s Magic Shoppe,” he replied.
“You’d better fucking apologize,” I said.
“I’m sorry you’re a pansy,” he replied. He turned to my wife. “I actually am sorry to you,” he said. “Sandy said you’d be out of town.”
“Didn’t you see me?” said my wife.
My brother scratched his neck sheepishly.
“Not really,” he said. “It’s impossible to see anything in that dog mask.”
“Just get out,” I said. “We’ll talk about this tomorrow. And leave your spare key.”
“Can I have the rod back?”
Feigning hurt, my brother left. I was still seeing red. I struggled to calm myself down enough to see to my wife.
“Are you okay, honey?” I asked.
She shook her head.
“Can you get me a glass of water from downstairs?” she asked. I nodded. I grabbed my phone from the nightstand and flicked on the flashlight to help me guide myself down the stairs. I had just reached the kitchen when a phone call came through.
It was from my sister in law, Sandy. I answered it.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god.” The words tumbled out in a breathless panic. “You have to help me. They think I’m crazy. They want to lock me up.”
Her voice was tense, strained, like a guitar string a moment away from snapping.
“Sow down,” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“We were just laying in bed,” she breathed, “and this thing came in through the window. Out of nowhere, you know? Out of nowhere! It was just a shadow, a man’s shadow… Derek tried to fight it off, but it… oh god, Derek…It killed Derek…”
Sandy’s voice trailed off.
“And then what?” I said, breathless. “What happened?”
“It absorbed him,” Sandy said. “And then it looked just like him.”
“Oh god,” I said. I dropped the phone, and sprinted upstairs where my brother Derek had just been.
The window was open, and my wife was gone.