The Quiet Space
Mina unpacked the last box in her new room. Despite her mother's suggestions, she had picked the smallest bedroom. The size of the house was already overwhelming, and cold. When things are big, there wass far too much emptiness to fill. This size suited her nicely. The boy had chosen the room beside hers, a similarly small one. Mina wasn't sure how she felt about sharing space so close with this familiar stranger. They had only met a handful of times. He was a quiet boy, the same age as her, but it was too early to know if this was the real him. Still, she took some comfort in his presence. Mina had long grown accustom to being alone, but she had never competed with such empty space before. There was a danger in its newness. The boy, Thomas, was new, but less so. Today was the first time she had met this towering building in person. Mina laid on her displaced bed. The new room itself wasn't so bad. The walls were a pale yellow and the carpet a deep, forest green, a welcome change from the dirtied eggshell she had put up with for years. Near the ceiling, there was a single, small window . It let in light, but revealed nothing, which she was glad of as her room faced the street. Since the room was smaller than her old one, her things filled up the space more. A perfect, snug fit. At the very least, she could get used to this. The last few months had been draining. For a year and a half, her mother had been seeing one of the other doctors at the hospital. Mina kept up a happy face for her. Her mother had seemed so lonely since her father died. The man was a widower, according to her mother, and had been alone even longer than her mother. He was a nice man. A bit dull, but if he kept her mother happy, he was good enough. He was nothing like her goofy, programmer father who used to sit her in his lab as he worked on one of his freelance jobs at home. The emptiness for Mina was still too large to fill, so she kept her distance. She wasn't bothered by having a step-father. David wouldn't be heavily involved in her life. But with him came other things. A new brother, a new pet, and a new house. Fortunately, the new house was close enough to the old one that neither her nor Thomas had to change schools. To have had that stacked on top of the other things would have made keeping that happy face up far more challenging. Mina thought of herself as a competent person, someone who didn't complain. She didn't think these changes would impact her. After all, those weren't particularly bad things. But, her daily order was disrupted. Mina was sure she could get through anything, as long as she kept her mind in order. The disorganized room around her mocked her. She knew it would be beautiful once everything was in its rightful place, but there was no time to do it all today. That heavy weight tugged at her thoughts. A loud knock at her door startled her. "Can I come in?" The voice belonged to Thomas. Mina got off the bed and straightened her skirt. "Yes, it's unlocked." Thomas opened the door, his pet cat in hand. "Hey, could you watch Midnight for a sec? I need to fix something with my window and I don't want her trying to climb out." "That's fine." Mina took the black cat from Thomas. "Thanks. Shouldn't take long. Something's loose with mine. It doesn't completely close. Your window okay?" Thomas pointed to the little window. "Hmm...I haven't really looked at it closely. It's so high up." "I'll take a look at it after I'm done with mine. Don't want people sneaking in. They should really fix this stuff before selling." Mina hadn't heard Thomas speak this much before. So, she thought to herself, he's a bit of a handyman. "Yes. I noticed the fence in the back has some broken segments too." Mina mentioned this more to see what his reaction would be than any concern over it. The backyard was so densely full of overgrown weeds and half-dead plants that she had no intention of regularly being around there. "Of course. Jeez, these people." He shrugged as he walked away. "Guess I'm going to have to add that to the list." Mina closed the door and let Midnight onto the floor. Now curious about the window, she pulled her desk chair over to it to look for herself. Her window too wouldn't close completely. She fiddled with it to get it to shut, but it wouldn't budge. The space left open was so small that it was only visible when looking closely, but a draft definitely went through. If it wasn't fixed, her room was going to be horrible when Winter came in a couple of months. A little while later, Thomas came back for Midnight, but their parents called them down for dinner before Thomas could look at it. Tonight was their first dinner together as a family. Despite their parents efforts at small talk, the table stayed mostly quiet. Mina returned to her room to work on homework afterwards, and the window was forgotten about entirely. Nearing ten, Mina got ready for bed. She