This story is based on a music video idea I’ve had for a long time, but never had the song or the money to pull it off effectively. It’s an experiment in tension and the uncanny.
Luke runs his hands over the door, looking for purchase. His fingers glide across damp, rotten wood, slip over a handle. He pulls. Nothing. Holding his sleeve up over his eyes, he tries to peek into the darkened window. Can’t see a thing, his vision obscured by moonlight reflected in raindrops. He turns back to the street, considers his options.
It’s a narrow road, a few cars parked on the verge to keep traffic clear. On the edge of the city, the street houses a few old tenement buildings, interspersed with newer residential houses. A place between places, forgotten and misused. The rain struggles to wash away the dirt.
Belle is crouched by a bench, trying to stay out of sight. She shakes from the cold, rain pelting down on her hair and thin knit jumper. She glances at Luke, looks hopeful. Luke considers the old, abandoned building spiking up into the sky in front of him. Shakes his head, motions down the street to a quiet, single-story house ahead of them. Belle bites her lip. Nods. Anywhere they can get out of the rain.
As they approach the house, Luke stops. Listens. Rain smacking on asphalt, a low rumble of thunder somewhere in the distance. Belle wants to keep going, he can tell. She’s eyeing the house, face dotted with concern and mud. She tugs at his arm, shakes her head wordlessly. He pulls her onward. They continue into the front yard of the house, make their way to the door.
“Do you think anyone’s home?” Belle whispers through the storm.
Luke looks at her. She grips her arms even more tightly.
Luke tries the door. Again, locked. The sound of the rain masks his fumbling as he tugs the handle. He accidentally bumps an aging doorbell. The noise is clear, cuts above the patter. Belle flinches at the slight buzz. Luke’s heart leaps through his throat and onto the porch.
He holds his breath. Listens.
Nothing. Just the rain.
Belle nods at Luke, hints back to the street with her eyes. Gotta keep going. Luke’s done, though. His legs ache, his arms are weary from the cold and the wet. He’s going to make it work here, now. By the door is a dirty window, inside masked by flea-worried curtains. Luke steps off the porch, and hunts around the ground, hand feeling through mud and scraps of grass.
Belle watches him, watches the street. Listens through the rain, tries to see past it. Holds her breath. It’s not just the cold that’s making her shake.
Luke looks at her, reassuring. Points to the side of the house. Belle crouches down on the porch and waits. She wants to hide, wants to hide so badly that she’ll sit in the open night and clutch hope to her breast and hum under the pitter-patter until she’s nowhere to be seen.
Luke stumbles over an old bike hidden in undergrowth. Finds a narrow gap between the side of the decaying house and its fence. A large gate blocks the egress to the back, locked and too tall to jump. But, he finds what he’s looking for – a pile of old bricks, heavy and loose. He picks one up, feels the weight. It’ll break the glass. As long as he breaks it quick and clean, hides the broken frame so they can’t see… he’ll be okay. He and Belle will be okay for the night, until the rain stops, and then—
A hand snatches over his mouth, pulls him back tight into the wall. Drags him down into the mud. Pain lances through his back.
It’s so wet. So wet the world might drown. But when the rain finally stops, green will burst through the cracks, renewed. When it stops.
Electricity fires through Luke’s nerve endings, his body alight with fear and adrenaline. He kicks and shakes, tries to turn – and relents.
It’s Belle. Her eyes are wide. She eases her hand from his mouth, motions for quiet. Luke catches his breath. Belle points to the street.
Luke narrows his eyes, tries to look through the mist. He can’t see anything. The road is empty. A car opposite snatches light from somewhere, spits it away. Rain breaks his view, lines of water a faint curtain. Luke looks to Belle to reassure her, but she’s certain, fearful. He pulls her to her feet. Hurries her to the front of the house.
Clutches the brick.
On the porch, he lets go of Belle’s hand. Holds the brick up to the window. Gets ready to throw, break into safety. Belle shakes her head furiously. He knows why. The sound, the sound will be so loud. But the rain is heavy. Nothing will be able to hear it. They won’t be able to hear it. They won’t be able to hear it.
They won’t be able to hear it. Luke closes his eyes, and hopes that he’s right. Raises the brick high.
A yelp pierces the white noise around him. His eyes flash open. It’s Belle. She doesn’t shake anymore. Just watches the street.
Luke turns. Wishes he hadn’t.
They’re there. Off a little ways, down the road. He has to look closely, allow his mind to do the rest of the work. But they’re there.
They’re moving, silently, listening. Unseeing, but all-knowing, picking their way among the cars and buildings and failing street lamps.
Dark, featureless. Form permeable in the wet. Black and sinewy, their limbs stretch and bleed through the falling water, bending impossibly, fingers sticking into metal and wood and growing infinitely into webs as they hunt and recede. As they hunt. Hunt and recede.
There are at least fifteen of them this time. More than Luke’s ever seen. Belle is crying. Or maybe it’s just the rain.
Luke holds his breath, the two of them wide open on the porch, for all the world to see and to hold. Nowhere to run now. They’ll be found, and what happens after that… Luke doesn’t know what happens after that.
Lighting, close. The dark figures pull apart, become one, ripple and move faster at the sound. Another thunder clap, even closer.
Luke looks down at the rock. At the window. Maybe. Maybe.
Belle can’t look away from the street. She’s mouthing something wordlessly to the water.
Luke readies the brick, waits for the sound and his moment. He can’t stay out here, in the cold and damp, not anymore. Not anymore.
Thunder bangs and rumbles. Luke goes to throw, to hide his plan amongst the heavens, but is too late. The sound recedes, leaves the world open again.
Glistening figures edge closer in their search.
Closer and closer. Where’s the thunder? The storm is rolling away from them. Maybe it’s – no, it’ll go again, it has to –
Belle’s voice starts to rise. Luke can’t tell what she’s saying. Doesn’t want to know.
There it is. Bang. Close, lighting up the front of the house. Luke goes to throw. Stops.
In the brief light of the storm, Luke sees a shadow.
Looming in the window, inside the house.
It’s gone as soon as it appears. Back to the impenetrable curtains.
Maybe it was nothing. Maybe, maybe—
The curtains slowly start to pull back.
It sounds like Belle is saying “colder and colder and colder,” but it’s hard to know for sure.
A finger beckons through the streaked glass.
Somebody’s in the house. Waiting for them. Grinning.
Belle is still looking back at the street, muttering louder and louder.
Luke doesn’t know where to look. He wishes the rain would stop.
Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Here_comes_rain_again.jpg Author: Juni from Kyoto, Japan