By Christian Laforet
Maggie hid in the hallway closet. It wasn’t the best hiding spot, but the masked lunatic who had greeted her shortly after returning home, had left her few options.
She had fumbled for her phone as soon as she saw the state of her living room. The furniture was strew about, the television smashed. Her fingers shook as she unlocked the screen on her cell, she managed to dial the 9 in 911 before the man appeared before her.
Maggie hesitated when she saw him; a part of her insisted it was somebody she knew playing a trick on her. That changed when the glint of the knife clutched in his hand caught the light from the overturned lamp. She felt her heart lurch. Nothing of the man’s features could be seen through the mask.
“What do you want?” Maggie stuttered.
The man’s response was quick and violent. He exploded towards her, the business end of the knife leading the charge. The next few seconds were a blur. Maggie moved backwards, but it wasn’t quick enough, the tip of the blade slid down her forearm. A current of searing pain flashed through her. A scream blasted from her lips.
As the knife had its way with her arm, Maggie kicked her left foot out as hard as she could. Still wearing her shoes, she felt her toe dig into the man’s groin. With a grunt, he crumbled to the floor.
She was in motion as soon as he went down. Because of his position, Maggie found herself retreating deeper into her home. A wild panic gripped her as a million frantic thoughts raced through her mind. When the closet located in the hallway under the stairs came into view, she didn’t hesitate to go inside.
Holding her breath, she pressed herself as far back into the space as possible. Her plastic-wrapped wedding dress crinkled against her weight. In that moment, she thought of her husband, Charles. He was away on business and wouldn’t be home for nearly three days. She couldn’t stop herself from picturing him coming home to find her decomposing body somewhere in their house.
Outside, she could hear her attacker stomping around. A large crash shook the walls around her. What did he want? Was he robbing them? Would he leave? Was he going to kill her? A surge of bile rose in her throat as the magnitude of the situation hit home.
Maggie could feel her arm tingling. She brought it up to her face, but the closet was completely dark. She probed gingerly at the injury with her fingers and a shudder of pain racked her. She had no idea how bad the wound was, but she imagined it to be quite severe.
The masked man continued his search, his footfalls bouncing off the steps directly above her head. He was moving upstairs.
She waited ten seconds after the man hit the top of the steps to peek out of the closet door. She could see her phone lying on the floor in the living room, but couldn’t see the front entrance from her current position. If she made a break for the front door, she would have to go past the stairs. The back door was not an option as both her and Charles has a habit of piling things in front of it. It didn’t matter anyways, the man was, at the very least, completely on the second floor of the house. If she ran, there would be no way her attacker could reach her before she escaped.
Taking a breath to steady her nerves, Maggie, being as quite as possible, opened the closet door. It was half open when one of the hinges let out a wail. Maggie cringed and waited for the sound of footsteps. If the man started for the stairs, she would have to make a break for it. When nothing came from above her, she slipped through the opening and broke into a sprint.
As she approached the front door, the origin of the crash she had heard earlier became clear. There was a large wooden letter desk located right next to the front door. The masked man had upended it so that it lie across the entrance. Maggie grasped the door knob and yanked as hard as she could. The door banged loudly against the desk, but the barricade held.
She swore and turned to find another way out when her eyes fell on the intruder staring at her from the top of the stairs.
The man ran down the steps two at a time. Maggie screamed and bolted away from his approach. Cutting through the living room, she had the presence of mind to scoop up her phone. The psycho did not follow her directly, instead he took the hallway to cut her off at the kitchen. They met across the island—pots and pans hanging from the pot rack obscured their view of each other.
“What do you want?” Maggie’s voice quivered.
The man didn’t respond with words, instead he lifted his knife. Her blood had tarnished the stainless steel blade. Maggie was momentarily transfixed by the sight. The intruder took the opportunity and lunged through the hanging pots towards her. With a crash, the whole rack came loose from the ceiling and clattered down onto the top of the island. Maggie jumped to her left and avoided the point of the knife.
