The curtains swayed softly next to the open window. Clouds obscured the moonlight causing only the yellow flickering of the street light outside to bounce off the bedroom walls. Jill lay on her back, eyes transfixed onto the ceiling. Shadows dancing gracefully as car lights splashed into the room. Annoyance consumed her. She rolled over to check the time on her phone for the umpteenth time.
“3.15 in the night. Well, actually the morning now. Screw this crap.” she whispered uneasily.
The pressures of work were finally taking its uneasy toll. Appeasing the boss, trying to climb that corporate ladder and now she found she just couldn’t switch off. “Damn this Bronson report!” Jill sighed as she rolled back over onto her back. “Why in the shit did I ever take up all this responsibility?” She looked over with red, blood-shot eyes at the pillow next to her and patted it softly. “Hey there, good looking. I know you ain’t here yet but I sure hope you get here soon. Wherever you are.” It had been almost a year since Pete requested some time apart. Just to think things over. Turns out he needed a little bit more time than Jill expected. She chuckled to herself. “You poor fool, he’s got more chance of coming back than…”
She bolted upright almost taking the whole duvet with her. A loud shriek echoed out from across the street. “What in the hell?” she said as she way her made hurriedly to the open window. A chill breeze rose a series of goose pimples all over her body. The houses along the street looked like abandoned relics. Not one light shone from a single window. She remained still for a few seconds more, scanning for any movement before shifting to return to her warm bed. Just as she turned, her peripheral vision caught sight of something shift in the distance. She turned back quickly but it was gone. This time she was sure where it came from.
“Brewster, you crazy son of a bitch. So you’re burning the midnight oil too, huh?” she muttered under her breath with an assured grin resting upon her face.
For the last few weeks, Brewster had grown progressively worse. The community (if you count the "block" as the community) volunteered to hold an informal meeting with a local representative of the welfare office in an attempt to provide additional assistance for him. The street was good like that. They all knew that no family or friends would ever call on him and his only point of contact was with the facilities set up by the kindly old US of A. They were also fully aware of how adamant he was in protecting his boundaries and preferring his bubble of isolation over the company of the townsfolk. Still, they decided it was the “right” thing to do their bit as good Samaritans. Jill always wondered how much of their concern was based on Brewster’s wellbeing versus their own personal standing in the eyes of their small community.
Jill, seeing nothing more from her bedroom window, finally returned back to bed. Sleep was yet to take hold of her though. She lay there for a few moments longer then checked on her phone again. “3.23 and I gotta be up in four hours. This is a goddamn joke.” Jill wasn’t sleeping tonight and the frustration that flared up because of it caused her to yell out loudly in anger. Just as she finished, a faint laugh drifted in through the open air. She leapt out of bed and dashed to the window. Nothing but a dark street except for the flickering glow of the street lamps below. Yet now she was sure it could only have come from Brewster’s house. Only he would be nutty enough to pull crazy stunts like these, she thought.
She made her way over to the wardrobe and pulled on some grey tracksuit bottoms and a baggy white top with the logo “Go, Yankees!” printed in bright red over a baseball. Seeing as getting a goodnights rest was about as likely as a gold chariot arriving to whisk her away into the night, she felt a compulsion to go and see what the disturbance was.
She slipped out of the room and down the soft, white carpeted stairs leading to the narrow hallway. After quickly lacing up her sneakers, she grabbed the flashlight from the desk drawer and was out of the house.
The clouds had now parted allowing for a soothing beam of moonlight to blanket itself over the majority of the street. She walked slowly down her front garden pathway lined either side by a neatly arranged array of white and red roses. The incessant blinking of the street lamps was always a constant complaint from the neighbourhood. “Can nobody fix this godforsaken pain in the ass?” she moaned as she glanced irritably at the nearest lamp. Crossing the street, not a soul stirred in what was now essentially a ghost town. Parked cars littered the sidewalk from end to end as she continued on towards Brewster’s residence.
She stopped and looked on at the house. It’s low, sweeping triangular roof and vintage style window frames made its presence look every bit as ominous and intimidating as she had always imagined it to be. Perhaps it was the fact that a weird, reclusively hermit dwelled inside. Cut off from society creating a small darkened void in the otherwise friendly street. She had never even set foot as far as his front porch and was now feeling an inkling of doubt about her brave escapade into the unknown.
She spun around as if yanked by a rope. Already petrified after her contemplations moments ago, she scoured the area quickly.
“Hey… Up here!”
She raised her gaze only to be greeted by Billy Dunham grinning down at her from his presumed bedroom window. Brewster’s strange yet sociable next door neighbour. “What you doing sneaking around that assholes house at this time o’ night?” he called out in a low voice.
