(Section from Fireflies)
By Dana L. Feero
Around 8:00 o’clock, the sun had set low on the horizon, then darkness fell as if a blanket had covered it. Maybe it was a new moon. There was a 40% chance of rain tonight. Soon she began hearing noises through the front bay window. Rex, her German Shepherd, would have barked and growled. She missed that. She tried to kick back on the sofa and watch one of her shows as usual, the volume turned down. It was a rerun of Mystery Hour. One of her favorites, but her ears were perked for any sound of movement outside. She briefly wondered why she bothered. She would know the sound of his footsteps when he came.
A few minutes passed and she did indeed hear the soft pat of his stride, his familiar gate on the path leading up to the porch. The TV went off that instant as well as all the lights. She’d known he was coming; had prepared as well as she could for his imminent arrival. But she wouldn’t be an easy target. Total darkness surrounded her, enveloped her like a cocoon, the only light shown dimly from the window.
At first he knocked. “Danni?” came Stan’s voice, muffled through the door. “I know you’re there. Alone. Open the door, please.” His request was simple and soft, as he always was with her. Her first instinct was to obey his request, but his tone was laced with a menace she’d only heard from him once before. He was on acid again. He’d been on acid that night too. Stan changed when he was on the drug.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up.
“Danni? Open the door,” he repeated, knocking a little louder this time.
“Hide! Hide someplace he where can’t find me! The chair in the darkest corner of the room!”
“No! Not now!” Danni grasped her head as the vision forced its way before her eyes. She fell to her knees in the center of the room, her heart pounding, fear coursing through her body afresh.
“Come on now, girl. Come out, come out wherever you are!,” his sing-song voice laced with danger. “You know what’ll happen when I find you.”
“Hide!” was all she could think, trembling. She had to make herself as small as possible. “Under the chair, quickly!” She pressed her back against the wall, willing it to give, to blend with the darkness. A small space where he couldn’t get to her. “Don’t make a sound! Not a sound!”
Something snapped her back to reality. She was on her hands and knees. She’d been breathing hard. For a moment she was that little girl, whoever she was.
“Daaanniiii,” Stan called, as if playing Hide and Seek. It hit her like a jolt of electricity. The tall, thin, lanky, kid with the long hair who reminded her so much of her oldest brother as a teenager had now become her enemy. She felt like one of those people in a slasher flick who were just about to be murdered in the most gruesome way possible.
Her skin crawled, then anger took its place. Not for Stan, but for Carlton. He left her alone to fend for herself. Why didn’t big strong lover boy take her with him? Try to protect her? Danni already knew the answer to those questions. “Coward!” she whispered. He knew Stan wasn’t himself. He knew full well that the boy would keep his promise to kill them both, and Carlton made sure he wasn’t home when the time came.
“The yelling is louder now. I hear heavy footsteps. He’s looking for me now!”
“Come on, Little Girl! Come out! Take your medicine like the rest!”
“I don’t want his medicine. It’s bad, like him,” Danni thought, her own fears merging with the little girls.
“A beatin’, that’s all you kids understand!”
“His voice rumbles and hurts me down deep. I can almost feel him smiling, but not a good smile.”
“I’ll straighten you out!”
“Stay quiet, don’t move, don’t breathe!” Danni held her breath.
“Playing hide and seek, are we?” He’s looking under chairs and table now! “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” His voice is calmer now, teasing…almost, but still bad/.
The little girl shook her head, “I won’t do what he says. I’ve done that before. Something is bubbling up inside me, wanting to come out. Don’t scream!” She covers her mouth with her little hand.
“He stops at the edge of my chair. He’s bending his knees now.” Terror! Pure terror! “He found me! Reaching in to grab me! Must become smaller! Fade into the wall behind me!”
Danni found herself face down on the carpet, heart thumping, breath coming in gasps. Standing up, she eventually found her voice. “I’m…sorry, Stan,” she said, trying to keep her voice from trembling; the vision still fresh in her mind. “But you know I can’t open the door,” she said, standing upright, still week and shaky. “I have to go hide now,” she said, as if she were explaining two plus two equals four to a child. But she couldn’t move, as if her feet had grown roots.
He’d been like a little brother to her for nearly a year, They’d been thrown together and bonded out of shear need. They’d gone through so much together.
Her heart was breaking for him, and yet panic coursed through her veins. He’d promised to kill her. She had to thrown him out, even though she knew he had no place to go. He would be homeless. But he’d broken his promise not to stash his pot and acid in his room. She was paying the rent; he had to abide by her rules. All of them would be arrested for drug possession should a neighbor catch wind of it and call the cops. Carlton had stood behind her this time, his muscular arms folded in front of him. For once he’d agreed with her and stood his ground. Stan knew better than to cross him. But for her, it was the toughest decision she ever had to make. Tough love, right? What a steep price to pay.