She grabbed the Keurig from the counter behind her and smashed the coffee maker down on his head. He slumped across the counter. Maggie turned and ran.
She could hear his howl of frustration as he swept the cookware from the counter around him to the floor. With no other immediate options, Maggie ran down the hall, spun around the banister and headed up the stairs.
The second floor of the house was divided into three rooms. Her and Charles’ bedroom, a spare room, and a bathroom. They were all reachable from a hallway which ran the length of the second floor. Feeling that the first door off the top of the stairs, the spare room, was too obvious, Maggie instead ducked into the bathroom.
The second floor bathroom was of the ‘jack and jill’ variety, which meant that it connected with both of the bedrooms. She opened the cabinet under the sink, pushed all the towels to the side and wedged herself in.
Moments later, the bathroom door slammed open. The sound of the shower curtain being shoved aside was followed by an annoyed grunt. A shuffling of feet placed her attacker right next to the cabinet she was hiding in. She knew that her hiding spot looked far too small for a person to adequately conceal themselves inside. Apparently the intruder agreed as he took his search into one of the bedrooms.
Maggie slapped one of her hands over her mouth in an attempt to smother her sobs which had started to shake her. It seemed like a cruel joke that this would even be happening now of all times. She let her other hand fall to her stomach. They had just found out that their lives were going to be forever changed, before Charles left on business.
Like the closet below, the towel cabinet was utterly dark. This time however, Maggie had her phone. Making sure to turn the screen away from the seam between the two cabinet doors, she turned it on. A blast of illumination momentarily blinded her. As her eyes adjusted, she was greeted by a picture of her and Charles at Marine Land earlier that year. Sliding her finger across their smiling face to unlock the device, she brought up the keypad and once again began dialing 911. Before she could hit call though, her phone began blaring.
She jerked at the unexpected ringing. The numbers emblazoned across her screen were instantly replaced by a picture of Charles. Her fingers fumbled with the device as she hit the reject button. Holding her breath, Maggie waited to see if the masked man had heard the call. She didn’t have to wait long, with a violent yank, the cabinet doors were flung open, a gloved hand reaching in and grabbing a handful of her hair.
Maggie screamed and thrashed as she was pulled from her hiding spot. Her voice rendered mute though as the knife slid in between her ribs. She felt herself go stiff. Her attacker pulled the blade free and readied it for another go, when she threw her body backwards into his and they both tripped over the lip of the bathtub. The curtain pulled free from its rings, twisting them around until both Maggie and her attacker slammed into the tile wall.
As soon as the man’s grasp weakened, Maggie was once again in movement. A circle of coldness was spreading from the stab wound in her side, but it did not impede her running, so she fought through it. She was nearing her bed when she was tackled from behind. They both tumbled across the bedspread, the comforter wrapping around them like a cocoon. Heavy breathing and animal grunts were the only sounds coming from underneath. The man stabbed the knife towards her face but he missed and the blade buried into the pillow top of the mattress. Maggie bucked her body violently and pulled free of their entanglement. She fell to the floor on the opposite side of the bed. Gasping, she climbed to her feet.
He collided with her. Whatever his intentions were, he had miscalculated the amount of force needed to sack Maggie. Instead, he lifted her clear off the ground and they both crashed through the bedroom window.
Maggie coughed. She looked around and saw that she was on her front lawn. The grass was cold, but soothing against her skin. Pushing herself up onto her hands and knees, she looked around for her attacker. The man was laying a couple of meters away, a large piece of glass sticking from the side of his neck. He wasn’t moving. A sad laugh fell from her lips before she let herself collapse back to the ground. She rolled onto her back and looked at the phone still clutched in her hand. She knew she needed immediate medical attention, but found herself dialing Charles instead. Maggie needed to hear his voice, if just for a second.
Maggie dropped her phone in the grass, her fingers suddenly numb, and looked over towards the dead man. A melodious ringing was issuing from his pocket.