The Man (Flash Fiction)

The evening was winding down to its final hours, and Catherine was buried deep within her love seat, enthralled. She had already turned a good 50 pages of her newest book, a horror novel about a very unhappy man roaming the woods with an axe, and she showed no sign of stopping. Her second glass of red wine was fading, and outside, in the quiet suburbs of her little city, the wind stirred gently at the trees. As she shifted her body beneath a satin robe, she realized there was nowhere else she’d rather be.

The strange bumping sounds that were occurring outside her front door had been happening for well over a minute before she realized them for what they were. Initially, in her distracted state of mind, she thought it only to be a neighbor moving in garbage cans from the street, or some other harmless commotion. But the chapter ended, and she turned the page, and her mental state was given reprieve. That’s when she realized the sounds weren’t far away. Someone was trying, albeit very gently, to open her front door.

She lowered the book in a state of awe as her mind struggled to understand if the events were real. It wouldn’t be the first time her imagination ran away with her during a night of reading horror. But the bumps were real, and the front door of her small home, only 15 feet away from her, was the obvious victim of these minor assaults. She set her book on the table and finished her glass of wine in a quick gulp. She pulled herself from the love seat and stood in front of the door.

All the while, something on the other side kept bumping. Bumping.

As she pulled her robe tight, the thought to get a knife from the kitchen shot through her mind. She shook the idea off and cursed herself for being so childish. “This is no horror story,” she said to herself. “There is no author out there writing me.” She took a deep breath and approached the door. She leaned close, despite the gentle bumps and small turns at the locked handle, and looked through the peephole.

Her porch light was off, but the streetlights offered some insight to the world outside. Her screen door was open, and only inches away from her face moved the figure of a tall and thin man. Without thinking, Catherine flicked on the porch light. She gasped a little as a dark face appeared and immediately moved away. The bumps at the door stopped, and Catherine could clearly see who was attempting to lay siege.

He was older, probably in his sixties, and very tall and thin. He had tight skin that seemed to seal to his face like plastic and very pronounced cheek bones. He wore a black suit with a white undershirt and black bow-tie. The suit was very small and looked childish on him. That suit is stolen, she thought.

“What do you want?” Catherine said through the closed door.

“Good evening, madam,” the man said. “Is the master of the home in?” He smiled at the words and showed great teeth that were an unreal white.

“I’m sorry?” she said, caught off guard by the strange use of language.

The man smiled even larger and repeated his statement. “I says, is the master of the home in?”

The core of warmth brought on from the wine faded, and Catherine felt a chill crawl along her skin. It started at her throat, flowed over her shoulders and down the length of her arms. Another ripple of cold wound its way along the length of her spine.

“No,” she said plainly. Why she said that, she would never understand.

“Well that’s mighty unfortunate,” the man said. “Are you allowed to make financial decisions on your lonesome?” The man smiled from the other side of the door, smiling so wide that his chapped lips showed clearly in the porch light.

“What do you want?” she asked. “Why were you trying to open my door?”

The man lowered his head and apologized. “I’m terribly sorry, madam. I sure don’t mean to alarm. I saw that your light was on is all, and I was hoping to make a sale, you see?” He held up a brochure. On its cover was the picture of a vacuum. “I sell cleaners, ya see? The finest cleaners there ever were. They’ll make your home awful tidy.”

Catherine turned to look at a clock in the kitchen. It read 11:03. “Why were you trying to open my door?” she asked again.

The man smiled, seemingly on the verge of giggling, and only shook his head. “Like I says, madam. I only saw your light on and I thought I’d like to come in. It’s important I make these sales, ya see? I’ve got a family.”

“I’m not interested,” Catherine said. “Go away.” Her voice was tight, terse. She was beginning to tremble.

“Are you sure the master of the home isn’t in?” the man asked.

“I am the master of this home,” she said. “Now go away or I’ll call the police.”

The freakish smile on the man’s face faded to a narrow slit, but Catherine could still see those absurd white teeth. He looked behind him to the street. Catherine looked as well. There was no one else out there. “Madam, I only wish to—”

“Fuck. Off,” she said with as much authority as she could muster.

Now the smile was gone, and the tall and thin man, with overly pronounced cheek bones and worn skin wrapped tightly around his face, leaned in toward the door and stared in through the peephole. “That language isn’t very becoming of a lady,” he said. His tone was flat, and his tall figure seemed to consume the doorway.

Catherine bolted for the kitchen, grabbed her phone, and dialed 911. While she did, she turned off all the lights inside. She had read too many horror stories where the killer lurking outside could easily see the victim within. When the dispatch took the call, Catherine quickly told of her troubles. A squad car was being sent out immediately.

“Is the man still there?” asked the woman on the line.

Catherine hated to look, but she knew that she had to. She could see the glow of the porch light through the crack in the window blinds. She leaned toward the door and looked through the peephole. “No,” she said. She scanned as well as she could through her small range of vision. “No. He’s gone.”

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