Strangers in the Night (Excerpt)


Jason awoke suddenly, wrest from his dreaming by metal clanging beyond his closed bedroom door. His roommate had chosen a fine time to wash dishes, he thought as he tried to shut out the noise with a pillow over his head.
The sounds that had caused him to stir abruptly in the dead of night were not within themselves overwhelming. In fact, quite the opposite. The noise was nearly overpowered by the insistent grind of the rickety air conditioning unit near the exterior of his window. A constant bane to his nightly sleep, but one he had learned to tune out.
Jason closed his eyes. He was determined to return to the beach dream with the supermodel and see it through to the end when the eerie truth struck him like a dagger in the heart; his roommate, Ted, was out of town for the weekend.
Jason removed the pillow from his head and listened intently to the sounds coming from the kitchen. The slow running water of the tap permeated the air. The clink and clank as one by one the dishes left in the sink and were placed onto the dish rack beside it. And there was something else now as well, Jason discovered; a very low and melodic humming. A softer, tinder voice just beneath the sounds of the dishes crooned a tune his ears could not quite define. But clearly the voice of a woman.
Jason groaned, shaking his weary head.
He had no girlfriend.
Ted, however, had several “friends” but none that he thought were special enough to give a key to the apartment, Jason thought. Ted never even mentioned that someone would be stopping by! But if this girl had Ted’s key AND was doing the dishes she must be important to him.
Jason slid out of bed and pulled on his shirt and jeans as to appear decent for his guest. As he moved to the door, he abruptly heard the soft singing stop.
Jason realized suddenly that his presence may be equally shocking to her as Ted may have not communicated to this girl that he was there either. Jason decided to speak before opening the door.
He listened for a response. There was none. Only the the sound of the water flowing into the sink.
“My name is Jason,” he began. “Ted’s roommate. I’m sure he didn’t tell you I was–“
Just beyond his bedroom door, he hears a door slam shut!
Jason grips the knob and flings his bedroom door open wide to reveal the darkness of his apartment beyond it. He slid his fingers over a nearby switch, illuminating the living room of the two bedroom apartment. Across from him was Ted’s bedroom with the door standing open. He looked carefully around from where he stood, but all of his roommate’s belongings appeared untouched. Had Ted left it open or not?
Jason listened again for a response. Nothing. Only the steady flow of the kitchen sink pouring water. He carefully, cautiously stepped towards the kitchen where the sink was overflowing. Water covered the floor. He swore aloud and turned the faucet off.
As he mopped up the mess, he could only imagine that he himself must have been cleaning the kitchen before falling asleep. The sink was empty of dirty dishes after all, and Ted was out of town. No one in sight but himself.
Jason decided that he had simply been so tired from work the night before that he had started cleaning the dishes and left the faucet running. And that humming? It must have been part of some waking dream, perhaps. Maybe the neighbors music was too loud again, he deduced. Yes, that’s it!
He rang out his mop and grinned to himself with satisfaction at this partially logical conclusion.
But then he heard it again.
And his blood ran colder than the old AC unit outside could ever manage.
The low, eerie tune had returned. And from the direction of the front door!
“Why didn’t I go there first?!” Jason yelled, half in disgust with himself and partly in hopes that loud noise would make the humming stop again.
It did.
He armed himself with a pot, noticeably wet to the touch and made his way to the living room where the apartments front door stood ajar. His hand moved through the air so slowly that it may as well have been moving through wool.
Fear and anger took control now, and he flung the door open with one hand, swinging the heavy pot with the other.
But his efforts were in vain.
There was no one there.
Jason closed the door quickly, locking the locks haphazardly behind it. He chanced a look out of the peephole and saw movement outside of his home a moment; a dark figure shuffling away from the direction of his apartment with a strange walk. Jason strained to see more clearly. The figure was dragging something–or someone–behind it as it walked. Something that struggled to no avail. Something wearing a shirt and jeans not unlike his own!
Jason swung his head from the peephole of the front door to see his bedroom door had been slammed shut. Wet, delicate footprints pervaded the floor from the kitchen to his door.
He started to move toward his room, but the shuffle of distant footsteps from outside prompted him to turn back to the peephole. Through the tiny lens he could see the shuffling figure was returning in his direction menacingly–
“Strangers in the night..exchanging glances..wondering in the night…what were the chances…?”
Jason turned sharply at the tune as his bedroom door opened to a crack and the delicate voice crooned to him.
As the door of his room flew open, Jason knew this was not a dream any longer…



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