This is just Part 1 of my Horror/Thriller short story, Quiet Sips of Air. Hope you enjoy it and the rest will be coming soon!
My heart was beating so loud I was afraid they would hear it. I hadn’t heard the footsteps in a while, but I could see through the thin slits that the light in the hallway had been turned off. The air felt cold and dense. Every hair stood in terror on my arms and I consciously focused on my breathing, trying to only take quiet sips of air. I was trying to stay calm but the questions in my head were screaming.
Why did they come here? They couldn’t possibly know, could they? Where is Max? And Phoebe. Oh God, Phoebe.
A loud thud came from downstairs and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking the worst. One of them was yelling at the other, but they were too far to make out any words.
I looked into the room. My room. Where I had spent so many nights laughing and crying at rented movies. The expensive dress I wore, after trying four others, to my date with Ron was now scrunched in my fist. I saw the bed where Phoebe was conceived. And the nightstand where my book lay so innocently; so unaware. I remember when we got the phone sitting next to it. It was a gift from Tom.
It was right there. I realized if I could get to it I could call 911 and get help. I knew it was risky, that if even one floorboard creaked, they would know I was there, but I had to try. It was only a matter of time before they came up here again. They certainly weren’t going to find it downstairs. I calmed my breathing and thought about the smartest way to do it. I would take off my shoes and go around the bed, to minimize as much noise as possible. I’d grab the phone and go back to the closet, just in case they came up while I was making the call.
I took a deep breath and put my palm on the back of the closet door. I was about to push it open when I heard the rumbling sound of shoes against the wooden steps. They were coming back. Damn it, I shouldn’t have wasted so much time.
My hand started trembling, and soon I couldn’t stop my entire body from shaking. The fear was rising inside me like a volcano right on the verge of exploding. I had to cup my hands over my mouth just to conceal the whimpering and quickening breath.
They stood in the hallway at the top of the staircase. All I could see were their shoes and legs. From what I could see they were two men. One was wearing worn-out, light blue jeans, carelessly stuffed into a pair of tan worker boots. The other wore a more stereotypical-burglar-style black khakis and matching sneakers.
The one in the boots was standing fifteen feet away from me.They were whispering, but I could hear him.
“I’m sorry. He said it would be simple. How was I supposed to know that -”
He stopped talking abruptly, not even finishing his sentence. It was completely silent now and I did everything in my power not to move. Not to breathe.
I watched as both pairs of shoes turned towards the bedroom door. Tan Boots told Black Slacks he would look in there again.
I had gotten lucky the last time. It was just Black Slacks who came in before and when he opened the closet, he opened one door at a time. It wasn’t an enormous walk-in, but it had enough space for five or six people to uncomfortably fit. On the far back left corner there’s a hamper built-in to the other shelves. It’s big enough to fit an average-sized teenage girl, apparently.
I couldn’t see anything in there, but I could hear that he had walked into the space. Then Tan Boots yelled something and I heard the door shut and the footsteps fade away.
Tan Boots was standing in the bedroom now and he was facing away from, but right in front of the closet door. Black Slacks shouted as I heard him making his way down the stairs, and what he said sent chills throughout my body.
“Make sure you check everywhere. And don’t forget that closet.”
Tan Boots walked towards the bed and I lost sight of his legs, but my whole body cringed when I heard him whistling. I couldn’t recognize the melody, but it was unfittingly upbeat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flashing. It was the clock on the night table. From my low angle, the bed blocked the bottom half of the blinking orange numbers, but I knew the only time it did that was when an alarm was about to go off.
For years now, I’ve set two alarms. One in the morning for 7:30 a.m. and one at 3.00 a.m to use the bathroom. There wasn’t enough light outside for it to be morning, so it had to be the bathroom alarm.
I realized then that it would be my only chance. The alarm would be loud and he would want to shut if off. I thought if I timed it right, I could crawl out of the closet and hide in the bathroom. It was small and the shower was all glass, but he had already checked it, so there was no reason for him to go back. And he was going to check the closet and there was no way he wouldn’t find me.
A harsh, blaring siren erupted from the clock and I heard the man gasp and curse in terror.
“Bloody hell,” he said.
I began to crack the door as slowly and gently as I could. He was slouched over the clock with his back towards me, muttering something, most likely profanities, under his breath. The door was open just enough for me to shimmy out on my side. I laid myself flat and propped my upper body up with my elbows.
I could feel beads of sweat starting to form on my upper lip and forehead as I held my breath and start to crawl. I had to hurry but I had to be smart. One small mistake and he could’ve heard me. I was almost at the end of the bed when Tan Boots screamed. My heart sank to my stomach and I froze, unable to move or think.
I closed my eyes and felt my body tense up in anticipation, preparing itself for the hands that were about to grab me.
“Come here. I can’t shut this damned thing off!”
At first, my mind didn’t process that he wasn’t talking to me. But quickly I reopened my eyes. Then I heard footsteps.
First, I heard them from the other side of the bed, moving right towards me. Then I heard another set pounding up the stairs. I was surrounded. There was no time to get to the bathroom. He would see me.
I didn’t even have time to think, but my body, like it had taken control somehow, rolled sideways. I looked up to see rows of the coiled springs that lined the frame of my bed. I looked to where I had just been on my knees, only five feet away, and saw the tan shoes. Then the black shoes. The both started to go around the bed, walking less than a meter away from the crown of my head. I looked to my right and saw them in front of the nightstand.
The frantic sound of the alarm was still blasting through the room. The two men were whispering aggressively to one another, and as close as I was to them, I couldn’t make out a single word. I closed my eyes. I thought about my daughter, Phoebe, who was at her friend’s house for a sleepover. And my dog, Max, who had urinated on the sofa earlier that day. As punishment, I had him sleep in the doggy house outside. And I thought about the date that I was supposed to go on, but cancelled twenty minutes before. I just laid there, thinking about how I had gotten to that point.
Finally, the alarm stopped. I opened my eyes and saw Tan Boots still standing over the nightstand. Black Slack wasn’t standing there anymore and in that moment I was so relieved that I wasn’t in the closet anymore.
Then the closet door shut. Terror consumed my entire body. My lips quivered and I could almost taste the fear inside my mouth.
I turned my head and Black Slack’s eyes were staring directly into mine.
I had forgotten to close the closet door.