“Oh, hey Kimberly! Are you headed home already? So soon?”
Kim squinted over her stack of files at the figure to her left barely illuminated by the dim parking garage lights.
“Pam?” The figure nodded. “What are you doing down here?”
“I had a late lunch. I’m just getting back.”
“Oh, I see.Dennis left early to take Patrick to his dentist appointment, so he said I could go home too.” The clicking of Kim’s heels echoed through the garage. “It’s hard to be an assistant to an empty office.”
“It looks like you’ve still got plenty of work.” Pam’s shoes clicked closer.
“It’s for the Devenger meeting. I just want to make sure that everything is in order for next week.” Kim continued her way down a long line of sleek black sedans before stopping at her bright blue Honda Civic. Pam stopped by the passenger side door of Kim’s car and reached an arm out to the handle.
“Here, let me get that for you.”
“Oh, wait it’s loc—” The door opened with a click, and the lights came on inside the vehicle. “That’s odd. I could have sworn that I locked it this morning.”
“There’s a lot of things that we forget to do in the mornings before we’ve had a proper cup of coffee, am I right?” Pam laughed and patted Kim’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I guess so.” She gave a small chuckle.
“Well, I’ve got to make my way back upstairs. Enjoy your evening!”
“Thanks. I’ll see you Monday.” Kim placed her files in the passenger seat and rounded the front of her car to the driver's side. She got in, locked the doors, and turned her car on before backing out of the parking space and heading for the exit.
Her headlights flashed through the dark garage, and Kim did a double take at one of the pillars, its shadow just a little too human-like. But when she looked for the second time, she saw no one there. Kim shook her head a tiny bit and blinked three times in rapid succession. Maybe I need some more coffee when I get home.
Kim trudged up the stairs to the second floor of the building. She paused at the second door,keys jingling as she flipped through them with one hand.. After locating the right key, she inserted it into the lock, opening her door. Bumping the door shut with her hip, she turned to her left, dropping her files on the dining room table with a thwap. She wandered into her kitchen to get a glass of water, but when she reached up to grab a glass from the cupboard, she paused. The cabinet was ajar.
But I didn’t even use anything from the cabinet this morning. She opened the door and peeked inside, but nothing looked off. None of her cups had sprouted legs, nor had any of her plates turning into flying saucers. I am losing my mind. She closed that cabinet and opened the one containing coffee mugs instead.
After prepping her coffee pot to brew a cup, Kim went back over to her front door to check that the deadbolt and the door handle were both locked. Kim took in a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, and released it before heading over to her fat, overstuffed couch. She stayed there sipping coffee and working on the event she was planning for her boss until it was well past dark.
When Kim was finally satisfied with her progress, she put away all her papers and headed down the hallway to her bedroom. Many of the floorboards creaked as she walked. The “charming” old apartment seemed like a good idea when she signed her lease, but it only served to add to her nerves now that it was dark outside, and Kim was all alone.
She pulled a pair of neatly folded pajamas out of her dresser and went to the bathroom to change and brush her teeth. A creak seemingly coming from the hallway made Kim’s heart stutter and then pound, but when she went out to investigate, there was no one. Probably the upstairs neighbors, Kim thought. She waited a few more seconds in silence, her hand still holding her toothbrush in her mouth, then she went to check the front door one last time. Satisfied that it was still locked, Kim went back to her room and got into bed.
A fitful hour passed by, and Kim’s eyes stayed wide open, her heart jumping at every little noise. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that last cup of coffee. But after some more time Kim finally drifted off to sleep.
Tap, tap, scraaatch.
Kim’s eyes flew open. Her whole body went cold and then very hot, her skin tingling. What was that? I think it came from my window. Kim’s eyes darted in the direction of the window, but she didn’t move. She was curled around a pillow facing her bathroom, her back to the source of the sound.
Do I investigate? she thought for the tiniest of moments. No way, I don’t want to die tonight! Just pull the covers tighter. She tucked her blanket up close around her neck, as if it could protect against an attacker. This is so dumb. A blanket won’t stop someone from killing me. Just don’t look, don’t look, don’t look. It’s nothing. Nothing at all. And even if it is, they’ll go away, go away, go away.
Her heart felt like a rock in her chest, and she clutched her blanket tighter despite the sweat beading up under her armpits and around her neck. She stayed clenched against that blanket for much too long before her body, fatigued from holding on too tight, slipped back into slumber.
When Kim awoke again it was to the sound of her alarm, and soft morning sunlight peeked through her curtains as though the panic from last night had never happened.
Kim chuckled inwardly at herself. I am such a big baby. I can’t believe I was that freaked out last night.
