Panic in the Corridor

Jul 31  |  Phillip Traum

I snatch quick breaths, I have to subdue them to hear him, heart slamming behind my eyes as they adjust to the dark, bones shuddering from another crash downstairs, I sidle against the wall and hear him grumble and flinch when he hurls furniture across the room, oak and mahogany swept away like plastic lawn chairs in a hurricane.

He hasn’t invaded my periphery thank god but he’s here, I know what he looks like already because sight and sound have cordially stepped aside for what emerges in my head, a projection in pitch black, and I’m panicking far too much to decide whether the risk of falling from a second-story window is more dangerous than creeping downstairs, edging closer to him before I make a break for the front door.

Coward, it’s not within me to save the others, maybe I’ll succumb to guilt later on and defer my murder to a suicide, death by my own hands is less horrifying than his own, veins pulsating as his thumbs press into my windpipe, and will it be a mercy if my spine snaps before he’s sapped all the air from my lungs?

It’s too late because they’re dead already I think, I mean where else would they be, no one could sleep through the chaos and destruction of our once-sacred home, his lurching footsteps far too heavy to be muffled by our humble threadbare carpet, so of course he got to them already, but he missed me, he’s careless, it was a blessing, but now I need to earn the rest of my safety and sanity, will he hear me when my feet hit the grass, will my legs break, will there be time to crawl behind the bushes, will he smell me, will a neighbor answer my scratching at their door or will they cower behind it like I would, turning off all the lights and pretending to not be home at 3am?

Lumbering feet mount the stairs and now he’s approaching, did he hear my frantic panting, did I unconsciously whimper a prayer, stumbling through it and mangling it because there are no atheists at the chopping block? He’s clever, he feigned ignorance, he kept me terrified, quivering in the darkest corner of the hallway at the top of the steps while my frenzied mind made worthless calculations, none of which I could commit to.

The banister snaps in his grip, flimsy stairs crater underneath his boots, growling in a menace that needs no announcement as his hulking figure casts a shadow across my face, even in absence of all light, towering over me, stature reaching unfathomable stories above my head, slowly stooping down, gruesome face lowering itself until rancid breath assaults my nostrils.

Two pork slabs of hands crash upon my shoulders and nearly topple me to the floor as adrenaline masks the agony of my shattered collar bone and he wriggles his scabby lips to pronounce his verdict and bulky fingers fold themselves underneath my jaw to tighten an unrelenting squeeze and my feet lose the ground before kicking uselessly into the air as strangulation gradually blots out my vision.

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