While You Sleep

by Thomas Scopel

First seen at LitFest Magazine where it took runner-up for most suspenseful.

Author's Note:

There is something terribly creepy about being so unaware while sleeping. Completely vulnerable yet assuming security, one never knows what truly happens, or for that matter, what may have occurred during the blissful slumber. This tale, a runner-up for best suspenseful at Litfest, puts you firmly into both the mind and shoes of not quite a serial killer…yet!

Noticing the open window, my excitement blooms. The night is warm and simply a harmless and weak metal screen is the only thing that stands between. Of course that won’t stop me. It never does. Being both adept and confident at removing them cautiously, quietly, is rather informal.

Experience has taught well.    

Lurking and lingering, careful to remain hidden in the shadows and ever so deft, it is an enticing game, for I can always see you, but you’ll never see me. From house to house I trek, seeking that one single offering. The quest is simple enough. To become a victor only requires just one unlocked door or one open window and is just a matter of time before I will find it.

I always do…    

Having found my target, I crouch below the sill and wait. The wind gently blows and I listen to its slow rustle through the trees. All the better to disguise my din. Faint odors of sweet flowers travels upon the invisible waves and I notice a cat slinking along a wood line in the distance. For a moment I watch and admire it’s sneakiness as it ever so meticulously places one foot in front of the other. We are somewhat similar, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess whose quest is more nefarious and sinful. It hadn’t caught sight of me and I watch as it disappears into the darkness.

It is time…

Typically, only a small push at the corners is all that is needed for the square metal fabric frame to come loose. Although, on occasion, there are those that the homeowner has secured, taking equal pride in both window and mesh. And those I avoid since they are far too noisy.

Nonetheless, tonight is not that night.

Pushing on the screen sometimes forces a tear, allowing an opening large enough to grip. It is then simply a matter of ripping a gap large enough to fit. However, this too, in the black of a still night, can be rather raucous, almost deafening, and it is when my jet black handled razor knife will come into play. It’s always deadly sharp.

Keeping it that way does have advantages.    

     Wiggling the screen, it is loose, but a somewhat noisy endeavor. The early morning dew begins to saturate my shoes.  It feels comforting and cool. I wait underneath the window, verifying that someone didn’t hear my doings. At three am, everything seems to amplify in the still darkness, and I must be sure.

There is no room for error.

Obviously, the knife will be needed this time and flipping it open, the blade glistens in the full moon light. I don’t dare look up at its brightness. Both eyes and ears are equally important, and I am quite aware of this. Of course, I will still patiently wait until I am absolutely sure. Sure that no one was disturbed, that my noise infraction was not noticed…that I didn’t inadvertently wake an internal light sleeper. Time isn’t crucial and I wait, crouching in the wee hours of the darkness. Impatience causes accidents. Early morning light is my only true enemy but there is still time.

So, I wait....    

Standing at the window, I stick the blade into the bottom corner of the screen itself and let it glide across, through, and fully around the perimeter of it. It is a wonderfully clean slice. It comes off easily and quietly. I drop it to the ground and wait. I contemplate the climb in. Being a single story home, it is not too high and I will easily be able to pull myself up and in. I listen intently for any sign of inner movement. But, there won’t be. It was too quiet.

It always is…    

Climbing in is the hardest and most nerve-wracking part of it all. Along with any inadvertent noise making, it is the fear of the unknown on the other side that frightens me the most. An accidental knocking over of something will surely break the silence. Even a small out of the ordinary wooden based squeak or squeal, or the scraping of a body against a metal frame is unacceptable. A rudely awakened previously sleeping pet could be dangerous and ruin everything. It would immediately force the quest to quickly terminate. Usually, a small table or stand located directly below the interior of the window is all that will need to be dealt with. Often there will be a lamp on it that can be the worst part. But, it is not the lamp itself. It is the attached electrical cord that poses the greatest risk. However, simply lifting the table and the lamp simultaneously and placing it just slightly off to the side is the most profound solution. But, there is no need to worry about that tonight. Tonight it is a window directly over a kitchen sink. No table or lamp. The window is smaller than most but, I can fit.

