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What was that?
There, I heard it again.
Do you hear it?
I look at the clock beside the bed; it reads 3:15 AM in bright block numbers that put the whole room in a red glow. It’s blinding. I keep meaning to turn the contrast down on that damned thing, it’s too bright.
There it is again. It sounds like breathing, but then, not really. It’s too shallow. Too labored. Like my friend, Paul, I think. Paul has asthma and he struggles to breathe during gym class sometimes. He wheezes. It sounds like that, but with a rattle, like he has something caught in his throat. Then, the thumping starts.
Thump, thump, thump.
I still can’t make out anything in the room except the clock.
Thumping. Wheezing. Thump, thump. Wheezing.
It’s closer now, it’s coming down the hall.
My door is open, it’s always open. There’s light, but only a small amount. It’s coming from the living room, I think. I guess Dad forgot to turn the TV off again. There is just enough light to make out a dark figure moving down the hall…a big one. A man. He appears to be carrying something, something slumped over his shoulder. I still can’t make out who it is, but he stops just outside my door.
He sets whatever he is carrying down hard. My vision is clearing some now, and I can make out something that skittered across the floor when he set down what he was carrying. I feel my throat tighten and I’m paralyzed when I realize the item that slid across the floor is my father’s broken glasses. To my horror, I can now make out that the form on the floor is a person…the person is my dad and there is a pool of fluid growing around his lifeless head and shoulders. I want to yell. I want to cry out to my dad. I pull the covers up and remain frozen. The door slowly, quietly opens further and the man drags my father’s body into my room and silently props him up against the closet door. He turns and leaves.
Am I dreaming? I must be.
I try to focus my thoughts and stare at the hallway.
Thump. Thump. Wheezing. He’s coming back.
He moves back into the room carrying another body. My mom. I know it’s her. She uses this shower gel that smells like flowers. I smell it as he comes back in the room and places her limp body lightly against the wall, beside my dad. Through terrified, squinted eyes I watch as the intruder runs his hand along my mother’s neck. It makes a wet sound like he’s moving his fingers through water. Then, I watch as the murderer moves his fingers along the wall in broad strokes. He’s writing something. He stops, wheezing gravely, and moves down onto his knees. Then, on all fours, he silently shuffles closer and slips silently beneath my bed.
I can’t breathe…fear has me completely now.
Damn it, wake up!
I’m screaming inside my head. I couldn’t do it out loud if I wanted to. I taste salt in the corners of my mouth and realize that I’m crying. Silent sobs escape from me and a squeeze my mouth shut tightly. He’s under my bed. I can hear him wheezing.
I think of trying to escape; if I can just make it to the door before he does. I could make it to our neighbor’s house. I know I could. I’ve got to try soon though, while he thinks I’m still asleep. But, the fear is too much. I try, but my muscles refuse to move.
I can hear his labored breathing coming from directly beneath me.
Ten minutes pass…then twenty. What is he waiting for? I can only hope that he believes I’m still asleep. I can use that. The fear is starting to release me, little by little. I’ve got to make my run now. I’m going to make it.
I slip the covers back as quietly as I can, I sit up slowly. The bed shifts and squeaks…I freeze. No movement, just the incessant wheezing. I lean forward and bring my legs around to my side, ready to drop them quickly to the ground to run. I have never been this frightened.
I take a deep breath and for the first time, I look at my parents, dead against the wall. It doesn’t scare me, it fills me with resolve. I will live. For them.
I move my eyes back around towards the door and I can finally make out the writing the intruder scrawled on the wall. The letters are bright crimson in the red glow of the alarm clock. My eyes try to adjust to read the words, but that damned clock is too bright. I squint and try to make out the letters and words.
Letter by letter, the message becomes clear
I let out an audible gasp as a make out the message written in my mother’s blood…
“I know you’re awake.”