Early From Work

Margaret had, as usual, been left to the confines of her bedroom. With her father working the night shift and her mother ill with pneumonia, she didn’t have anyone to talk to. The only noise was the ticking of the clock, the slight humming of the radiator in the corner, and her own thoughts.

She did not sleep well for a nine year old. School was not hard. Life at home was fairly quiet. No reason to be stressed. But something inexplicable always seemed to occupy her mind. As if it would never seem to cease generating irrelevant questions and thoughts. “I wonder how black bears always manage to-”

A small bump in the kitchen downstairs, clearly audible from her bedroom, interrupted her mental tangent. It was most likely her cat Sid harassing a mouse. Her door was cracked a bit after all. he was a noisy pet.

She began to drift off to sleep, the time on the analog clock read 2:27, dimly lit by a streetlamp through the semi closed blinds of her window. The smell of the old house relaxing her.

She awoke again, unsure of the time, due to the fact that the street lamp must have gone out. The city’s power grid was very inconsistent. The usual rhythm of the small two-story home was interrupted once again by the noisy cat down stairs. “Oh Sid!”, She grumbled. Margaret sat up and turned on the lamp on next to her bed, to read the time. As soon as the switch on the light clicked, the thumping in the kitchen ceased. The clock read 3:48. “That’s interesting.” She thought. The cat must have heard the light turn on and refrained from bumping around. Then the realization struck her. The cat was not down stairs. He had been curled up against the radiator this entire time.

Maggie was about to call for her mother to complain about the obnoxious random bumping in the kitchen. But before she said anything, she stopped herself. It would be terribly inconsiderate to wake her sick mother before the break of dawn to complain about an old house making noise.

She turned the light out and curled up in her blankets. Some time had passed. The bumping did not re-occur. However, she did hear, the side door opening down stairs and the footsteps of an average weight man. Her father must be home early. He wasn’t due back home for another hour and a half. It was about four AM in mid winter so the sun was no where near the horizon. There was a long pause in his movement until his light foot steps moving up the creaky old stair case broke the silence and grew closer to her room. It was unusual that he came to visit Maggie when he arrived from work. As the sound of the grown man treading down the hall towards her room, she sat up in the pitch darkness. The doorknob turned and the door opened. “Hey, Dad.” she said.

There was no reply. She couldn’t even see his silhouette. Just then the street lamp flickered back on again, lighting the room enough through the blinds to see his shape. But to her horror, what stood in the doorway before her did not even resemble her dad. Or a human. She was in shock. She couldn’t move. A squeaky sounding “whaaa?” Came from her. She was paralyzed. And by the time Margaret had found the voice to scream, it was too late.

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