It went like that sometimes, laying there in the dark, a soft thud from another room. A room you know is empty. The thud so soft but so distinct you can only guess it’s gravity pulling on clothes. But what clothes? You didn’t leave any clothes in there to fall. So what was that noise? The world is otherwise quiet, and your mind is noisy, playing back music to you from sometime in the day, or from sometime in your life, thoughts about what you’ll do when your alarm goes off. Will it be different when you wake up? Another thud, just a little louder, but this time against the wall. What falls on the wall? That doesn’t make sense. Heart beating faster now, body otherwise warm and cozy under the covers, you debate with yourself about getting up.

A tentative sounding bump on the ceiling. Your eyes are drawn in that direction, but it’s pitch black. Nothing to see here. Just noises. Does the house settle in ways you don’t even understand? Do the laws of physics even apply here? It’s not windy outside…so…There, did you hear that? Another sound outside your bedroom door. Like a shuffle. Now you know you need to get up, and also your bladder is full, and this isn’t as funny anymore. You sneak your arm and hand out of the covers, turn on the light, and get out of bed, your heart hammering, your mouth and tongue dry, and open your bedroom door. You turn on the hall light, walk down and into the darkened living room. Nothing. No clothes fell. There’s nothing there to make these noises you know you heard. Sighing, you use the restroom, and then make your way back to bed.

Next morning you open your phone and read a report about a thief who was shot dead three streets down from you. It happened about an hour before you would have got home that night to go to bed. You look around your apartment. Nothing is out of place except…that Christmas nutcracker on your coffee table has fallen on its side. It was not like that before you went to bed. You begin to see other things moved as well.

You chalk it up to absent mindedness on your part and go about your day. You leave everything as it is right now, intentionally. You even take a picture of your living room. Then consciously lock the door before leaving for work.

Later

You get home, walk in, and see the nutcracker is on the floor in front of the computer. Your heart stops. What else has moved? Your bedspread is pulled all the way off and laying on the floor. While you’re wondering how this happened you hear something in the living room. You race out to see what it is but no one is there. You feel something, a shiver move through you, caressing your spine briefly. Suddenly you don’t feel so good. It’s time to go out for a while, maybe to a Starbucks to put all of this out of your mind.

You go and have a cup of hot chocolate. The people at the Starbucks seem to be enjoying themselves. You know you’ll go home and this will all be just some bizarre paranoia of your mind and nothing will have happened. Not again. No one could get in your apartment just to move a Christmas nutcracker and pull the sheets off your bed. You dig out your phone and read more about that story, a much more thorough read.

By the end of the news report you’re shaking. It’s your cousin who was shot and killed because he was trying to steal something from one of your friends who lives on that street. You have some guesses about what was to be stolen. What disturbs you most is that your cousin had a falling out with you a few years ago.

You get back home, opening your door wearily and step in. The nutcracker is is righted. You go into your bedroom, the bedclothes are fine. Breathing a sigh of relief, and chalking it up to your over active imagination (you shouldn’t have watched that silly horror movie two nights ago!) you go and sit at your computer.

The screen shows a Word document open. On the Word document it shows a name.

Bill Anderson

Your recently deceased cousin’s name.