performed her usual routine, making sure to not let the days chaotic nature affect her personal order. The room was still not in the condition she wanted it, but she repeated to herself that it could be dealt with tomorrow. She found it odd how quiet Thomas was. By sound alone, she wagered no one would think the room next door was occupied. For Mina, that was a blessing. The more their spaces stayed separate, the better. Turning in for bed, Mina found herself only able to stare at the ceiling. The warm colored room looked foreign in the dark, and cold. Mina hadn't expected it to be this cold already. Octobers were typically warm there. Tonight, it was freezing. Mina sunk deeper underneath her sheets. A full moon put a spotlight directly on her bed. She turned away from the window, but to no relief. The light stayed blinding. Frustrated, Mina contemplated what she could use temporarily to cover the window. As she was about to get up, she heard a noise. Tap--tap--tap. The moonlight disappeared. Tap--tap--tap. Mina's heartbeat pounded in her ears. Tap--tap--tap--click--slide. The moon returned. A cold breeze chilled the room so deeply Mina could see her breath. Nervously, Mina turned over to face the window. Her heart sunk as she lost her breath. It was open. Mina sat up, frantically looking around the room. There was no sound, no footsteps, and the moon only cast light on her bed. Something caught her attention at the foot of the bed. A strange shadow hovered there, growing thick like a fog. The more it grew, the more its shape changed. Protruding spots from the left and right sides became limb-like, in the center, a head...and then came teeth. White jagged daggers shining as bright as the moon... The dead silence broke with a growl. Mina bolted for the door, slamming it shut behind her. Instinctively, she went to the next nearest human--Thomas. Not bothering with knocking, Mina barged in and locked the door behind her. "Thomas! Thomas!" Thomas flicked on his nightstand lamp and pulled out his earphones. "What's wrong?" "There's something in my room!" She didn't know what to say next. She didn't know what she saw to begin with. Thomas got out of bed. Midnight pulled at his shirt. She was as spooked as Mina. He picked up the cat. "What do you mean something's in there? Like an animal? Or a person?" Mina held back her tears. "I don't know. It had teeth and I think it sounded sort of like a dog but...it's body wasn't normal..." "What? A dog? We're on the second floor...Let me see." He handed Midnight over to Mina and put his earphones and phone into his pocket. "You hold her. Stay behind me." "Okay..." Mina clutched the cat. Midnight herself was all too eager to cling to Mina, attempting to burrow into her shirt to hide. Thomas picked up a baseball bat as they walked out of the room. He flicked the hallway light on, staying partly in the doorway. There was no one in the hall. Slowly, he opened the door to Mina's room. Neither of them could see anything inside. Thomas hit the light switch. The room was still as empty, but the window held the evidence of intrusion. Along the wall, there was a dark, flaky substance scattered from the floor to the open window. Thomas pulled Mina inside the room and locked the door. "Keep quit. I'm going to check out the window. If anything happens, just run." Mina nodded, unable to move from where she stood. Thomas held the bat tightly in his hand as he approached the window. He stood in Mina's chair to peer out of it. The seconds between then and when he closed the window seemed to last forever. Mina unconsciously began counting the beats of her heart ringing in her ears, as if hoping something in their rhythm would bring a sense of normality to the moment. With a heavy shove, Thomas managed to slam the window down completely. He swiftly locked it and hopped down from the chair. "I didn't see anything outside, but we should tell our parents. Whatever came in might still be in the house." "Maybe one of us should call the police." Mina was terrified of going back out into the hall. She knew it what was best, but her body wasn't reacting as her mind ordered. "Let's get to our parents first. I don't want them to be surprised by something sneaking around in the house." Thomas took hold of her wrist and led her to the door. "Stay close to me." "I know." Mina did as she was told. She found herself annoyed at her own fear. Mina had handled stressful situations before. She should be able to maintain her calm through anything. Mina watched Thomas move. He knows order, she thought. Why am I losing myself so much lately? The hallway was as quiet as her room had been. The many empty rooms of the house all became mirrors of her fears. Anything could be inside them. This was part of why she hated large emptiness. When things are full and in their place, there's nowhere for anything to hide. That creature could be behind any door, come out