His polite knocking had become pounding. Next came the profanities, unearthly hissing through his teeth as he described in detail what he was going to do to her once he broke through.
Fear had almost formed its own identity within her now. That little girl was with her. Inside her. Yet grief and love for the kid who was only 3 years younger than herself had overwhelmed even that.
“Must become smaller! Fade into the wall behind me!
“More screaming, higher this time. My throat hurts. I reach out to scratch his hand and see blood. More screaming! Wait! It’s coming from me! Scream! No where left to hide! Scream!”
The cruel truth hit her, knocking her back. It was too late for the little girl, and it was too late for Stan. She’d done all she could for him. She’d loved him as a sister loves a brother. She’d provided a home for him. Talked to him about God. But time had run out and she couldn’t help him now. Maybe she never could. He was convinced he was beyond help, and had turned his back on the two people who loved him unconditionally, her and Jesus.
She felt tears surface as she took a step towards the window. Even in the darkness she moved as stealthily as she could, aware of every muscle movement to keep from being noticed, Danni could make out the back of Stan’s lanky form, his face dark with shadows. Only his back was illuminated from the surrounding porch lights, his honey blond hair glistening. He looked innocent enough, but she imagined what his face looked like; pale, his skin so thin she could see his skull through it. He faced the door, his form so familiar to her, yet somehow… unreal. She’d seen him like that once before.
She moved back to the middle of the room.”I’m sorry Stan, I’m so sorry.” Then she spoke for the first time what she felt in her heart, her tears betraying her, freely falling down her cheeks. “I love you, little brother,” was all she managed and wondered if he had even heard her above the din. It was time to barricade herself in the bathroom.
He had been throwing himself at the door, trying to knock it down. It was giving way slightly, the door knob trembling, but it held. Then he stopped when he heard her confession.
“I know, Danni.” It was his own voice. Then the bizarre hissing returned. “But I have to kill you now. You understand, don’t you?,” he called, as if she should realize it was perfectly logical.
She listened, feeling sick, and thanking God silently that the doors were made of a thick, sturdy oak, since the house was old and had been better built than the newer ones. She’d just closed and locked the bathroom door when the sound of breaking glass and tinkling shards fell to the floor.
“I’m coming in,” said Stan in a twisted sing-songy voice, reminding her forcefully of the man in the visions. Then the sound of soft sound of shoes treading across the carpet, walking in the direction of the lavatory. He knew exactly where she was. Danni, trembling almost uncontrollably, stepped back, away from the bathroom door. She was almost to the tub now. Her legs felt weak. She sank onto the lid of the toilet to get some solidity under her, put her head in her hands and began to pray. With all the scripture she had been reading lately, the only thing she could remember was the 23’rd Psalm, as the pounding began on the bathroom door. She began to say it out loud, her voice rising with the pounding, putting emphasis on the word that meant the most.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for His name’s sake.”
The fear and panic didn’t go away, but saying the words kept her from screaming. She felt a new presence in the room…Angels. They were there to protect her.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil!
for Thou art with me!
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me!
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies!
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
The profanities began again, the strange voice growing more defined, describing, almost with glee how he would kill her. Stan had that large knife with him. She’d seen it glinting from the neighbors porch lights. The one she’d seen him sharpen time and time again.
She’d covered her ears by this time, her torso rocking to and fro, reciting the only words that gave her comfort and hope.
“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death!
I will fear no evil!
for Thou art with me!”
The pounding stopped. The door trembled violently now. He was throwing his body against the door. She stared at the door knob, now thanking God that it was difficult to open. Somehow the door held.
Her ears were burning again; the profanities were louder now. She covered her ears again, calling out to God with the only passage she could remember.
“I will fear no evil!
“For Thou art with me!
“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me!” She was shouting the verses out now just to hear herself above the din of pounding and promises of death.
“I will fear no evil!”
She felt cold and crossed her arms, gripping the opposite arm in a vain attempt to provide herself some warmth. Tank tops never did well in the cold. She shivered, realizing she’d been sweating from tension and fear. The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees. Terror ran through her body. It was coming from under the door. It was the same cold air from a dream she’d had months before. Then she knew. No fooling herself this time. This was demonic. Why hadn’t the angels done something?
A new verse flew into her mind, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against rulers of darkness in heavenly places…” Then she whispered something in desperation. “Please, help me God! Please save me!”
The pounding stopped. Danni stared at the battered door. The dead silence was deafening. Stan was gone.