I am working on an A-Z challenge, this one featuring short pieces of fiction. Today’s letter is N for Next Time.
Armed and Dangerous
Nora sat up with a start, her hands clammy, her nightshirt soaked in sweat. The wail of a siren in the distance was not the reason she had awakened. It was still black as charcoal, without a breath of air movement, even though she had left her bedroom window open. The heat had been so oppressive last night that she had taken the extra step to open that second, little-used window, that looked out from the hallway at the dreariness behind her third floor apartment. As she sat, hardly daring to breathe, Nora realized she was not alone.
There it was again. The sound was distant, as though someone were flailing his arms in the air, creating a vibration, rather than actually producing that which could be picked up by her hearing. Her long hair was strewn over her shoulders, and hanging every which way, as she leaned forward to better determine the source of her fear. Her neck was beginning to ache, as she cocked her head to one side to allow the left ear better position to take in any sound. Her left side was her dominant side, and she always deferred to it, but this time it did no good.
Her mind leaped backward, to that bulletin interrupting her television program last night, warning that there had been a breakout from the prison, located less than seven miles away, the one where repeat offenders were housed, the one that was supposedly inescapable. She remembered the phrase “armed and considered dangerous” being repeated more than once. But how would that have any effect on her? And did she dare flick on the light? Not yet, she decided. No sense in giving him any advantage.
After all, she was on the third floor, and she had double-bolted her front door. She didn’t even have a back door; in order to get out of her apartment to the fire escape, she had to go out the one and only door at the front of her tiny quarters. And yet, there was that sound again, this time almost loud enough to be described as a scratching or chafing. What unnerved her the most was that it was unmistakably emanating from within her room.
WIthout warning, something brushed against her arm, which had been in the act of trying to gather some of her errant hair, to pull it back behind her. Something had grazed that arm and it felt as though someone were walking across her grave. She shuddered violently and involuntarily gasped. She struck out with all of her strength with her left arm...and encountered nothing. This was too much! Too much fear, too much stress, and too much terror.
Operating on sheer will power, she stood up, letting her hair fall, and dashed across the room to the door into the kitchen, where the only thing she could think of was to grab a broom. Exactly what good that would do, was not even on the table for discussion. She just knew that if there was going to be a confrontation-how could there not be?-she didn’t want to be empty-handed.
And then suddenly, something was in her hair, struggling, yanking terrifying her, as nothing had ever done. Instinctively her hand went upward, and she shook her head violently, racing for the overhead light switch, and flipping it upward, just as whatever it was relinquished its hold, and sailed on its way. Gasping, sobbing, trying to take in adequate air, Nora gripped her broom and swung it like a baseball bat, connecting solidly, and hitting the proverbial home run.
The only sound she heard was a solid thud, as the missile sailed forth from her weapon and hit the wall. Sucking in oxygen, she picked up a discarded washcloth and escorted her unwanted visitor out the same way it had entered her space, with a flick of her left wrist. She made a mental note to acquire a fan, so that the next time it was hot, she would not have to open that seldom-used window, through which her assailant had entered. Damn bat flying around her room! Scared the crap out of her!