Left with no other choice, he began to hear things. A car door closing in the driveway. Not loudly, like thunder, no—more like a secret that sneaks part of the way out. And the opening and shutting of the front door after she kissed his forehead goodnight and spoke the last of her new mantras: “If you need anything, call upstairs until you get an answer.”
At night, she left one of the parlor’s two lamps lit, alternating which kept guard so he wouldn’t get disoriented in the dark. The parlor was an oblong room, the largest in the old house, but the angle of the sofa prevented him from seeing out into the foyer. Still, that whisper of cold air gossiping through the house’s relative warmth, the crisp smell of snow squalling outside, and the soft scuffle of feet in socks, their owner having abandoned boots on the front porch that he’d built with his own hands.
And then, the fear.
“Is somebody there?” he said, though what emerged through flaccid lips struck even his ears as gibberish.
The house fell silent. A robber? No, surely it was the masked ax murderer from a hundred bad horror movies come to soak the hardwood floors in their blood. What his imagination created was far worse.
He waited, his mind penning poems, stories, and entire novels in invisible ink, all of it set to a mad soundtrack of musical sound-bites echoing inside his skull.
The weight of a footfall sounded on the staircase. He tried to call out to her in the room above, as she’d instructed, to warn her—call 911, there’s an intruder in the house!
He sat up, scrambled for the walker. There was no way he’d navigate the stairs, and not much of a chance he’d be in time to save her even if he could. Fresh sweat broke at his hairline and poured down his forehead, stinging his eyes. While struggling to get vertical, he heard footsteps in the room upstairs, their former bedroom, hers now. Then, a giggle, also hers—more of that secret partially exposed, just loud enough to be understood for what it was.
He eased back down onto the sofa. Other footsteps soft-soled their way across the ceiling. He tracked them to the bed. Stretching out, he pulled the covers to his chin. The music resumed in his thoughts, something from an old TV show that had gone off the air when he was in his twenties. His mind wrote sentences across college-ruled sheets of paper superimposed over the pristine white ceiling.
Just because he was mostly dead didn’t mean she was. In fact, she hadn’t felt this on fire since before they wed.
He listened. The old house ticked and creaked around him, its arthritic joists and floors struggling to stay upright in the chill of the coming winter.
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (BrutalColors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, StarTrek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under his rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. he judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, I traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing. His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker, and he recently enjoyed the publication of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: INTO INFINITY, the novelization he was hired to pen based upon the classic Gerry Anderson made-for-TV movie — which he watched and loved as an eleven-year-old way back in 1976. Earlier this year, he put THE END on a novel sequel, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: PLANETFALL, which is scheduled to release in September.