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“Michael. You know you’re not supposed to be doing things like this.”
I held the paper in my hand pointing to the top. He had written, “I am the sign of the beast” where his name should have been. And, he wrote 666 where all of the answers should have gone. It was a little strange, but most kids did something inappropriate with an assignment. I don’t know how many phallic symbols I’m seen on little boy’s papers through the years.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you write this? Why was your name not on the paper?”
“I did write my name.”
“No, you wrote this.” I pointed to the satanic marking on the paper.
“I didn’t write that.”
"Michael, you’re not supposed to lie. This is your paper.”
“What’s the beast?”
His face looked so innocent. Very few kids were good liars. He looked completely mystified. I nearly doubted that he wrote the words. If I hadn’t watched him hand in his paper, I would have believed him.
“That’s not important right now. I just need you to know you shouldn’t be writing that.”
“Why is the number 666 all over the paper?’
“Did someone tell you to write it?’
“No, I don’t think so.” He was looking down at his shoes like most kids do when they get in trouble.
It suddenly got cold in the room. I looked around for an open window. Michael lifted his head. He looked stern? Can kids look stern?
“Something wicked is coming.”
The stern look vanished. “Huh?” He looked so confused.
“Never mind, Michael. Just go outside.”
I shivered. I’d seen plenty of weird things during my years, but this was near the top. While the kids were outside, I went back to checking papers, and I tried not to think about it. The rest of the day was pretty boring. At least, as boring as teaching elementary school gets.
My apartment was near the school, and I walked when it didn’t rain. Mostly so I could say that I was exercising. It was three blocks from the school and the whole time I thought about that paper. I thought about calling Michael’s parents, but he was generally pretty good so I chalked it up to youthful indiscretion.
What did bother me was the unshakeable feeling that someone was following me while I walked home. I looked around and couldn’t see anyone so I started walking faster. I had my keys out when I got to the door; my apartment was the first one on the ground. I usually liked this, but it suddenly felt exposed. I unlocked my door, hoping to put this day behind me, but I saw an absolute mess.
I should have stopped right there and called the police. It was what you’re were supposed to do, but my curiosity got the best of me. Someone went through my small kitchen and dumped everything out. The dry goods were all over the living room. Everything from the refrigerator was dumped onto the tile floor. All of my kitchen knives were missing. As I looked around, things got weirder. Someone had cut the eyes out of all my pictures. They were still hanging on the walls, but a small rectangle was removed where the person’s eyes should be. The TV was on, but the screen was blue, and someone drew, in what looked like lipstick, a smiley face. The mess looked like it trailed into the bedroom, but there weren’t any footprints. Just little trails of food.
I opened the door, half expecting to see a crazy person in there, but it was empty. I did find my kitchen knives though. They were stuck into my bed. As if they were stabbing an invisible person.
I called the police.
The officer took my statement, and he looked as confused as I was. He asked if I had any enemies or anyone that wanted to harm me. I said no, at least I was pretty sure I didn’t.
“No one?” he asked.
“Not unless it was a student who got a bad grade.”
He perked up, but I explained that I taught ten-year-olds. So they were unlikely suspects.
“It kind of looks like some kind of prank. Do you know anyone that would pull that? Maybe some teenagers in the building?”
“I can’t think of any. I keep to myself. I’ve only seen little kids. How did they get in?”
“That’s what we’re looking at. You said the door was locked when you got home. And the door wall was secure too. You have the only set of keys?”
“Yes, me and the landlord.”
“Well, you’re going to want to get the locks changed as soon as possible. Sometimes extra keys to apartments get in the wrong hands, from movers and handymen and what not. Do you have anywhere you can stay?”
“No, not really.”
“Well, I’d get a locksmith here tonight. It’ll cost an arm and a leg but it’ll be safer.”
“I’ll pay it whatever he wants.”
“Good. I’ll have a car come by a couple times a night.”
“Your welcome. We’ll finish up in a little bit. If anything happens tonight. Just call.”
I called the locksmith. A little grandpa-looking man showed up. He was there for a half hour while I cleaned up.
“People are pretty weird,” was the only thing he said until he was done. “That’ll be 120 please. I gotta charge extra for the short notice.”
I smiled. “It’s worth it.” The small man left.
I finished cleaning up for a couple hours. I was freaking out inside. My apartment was broken into a couple times in college, but it was different. Those were smash and grabs, with the burglar grabbing the first thing he saw and left. This felt so personal.
I knew there that I’d probably never going to sleep, but I got ready for bed anyway. I’d normally change in my bedroom, but I put my pajamas on in the bathroom, and then finished my nightly rituals. I sat on the edge of my bed, and I opened the nightstand drawer.
My father was worried about me moving to a new city by myself, and despite my deepest arguments, he bought me a small revolver. I grabbed the gun, and opened the cylinder to make sure it was loaded. I set the gun on top of the nightstand before lying down.
I laid there for hours with the covers over my head, and despite the extra material, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was looking at me. The door was shut. The shades were drawn, but I couldn’t stand it any longer.
The wind rustled a tree next to my window. It was supposed to have been trimmed a week ago. But, I swear the noise sounded like words. It felt like someone was whispering over and over again.
I realized what the message said.
The worst part was that I wasn’t hearing it, but the words were forming in my head.
I bolted upright when I heard someone laughing, an awful, maniacal, evil laugh. And then something broke in the bathroom.
I grabbed the revolver and jumped from the bed. I mustered the courage to open the bedroom door and crept into the hallway. My heart was pounding when I kicked the bathroom door and flipped on the light. I stared down the revolver’s sights into an empty room.
The mirror was smashed and there were bloody shards in the sink. Blood covered the bathroom. And someone used the blood to write “Something Wicked is Coming” on the shower wall.
I screamed and dialed 911 on my phone and ran to the bedroom. I frantically tried to explain to the dispatcher that someone was in my apartment. She told me to go to the bedroom and lock the door. I didn’t stop screaming, but did what I was told. For some reason—maybe the movies I watched as a kid—I hid in the closet.
The dispatcher was trying to talk to me, telling me to stay on the phone. I was hyperventilating.
I froze when I felt the breath on the back of my neck.
Icy fingers brushed my cheek.
“Something wicked is here.”