Someone in the House

Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels

Book: Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Michaels
It was a light, uneasy slumber; the discomfort of my position and the night noises of the house kept jerking me awake. Then I heard a sound that woke me completely—the soft click of a latch.
    I had slumped down into the space between the nymph’s pedestal and the back wall of the alcove. Gingerly I slid forward, painfully I transferred my weight onto my aching knees; cautiously I peered out.
    I have tried several times to describe what I saw, but on those occasions I was under a certain emotional strain. This is my first attempt to set it down in cold black and white.
    Kevin’s door was open. He stood in the doorway. The room behind him was dark. The doorframe concealed part of his body, which was in profile to me. His arms were extended, his hands slightly curved and facing one another, as if he touched something lightly. His lips parted. A murmur of sound reached me, but no distinct words. Then his hands dropped. For a few seconds he stood still. Then, moving slowly, like a swimmer under water, he withdrew into his room. The door closed.
    The figure was clearly visible by then. Its outlines were blurred, like a foggy vapor, but the shape was definitely human. The lower limbs were concealed by the long trailing garment that covered the entire body, so that it seemed to glide instead of walk. It passed from shadow into light, and the glow of the lamp reflected from the silver-gilt substance that covered its head and trailed down its back—hair or some kind of hood; I could not be sure.
    To describe my feelings would be unscientific. I will try to confine myself to what I did. I started on the multiplication table. I got to three times four before I had to stop because I couldn’t think of the answer. I took a fold of skin between thumb and forefinger, and pinched, hard. The marks were still there next day.
    The golden gleam was that of hair, silky locks that streamed below the thing’s waist. There were arms, in long, full sleeves, slightly extended, as if it needed to balance itself. It was fully formed now, except at the lowest part of the long garment, which trailed off into misty wisps like fog, several inches above the floor. I could see the hall carpet under it. And I could see, from the pattern on the carpet, that it had stopped moving.
    A ripple passed over it, like the tensing of muscles. It knew I was there. Through some sense beyond the normal five it had felt my presence. I knew that as surely as if it had cried out or pointed an accusing finger. I tried to stand up. My legs ached. I felt the pain, just as I was fully cognizant of my other sensations and my physical surroundings. It was not the pain that kept me from moving.
    With a sudden snakelike twist, horribly unlike its earlier slow drifting, the thing whirled around. For a split second I saw the face Kevin had seen—a smiling, dimpled girl’s face, softly rounded. Then the features melted like those of a wax doll over a flame. The dainty nose became a dripping blob, the cheeks sagged into shapelessness around an empty hole of a mouth. In the shifting mass I caught flashes, fleeting and hideously incomplete, of other features taking shape and instantly dissolving—an acquiline nose, a protruding high curve of heavy cheekbones, lips that squeezed themselves into an animal-like snout before they blurred into doughy chaos. The writhing, waxen mass was still trying to shape itself when the figure made a lurching movement forward—toward me.
    I must have gotten to my feet, though I don’t remember doing so. All I remember doing so. All I remember is a yielding and a ponderous movement and a dark mass looming over me. A thunderclap exploded six inches from my ear, and the dark enveloped me.
    III
    I awoke to find myself in Kevin’s arms. I started to scream.
    He took two long steps and dumped me onto a soft-hard surface that yielded to my weight. I bounced.
    “She’s hysterical,” he said. “Shall I slap her?”
    “Certainly not.” Bea pushed him

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