FLASH Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 14
Helen slams the closet door, leans against it, her heart racing. Then she is overtaken by what her father had called the ‘little girl shakes.’ She steps away from the closet. Takes several deep breaths. She doesn’t like remembering her father; he was not a good man.
“I am a leaf on the wind,” she utters and the anxiety about the closet begins to drain out of her.
She is standing in their Jack and Jill bathroom. Harold hated the idea of sleeping in separate bedrooms, but she told him, it was the only way she could sleep. It was one of the few things between them where she had stood firm. She had hoped to move into one of the two guest bedrooms and he would stay in the master bedroom, downstairs. But as soon as she had finished moving into one of the bedrooms, he moved into the other.
She studies the closet door carefully. Is it safe to even stand here she wonders? She takes a step back. Then another and bumps against the hamper. Looking down she sees a pair of Harold’s underwear. He had flung them towards the lidless hamper and missed. I guess he felt that was good enough. She would pick them up for him. Didn’t she always? She sees the hinges where the hamper lid used to be and rubs her low back as she remembers falling into it and knocking the lid off. Harold liked to shove and the hamper had broken her fall, probably saving her a trip to the ER that night.
She looks at the closet door again. She tries to tell herself that she was only hallucinating. That she couldn’t have seen that. She saw, nothing? She had opened the closet to pull out the Epsom salts. Harold had left the house early, supposedly to look for jobs. Ha! The lazy bastard hasn’t worked in years. Helen was the sole income in the ‘family’ now. And yet he still let her do all the cooking and cleaning. With Harold out of the house, it was safe for her to take a bath.
She’d tried to leave him. Multiple times. On her first attempt, he chased after her, cried crocodile tears, swore he’d change. By her third attempt, Harold had found punches were a more effective deterrent than tears. She had no one. Her parents had died in a car crash years ago. Her sister, Laura, had moved to San Francisco the day after the funeral, then slowly disappeared.
Helen chides herself for being so frightened of … what? Of nothing? She steps forward tentatively. She rests her hand on the metal knob.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of Helen,” she whispers to the wooden door. She braces herself and opens the door again.
There is nothing behind the door she observes. Not that the closet is empty. Behind the door was literally nothing. Where the shallow closet, with its extra towels, washcloths, and bath salts once existed, there was now only a void. No light escapes from the closet void. She thinks about pushing her hand into it, but the shakes find her again. She closes the door and sits down to think. And plan.
She would have to confirm that it’s still there throughout the day of course. And just before of course, oh, he would be so furious with her if she merely scared him. Harold, like a lot of bullies, hated being scared. She learned that early on in their marriage.
‘Where the shallow closet, with its extra towels, washcloths, and bath salts once existed, there was now only a void.’
He had gone to sleep early that night in his bedroom. She waited for his steady snores before she enters the bathroom. She turns on the light confirms the void is still where her closet should be.
Helen pushes the door to but doesn’t close it all the way. She takes 10 deep breaths. Her nightmare might finally be over.
You can do this.
Harold, especially when he’s been drinking beer, has to get up several times during the night to pee. Helen sits on the floor, her back against the wall, and waits. Her wait isn’t long. She hears the bed creak as he gets up.
“What the hell are you doing in here weirdo?” he asks her as he stands there and begins peeing into the toilet. She can see a lot of it is hitting the rim, splattering onto the floor. What a slob!
This is the last time I will have to mop up his pee.
He finishes. He turns and sees her. She is standing in front of the open closet, staring, her mouth agape.
“What is it? You see a mouse?” Was that concern in his voice? Not that she would fall for that again.
She’s as tense as a steel spring.
Come closer dear husband! Investigate this glorious mystery with me.
He jerks her away from the closet and steps forward.
Anticipating those exact actions, she stumbles back, and then when his attention is arrested by the overwhelming power of the nothingness within the space that once was a mundane closet, she launches herself at her husband. He falls into the void. But he catches himself with one thick, hairy forearm grasping the door jamb. He’s struggling. The gravity must be greater in the void she thinks.
Damn, damn, damn!
She thinks about running. She had come so close to being free. She slinks against the wall, slides down, and begins quietly weeping.
He grimaces and begins pulling himself out of the void.
The house shakes, a hot wind, smelling of rotten eggs, blows Helen’s hair back.
She looks at Harold. His scowl is gone, stark terror blossoms in his eyes. Looking down; she sees thick red tentacles begin spiraling around each of his thick legs. Smaller tentacles find his arm, wrap around his neck. And then he is gone. Helen kicks the door shut.
‘… stark terror blossoms in his eyes.’
The next morning, after her shower, Helen slowly opens the closet door. She sighs when she sees her closet has returned.