She flicked the covers off her legs, put her toes down on the cheap, scritchy apartment carpet, and headed for the kitchen and her morning cup of coffee. She started up her coffee maker and peeked in her fridge for something to eat. Settling on eggs and toast, her food soon steamed atop a plate, and she sat down at her dining table to read for a bit while enjoying her meal.
Kim puttered around her apartment the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon doing her usual Saturday chores: cleaning, laundry, and a little binge-watching.
After lunch time had passed by a few hours, and Kim had checked the fridge three times with no luck on finding a decent meal, she decided she needed to head to the store for her weekly shopping trip.
She plucked her shopping list from off the fridge and scooped up her keys. Noticing the threateningly gray clouds, she hooked her umbrella over her elbow before stepping out. She then locked her door, jiggling the handle to make sure it was secure. Kim left her apartment around three and returned at five, tired and starved. The last rays of sunshine had already begun to slip away. Arms loaded with all her shopping bags, because she hated to make a second trip, she stomped up the stairs.
Her loud footsteps halted along with her heart as she spied her ajar apartment door. The grocery bags slid from her arms to the floor, and her legs trembled. I know I locked the door before I left. What do I do? Someone is in my apartment right now.
Her heart began to gallop. She unhooked her umbrella from her elbow and slowly brought it up behind her head like a baseball bat. Stepping as lightly as possible, she approached her apartment. Do I sneak in or go for a surprise attack? I don’t know, I don’t know. Let’s scare them before they scare me.
Kim snaked one hand inside the apartment and slowly slid her hand up the wall until she felt the light switch. With a battle cry, she kicked the door inward and prepared to hit whoever it was with her umbrella.
Her cry was drowned out by the many people who sprang from various crevices of her apartment yelling, “Surprise!” Kim’s back hit the wall behind her, and her stunned silence was met by equally as stunned silence from the people in her apartment.
“Uh, Kimmy? Why are you holding your umbrella like a weapon?” Kim’s gaze darted to her right, and there was Michelle, her childhood best friend. Kim clutched at her racing heart and slid down the wall, her umbrella clunking against the floor beside her.
“Michelle! You scared the daylights out of me!” The faces around her began to look more familiar. Evan and Pam from work. Christina from church.
“You’ve always said you wanted a surprise birthday party, so, surprise!” Michelle gestured to all the people before shrugging.
“I think I might die right now and go to heaven.” Kim slowly peeled herself off the floor. “Remind me to never ask for a surprise again.” Pam dashed over to help Kim to her feet.
“I knew it was a bad idea. Surprise parties never go as planned.” Pam glared at Michelle.
“Oh, boo-hoo, Pamela. You’re the one who warned me that Kimmy was headed home early yesterday.”
“Yeah, because I wasn’t about to let the party be ruined on my watch.”
“Wait.” Kim held her hands up. “Why did you need to know that I was coming home early yesterday?”
“I snuck in yesterday to make sure there were plenty of places for people to hide and to see what kind of supplies I would need.”
“How did you even get in?” Kim squinted at Michelle.
“With this.” Michelle fished one finger into the tiny front pocket of her skinny jeans, digging out a key. “You never asked for it back after asking me to water your plants. Plants that look exceptionally healthy, I might add. Probably because of me.” Michelle shrugged and shot Kim a pleased smile.
“So, you’re the one who left my kitchen cabinet open?”
“And what about the weird noises I heard last night? Were those you too?”
“Outside my window. Coming from the fire escape.”
Michelle shook her head. “I was only at your apartment before you came home from work. It’s an old building. I’m sure it makes plenty of creepy sounds.”
Kim nodded her head. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“Alright,” Michelle gave Kim a big squeeze. “Time to celebrate you, girly.”
Calmed down from her earlier almost heart attack, Kim moved deeper in her apartment, greeting friends and taking in the birthday decorations. She had lots of good food and company for the rest of the evening.
Once the last person—Michelle, of course—had slipped out her door, Kim closed the door and turned the deadbolt before pressing her forehead to the wood and letting out a long sigh. It was all Michelle. I’m so glad it was her. It could have been so much worse.
Kim made her way through her apartment toward her bedroom, turning off lights as she went. Once she dressed in her pajamas and brushed her teeth, Kim crawled into bed. Mentally exhausted from the day’s events, it only took a few minutes for Kim to drift off to sleep.
Click, tap, tap. Kim’s eyes shot open, her body once again going cold and tingly. Her heart stuttered inside her chest. It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s noth—
Kim’s breath wheezed in and out, but it felt like no oxygen reached her lungs. She wanted to clutch the blanket closer to her, but she also didn’t dare move a fraction of an inch. Please, please be nothing.