I can always fit…    

Pulling myself up and in through the window, I slowly, gently and ever so quietly squirm through it. I gradually make it in over the stainless steel faucet and onto the marble covered countertop. Lowering myself off of it, my feet firmly plant onto the hard tiled floor and I am standing ever so still in the darkness being enveloped by the comfort of the home. The moonlight coming in through the window offers just enough light for the ability to see. A wooden block rack of knives is on the counter. I truly want to pull out the largest and feel it within my grasp. But, I don’t dare. It could lead to a catastrophe if just the tiniest clank was to ring out. Must be silent. This is a good thing and I can hear my heart beating in my head. It is a loud drum. But, I know that it is simply for only me to hear. So…I listen…
     Eventually, my loudly beating heart calms, the sound fades and I begin to notice the home’s other sounds. Muffled bubbles lightly gurgle in a distant room. I have heard this before. It is the one single type of pet that never frightens me at all, an aquarium. The continued silence, wrapping and enveloping the occasional bubble sound verifies that you still don’t know I’m here…

So close…    

The time has come and I slowly begin to creep through the house, cautious of every single step. Passing through the kitchen’s threshold I notice that the next door is open. I can hear faint consistent snoring coming from it. It is a bedroom. Your bedroom. I peer in and see the moonlight cascading in through the window and casting eerie shadows on the wall. I watch as the bed’s blanket slowly rises and lowers with every breath you take. There you are…I enter the room and make my way to the side of your bed. I stand there looking down at you and hover directly over your helpless sleeping body. Your breathing quickens. I wonder if you are dreaming and what it may be about. You stiffen somewhat and I tend to think that it very well could be a bothersome dream. Taking a deep breath, you roll onto your side. Exhilarating terror fills me and I remain completely motionless in the silent darkness hoping all the while that you never open your eyes.    

My body is taunt and tense from head to toe. Your breathing eventually calms down and your relaxed face indicates that you have settled back into a deep sleep. This comforts me tremendously and I can finally unclench my body’s tightened muscles. As the moonlight reflects and brightens it, I look at your face. The face that the public rarely sees…free of make-up and pure, complete with blemishes and impurities. I ponder the thought of blood slowly trickling down over it. I watch contently and soothingly. The knife begins talking to me. It wants to. It wants to feel your warm flesh fully surround it, over and over again with my plunges. Wickedness fills and savors my heart. I sincerely want to. I want to listen to the knife and can almost feel what it describes. Yet, something stops me. Something holds me back…

It always does…    

Maybe it is just a small shred of goodness that is left in me. Maybe there are still leftovers of love somewhere in this increasingly blackening heart. I do know that, as with anything, the very first time is always the hardest. And, yet again, I sense that this will still not be that first time. The knife protests as I gently turn away and leave the room.

Standing back in the kitchen, I reconsider for just a split second to no avail. Coming to terms with it, I ease my body back onto the counter and out the window. But, before I fully leave its confines, I reach out to the knife block and latch hold of the largest one. It has an overly wide blade and as my feet land steadily on the ground below, I notice the moon reflecting brightly off of it. My trusty black handled one asks why? I don’t answer and simply tuck the new one away right beside it. They will become friends.

I know it…    

Taking a deep, somewhat frustrated breath, I discouragingly walk away into the early morning darkness knowing, I will try… again. Skills are perfected. Open or unlocked doors and windows are in abundance. Choices are unlimited.  Maybe next time I will succeed for, I am close…

Ever so close.    

When it finally does occur, my heart, if that is what is exactly holding me back…will never doubt again. It is this unknown invisible barrier that is the most difficult aspect now. Some day soon, I know that this will all change…and I will begin listening, hearing, and abiding.

Yet for now, I am once again content with simply knowing that I could have, and…

I’m the only one who knows it.

 

End

 

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