I sit at my large oak desk in silence. The only sound is the rhythmic timekeeping of the grandfather clock to my left. In front of me is a tumbler of scotch which I am too afraid to drink. To pick it up and take a sip, soothing as it may be to my shaken nerves, would mean making a sound. I cannot risk it.
At first I told myself the noises I had been hearing over the past month were merely my imagination; the inevitable results of a tired, overworked mind. Then I became convinced the knocks and rattles about the house were surely nothing more than the old domicile settling on its foundation; the whispers and moans merely wind whistling through the gaps and cracks of the old, warped door and window frames.
But then, moments ago as I poured my scotch, I heard her. Clear as the thoughts in my own head.
My name, called by the voice of my wife – my dear sweet Analiz, who expired at the breakfast table four short weeks ago. Could it be?
I paused, drink in hand, and cocked my head to listen. Hearing nothing, I tried to convince myself I was indeed having a fatigue-induced hallucination. I walked to the desk, and as I eased the weight of my frame into my chair I heard her again.
Her voice was louder and clearer this time – I was certain now, despite the original doubting of my dulled senses.
I swiveled around in my chair to find the room as empty as when I sat down. My heartbeat sped to a gallop and a smothering warmth washed over me as I felt a presence in the room my eyes couldn’t see.
I turned back to the desk to set down my drink, and as the glass touched the oak desktop I heard her once more.
It is just as I feared. My Analiz has indeed come back, and in her postmortem consciousness realized that her coffee that fateful morning a month ago contained a lethal dose of strychnine. With every sound I make she inches closer to enveloping me in her wretched stench of death, determined to drag me along as accompaniment on her journey to the afterlife.
I fear that if she manages to seize my soul we may not share the same destination; she is bound to go one way, while I believe I will most certainly go the other.
I now sit frozen with fear. Frigid air swirls all around me; she is circling me like a predator around its prey, waiting to pounce. My heart pounds in my chest and my breath grows shallow. Afraid my rapid breathing may be all the sound needed to cue her attack, I draw in as much air as possible and hold it, in the hopes that the silence will drive her back to the everlasting limbo from which she came.
I sit, I wait, and I pray to God for her to be gone. Otherwise the next breath I take is certain to also be my last.
Kenneth Jobe is a Native Californian currently living in the American Midwest with his wife and their dog. He is the author of several short stories and novellas in the suspense, thriller, and horror genres, and is currently working on his debut novel.