“You little prick! You scared the bejeezers outta me! And keep your damn voice down.” She said in a low stifled tone. “Go back to bed! I thought I heard something coming from over here and wanted to go look see what it was.”
Billy pulled an exaggerated expression of confusion, accentuating the features of his acned, fifteen year old face in the dim glow surrounding them both.
“You really think that’s a good idea, Jilly? I mean, you do know you’re dealing with a nutball whose well ‘n his way to joining the ol’ club o’ straight jackets?”
She glared at him angrily. “If I wanted your advice, I’d just plain ask for it. Now go on. If you’re a good little boy, I’ll tell you what happened first thing in the morning, Billy boy.” She said quietly but sarcastically.
“Well, Jilly. Don’t say I didn’t warn yers. He be hollering up in there, gettin’ freaky ‘n shit and you wanna git a front row seat to watch the action? Good luck, mamma. Imma give the dawg a little one two before I catch up on my beauty sleep. Nite Nite, Jilly.”
Before she even had a chance to figure out what in the blazes he was talking about, he disappeared back into the room and shut the window. She sighed deeply. The last thing she needed was a run in with that annoying brat.
As she collected herself, she noticed the side door of the house was ajar. She crept across the unkempt lawn and approached cautiously. When she peered in, it was pitch black. The fear began crawling back underneath her skin as she considered what to do next. But Jill was a decision maker. A lifelong skill honed from all the countless hours of work she poured into her place of employment. “Come on, Jill. Snap out of it. This guy is harmless and in need of some help real bad. Don’t be a douche.” she whispered to herself. She pointed the flashlight into the house and pushed the button. Instantly, an intense beam tore through the darkness displaying a set of stairs and hallway to the right.
“Hello?” she called out in as friendly a voice as she could produce, but no answer.
So, she stepped inside.
The place had a musty, sour odour to it. She cupped her hand up over her nose and mouth, sickened by the stench. Still, composure was paramount right now as this was a man in need of aid, not segregation. She shone the light into the hallway. A few feet ahead was the kitchen that may well have been the source of the putrid smell. She then shifted the beam up onto the stairs to reveal a faded, brown carpet and what seemed to be light green wallpaper. Dust particles danced in the air as she slowly shuffled toward the steps.
“Hey Brewster? Don’t worry, this is Jill from across the street. I heard a sound, thought it came from over here. You alright up there?” She called up from the ground floor. Nothing.
“OK, Jill, here goes nothing.” she sighed and began ascending the steps. The flashlight revealed a red cross painted onto the wall. At the same instant, a step creaked loudly as she placed one foot down upon it. Her heart jumped. “Pull it together, Jill. This isn’t the movies, girl. This is real life.” She said in a hushed tone. She made a right at the top and stepped lightly on to the landing. The foul stench had somewhat dispersed now but the darkness before her was growing heavier by the second.
“Brewster?” she called out in a voice almost trembling with fear now. Her shaking hand guided the flashlight to break the seeping black space engulfing her very being. A door down at the end of the landing on the left was slightly open. That would be the room facing the street. Now running on a reserve tank of gas, she compelled herself forward and neared the door. The silver handle glinted in the bright light cast by the torch as she pressed gently against the wooden frame. It silently opened further.
Jill leaned over and peeked through the crack of the door. The dull illumination from the far side window revealed the shadow of a sleeping figure in the bed. She paused for a second. The tight vice-like grip of danger began to subside as she managed to pluck up a modicum of courage. She switched off the flashlight and entered the room.
“Brewster? I’m so sorry to disturb you.” she mouthed at an almost inaudible level. “I was awake across the street and…” Something moved in the corner of the room. In a panic, she fumbled for the button on the flashlight but dropped it. It made a loud crack as it hit the hardwood floor. The crouched figure spun around and the low light was adequate enough to show Jill the true meaning of horror.
Brewster was standing in front of her. Blood seeped from freshly inflicted wounds to his lips, eyelids and forehead. His smile said it all. He had crossed over to the other side. The transformation was complete and she certainly did have a front row seat to witness the spectacle. Her eyes bulged in speechless horror as he screamed with laughter and lunged at her, brandishing a pair of blood soaked scissors.
With the reflexes of pure adrenaline induced instinct, she sprinted for the door. As she darted through the crack, it slammed into her body, hurling her into the darkness. She felt for the railing of the banister as the door swung open fully and he came shrieking out, like a crazed banshee. Pushing her legs with all her might, she flipped herself up and over the banister to come crashing down onto the stairs below, not before getting the cold, hard blade of a scissor slashed across her forearm. At the foot of the steps, her body now just a broken ornament, she looked up into the darkness as the thumping sound of a pair of footsteps hurtling towards her, was the final thing she ever heard…
The digital alarm clock at home silently ticked to 3.38am.