at any time, and she'd never see it coming. Mina walked even closer to Thomas. "Hey...shouldn't we have passed the stairs by now?" Thomas slowed his pace. Mina hadn't entirely been paying attention to where thy were going, but she knew they had been walking a long time. The house was big, but it wasn't that big. Something wasn't right. "We should have...I think..." Thomas looked ahead. "I can't see the end." Mina looked behind them. "I can't either..." "There isn't one," said someone. Mina and Thomas both spun around to face each other. In unison, they spoke. "Who was that?" The lights above them flickered. In each direction, the hallway lights went out one by one as far out as they could see. Thomas held his bat defensively, swinging it randomly at the air. There was no opponent to hit before them. In a matter of seconds, the darkness was almost upon them. Mina held on to Midnight and dropped to her knees, covering her eyes. When Thomas and Mina woke up, it was morning. They found themselves on the hallway floor in front of their respective bedrooms. Midnight was curled up in Mina's arms. Thomas and Mina both gave one another looks of confusion. Mina could hear her heartbeat again. She managed a few words. "That...that wasn't a dream, was it?" "Not unless we had the same dream and both sleepwalk." "No, that can't be...then what...what was all of that..." Mina tried to manage her breathing. "I don't know...should we tell our parents?" "I doubt they'd believe us." Mina noticed Midnight appeared to have calmed down from last night. "Then what should we do?" Thomas sat up, his gaze wandering about the hall. "I don't know. Wait...our parents...do you think anything...?" Mina's fear returned. The two of them, with Midnight still tagging along with Mina, rushed down the hall. This time, they had no trouble finding the stairs. Before they're reached the bottom, they were greeted by David. "You two are in a rush. That hungry for breakfast?" "Uh...yeah...Where's Emma?" Thomas stood in confusion at how peaceful everything seemed. "Oh, she's in the kitchen. Why?" David sat down on the sofa in front of the morning news. "Uh, just wondering." Thomas gave a perplexed look to Mina. To be sure, they both went to the kitchen. Mina's mother was standing in front of the stove cooking eggs as she watched a talk show on her tablet. The sight of the tablet made Thomas remember something. He checked his pocket and then motioned for Mina to go with him back upstairs to talk alone. Upstairs, he pulled out his phone and earphones. "See this? I was listening to music before bed, but I didn't take these out and put them in my pocket until after you came to my room. It's paused on the song I last listened to." "What does that mean?" "I have it set to kept track of what I listen to and when through this app." He opened up the music app and showed it to Mina. "Twelve o'five. That's when you came to my room. How long did you wait before coming to my room?" "Not long..." She wasn't sure exactly how much time had passed, but she knew it couldn't have been more than a few minutes at most. "So, at roughly midnight, this all started." Thomas put the phone away. "I have an idea." "What?" "Tonight, we'll stay up till midnight again and see what happens. I want to know what this thing is. But before that, I'm fixing your window properly." "What do we do if it comes again?" "I don't know...but I'm not going to be scared out of my own house. I'm going to stay home today. You go ahead and go to school. I have a lot of windows to check." "Are you sure you'll be okay?" "Yeah. Besides, Dad's staying home today too. And Midnight will let me know if anything weird's going on." Thomas petted the cat. "Alright. But be careful. Call me if anything strange happens." Mina stood up and walked towards her bedroom. "Okay. For now, let's not mention this to our parents." Thomas picked up his cat and went towards his own. "Agreed." Mina nodded. This wasn't what she expected. The spaces they held were supposed to remain separate. Now, it was the house that changed their space, boxing them in. At the back of her mind, she knew this couldn't be the end of it, but she still hoped desperately that this was all a bad dream that would soon be forgotten. Getting back to her natural order, Mina went about her daily morning routine and went on her way to school. As she parted with Thomas, she kept her eyes on him longer than normal and her feet moved slowly. She'd been afraid to be in the house last night, but now she was afraid to leave it for a completely different reason. She wondered, now that her space was being filled up around her with familiar strangers why she was more afraid than when it was mostly her and the emptiness. To maintain order, she tried to not let her thoughts linger too long and put on her usual expression before her classmates. She knew the mask was cracking, now more than ever.
School Day | TOC